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!

Monday Mayhem: Enjoy the simple things

So, I haven’t shared a recipe or workout in a while,  but it’s January, so while you’re still gungho about working out, let me share a quick routine–ready?

Okay!

First, turn on your TV or radio–might as well have some background noise, then grab some hand weights (or a small child, canned goods–anything with some weight to it that you can hold for 5 minutes)

Now,  set your timer to 5 minutes and march up and down your stairs!  Don’t have stairs? March around your house, apartment, bedroom, dormroom…whatever! Just get those knees up!

If you’re holding something that has a reasonable amount of weight and you’re moving, I guarantee you’ll feel something! If not, move your arms up and down as you march or pick up something heavier.

Catch your breath after 5 minutes, then repeat as many cycles as you have time for. If marching is too tame for you, then pick up the pace! Lift your knees higher and go as fast as you can. (See my post on Tabatas.)

Then, when the workout is done, it’s time for your reward:

So, I made the most AMAZING grilled cheese sandwich ever in my new air fryer–have you seen these things? They are fantastic! You can “fry” without frying and have dinner on the table in minutes.

I also happened to have some of my holiday wassail left over from Christmas and decided to settle down with my delux GrilledCheese and a cup of this deliciousness and I must tell you it was quite a treat!

Okay, so the theme for today is–enjoy the simple things.  What’s so great about grilled cheese you may ask? Nothing, until you add a dash of herbs and a slice of tomato. Then your basic grilled cheese goes to the next level. Trust me!  (Even if you don’t have the air fryer yet, you can still use low fat margarine instead of butter and prepare on the stove as you normally would.)

And for those who’ve never heard of wassail, well, there’s an entire tradition behind this holiday beverage that goes back to the Middle Ages, showing up in English literature, in fact, which was a happy discovery for me!  According to Robert Doares, the word comes from “the Old Norse ves heil and the Old English was hál…meaning ‘be in good health’ or ‘be fortunate.’ The phrase was first a simple greeting, but eventually the reply “drink hail” was joined with it to create one word and one meaning: to be in good health. Basically, to have good fortune was to enjoy a meal and drink with friends and loved ones!

Ironically, traditional wassail was also consumed with crusty bread or toast which explains why we raise a glass and “toast” one another today as we offer health and good fortune to those we love.

So, I think it’s quite appropriate for me to offer you this lovely combination, don’t you? This perfect GrilledCheese with crusty bread and my own version of wassail as I extend to you good health and good fortune!

Wassail

My wassail recipe is also quite simple–I told you, it’s the theme for today. Here are the ingredients I use (amounts are approximate):

  • 2 liter apple juice
  • 1 can frozen orange juice
  • 2 liter cranberry juice
  • 1/4 cup whole cloves
  • 10 cinnoman sticks
  • 2-3 slices of fresh peeled ginger
  • 1/4-1/2 cup whole cranberries
  • add orange slices 1/2 hour before serving to preserve color
  • add 1/2 cup sugar if more sweetness is preferred

Just pour everything into a crock pot or a large pot on the stove–put the burner on low and let it simmer for at least an hour. Your house will be filled with a wonderfully sweet aroma and there’s nothing better than the delicate balance of sweet and spice which you control by the amounts that you choose to add.  When served, the ingredients can be strained, but they look pretty in the glass, don’t they?  This will keep well in the frig for 4-6 weeks.

Voila! Instant comfort food on a chilly January afternoon. Can you picture it? Cozy blanket. Grilled cheese. Warm, spiced cider…ahhh…wassail!

Happy Monday!

SignatureMed

 

Cover photo credit: pixabay.com

Revamp Monday: True Confessions!

I’m a workaholic. I have a hard time slowing down and unplugging from work obligations, especially when I have a lot to do. There’s a sort of adrenlin-rush that comes from busy-ness and activity and a bit of anxiety that comes over me when there’s nothing going on. I always feel like I should be “doing something”. I actually have to make a concerted effort to rest when work is calling. Crazy, huh?  But they say that recognizing you have a problem is the first step towards finding a solution, so I suppose I’m halfway there!

Of course, knowing what to do is a lot harder than doing what you know.  In today’s “Revamp Monday” Tanzy reveals her own struggle in “Confessions of an Abuser,” but I don’t mean for you to esteem her struggle in contrast to mine. You should see them as one and the same, for they both have one crucially common component: our health. My penchant for busy too often pushes me to the brink. I suffer from migraines, high blood pressure runs in my family, heart attacks and strokes are common risk factors. We both have to take seriously the lure of our addictions–even those that seem, on the surface, to be a good thing!

SignatureMed

It was a stressful day. Caseload at work was epic and I had paperwork to last hours. There was a mountain of laundry begging for my attention and a sink full of dishes that had been woefully neglected. My stress levels were climbing towards 7.9 on the rector scale, So I did what had become so natural to me. I pulled into the drive through at my favorite burger joint and ordered my usual sedative: a number 6 with a root beer and extra sauce. Only 5 minutes into my meal and I felt blissful stress relief come over me.

Later that night after rushing through homework, laundry, dinner time, bath time and bed time, a wave of overwhelming fatigue took hold and I reached to the cupboard for my rescue: a bar of chocolate that soothed my suffering. I repeated this pattern regularly. For years, but not just in hard times, in good times also. After completing that project at work that consumed many weekends, I decided a celebration was in order. Reservations at my favorite pasta restaurant. Appetizers, entrée, soda and dessert!  In fact, eating became my answer to many emotional callings: 

Stressed? Eat. 

Depressed? Eat. 

Happy? Eat. 

Overwhelmed? Eat.

Thankful? Eat. 

Worried? Eat. 

The practice of eating was closely integrated into every life experience. Every emotion. Every occasion. Food was my best friend. Like a toxic lover, my addiction lured me and always delivered the relief I needed–rich, high-calorie foods with little nutritional value, excess sugar, starch and fat–they were good to me, but not good for me. They made me feel better, but not without consequences. Years into the co-dependent  relationship, it bore fruit: weight gain, splotchy skin, worsening asthma, chronic fatigue, digestive upset, a sedentary lifestyle, insecurity and low self-esteem. While I had been exercising consistently I wasn’t addressing my diet in the way I needed to, and the mere thought of facing it, made me fearful! Food had become my best friend and confidant, my “blankey”, my “binki,” my counselor, my consoler, my relief, my medication.  I was terrified to fix it!

The relationship we had was twisted, toxic and abusive. I was both the abused and the abuser. I was the victim and the offender.  I was in the right and also in the wrong. We all need food to fuel our body, but I was using it to fuel my emotions. 

The effort it would take to rectify this complicated relationship would be constant and intense. It requires moment by moment mindfulness, regular prayer and accountability. It means learning to embrace the full weight of my emotions whether positive or negative. It requires finding alternatives for celebrating and mourning. It means going through crippling periods of withdrawal. It requires learning the ugly nutritional truths of man-made food, but also being enlightened by the glorious nutritional truths of God-made food. And it will likely take a lifetime to heal the bond between me and food–a lifetime to put food in its rightful place.

But it’s worth it. For the sake of my mental health, my children and grandchildren, an extended life expectancy and an improved quality of life. It’s worth it. Everything we put into our bodies is fuel. Either fuel for disease or fuel for good health.   I no longer want to indulge in things that rob me of the abundant life available to me. I want to live my life to the fullest. After all, you are what you eat!

Tanzy Chandler
Physical Therapist
Group Fitness Instructor
Founder of
REVAMP FITNESS
“Become a Better You”
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