How to Have the Best Summer Ever!

Wow, can you believe it? Summer is almost over!

This makes me really sad.  There’s so much about summer that I love—warm days and outdoor activities—swimming, picnicking, music in the park–or cool summer nights chasing fireflies and hanging out late. Perhaps, though, the best part about summer is the food!  It’s been a while since I’ve talked about food, so allow me to take a break from weightier matters for a moment. What is summer, after all, without lemonade, watermelon and ice cream?  How can we let summer get away from us without talking about grilled veggies and barbecue chicken?

What I have for you today are the top three summer foods that I recommend you add to your menu before the cool winds of fall begin to blow! Then, keep reading, because I also have a suggestion for making this the best summer ever–even if it is almost over.

Garlic Dijon-Grilled Veggies (and salmon!)

Photo Credit: Greg Dupree

So, this one is a two-fer.  I was looking for a new way to season my salmon and came across Natasha’s Garlic Dijon recipe.  The salmon was bomb so I thought, why not use the same marinade on my grilled veggies for the 4th of July? Ah! We had fireworks on the grill this year—the veggies were a hit!  So, give it a try—with your salmon and your veggies! Grilled peppers, onions and mushrooms add color and flavor to just about any meal! You can eat them alone or add them to your burger—super delicious!  Have leftovers? Grab a pack of flour tortillas and a jar of salsa and presto! Taco Tuesday! Just add chicken strips and cheese with the grilled veggies.  It’s super easy and so good.

Marinade:

2 Tbsp light olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 garlic cloves pressed

1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

Impossible Burger

So, veggies are good, but this is not your mama’s veggie burger! The Impossible Burger really looks and tastes like meat! Now, with that said, I must add a disclaimer: The Impossible Burger is delicious, but not exactly healthy. According to Cooking Light, it’s not the worst thing to eat, but it’s not the best either. It does have zero cholesterol, but it also has too much saturated fat and sodium to be considered a healthy alternative to beef.  Nonetheless, everybody wants to sink their teeth into a good burger every now and then, so when you do, I recommend that you at least give this one a try! If nothing else, it is an environmentally friendly alternative to meat.

Now let me tell you the secret for making the Impossible really delicious—make it at home!  The Impossible Burger itself doesn’t have much flavor, so if you’ve tried one at a restaurant and didn’t like it, it may be that you didn’t like the way it was prepared. I’ve tried them at a few restaurants, but found that my preparation was the best (of course!)

The frozen burgers are not yet available everywhere, so you’ll have to check around. It just so happens that a market where I live sells them—yay me!

So, if you’re lucky enough to get your hand on a frozen pack, snatch it up! Then, while you’re at it, go ahead and grab an electric smoker. This is the secret. A smoker will take this burger to the next level! Electric smokers run from $50 to $250 and you can find them at hardware stores, sporting goods stores and WalMart. Trust me, it’s worth the investment because a smoker makes everything taste good!

To prepare:  I thawed the burger meat, formed it into patties, then on both sides of each I sprinkled garlic powder, smoked paprika, Goya Adobo all purpose seasoning and a Weber “Kickin’ Chicken” herb blend that I found at Sam’s. We put the burgers in the smoker for about an hour and a half and the smell alone was enough to seal the deal!  After that, I put the burger on a soft bun with mayo, Dijon mustard, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and hello!

Of course, there’s a thousand ways to make a burger—BBQ sauce and cheddar, sautéed onion and mushroom—go crazy! Once that burger comes off the smoker it has such a great flavor and texture! It’s chewy, but not tough—hands down, the best veggie burger I’ve ever tasted.

Instead of this…

Ranier Cherries

And finally, what’s a good meal without dessert?  But my last summer favorite has nothing to do with cooking and everything to do with choices. Ever since my daughter’s birthday party which was followed not long after by the 4th of July, there have been an extraordinary number of sweet treats knocking around my house—specifically candy.  Now, I’m not usually a candy person, but because it’s sitting here in clear glass jars (my fault) I find myself picking up a few M&Ms or grabbing a gumball out of boredom. Next thing I know I’m grabbing a second and a third handful, then I’m left with a tummy ache and a load of regret. Have you been there? So, my first step is to get this stuff out of my house! The clear glass jars are cute, but they have to go. And the next step is to find a suitable replacement. Enter Ranier Cherries—Nature’s Candy. Guys, I’m sure you’ve had cherries before, but have you had Ranier Cherries? These take sweet to a whole ‘nother level! And what I love is that you can sit them out on the counter in a pretty dish like this and feel like you’re eating candy. Don’t you love that they’re good and good for you? Yum!

Try this!

So, how has your summer been?  Have you traveled? Soaked up some sun? Slipped into the silky blue waters of an exotic destination?  Or have you been like me, wound up in work and obligations seemingly missing out on all the fun? It’s easy to miss the beauty and enjoyment that’s right in front of us when we’re distracted by our friends’ vacation photos on Instagram, and it’s tempting to assume we’re the only ones locked in the daily grind with no time, no money or both.

But this doesn’t have to be our story.  I’d say it’s on us to seek out the simple pleasures of life. We can find ways to treat ourselves right where we are!

Use your weekends to explore.

Recently I had a day off and spent several hours just soaking up nature from my back porch! Why not take a walk or bike ride in the park after work? Lace up your sneakers and get in a quick workout while blasting your favorite music.  Check out your local Visitor’s Bureau or Pinterest for “staycation” ideas. It’s all about enjoying the moments wherever you can find them!

The bottom line is, even while we pursue our goals and success, we shouldn’t forgot to also pursue joy. It’s the only way to truly live!

Here’s to a happy summer full of simple pleasures!

