The Struggle Is Real

 

I took a break from blog posts for a while, because quite honestly, I just didn’t feel like I had anything to say.

I’ve been working and doing all the things I do on a daily basis, but I haven’t even been journaling. I have done that for as long as I can remember, but I just didn’t have any more words.

 I thought maybe my writing days were over.  

I have come out of this writing desert with one thing on my mind.  If you focus only on yourself, your problems, figuring out how to get out of a mess, planning for the future, and working yourself to death trying to do it all, you will eventually realize that it’s not all about you.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan..you should.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t work…you should.  I’m not even saying you shouldn’t care about and be concerned for your own self…you definitely should.  What I am saying is that if you only think about yourself and your future you will be very lonely, stressed out, anxious and not very fun to be around.

I know this from experience.

My life has always been happier and more fulfilled when I am doing things for other people. Unfortunately, sometimes when you get involved in a church it becomes a duty to do things for other people, and it can even become a competition…who can do more and post more pictures of doing more so everyone sees?  This stresses me out and makes me not want to do things for other people at all.  I tend to be a person of extremes.  I’m either all in or I’m all out.

Lately, I’ve been all out.

So, what does all this mean for me?  I guess it just means that I’m back.  Hopefully my writing days are not over, and hopefully I can find a way to put other people back in my focus instead of thinking about myself all the time and worrying about how I’m going to do something a year from now.

I think I’m just going to try to focus on one day at a time, it’s really all we’ve got anyway. 

Vitamins vs. whole food nutrition

Have you ever wondered where vitamins come from?  I mean, you would probably think that they would obviously come from fruits and vegetables, right?  I used to think the same thing.

Before I started eating Juice Plus, my counter looked like a supplement display at a pharmacy.  I had one of those stair step shelves on my counter and I had supplements lined up on every shelf.  I had vitamins, herbs, minerals; you name it, I probably had some at one time.  The sad part is that with all of those pills I was popping every day, I was still suffering from migraines, joint pain and stomach issues.  Every time I would read an article about how this herb or that supplement would help with joint pain, I would try it.  Seriously, at one time I was taking about a dozen pills a day, no prescriptions, just vitamins, minerals and herbs.   And it wasn’t helping.

Lately, I have been wondering, “Where do they get those vitamins anyway?”   I looked up several articles on the topic and found it to be very disturbing.  Most vitamins that you find in the pharmacy, grocery store, health food store and online are synthetic.  Synthetic means man made, or not occurring in nature.  So, when you open up that bottle of multi-vitamins, chances are there isn’t anything natural about it.

I still can’t wrap my head around how scientists “make” vitamins that naturally occur in fruits and vegetables in a lab, then they somehow get all of that stuff in a capsule or a pill.  I guess that’s all way above my pay grade.  What I can tell you is exactly how Juice Plus is made, because it is all fruits, vegetables and grains.  Juice Plus is REAL food, grown in nature. Here is a video describing how Juice Plus is made.

According to the articles that I read about vitamins, most agreed that you can’t get the nutrition you need by taking vitamins.  For one reason, synthetic vitamins are not absorbed by the body the same as food. Quite often they are actually flushed out of our bodies in our urine.

I am one of those people who believes that our bodies were created and given everything we need to live healthy lives right from the beginning.  I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but I do believe that a person could live entirely on fruits and vegetables if they were grown in a medium that promotes high nutritional quality.  The problem is that even the fruits and vegetables we buy in the grocery stores today do not have the same nutritional quality as they did when our parents and grandparents were farming.

If you are truly interested in good health, I recommend that you do some research yourself and decide if synthetic vitamins are what you want to put in your body.  I will only put real food in my body, food that my body was created to absorb and use for energy and good health.  Juice Plus is a great addition to your diet if you need to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet.  Once your body receives the nutrition it is craving, you will see all kinds of positive effects!

 

Calling, Craft or Both?

I was reading a message from my sisters this morning.  (I missed the whole conversation last night and had to catch up.) I realized something from that conversation.   I’ve been doing everything but what I know I am called to be doing.  Have you ever had that happen??

