Welcome guests with a great salad – get your crunch on!


IMG_20110120_185631“What I love most is an abundance of simple food of perfect quality and staggering freshness, very simply and respectfully treated, tasting strongly of itself.” Sybille Bedford, in The Artist’s & Writer’s Cook Book, 1961*

Isn’t that an awesome quote?

On Fridays a box of locally grown, in-season produce arrives at my doorstep from The Produce Box. Fresh fruits and vegetables bursting with color and flavor are a highlight to my week.

In our family, salad is a verb. With the exception of my ministry-minded middle who is loath to leafy greens, the rest of the gang enjoys a fresh green salad. Click here for Nate’s favorite salad!

My first experience with homemade dressing was while living in Normandy, France. My French family created their own salad dressing using Dijon mustard and vinegar and it was sublime. Prior to that I thought the only way to have a salad dressing was to buy it! Boy, was I wrong!

I guess you could say I had “un grand moment avec une salade” or “a big moment with a salad” in France.

Really, it’s so simple to make your own salad dressing. Here are a few reasons why it’s worth the small effort involved.

IMG_3010_10241. The taste is far superior to that of a bottled salad dressing. It never ceases to amaze me how many salad dressings there are in the grocery aisle but you could do the same thing at home, quite honestly!

2. Instead of some gi-normous food manufacturer determining your ingredients, you can please your own palate and your family’s.

3. You can substitute, reduce or omit ingredients based on what’s available in your cupboards.

4. Time saving The few upfront minutes I (or one of my olive shoots) invest in making extra dressing beforehand, allows us to conveniently have a fresh salad in minutes. When I make extra, I  just use a clean glass jar to store it in the fridge. When making the dressing for others, I repurpose a jar that used to contain jelly or jam.

I prefer to buy only triple-washed spring mix or romaine lettuce. That’s because despite my valiant efforts to adequately wash the leaves, I’m often left with a gritty bunch of dirt in the greens and ain’t nobody got time for that.

The recipe I’m including below is a favorite.

Add blackberries plus yellow and red peppers to give the salad a summer flair. For a different salad, throw some pears and walnuts for a delightful and slightly fancy twist. Often in the Christmas season, I toss handfuls of pomegranate seeds to make it festive and add a fun crunch. My buddy and writer pal Meredith stopped by one night and got to try pomegranate seeds which totally rocked her world! #truestory

If I have some homemade kale, spinach or beet powder handy, I’ll sprinkle a little on the salad for additional flavor, color and nutrition. Yes, I take salads seriously.

Here’s the recipe, hope you enjoy!

4 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 tablespoon honey**

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix it all together and shablam, you’re ready to dress up your salad.

Questions – When you say salad, what is your family’s reaction? Does your family even eat salad? How do you make it appealing?

"My mom makes me eat salad and that's why I have big muscles. She's the best."

“My mom makes me eat salad and that’s why I have big muscles. She’s the best.” Aaron’s buddy Caleb looks by in awe.

*Quote from Simple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing

** Raw, unfiltered honey is the best. If you can, get your honey from a local beekeeper. Clover and wildflower honey have the mildest flavor.

Five minute Friday – brave


photo copy 2Why just typing about the subject of bravery is well, brave.

My heartbeat is increasing with each.word.placed.

An idea has been swirling in my head for a while now and I’m afraid. I scarcely allow myself to ponder this and now I’m nearing the moment of revealing it to you.

A sample of the things I used this week. I feel happy in the kitchen.

A sample of the things I used this week. I feel happy in the kitchen.

What if my idea succeeds? What if it’s a total failure? What’s my motivation? Do I have the physical, financial, emotional resources needed to make it work?

Speaking to over 50,000 teenagers about saving sex for marriage was brave. Sharing incredibly personal stories about my past was something I asked the Lord to help me with every time I did it and that was for nearly eight years.

But now the Lord is placing, (I think) an idea which scares me as much as the first time I entered a high school classroom full of very skeptical kids.

My dining room

My dining room

I’m thinking about opening my home to encourage women with cooking and hospitality. Not as a money making idea, not to sell any kitchen gadgets or products, but just to encourage women in the art of domesticity. This is something so very close to my essence as a wife, mother and homemaker.

I think about this idea when I am chopping red cabbage or stirring up a homemade salad dressing in the kitchen. When I’m roasting poblano peppers or making a pretty table setting for my family, I feel this urge to open my home and show others how to do it. I’m so not an expert which is why I’m afraid to try.

When I think about going forward, I bravely ask God, “Is this what you want me to do?” It’s sad that I don’t know any of my neighbors, what if they reject me? So many questions and doubts but yet an eagerness and an unction to try.

Writing for five minutes is a treasure. Do it!

Writing for five minutes is a treasure. Do it!

Should I do it? What is the brave thing you are contemplating?

Check out this word party. This might be the brave thing you need to do!

Five Minute Friday – Dive

Lord, please forgive me for watching 30 minutes of this incredibly stupid show!

Lord, please forgive me for watching 30 minutes of this incredibly stupid show!

After our company left on Wednesday, I turned on the tv. Bad idea. If the Five Minute Friday were any other word, I wouldn’t even be sharing but yes,

I watched about 30 minutes of Celebrity Diving and I repent. Perhaps the stupidest show ever created.

Strangely though, that ridiculous show, which I wouldn’t have watched had the tv not been on that particular channel, it did get me thinking about diving.

That feeling of plunging into the unknown is exhilarating.

The whole reason we had company on Wednesday night is because two people jumped into something.

In some way, you could say these guys are divers!

In some way, you could say these guys are divers!

Last year, my ministry-minded olive shoot began tutoring Hispanic students at a local church every Monday evening. He became fast friends with one of the boys and soon Aaron was working with this young man every week. As I contemplate the word “dive,” I see how my OS jumped into this opportunity with all his might.

During break from college, Aaron returned to visit the students and soon reunited with Mario. His mother embraced my boy and an offer to make us dinner materialized.

Diving into opportunity and deliciousness, two moms of three olive shoots bond over food, faith and family.

Diving into opportunity and deliciousness, two moms of three olive shoots bond over food, faith and family.

Two days later, Miriam was at my house. Homemade, from scratch tostadas, homemade mashed beans, Habanero sauce, queso fresco – mouth-watering delicious, authentic Mexican food carefully prepared for us to enjoy.  This precious mom of three olive shoots dove right in to my kitchen. Without any hesitation, she prepared us a meal and insisted on serving us even though we would have been happy to make our own plates.

We dove into our meal, the experience, the love and common bonds we shared. I want to dive into that moment again.

So what’s Five Minute Friday? What’s 5 minute Friday? It’s where a beautiful crowd spends five minutes all writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here. Check it out, I love it! 5minutefriday

One-word prayers


Before having our first dinner of 2013 –

photo copy 4And after the Hubs had prayed,

I had an idea

(A truly beautiful idea if you ask me)

Initially it wasn’t warmly received

But I insisted

And so we went around the dining room table

Falafel, salad, mung bean sprouts and such, they paused

Cherishing these moments together

Cherishing these moments together

Three precious olive shoots

– A Soldier

– A ministry-minded middle

– An orange hair, freckle face sophomore

The Hubs and I

Offered a one-word prayer for the person to our left

Here are the brief utterances we spoke to each other

The one-word prayers we shared for each other. I am curious to see how these words are fulfilled.

The one-word prayers we shared for each other. I am curious to see how these words are fulfilled.

A simple, carefully selected word emerged from our lips individually

Handpicked from God, I’d like to think

A collective sigh of relief

And blessing manifested

As we feasted (finally) on all we had been given

photo copy 2

Adventures with Flat Stanleyette, part two

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"I've never dehydrated anything before! This should be interesting!"

“I’ve never dehydrated anything before! This should be interesting!” Flat Stanleyette pictured with dehydrated cauliflower and an undehydrated butternut squash. Huh…

I certainly hope (and pray) that my niece, A., had a good day at school on Friday. Friday would have been a very important day to have a regular, wonderful time as an elementary school student.

These are soap nuts and this is the way Aunt Cindy and her family wash their clothes!

These are soap nuts and this is the way Aunt Cindy and her family wash their clothes!