Choose Joy!

Are you a foodie like me? Check out my other recipes!

Who Is For You?

I made the mistake of listening to an old voice message today, from someone I thought was a friend. She was responding to a question I had asked in a previous message—a simple request, but it would have required two things: (1) her vested interest in my well-being and (2) her willingness to vouch for my ability. Her response was wordy, but it can be easily summed: no.

She was not for me. 

What surprised me most is that in the past I had supported her, vouched for her, even promoted her. I mean, I wasn’t asking for money or a co-sign on a car loan. It was merely a request to say in public “this is a person you should know; she has potential.”

Even listening to the message after so much time has passed, it still hit me like a bullet. If a friend isn’t for you, who is?

I once asked a “famous” family member a similar question and felt the same sting when she pushed me off. Apparently, rejection is a place and I’ve been there often.

So, my inclination is to turn inward, shut out the world and bury myself in pity. Forget all of them. I’ll rely on me!

But, all the slogans of self-reliance fall flat, because self-reliance is not enough.  Every day the thorn of doubt pokes me in my side making me uncomfortable with success. Every day I question my ability to fulfill a very specific dream that exists only in my imagination. I move in a direction that circles me back to where I started and I can’t seem to step off of the merry-go-round.

Even I am not for me.

Whether it’s the rejection of a friend, betrayal of family or my own inability to rally, it’s the same thing day after day and I’m dizzy from the ride.

There is a story about a man who was called to do something hard, yet it seemed that he, too, was surrounded by opposition. As he was thinking about his challenge one day he happened upon a soldier who stood before him with his sword drawn. Frightened, Joshua asked, “are you with me or against me?”

“Neither” the man replied. “I represent God.”

Suddenly mine and Joshua’s opposition fades to black. Rather than “who is for me” should my question be “who am I for?” Rather than looking for approval and acceptance from people who will always disappoint, I am challenged to look inward and ask if I’m living my life for a higher purpose. If I am, then the opinions of others don’t matter. Being for God means seeking out his approval which I will always find. Being for God isn’t a cop out, it’s a step up! It requires a higher standard, perhaps even a more difficult road, but if I am for Him I get the benefit of His power.  If I center my focus on what He has for me I can more easily tune out the noise of opinions, discouragement and negativity. I can rise above the microagressions and see more clearly the path that lies ahead.  By looking up, rather than out I’m given an entirely different view of the challenges that lie ahead.

Being for God ensures that He is for me and “if God is for you who can be against you?”

Not even you.

Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

*This lesson from Joshua is adapted from a teaching by Lysa Terkeurst on the Compel membership site.

Three Steps to Success!

In last week’s post I laid bare my own insecurities as a creative person pursuing success. I talked about how we (creatives) tend to define success as (1) having an audience, (2) getting applause and (3) achieving acclaim. But this week I’d like to disrupt these assumptions.

I believe there is a way to do our work, be fulfilled, and achieve success without an audience or applause!

Sound strange? Read on!

Enjoy the process

First of all, you have to do your work for the love of it. Whether you sing, play an instrument paint, write or draw, if you’re only doing it in order to get something—money, praise or fame—then you’d do better in sales. True creatives do their work because of a compulsion that transcends tangible rewards. If you get enjoyment from the very act of creation, whether people are around or not, then every time you sit down to practice your craft, you win!

Be your own audience.

When you’re in the audience you have a different perspective on the performance than if you’re performing. That perspective is important.  After going through the creation process, step back from what you’ve created and examine it as if it wasn’t made by you. The only way to do this is to give yourself some time. Walk away from it, forget about it (as best you can) and only return to it when you can do so with fresh eyes. If you do, you will likely find ways to make it better. You know how great you feel right after you’ve made something? Let that feeling fade—it’s infatuation and it can be misleading. By putting some distance between it and you, you are removing yourself from the emotion which is necessary for creation, but bad for revision.

Think like an athlete…kind of

Athletes are focused on winning and they’re success or failure is measured by how much better they are than their competitors, but for artists, being motivated by comparison is a death sentence! To measure your success by the standard of others in your field is to secure your sense of failure! Why? Because you will never be them! And there will always be someone who does it better, earns more awards or makes more money than you. Not only that, to measure my success by the standard of other writers is to constantly chase a moving target! There are too many writers in the world, and far too many standards of “good writing” against which to measure my own ability.

However, there is another characteristic of a true athlete that I do think is valuable to imitate. While training, athletes don’t look at their competitor’s achievements. They look at their own.  A runner trains to beat his/her own best time. Basketball players practice making more shots today than they did yesterday. Gymnasts challenge themselves to increasingly difficult moves—but the standard is theirs.

If you’ve enjoyed the process, then critiqued your work at a distance, you are in the best possible position to determine the next level to pursue. To do so without the pressure to best someone else’s best is to free yourself to achieve your own best!  As Chrystal Hurst says “run your race.” Focus more on improving your skills than on promoting them.

Those singers on American Idol didn’t spend enough time with the process. They took the cake from the oven too fast and it flopped! Or, to use a gardening metaphor, they failed to cultivate their craft.

I love what Lara Casey says:

“Cultivating an intentional life is…faith in action. It means planting dreams in faith, even when we don’t know exactly how those dreams will grow—or if they will grow at all. But the possibility is worth the planting”

Did you catch that? Dreams are worth planting whether they grow or not! How can this be? Because there is something to be gained from the process that has nothing to do with your audience and everything to do with you! How will you be changed by your own work? How will the effort and difficulties you face make you stronger? This is how you achieve success and accomplish your dreams. You do your work. Period.

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Proverbs 3:13-14)

 

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash