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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Easy Sammies For Summer Meals

I'm dreaming of snow and ice and temperatures below 30.  I may be in the minority but I really don't like the summer heat not to mention the biting insects that love me.  I feel like a slug dragging myself around in this 100 degree heat.  As usual, we have to eat but who wants to stand over a hot stove now?  Sometimes we don't have much of an appetite in the summer either.  I definitely have my summer menus out so we can eat lighter food that requires minimal preparation. 

A chilled soup or salad and a sandwich is often just the right meal when the temperatures get this hot.  I've shared some salad recipes lately such as the green bean and new potato salad.  Today I've got two of our favorite sandwiches, one of which my daughter found on a swimming blog and wanted to try.  This one really doesn't take any time but has alot of flavor and nutrition.  Serve this with gazpacho and it's a great summer meal.

Turkey and Avocado on Whole Wheat
whole wheat bread
deli turkey
cheese slices such as havarti or swiss
one or two avocados peeled and sliced thin
one medium red onion, sliced thin
low fat mayo
chopped fresh cilantro
Toast bread if desired.  Spread one slice with a bit of mayo, sprinkle with black pepper and cilantro.  Top with avocado, cheese and red onion slices and as much turkey as you desire.  Place under a broiler if desired until cheese melts or eat as is.  You could also just mash the avocado and use it as a spread.

The next sandwich is a great way to use leftover meat and you know how fond I am of cooking meat once and using it for two meals.  Grill extra pork tenderloin on the weekend and use the leftovers for this sandwich during the work week.  Men like this sandwich because it's pretty hardy and filling.  We like using onion rolls for this sandwich.  Don't worry if you don't get all the ingredients or if you don't like olives for example. 

Spanish Grilled Sandwiches
1 6 0z. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 7 oz. jar roasted sweet red peppers, drained and cut into strips
2/3 cup jalapeno stuffed olives, sliced
1 onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. cumin
4 sandwich rolls or buns
1 lb. thinly sliced deli roast beef or pork
sliced provolone cheese
4 tsp. olive oil
Drain and chop artichokes, reserving marinade.  Combine marinade, artichokes, red peppers olives, onions  garlic, parsley, oregano and cumin.  Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  To make sandwiches, open buns and spread vegetable mixture on one half, top with meat and cheese.  Coat a very large skillet with 2 tsp. of olive oil.  Heat skillet over medium heat and add 2 sandwiches.  Weight sandwiches down with another heavy skillet so they are pressed flatter.  Cook until brown then flip and brown the other side.  Cook remaining sandwiches.

Some thick steak fries is a good side for this or if you don't want to heat the kitchen, serve a fruit salad.  In the meantime, remember to drink extra water or tea in this heat, particularly if you are going to be outside.  Make sure your kids drink too, and not just sodas.  You can get dehydrated quickly when it's this hot or heat exhaustion or heat stroke. 
Signs of heat exhaustion include: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps and dizziness. 
Signs of heat stroke which is more serious and requires immediate medical attention include: high body temperature, red, flushed, dry skin but no sweating, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, confusion and seizures.

Don't forget about your pets.  Make sure they have shade and plenty of fresh water in this heat if they are outdoor pets.  A fan is very helpful too.  Animals can exhibit many of the same signs as humans when they have heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Watch for heavy panting or difficulty breathing too.      

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Summer Race is On!

Used to be that summers were a time to slow down and relax; the pace was definitely more leisurely than during the school year.  The last two summers however, have found me scrambling to keep up and get everything done.  We cram as much as possible into our days which start even earlier than in the fall/winter.  We get up at 6 a.m. and hit the ground running.  Grace must be at swim team practice at 7 a.m.  Because of the heat and biting insects, I get the barn cleaned and ride by 8:30 a.m.  Then I pick up Grace at 9, come home and exercise or do whatever outdoor chores I need to finish.  Sometime before lunch, I drag Cameron out of bed and make sure he gets to work washing cars or mowing lawns.  Now that he is 16, he needs money for gas.  He has trap shooting practice at least two days a week at 5 p.m.

