a bucket of flowers.

It doesn’t happen all too often.

But every once in a great while, I get this sudden itch to take out a shovel and dig up some dirt.

I find that the older I get, the more I enjoy the simple things of life.  Like taking my time in selecting just the right flowers for just the right arrangement.  Not caring if something was “right” or “wrong” or what Martha Stewart might think, might do.

None of that.

No primping or prepping (or obsessive Type A planning!)  This afternoon, I plunged my hands into the damp, earthy soil and found myself elbow deep in the most incredibly simplistic joy of flowers.

Of course, you should know, this is a yearly tradition of mine, of dad’s.  Every mother’s day.

We briefly look over the pre-planted buckets of flowers in the florist shops, as if observing our yearly competition.  It doesn’t matter if each and every pot looks beyond perfect (because, you know, they usually do.)  We have other ideas and plans, and we always find ourselves patiently foraging our way through each and every individual plant.

I used to be of the opinion that flowers served no purpose (you can at least, after all, eat a vegetable!)

But then.

Flowers make me smile.

And I have a (not so secret) obsession with quaint little florist shops.

AND, this is the one time I have a good excuse to get my hands dirty.

The secret to putting together your own arrangement is to choose the flowers that make you smile the most.

Throw together a wide selection of flowers with varying colors, sizes and attitude (yes, flowers have attitude!)

And then, as with cooking, just have fun with it.

 

smushed up lentils.

It doesn’t matter what you do.

It doesn’t matter if you’re granted the beauty of natural lighting or if you’re stuck with nothing but orange infused incandescent.

It doesn’t matter.

Smashed up lentils will never look pretty.

HOWEVER!!!

Smashed up lentils can (and should!) taste delicious.

Especially when they’re mixed with Indian spices, caramelized onions and crunchy walnuts (yes, you heard me right!)

I’m obsessed with these tasty burgers.

I love how quick they are to throw together.

And they freeze really nice too, which means you can have lunch or dinner within seconds for those times when time is not an option.

(Warning: some carnivorous cats may try to eat them, unaware that tonight’s dinner is completely vegan…sorry, Humphrey!)

 Indian Spiced Lentil Walnut Burgers

This recipe was adapted from Mollie Katzen’s lentil burgers in her Moosewood Cookbook.  I like making them with the addition of some common Indian spices, which are tasty as well as beneficial.  Spices such as turmeric are known for their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

For leftovers, freeze each patty individually and take out when you want a quick ‘n’ easy meal.  Enjoy!

  • 3/4 cup dry lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup minced onion
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup very finely minced walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup crushed flax seed
  • optional: serve with avocado, sweet vidalia onion slices, spicy salsa, and/or sliced tomatoes
  1. Place lentils and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and the liquid is mostly gone.  Drain any remaining liquid.  Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add vinegar.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except the flax seed, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the sautéed mixture and flax seed to the lentils and mix well. Chill for about 1 hour before forming patties.
  3. Form 4-inch diameter patties by grabbing a handful and gently forming into a round ball; smush lightly into a patty (patty will be fragile.)  Heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet or spray with cooking spray, and sauté the patties on both sides until heated through and crispy. You can also just broil them for about 5 to 8 minutes on each side.  Enjoy!

stepping away from the sneakers.

Cooking isn’t the only thing that flew south over these past two months…

Running.

Running slowly but surely transitioned from a typical 15 mile week to a 10 mile week to a 6 mile week.  I became solely focused on afternoon walks and a twice weekly yoga session (kitty play time doesn’t count, even while I *am* the one who does most of the running.)

I did just enough to make me feel energized, healthy, fit.

Despite having my own personal hangups with taking a hiatus or a cut in mileage, I’m actually a really big supporter of resting.  Many trainers send their best runners into a hiatus during the holiday months, as a way for them to both physically and most importantly mentally take a break from the regime of running.

Anyone who loves running will tell you that a good run makes them feel on top of the world (the legendary “runner’s high.”)  But running can and does become exhausting.  It’s important to know yourself; to know when you need to step away.

 

Returning to running after a complete hiatus or a drastic cut in mileage doesn’t have to feel like the end of the world, by the way.

I’ll admit that my fitness level did deteriorate some, but not a lot.  I continued running, just not nearly as much, which kept me in the groove.  And while I’m not exactly ready to go out and run a marathon anytime soon, I can still keep a pretty steady pace for my typical 3-5 mile loop.  The body can retain its fitness. as long as it’s continuously moving along with some form of cardio.

If you find it difficult to rest, like I often do, it’s important not to lose sight of what fitness is really all about.  Health.  And sometimes being healthy means taking a step back, lowering the intensity of the workout, and just enjoying the very movement and strength that your body possesses.

Sometimes, it’s okay to say cut back, which in the end helps us to move forward.

Sometimes, resting is a very good thing.

QUESTION: Do you have a favorite “high intensity workout”?  Do you take regular breaks/hiatuses or do you stick with your regime?  

returning to the keyboard.

Having been away for a little over 2 months, I have to be honest.  It feels a little awkward coming back.

My blog has always felt a lot like home to me, mostly because I like to invite all of you into my own personal life.  Only right now, it doesn’t feel as much like home, mostly because I haven’t been here in such a long time.   I don’t even know, really, where to start.

I guess I should just start with the reason why I left in the first place.

I grew tired of cooking.

There.

I said it.

Years and years of throwing together meals, indulging myself in fabulous new cuisines and breathing in the fresh aromas that encapsulated me in my tiny little kitchen.  How, you ask, could I grow tired of that?

Last week I got together with a group of college buddies, only to hear one of my foodie friends state that she too had grown tired of cooking.  That at the end of the day, the last thing she wanted to do was to even think of preparing dinner.  I suddenly realized that I wasn’t alone.

It happens to all of us.  We grow tired of the things that we love.  And sometimes we have to step far away.  But usually, more often than not, we walk on back.  Because it’s in us.  Those intricate little things that make us who we are.

And that is the plain and simple story of why I left.  There are no other dramatic stories to tell, and I’m truly sorry if I worried some of you with my unexpected leave!  I haven’t yet fallen off the planet. ;)

There are so many things that I can’t wait to catch all of you up on.  Life is exciting and a lot has happened over the past two months.

(Nicole, by the way, deserves credit for getting me started again, after routinely asking me when I’m going to start blogging…thanks, Nicole!) :mrgreen:

I’ll save most of what I have to share for the upcoming weeks, but I do want to introduce you all to Humphrey.

I’m a self reported dog lover.  Dog behavior and training fascinates me.  I’m obsessed with big black labs and drooly, snoring bulldogs.  Always have been, always will be.

But then I met Humphrey (formerly known as Digger) at a cat shelter.

I fell in love with him as soon as he crawled up into my lap.  While the other cats could care less of my very presence, Humphrey purred and kneaded his way deep into my heart.

He’s turned out to be a little handful of love mixed with mischief mixed with “cat”titude.  He knows what he likes and he’ll let you know if he doesn’t.  He loves to climb and knock things over.  Most of all, he loves to be brushed and snuggled and fed (organic beef and liver is his fave.)

I’ll share lots more about him in the coming weeks!

Well.

As awkward as it feels to just come walking right back in, as if nothing has changed—no time has elapsed–it still feels really good to be here once again.

Home always makes sense.

Besides, I’ve honest to goodness missed all of you.  It feels really good to be back. :D

QUESTION: What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you in the past 2 months?  Haha!…Apparently, I have a LOT to catch up on. ;)

apple smothered pork chops.

The simplest pork chop begins with a couple of apples, a dash of cinnamon, a bit of brown sugar, and one onion.

Cooked, cooked, cooked.

Until you spot that fine balance, where the apples are forced into a decision of either holding together or falling delicately apart.  All smokey and steamy and oozing with spicy-sweet aroma.

Meanwhile.

In another pan.

The pork chops are browning.

Just as they are.  With just a drizzle of oil to prevent any unwanted sticking.

And before you know it...voila!

You just scoop the apples on top and pretend that you slaved away all day.

When really?

All you did was stand in the kitchen, watching a few apples and pork chops cook.

And that, my friends, is the simplest pork chop.

Apple Smothered Pork Chops
(Serves 4) 

  • 4 bone-in, center-cut pork loin chops
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 large tart apples, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  1. In a large skillet, brown pork chops in oil.  Cover and cook for 7-8 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 145°.
  2. Meanwhile, in small non-stick skillet, cook the apples, onion, cinnamon and brown sugar over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until apples are softened. Smother pork chops with apples and serve. 
QUESTION: What is your “simplest” tried and true, no-fail recipe?  Baked beans!  Aside from the waiting time, they’re ridiculously easy to whip together.  A sure crowd pleaser. :D

Dining Out At Panera Bread.

I decided to add a new page to the blog’s headline.

Introducing: “Dining Out”

I love eating out and trying new foods.  I also love that it’s completely possible to eat well at many restaurants, with new menu items popping up all.of.the.time.  From chain restaurants to the small ma and pa cafe’s, I thought it would be fun to include some of the healthy options/requests/orders that are available out there.

Today, I stopped in at Panera Bread, which is one of my favorite places to eat when I’m out and about.

U-Pick-2 Option:  Black Bean Soup.  Classic Salad.  Whole Grain Baguette (that’s a special request, as the order will automatically deliver a white baguette unless you ask.)

It’s delicious.  Filling.  Soul satisfying.

I only wish I knew what the secret was to their black bean soup (there’s cumin, red onions and black beans in there, and that is all I know!)

When I’m dining out, I like to include some protein (i.e., black bean soup), vegetables (i.e., salad) and a whole grain if possible (i.e., whole grain baguette.)  These three combined, along with a little fat (i.e., fat used in making soup and/or salad dressing) keeps me deliciously full for hours.

It also gives me plenty of energy to shop, shop, shop.  Which is exactly what I did all day. :D

QUESTION: What is your favorite “chain restaurant”?  I’m a big fan of Panera and the Cheesecake Factory.