My niece’s Flat Stanleyette hopefully arrived at school along with a box of surprises. Yesterday would have been a fitting day for happiness to fill a classroom…

Here are a few of the highlights –

1. Flat Stanleyette learned about soap nuts sold by Olive Shoot Institute. This is our family’s small business. This is the way we do laundry! At first FS thought we were crazy even though she appreciated the fact that soap nuts are 100% biodegradable, organic and natural. To think that there are trees in India that produce a berry which clean clothes blew her paper mind. However, when she noticed that our clothes smelled fresh and clean, our towels were fluffy and fresh, she became a true believer. Upon her insistence, I gave her some soap nuts to bring back home.

Flat Stanleyette noticed that sometimes Ike would like to eat a dorito.

Flat Stanleyette noticed that sometimes Ike would like to eat a dorito.

2. We kept her busy dehydrating and learning about preparing healthy food. She helped slice the fruit and vegetables, place it on our Excalibur dehydrator trays and spritz some lemon juice on things to keep it from turning gross colors. She helped make vegetable powders with our Vita-Mix and imagined all the ways they could be put into soups, etc.

3. Sometimes FS looked surprised when we told her we eat persimmons, kale, spinach and banana chips. We don’t always eat organic stuff or healthy things but we wanted her to try new things and expand her palate. When Flat Stanleyette returned home, she brought dehydrated banana chips, persimmons and apple slices. She was super excited to share them with the kids. Hope you guys liked them!

4. Our paper friend joined me in learning how to make fabric bowls. “Wow, this takes a lot of skill and patience!” she declared one afternoon. FS went to bed very tired that night with a slight headache.

A collage of fun!

A collage of fun!

5. It was her first time at a high school men’s basketball game and as expected, FS drew a lot of attention. Thankfully, her new best friend Erma helped her deal with all the looks and stares. Erma is a Guinea pig girl doll and proud of it! They both agreed everybody was probably jealous of their beauty. It was a fast-paced game and she is now the biggest fan of #21 whom she began calling “Lebron” even though he is an orange hair, freckle face teenager. The coach really wanted to get a picture with FS following their big win.

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and cheered on the team!

Flat Stanleyette and Erma became fast friends and cheered on the team!

Apple and memories


Fall melange of colors

The sound you hear in the background is my dehydrator. I apologize, I know it’s loud. That’s why it’s in the dining room. Sorry about that but it’s the time of year where I seem to use it the most. I harken back to this time last September when my oldest OS was preparing for his second ACL surgery and I was busy making him healthy treats to help his recovery. Wistful, relieved and bountiful describe that time and season of life.

My house smells like apples and cinnamon. I have apple slices, apple leathers loaded in many dehydrator trays and granola filling in the remaining of the nine trays. Ike is eating his weight in granola and in the past week, I’ve also dehydrated beef jerky for a friend which I carefully kept away from my drooling, orange hair, freckle face OS.

Autumnal colors enter my home and since finding the Sherwin Williams ColorSnap app, I’m a dither with discovering possible color pallets for my home, should the opportunity ever exist.

So today I grabbed my iPhone after making a batch of granola and took pictures. With 50 pounds of old-fashioned oats, (yes, 50), I’d say I have a lot of granola to make. Throwing in some dehydrated cherries from the summer or a handful of pepitas and suddenly I feel like a fancy girl. I like fancy girl feelings.

With a hankering for another kind of crunchy, I began soaking flax seed, sesame, poppy and pumpkin seeds for a raw cracker and took more pictures. The colors were captivating and the names Sherwin Williams uses for each color, well to me they seem inspired. (Btw, I’m not a paid endorser of Sherwin Williams!).

Which one of these colors would you most welcome into your home? I’d love to hear and if you use the app, tell me what colors you discovered.

In my next post, I’ll write about pre-soaking grains. I’m learning about this concept and it’s intriguing.

Until then, here’s the recipe I use for the raw multi-seed crackers –

1 cup flax seeds, golden or brown

1/2 cup mixed seeds, for example, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin

1/2 t. sea salt

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or mild) or cumin seeds or ground chili pepper or the spice/spice mix of your choice

The night before, put the flax seeds in a medium bowl and add 1 cup of water. In another bowl, put the mixed seeds and add water to cover.

In the morning, drain the mixed seeds well and add them to the soaked and now gel-like flax seeds (these need no draining). Add the salt and paprika and stir well with a fork to combine.

Spread very thinly on one or two dehydrator trays lined with solid sheets. An offset spatula, the kind you use to frost a cake – makes spreading easier. Sprinkle a touch more salt on the surface. (I don’t because they seem too salty).