The weekends really get interesting.  Usually one parent goes to one sporting event with one child while the other parent heads in another direction with the other.  Then there are the camps; Grace has already been to swim camp in Austin, Tx while Cameron is at band camp this week in Conway, Ar.  It is so much easier when they just go to school and stay all day.  All this hectic activity means I get more creative with my writing time but I still sometimes have to skip it.  There is not enough of me to cover all the bases and hit a home run.  My husband got a tiny taste of my work when I went to Texas to pick up the girls from swim camp.  He told me it was really hard to get everything done and he didn't even do 1/4 of the things I do.

My new girl, Roxie

One thing I don't do is to compromise on the food we eat nor do I skip exercise.  I really couldn't do all the things I do if I didn't eat right and exercise most of the time.  That's the only way I have the strength to keep up this pace.  I have two great excuses to exercise right now: 1.  I have a new horse and am back riding after 2 years; 2.  I can swim, maybe not like my daughter but I do several times a week.  The food we eat gets lighter and more simple.  I try to use as much fresh produce as possible to take advantage of all that flavor and variety.  We eat alot of salsa, fish, salads, sandwiches and vegetable meals.  I put my husband to work with the grill.  If you make a salad with lots of fresh fruit or vegetables and add a great sandwich, you have a quick, healthy meal.  Tomorrow I will post a couple of sandwich recipes to try.

This weekend, introduce your kids to triathalons in a family friendly environment.  Stearns Race Timing LLC is sponsoring the Kids Tri-Lemonade on Saturday, June 19 at Craighead Forest Park.  There will be 5 age groups between the ages of 5 and 14, with each group swimming, biking and running an age appropriate distance.  Every participant will get a t-shirt and winners in each category will get medals.  For more information go to  You can still register even as late as Saturday morning with the first race starting at 8 a.m.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010

More Berry Delight

Sometimes a meal just stands out from all the other food you've eaten lately with each bite a medley of harmonious flavors.  You find yourself slowing down and savoring every mouthful.  This menu is destined to be pulled out whenever you want to impress your friends and family.  Tonight we had such a dinner.  I found some unbelievable blackberries and bought them, sure I'd find something to do with them and did I ever.  The menu is simple, nothing difficult to prepare, and relies on fresh fruit at the peak of ripeness. 

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Fruit Salad with Blackberry Basil Vinaigrette

Once again I had Barry cook the pork, seasoned only with Cavendar's, on the Big Green Egg.  Meanwhile I made the sauce. 

Blackberry Sauce
1/4 cup blackberry preserves
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. rosemary, chopped if fresh
1 cup fresh blackberries
Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over low heat till preserves are melted.  Add the blackberries and spoon over cooked meat.

I found the salad recipe in the local Junior Auxiliary's cookbook.  The salad made a very pretty presentation and it is definitely one I will be making many times.  The cookbook is Rendevous on the Ridge and can be found in many local stores.  I have enjoyed many other recipes from this book. 

Fruit Salad with Blackberry Basil Vinaigrette
8 cups mixed salad greens
1 1/2 cups sliced mangoes
1 1/2 cups sliced grapefruit sections
1 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 large avocado, sliced
Place greens in a bowl and arrange fruit on top.  Serve with vinaigrette.
1/2 of a 10 oz. jar seedless blackberry preserves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
6 fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
Combine ingredients through pepper in a blender.  Pulse 2 or 3 times until blended.  Gradually add the oil through the food chute, processing constantly until the oil is incorporated.

I really hope you take the time to eat the foods now coming into season because it's such a treat.  Visit a farmer's market or produce stand this weekend and see what you can find.  Don't worry if you don't know what you are going to make with the food you find.  You can google the ingredients or look at or other websites for ideas once you get home.  Have a happy weekend and enjoy your friends and family over a good meal.     

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Berry Good Season

First I must apologize for not mentioning that I would be out of town last Thursday.  I had to pick up my daughter and two other girls from the Texas Longhorn Swimcamp.  Six dedicated swimmers from the Jonesboro Jets Swim team attended the week long camp where they worked hard, learned alot, met 8 Olympians and had fun.  Watching these kids swim laps in a 50 yard pool inspires me to step up my own fitness routine.  Maybe not to their level but I'm going to work harder.

Last week I was making fun of myself and the unusual food I like to try.  This week will be about the normal food we do eat with a focus on the wonderful berries now in season.  I have a couple of must try recipes for you.  Sometimes I try new dishes even though I don't have the recipe and the results vary.  I was flipping through a Harry and David catalogue recently and saw a picture of a luscious looking pie.  Instead of ordering it, I decided I could create the recipe from the description in the catalogue.  The results were sublime and a new family favorite pie was born.  I'll bet your family will agree.