I was sitting here this morning writing about distractions, and got distracted with several things which led me to read the messages I missed last night.  Distractions come in all shapes, sizes and forms.  There are good distractions and bad distractions.  Unfortunately, when you are like me, distractions come all day long like pesky mosquitoes bombarding you when you are trying to sleep. I’ve never been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, but I have a feeling if they were diagnosing that when I was a kid, I would have been labeled.  I’ve always struggled with sitting  still, paying attention, hearing directions.  I hear the first step and I’m gone….my mind is already on step one, while the person is still going through the steps.  I have to keep going back and asking for the next step, and I’m sure its frustrating to the person trying to show me something.  That’s why I learn so much better by doing things. Don’t try to explain it to me, show it to me.  Just don’t let any butterflies fly by while I’m learning or I’ll be looking at the butterfly.  The jokes you see on facebook are just jokes, but for people like me, they are real.  Oh, look at the squirrel, I mean..butterfly.

I had been praying the last few days that God would show me where my focus needs to be.  There are so many options out there, and my mind grabs a little piece of each one and thinks “Oh, I like that one!”  Unfortunately, I like them all.  I want to grab a little piece of each thing I see and try it all. This doesn’t work when you are starting a business.  There has to be a singular focus, one goal. Otherwise you will never know how to measure your success.

You might think there is a formula for prayer.  I heard something on the radio the other day, “Prayer is a process, people don’t understand how it works.”  Maybe they’re right.  Or maybe, just maybe, prayer is just me talking to my Father.  Sometimes it’s me begging for answers from someone who wants to give them to me in the first place.  Sometimes it’s just crying and not even knowing what to say.  Sometimes it’s a spoiled child demanding that God give me what he’s promised.  Any of that sound familiar.  Well, this week my prayers started off like the spoiled child, then migrated into crying and not knowing what to say and eventually became “Abba, I trust you, or at least I’m trying to, I need you to show me.  Give me the creativity that I need.  Help me to be who I’m supposed to be, who I already am but can’t seem to find.”  Then this morning…light bulb.

My light bulb moment came when I realized I had lost my initial focus.  I have known for a long time my calling, if you will, is to help people see their value and beauty exactly how they are today.  But life, and new shiny things and butterflies distracted me.  I started reaching for ALL the things instead of focusing on one thing.  When the one thing didn’t bring fast results, I thought maybe if I had fifteen little feelers out there instead of one….That may work with some things, but really in the end it only divides your attention in so many directions that you can’t focus on the one most important thing.

For me the one most important thing is people.  Mainly my focus is on women, because I am one and sometimes I can relate.  But really my focus is on all people. I have two sons who struggle in different ways than I do, but they still struggle with seeing their own value and beauty (or handsomeness if you want to look at it that way).  It is so easy for me to see the beauty in other people, yet look at myself as if I need so much work to even come close.  I often wonder if I’ll ever measure up and if I’ll ever be good enough.  I have to be reminded frequently that I. AM. ENOUGH.

You may be asking, where does the craft come in?  I went to school to be a health coach.  I have not become a health coach yet, because so many other things get in the way.  Excuses?  Real obstacles?  Both really.  The bottom line to all of this is that my calling is to help people see themselves the way God sees them, and my craft is to help them see who they are today and imagine who they could be tomorrow.  I honestly believe that in order to truly change, though, we have to learn to accept who we are today and learn to love who we are today.  Change may be necessary, but acceptance and belief in who we truly are has to come first.

Got it together?

marcia   April 21, 2017   No Comments on Got it together?

This has been one heck of a week.  If anyone even has the slightest thought that I have it all together, this week would be a great example of how I DON’T have it all together at all.

Have you read Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Broken Way?  I just finished it this week and the only way I can explain it is it wrecked me. I’m not sure yet if it was in a good way or bad way, I’ll let you know when I figure it out.  If you want to take a look at it, you can check it out here.

I had a kind of slow week at work this week, so I was reading during my slow times.  It was rather embarrassing a few times when I had to quickly wipe away tears when someone would walk into my office.  I can’t remember when I’ve cried so much while reading a book.

There were just so many things that spoke to me in that book.  I know I’m broken, there’s no doubt about that, but when I read her book I realized it goes way beyond what i thought.  I have spent so many years building walls, I don’t even realize I have walls anymore.  They just are there, quietly protecting me from pain and real life and any kind of real love and enjoyment that you get out of those things.  I have spent so much time trying to protect myself from getting hurt that I have found that I have protected myself into a corner.  A corner of loneliness and discouragement.  You might not notice it when you talk to me, but it’s there, quietly hiding under the surface, just waiting for the right moment to hijack my life.