Dehydrate at 110 degrees fahrenheit for about six hours until dry and crisp. About three hours into the dehydrating, flip the crackers so they will dehydrate evenly. Break into pieces once cooled.

Excalibur dehydrators are the bomb dignity. http://www.excaliburdehydrator.com/

One more thing, Excalibur is having 10% off until 9/30/2012, check it out!  Shawn, tell the Hubs if he loves you, he’ll get you one of these too!

What color was your dinner?


“Hey everybody, this is important!”

Food is on the table

Getting ready to pray

When I look at the spread before us

And notice

Hey, this is a bi-color dinner!

Quick, grab the camera!

People need to know!

Edamame – green

Massaged kale salad – verdurous with splashes of bright yellow (mango) and sage green (pepitas)

Italian quinoa salad – social butterfly yellow, green pepper green, yellow corn

This is my unintentional bi-color dinner, everybody!)

Within arm’s reach, a shaker of homemade celery powder, made in my dehydrator

Over to the side

Popcorn – hints of soft yellow amidst the white explosions speckled with Fire Dancer seasoning

Then I realize, WHOA!


The plates are

Green plate swirls

Garden spot green

Witty green


Optimistic yellow!

The Pyrex bowl containing the roasted kale (brown green), you ask?

Cut the Mustard gold

I love all the beautiful colors in Pyrex!

I exclaim, “Hey, guys! This is really important!

But no one else noticed,

Neither, the Hubs nor the orange hair, freckle face OS cared.

They were just hungry. Phooey.

This blog post was brought to you by the colors yellow and green and by the word observant

Find your colors at Sherwin Williams and this amazing app on Sherwin Williams ColorSnap. I didn’t know about this app until I started writing this post. But you can use your smart phone to match real-world colors with paint colors. All for free! You can take a picture of your dinner (like I did) and it will tell you the names of the corresponding paint colors! How cool is that! 

Taa daa! Construction is complete!


“Look at me holding a glue gun next to my very own Sears Tower!”

Tomorrow is Aaron’s party and today we finished our Sears Tower.

Aside from knowing my OS are walking with the Lord, I can think of no greater joy than seeing my boys at home in the kitchen and handily wielding a hot glue gun. I’m a simple woman, don’t ya know?

Note the skill and concentration on this guy’s face

As Aaron was attaching the last story to our very own indoor Sears Tower, I proudly announced to him, “You are going to make a very fine husband one day.” He will be quite a catch, ladies, I assure you. Martha Stewart would be so proud!

If you have a beautiful, godly daughter who likes crafts and is between 17-19 years old, feel free to send me her resume and upon approval, I will have my OS contact your daughter to schedule a wedding in a few years. I thank you in advance. Gotta run and do some more things for the big event, we’re getting ready to par-tayyyy!


What to do when pastors are people


I might NOT be the world’s best sleeper but I am a pretty decent cook and I can throw a good dinner party so I got that going for me. Things are going well with me not using Ambien but I really want to have my sleep become an effortless aspect of my life and not something that requires much time and practice. One day I pray this will be so. Until then, I keep moving forward and looking for SAFE and NATURAL ways to get restful sleep. Keep sharing my friends, I really appreciate it!

Welcome to my home!

But back to two things I manage to do fairly well. Last night we hosted a dinner party and invited our pastors to join us. Gulp! That adds an additional measure of pressure, don’t you think? Sure they are just people but you really don’t want to do anything stupid when your pastor’s just arm’s length away from you, right?  Plus you want everything to taste good, for conversation to flow and for there to be a sweet fellowship among the guests. And you certainly don’t want your kids to embarrass you by discussing that less than stellar parenting moment you had during the week…so I’m wondering if based on all of their congregants’ insecurities, can pastors really have any social life at all? Hmmm…we need to change the paradigm and bless these folks.

Getting ready for company

For days I had been planning Saturday night’s dinner. I moved furniture, consulted with the family regarding the menu, bought groceries and made the chicken broth for the gumbo. I ironed napkins, wrote on our kitchen chalkboard and did one of my all-time favorite things, set the tables. Oh how I love to make a pretty table for my family and friends.

It wasn’t the easiest thing to put on the wall but definitely worth it.