Very Berry Peach Pie
1 pie crust, homemade or storebought
1 cup fresh blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, combining them works well
1 quart sliced peaches, fresh or frozen, with 3/4 cup sugar added
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Place pie crust in dish and bake according to recipe or package directions.  Let cool.  Sprinkle berries evenly in bottom of pie crust.  Put peaches in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir in cornstarch and sugar.  Heat till boiling, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and simmer till juice thickens.  Pour peaches over berries.  Top with crumb topping and bake at 375 about 10 to 12 minutes until crumb is light brown.  Chill several hours and serve with a dollop of whip cream.
Crumb topping
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. butter
Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Chop butter into small pea sized pieces and combine with flour mixture.  Spread over peaches and bake.  

It was a great summer dessert; light and filled with fruit at the peak of ripeness.  Try it while fruit is in season.

I happen to love sweet potatoes almost anyway you can cook them.  My family, especially my husband, has not always been so enthusiastic but they are slowly changing their minds.  Barry never liked the heavy, too sweet,  casseroles that are a staple of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sweet potatoes are full of every imaginable thing good for you so give this next recipe a try.  It went well with the pork tenderloin we smoked. 

Spicy Sweet Potatoes
4 to 5 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 pinch cayenne
Put potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Mix spices and sugar together and sprinkle over potatoes.  Toss to coat well.  Place potatoes in a lightly greased baking dish, spreading evenly in the bottom.  Bake for 15 minutes at 425; stir and continue baking an additional 15 minutes or until tender. 

My family enjoyed this version of sweet potatoes.  Next time, I will add more chili powder and a tiny bit more cayenne.  Inspite of our recent bad experience with the chipolte peppers, I thought it needed more kick.

Thursday I will continue with the berry theme.  I have some of the largest blackberries that I'm about to experiment with so we'll see what happens.        

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tales of Adventurous Eating

Lately my kids have been making fun of my adventurous attitude towards food.  Grace's friends found out that I once made black bean brownies so they are suspicious of anything I make.  God forbid they find out about the pinto bean cake.  (For the record, the black bean brownies weren't bad and I really don't think anyone would have noticed that something wasn't quite the same.  The same goes for the pinto bean cake but I admit they weren't added to my recipe collection.)  My sister joined in the fun this past weekend and I threatened to make an entire dinner using black beans, even a martini.

I was proud that Cameron's best friend actually ate hamburgers with us yesterday.  Unfortunately, Cameron has a knack for inviting friends for dinner when I am trying a new recipe, some of which are royal failures.  My kids are used to my cooking and don't hesitate to try new foods.  They've eaten escargot at a fancy French restaurant and found that cooked properly, even snails are good.

However, my kids also know that  innocent, familiar looking foods aren't always what they seem.  We were on vacation in the Florida Keys and decided to take a picnic lunch while exploring a wildlife area.  We stopped at a nice grocery store with a deli and got some cheese, crackers and drinks.   I found some tiny bananas I thought would be fun to eat and got a big bunch.  We were all hungry before we got to the picnic area so the kids got out the bananas and passed them around.  One bite and it was like all the moisture in our mouths instantly dried up.  These tiny, horrid banana imposters were nothing like the bananas we had at home.  We were still driving down the road in a rental car and now everyone was looking for a place to spit out bananas.  Much later I found out that particular kind of banana must turn brown before it is ripe enough to eat; yellow just won't do.

Then there was the time I was eating breakfast in a nice hotel in Washington, D.C. with my mother-in-law when Cameron spewed milk all over the table.  He was only four but you don't want your kids misbehaving in front your mother-in-law, lest she think you are incapable of raising anything but brats.  I quickly got onto him but he protested that the milk was bad.  "Oh, it is not." I replied crossly and grabbed the milk and tasted it.  OH but it was bad; it was sour and I nearly gagged.  Sometimes, you should believe your children.

I hope I haven't planted the idea that everything we eat is terribly strange; most of it is quite normal and familiar.  I do hope that I inspire you to have your own adventures in eating from time to time and that you enjoy most of it.  I think my family would say they have had fun.  Mostly that is.