That right moment came yesterday when the reality of a letter I received two weeks ago became larger than life.  Unexpected financial struggles came into clear view and I wasn’t ready for it.  I thought I was going to have more time to plan for it, but as life does, it threw me a curve ball.  Oh, I’m not losing my house or anything, but things are going to be tighter and I’ll just be honest, I’d kind of gotten use to having that little extra padding when I wanted to do something special.

So, what do you do when you have something unexpected show up in your life?  Me, I have a melt down, mostly because I’ve been holding in all the stress and anxiety of life for a really long time…pretending it’s not there.  You can pretend you’re not worried if you want to, that’s not the same as having faith.  After my meltdown, I calmed down and tried to look at things a little more rationally.  I was going to have to be more careful, more intentional.  I was going to have to live in the real world now, the one I’ve been protecting myself from for so long.

I went to a Zumbathon last night, because I know that when I go to Zumba, everything just kind of melts away and I can see a little more clearly.  The last song we did was the new song by Mercy Me…Even If.  If you’ve never heard that song, you definitely need to listen to it.

This song speaks volumes to me.  I feel like a big baby when I complain about my small issues when I know there are others out there who are so much worse off than me.  I feel spoiled and selfish.

I’m not one of those bloggers out there who has all kinds of sweet answers for everything and I’ve been there, done that and came out on the other side victorious.  Most days I look at the clock at 9:00 pm and think “I’ve done nothing I planned to do today! ugh!”  Yeah, I’m broken.  I’m not so good at sharing my broken side, I feel like most people don’t want to see you broken, they want to see you fixed so you can show them how to be fixed, too.  But I’m not fixed.

Here’s my answer to that.

JESUS, every day, every minute.  It’s all I’ve got.  I don’t know how in any reality I would be able to survive without my relationship with him.  I don’t do law, I don’t do rules, I don’t do performance…anymore…I just look to him and beg for answers.  And usually I look to him and beg for answers after I’ve already exhausted all of my own ideas and I’ve had a meltdown.  But you know what?  He’s always there.  He’s ALWAYS there.  Why can’t I remember that when I’m in the middle of a so-called crisis and not have the meltdown?  I don’t know, but what I do know is if you’re looking for perfection, you won’t find it here.

If you’re looking for someone whose ready to be open with their broken, messed up life, you’ve come to the right place.  And hopefully you’re ready to be open with your broken, messed up life, too.

Savor The Good Stuff

Can I be really honest with you?  I love healthy food, really I do, but I don’t want my life revolving around all the things I “can’t” have.  And I don’t want you to feel like you have to do that either!

Last night I made a version of Egyptian Beef Shawerma, rice, asparagus and Tzatziki sauce.  Yes, I know Tzatziki is Greek, but that’s how I roll. My sister in law and her husband came over for dinner and I think everyone liked it pretty well. I also had slivered carrots and celery which added a little color and crunch to the meal.  I don’t do this often, but I really like cooking for people.  I did not plan the meal to be “healthy”, I just wanted to try something different.  I found myself wishing I’d had time to make dessert, but no one complained.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love healthy food, but I also love trying new things and I don’t think I’ll ever quit making cheesecakes.  Everyone loves them way too much!

Have you ever felt like the only way you could lose weight was to give up everything that you love? Or maybe you don’t need to lose weight, but you want to feel better.  You do know that you can be skinny and unhealthy right?

I don’t believe you have to give up everything you love to be healthy or to lose weight.  You may have to make some pretty drastic changes depending on how much weight you want to lose, or how unhealthy you really are, but you can still enjoy food and have fun.

Something else I really enjoy is a beer now and then.  I really like a beer especially when it’s hot outside and I’ve been working in the garden.  When I go back to New York and spend time with family, we generally have a few in the evenings while we are sitting around at the campfire.  Or sometimes just when we are all hanging out on Mom’s deck.

I want to encourage you that it’s really not so much about giving things up that change your life, although you will have to give up some things, it is more about adding healthy foods and habits.  If you slowly add more fruit and vegetables to your diet, gradually add more exercise, start drinking more water, and be more intentional about keeping your mind on positive things, those changes will come much easier than if you try to give up everything all at once.