A few days prior, the Hubs had placed a super cool decal on our dining room wall. It aptly expresses who we strive to be as a family. Here’s a link if you want one of these decals.

Water lily napkin fold with a dehydrated tomatillo husk in the middle, they are so pretty!

For this dinner, I did a super easy water-lily napkin fold technique and added some tomatillo husks that I had dehydrated to the center of the napkin. I have never cooked with tomatillos until a few weeks ago and I was simply smitten with the husks. They looked like little flowers to me. Yes, I felt like a fancy girl and it reminded me of playing with my doll house many years ago. A smattering of the husks dotted the tables. Privately I prayed the pastors and their wives would shriek with delight the moment they entered the room.

And while I’m not sure that happened, we had an absolutely lovely time.

Pastors and their wives can be super fun! Trust me, we know!

And we played Think-ets which became the highlight of the evening. With Think-ets we learned more about each other than we might have just in having simple table talk. Our conversations were personal, deep, hilarious and fascinating. I’ll tell you about Think-ets more in my next post.

We have been blessed to have many Jesus-loving pastors tending our family throughout the years but sadly we have never done anything like this before. It was time to offer hospitality to the people who have cared for us and we sought to bless them. If the thought of having your pastors or members of clergy over to your house invites fear and worry, do it anyway as a way of saying thanks. What to do when pastors are people? Easy. Love them, feed them, pray for them big time because they’re dealing with people like you and me and welcome them into your home. They deserve it and so do you.

We called this table the grown up table! It was a lovely time!

Real Soldiers eat salad and I have proof


Nate and one of his housemates threw a party for the other folks in their troop. It’s weird thinking that my OS is now hosting social functions without my input but it’s also quite awesome thinking that he is doing it so well.

I’m not sure it’s leather but Nate got this find for only $200! Thanks Dave Ramsey!

He is getting settled and learning the nuances of independence. Recently I received a text from him and he was all aflutter (I just had to say that about my Soldier as it conjures up the silliest visual image) about the new leather couch he bought at a yard sale! The other day he bought a washing machine and dryer for only $200. My OS is doing all that he can to make Fort Benning a good place for him until the next season of life rolls around.

I am happy to hear how he’s acclimating but the proudest moment for me was when he told me about one particular dish he served to his nearly 20 guests at his 4th of July bash.

Our Soldiers need to eat well in order to be Army Strong!

When asked about what kind of lettuce he used, my boy said, “Romaine!” He actually said “Romaine!”

Among other things offered at the 4th of July celebration, Nate also served salad. And not just any salad, oh no. That boy remembers his roots and he made his own dressing! And when I inquired about what kind of lettuce he used, I secretly hoped that he wouldn’t answer “iceberg.”  My oldest OS did not disappoint. That amazing young man replied rather matter of factly, “Romaine.” Yes! A feeling a total contentment a washed every fiber of my being and since I eat Romaine lettuce, I have plenty of fiber thank you very much. 😉

Y’all, the Lord could have taken me Home right then and there! But since He didn’t and I’m still alive, it gives me a chance to post the recipe for you. Originally a Rachael Ray recipe, we have since renamed it Hooah Salad. Nate has made this salad in El Salvador for his girlfriend and her family and now he’s taking his culinary skills to Fort Benning in Georgia. I smile thinking of my Soldier stopping by the grocery store in his ACUs just to buy a small jar of tarragon. He might have worn his civies but I like my image better. That’s pretty cool.

I gave this recipe to a newlywed couple recently and asked them to pray for Nate and the troops anytime they make Hooah Salad. If you ever make this, will you do the same? It would mean a lot to this mama of a Soldier.

My Soldier likes salad. Thanks Rachael Ray for a great recipe that is a family favorite!

Here you go, enjoy!

Hooah Salad

The zest and juice of one small navel orange

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 t. Dijon mustard

1 t. dried tarragon (a traditional French spice)

1 t. salt

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches romaine lettuce

3 scallions (green onions), chopped

Whisk orange zest (it smells really good), orange juice with garlic, Dijon mustard, tarragon and salt. Stream in extra virgin olive oil and whisk to combine. Chop lettuce and toss with scallions and dressing.

Remember Nate and all those serving as you enjoy!

And oh, here’s the link to ordering that cookbook if you are interested. I know a lot of 2LTs need some good recipes and for under $5, this has a ton!