The more you focus on something, the more control it will have over you.  If you want to lose weight, don’t focus on the things you shouldn’t have, focus on the good things that you should have.  If you need to exercise more, don’t make yourself do the things you hate to do, find something you love to do and have fun doing it!  Figure out how you can drink water and like it.  To be honest, I used to hate drinking water.  Now, I carry water with me everywhere and I actually prefer it most of the time.

Life shouldn’t be all about what you are eating, what you are drinking and how many calories you are consuming.  Life is about living, learning, enjoying what is around us and savoring those things.  If it can’t be savored, I’m not going to intentionally add it to my life.  Go out and enjoy life. Try new things, especially sushi!

Revolution Recipe #4 Soft Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

SOFT GLUTEN-FREE SANDWICH BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

Yeast mix:

1½ cup water or almond milk

4 Tbsp honey

2½ tsp dry active yeast (Be sure your yeast is fresh and alive.)

Dry mix:

3 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix

1½ tsp xanthan gum (in addition to what’s already in the Gluten-Free flour mix)

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Feel free to add sweet or savory seasonings to taste.

Wet mix:

2 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

¼ cup olive oil

2 large eggs (see options for egg-free below)

DIRECTIONS: 1) Preheat your oven to 375º F.

2) In measuring cup, measure and warm milk to just above body temperature—should be warm to the touch (not hot or cold). Stir in honey and add yeast last. Set aside and let proof for approximately 10 minutes.

3) Combine dry mix ingredients in small bowl.

4) Combine wet mix ingredients in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix just for a few seconds.

5) Add in the proofed yeast mix and mix again for just a few seconds.

6) Add the dry mix and beat on medium-high for approximately 3 minutes. Dough will be wet, but thick and sticky!

7) If necessary, oil and flour your 9×5 loaf pan or spray with non-stick coating.

Using a spatula, scrape the bread mixture into your prepared loaf pan and set on top of your stove to proof while the oven is preheating. Be sure to smooth out the loaf with spatula or wet fingers before proofing as the loaf will not smooth out itself. It is important not to over-proof the bread—just let it rise until the mixture is approximately double in size (20-30 minutes depending on your room temperature). Don’t let it rise above your loaf pan… just until it crests the top. Gluten-free breads do not maintain their structure and will flow over the pan or collapse if left to over-rise or over-filled.

8) Bake for approximately 30-45 minutes. If the crust is darkening too quickly, you can cover it with foil (tent open ended) and return to baking until done. (Cook until you get an internal temperature of 210-220º F. on a digital thermometer).

9) Remove loaf pan from oven and let cool for 3-5 minutes before turning out onto your cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before attempting to cut into slices. An electric knife works well.

RECIPE: ALITTLEINSANITY.COM

I really don’t eat a lot of bread myself anymore, but I know there are a lot of people who really love bread and don’t want to even attempt to quit eating it.  I made this bread yesterday while I was preparing all of my other Shred meals and I think it came out pretty good.

Most of the gluten free breads I’ve tried have come out nothing like bread. They are mostly very heavy and the taste is not even close.  This bread filled up half of my bread pan before it proofed, so that was a good sign for me.

The recipe says to bake until you reach an internal temperature of 210 to 220.  I set my timer for 35 minutes and checked it.  Then I set it for 8 more minutes and checked it again.  I set it for another 8 minutes and at that point the temperature was 220. Maybe it was the checking, but I think it actually could have gone a little longer.

It came out nice and soft, and my husband tried it when he got home and said it was pretty good. I ate a piece of the bread toasted and I thought it was pretty good, too.  All in all, if you’re looking for a soft bread for eating with soup or even making a sandwich with, this will work, and it’s not too much trouble either.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Revolution Recipe #3-Quinoa, Butternut Squash and Black Bean Taco Bowl

Here is the recipe.

 

QUINOA, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BLACK BEAN TACO BOWL

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups butternut squash or sweet potato (peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ cup chopped onion

½ tsp cumin powder

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp fajita seasoning

coconut or olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 400° F. Toss squash or potato cubes with 1 tablespoon oil, minced garlic, and salt/ pepper to taste. Roast on baking sheet for 20-30 minutes until tender.

2) Combine quinoa and broth in a small pot. Cook according to package directions.

3) Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a separate pan. Sauté onions until they are soft. Add the black beans and the seasonings and cook over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes.

4) To assemble the bowls, layer the quinoa, butternut squash, and beans and top with your favorite toppings: cilantro, onion, chopped tomato, avocado, salsa, or guacamole.

 

I told you I would be honest about all the recipes.  My husband did not care for this one.  Honestly, the first night, I wasn’t sure I liked it either.  It seemed a little dry, and the flavors were not as vivid as I expected them to be.  After I had heated up the beans with the spices they tasted extremely spicy and very dry, so I added a little coconut milk (canned) to it to smooth it out a little both in texture and flavor.  Then when I added them to the bowl, they seemed sort of bland.  Anyway, I really love all of the ingredients individually, so I was a little disappointed in how they all went together.  I added sliced avocado and tomatoes on top, too.

I had quite a bit left over, so I decided to layer the leftovers in my mason jars and take them to work for lunch.  I knew my husband wasn’t going to finish them off this time.  I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I warmed it up and the flavors had really expanded and improved.  I was a little worried about the avocado, because I wasn’t thinking and added the chopped tomatoes and sliced avocado (dipped in lemon juice) right on top in the mason jar.  Once I warmed it up, I mixed everything up and it tasted really good.  I brought the second one for lunch today. I was very surprised and impressed that the avocado was not brown even after a couple days in the fridge.

All in all, I probably won’t make this again unless I make it for a Taste of Shred 10 party, because I will be eating it alone.  However, it is better if you put it together and let it chill overnight.

Another note:  I hate buying spice mixes at the store.  They are usually really expensive and a lot of times they have “stuff” in them to keep them from caking together.  So, when it called for Fajita Seasoning, I made my own.  It’s really not hard and I had all the separate spices anyway, because I had made a Shawerma spice that same day for the chicken I roasted to go with this recipe.  I’m sure my husband was very glad I did.

This is what my table looked like when I was making my spices.  You don’t have to make everything from scratch, but I like doing it and I think it tastes better.  Sometimes I find that I like a little less of one spice and a little more of another, so making it myself makes it a little more personalized.  If you do make your own mixes, just save your empty spice jars and re-purpose them like I did with my Fajita seasoning.

 

Be Yourself

marcia   March 29, 2017   No Comments on Be Yourself

I have been doing a lot of writing lately.

Writing has always been a sort of therapy for me.  For as long as I can remember, I have written in journals.  It is a way for me to express my feelings and thoughts without the fear of rejection. When I was really young and even in my teen years, I just said what I felt and sometimes I really hurt other people with my words.  Typically when I hurt someone, there was  some sort of backlash or retaliation, so I ended up hurt, too.  I didn’t always know how to express myself without anger, so eventually I just stopped trying.  Instead I wrote everything down.

Sometimes I wish I had kept all those journals from when I was younger, I have forgotten so many things.  Maybe it’s just as well.  Every few years I would go through all my notebooks and burn them.  I didn’t want anyone reading what I had written down.  One time my husband read one of my journals and became very angry with me about something I had written.  I was angry that he had read my journal, but I said, “I write in my journal so I won’t say things to people that may hurt them.  Once I get it on paper it is easier for me to work through it.  You were never meant to hear those words, you should not read someone’s personal journals unless you’re willing to deal with the consequences.”  I don’t think he’s ever read any of them again.

While doing my writing therapy, I have come to terms with a lot of things in the last few years.  One of those things is that I’m not getting any younger.  I look in the mirror and I see that I am getting older, there is no escaping that.  Something else I’ve learned about myself is that I have spent most of my life trying to be somewhere, someone else, doing something else.  When I was a child, I wanted to be a teenager, once I became a teenager, being 21 was the goal.  After 21 I think you start to slow down wanting to be older, but there was always something, somewhere else that I was trying to get to.  Have you ever felt that way?  Today isn’t enough, I want to be somewhere else, someone else, doing something different.

Why does it take so long for us to realize that Today is really all we’re supposed to experience right now?  Why do we feel the need to be in the future when all we have is right now?  I believe for me it is because I have never accepted myself as I am.  I have always wanted to be a better, prettier, thinner, stronger, happier, richer version of myself.  In the pursuit of those things, I have missed out on a lot of Todays.  If we are fortunate to get to old age, one of the things we will have to keep us company is our memories.  Somehow, I don’t think that memories of working, being away from my family, exercising and starving myself are going to sustain me when I am alone and feeling lonely.

If I could give one piece of advice to people it would be to be yourself, accept yourself, and love yourself just the way you are.  That doesn’t mean we can’t work toward improvement.  It doesn’t mean we stay where we are.  We are always moving forward in time, we should also be moving forward in our everyday lives.  But.  If we could learn to accept who we are today, learn that we are ok for right now, I believe we would be able to be more present.

When I get old I want memories of my family, adventure, friends and fun experiences to sustain me.

Revolution Recipe #2-Banana Bread Overnight Oats

I actually made this overnight oatmeal the same day I made the Mushroom Risotto.  While the Risotto was in the oven, I mixed up the ingredients and put them in the jars.  I made a double batch, because I was making it for my husband and wanted to make sure there was enough. He loves instant oatmeal in the mornings, so I thought this would be perfect for him, and maybe a little better for him.  I really shy away from just about anything instant, so I have to believe this tastes much better.

You can use just about any type of mason jar that you want for this, but I find that wide mouth jars are much easier to use if you’re going to actually eat from the jar.  I found these ones at Walmart and I think they were about $8.50 for four.  It doesn’t hurt that they are kind of cute, too.

Here’s the recipe.

BANANA BREAD OVERNIGHT OATS

INGREDIENTS: 1 mashed ripe banana

½ cup rolled or steel cut oats

½ cup plant based milk, unsweetened

2 Tbsp chopped pecans or walnuts

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cinnamon

dash of sea salt

1 Tbsp ground flax

2 tsp 100% pure maple syrup

DIRECTITONS: 1) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until all ingredients are incorporated well. Pour into single serve bowls or mason jars.

2) Refrigerate overnight (at least 4 hours).

3) Serve hot or cold.

4) Garnish with some sliced banana or more nuts if desired.

Recipe: http://www.bewholebeyou.com

I used chia seeds instead of the ground flax, because I just like chia seeds in everything and I’m not really crazy about the flavor of ground flax.  Since I was making this for my husband, I thought I’d better stick to something I thought he might like, maybe I can gradually steer him toward eating some more healthy stuff a little at a time.  This is actually the first time I’ve got him to try chia seeds and it was a success!

Remember I doubled the batch, so I  put half in each jar.  Then as a garnish, I put chopped walnuts and dried cranberries.  My husband loved it.  Maybe I can replace his instant oatmeal with something a little healthier, and probably a little more filling too.

There are so many variations of overnight oats you can try.  You can eat them cold or warmed up, too.  My husband put his in the microwave for about a minute I think, just make sure you stir it before you try to eat it.  I really don’t like using a microwave for rewarming things, but sometimes you just don’t have any other way.

Revolution recipe # 2, a success and approved by my husband. 🙂

Trying Out Revolution Recipes-Mushroom Risotto

I tried out a couple of new recipes over the weekend and thought I would share one of them with you.

One of the reasons people don’t want to eat healthy is because they think eating healthy means eating salads and raw vegetables all the time.  And I get it, some people just don’t like raw vegetables, or any vegetables in some cases.

There are so many recipes you can make that are healthy and taste good, but it takes a little effort to find them.  So, I decided to go through our Revolution Recipes and try them and share them with you.  And I promise I will be honest, like when I tried that “bread” I saw on Facebook that the birds didn’t even want.

I love to cook, I have ever since I was little, standing on a stool in my grandmother’s kitchen.  I was so fortunate to have a grandmother who saw my potential and realized she needed something to keep my hands busy.  It can be a challenge teaching your kids to cook, especially if they are as active and busy as I was, but I think my family would agree that her patience paid off.  My love for all things food has helped me create some really good meals that I enjoy sharing probably as much as people enjoy eating.

The first recipe I decided to try is Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions.  My husband and I both love mushrooms so this just made sense.  There are some ingredients that you may not have around normally, but for the most part they are pretty easy to find.

MUSHROOM RISOTTO WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS

SERVES 4 TO 6

INGREDIENTS:

½ ounce dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms, finely chopped

2 cups boiling water

1/3 cup olive oil, divided

4 yellow onions (about 2 pounds)

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

½ pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 large sprig fresh rosemary

1 cup Arborio or short-grain white rice

½ cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (make sure it’s vegan!)

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 cups vegetable broth (see how to make your own)

1 tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

1) Heat the oven to 300°F. Rinse the dried mushrooms lightly, to remove any dust or grit. Place the mushrooms in a ceramic bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set them aside to steep while you cook the onions.

2) Chop one of the onions into a fine dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 3-quart (or larger) ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until soft and golden. Push the onions to the side of the pot, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add all the sliced cremini mushrooms and let them cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Flip the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes, or until they are quite brown and a crust is developing on the bottom of the pan.

3) Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Add the mushrooms and rosemary sprig to the pan and sauté briefly, mixing with the onion and the rest of the mushrooms. Add the rice and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 4 minutes, or until the rice begins to turn transparent.

4) Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, vinegar, broth, and reserved mushroom steeping liquid. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan as you add the liquid to deglaze any yummy mushroomy bits sticking to the pan. Stir in the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and put it in the oven to bake for 35 minutes.

5) While the rice is baking, make the caramelized onions. Heat the remaining olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Cut the remaining three onions in half, and then slice them into thin half moons. Add them to the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a dark mahogany brown. Let them go as long as you can; I usually cook mine for at least 30 minutes.

6) When the risotto has finished baking, let it stand uncovered for 5 minutes before serving. Dish it up and top each bowl with a spoonful of caramelized onions, a little extra pepper, and, if desired, a scoop of sour cream, whipped mascarpone, or whipped Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.

RECIPE: WWW.THEKITCHN.COM

Sometimes when I’m looking for a recipe and it’s on a person’s blog, I really just need the recipe.  I’m not really looking for all the cute stories someone wants to tell about their cat or their child or whatever else they add in before the recipe.  So, if you want to keep reading after getting the recipe, I have a few things to add.

First, I could not find dried mushrooms anywhere in Kroger, and I had already decided I wasn’t going anywhere else.  So, I bought fresh mushrooms instead.  In fact, I bought 12oz. of mixed mushrooms; shiitake, cremini and Portobello.  Then in addition to that I still bought the white mushrooms, and I bought a whole pound of those.  They were reduced, I couldn’t let them go to waste, right?  So this is how many mushrooms I actually used in the recipe.

                    

There can never be too many mushrooms in my opinion.  So, instead of soaking the dry mushrooms in boiling water, I just added two more cups of broth in when it was time to add the liquid.  Listen, even if I have all the right ingredients, I almost always add my own twist to a recipe…it’s just who I am.

Everything else I followed pretty closely, except for the fact that I only had three onions instead of four, and no one in my family likes onions much anyway, so there were fewer caramelized onions to throw away after I had what I wanted.

I did use Arborio rice, but if I had not been able to find it readily, I would have used whatever rice I normally use, which is either brown rice or medium grain white rice.  I really like the Arborio in this recipe though.

I also did not buy vegetable broth.  I had lofty ideas of making my own, but I forgot to buy celery while I was at the grocery store, so that didn’t happen.  However, I did have some beef broth in my fridge that I needed to use up anyway, so that went in there instead of the vegetable broth and mushroom broth.  And since last year I grew Rosemary, I had some dried Rosemary instead of fresh, it worked just as well.  Oh, I also forgot the balsamic vinegar so I googled substitutes and found that apple cider vinegar works fine.  I actually bought white wine, even though I don’t drink it, and did use that.  I have no idea what I’ll use the rest of it for.  If by some chance you don’t have some of the ingredients, like the wine, or the vinegar, I’m sure it would come out just as delicious if you use broth instead.  Just make sure you use the same amount of liquids or the rice will end up dry and not quite cooked properly.

                    

I also don’t have a lid for my nice cast iron dutch oven, so I transferred everything into my Pampered Chef baker that does have a lid and it all worked out just fine.  Because I didn’t have the heat from the dutch oven after transferring into my Pampered Chef baker, I let it cook about ten minutes longer.  If at all possible, use a pan that you can go from stove top to oven, it will be simpler and it will not take longer to finish.

My husband really liked this recipe and it didn’t even have any meat in it!  Most men like meat with their meals, so I try to have some type of meat for him when possible.  I personally could go without meat.  I’m not a vegetarian, I just don’t think I need meat to survive.  A good steak once in a while is pretty nice though.

I am going to attempt to try at least one new recipe a week and I will really have to discipline myself to take pictures.  Feel free to share if you like this recipe.