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

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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.

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The power of a praying proctologist

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"Thank you, Sir, may I have another?"

“Thank you, Sir, may I have another?”

All of the preparations for the colonoscopy went as expected; it was what occurred moments before the actual procedure that were a surprise. I planned on writing about my colonoscopy experience in an effort to help others but I KNEW I was going to write when my doctor surprised me.

As the medical team wheeled me into the area, we engaged in pleasant conversation. After all this time, things were finally ready. A sterile piece of equipment was soon headed where no man had trodden asunder.

But before the doctor began the colonoscopy, my doctor did the craziest thing.

He prayed for me.

And it wasn’t a haphazard, “I better do this because I’m a doctor in the Bible Belt” kind of supplication.

No, quite the contrary.

Um, yeah...

Um, yeah…

Instead, he gently leaned over me, the room grew still and he kindly placed his hands on me and prayed. As the words flowed out of his mouth, I remember distinctly feeling that this guy meant what he said.

Though there was a very embarrassing aspect of what was going to happen next, this man was caring for another part of me that was even more raw and I wouldn’t have thought that possible. It was my heart, the spiritual beating of my soul.

I didn’t feel like I was in a revival which is hilarious considering I was getting a colonoscopy and those things don’t usually go together. Nor did I sense that he was scared about what he was going to do so he had to ask Jesus for help. Instead I sensed humility, reverence and respect. He recognized that he was being entrusted with a special task. Our previous conversations have basically dealt with far more temporal matters, wink, wink. As I lay there on the table, I thought, “Thank you God. No matter what, this is going to be ok.”

And while I recognize that some people might find this whole praying notion super weird, for me, I wanted to sing with joy.

Before drifting into a fuzzy vapor, I declared, “You have no idea what a comfort your prayer was to me. Why didn’t I know this about you before? I’m going to tell all the ladies in my Bible Study about you!”

Then his assistant talked to me about Chicago cuisine.

Prayers!

Portillo’s!

Pizza!

Oh yes, what a glorious day! Bring on the colonoscopy!

And then poof, the procedure was done and I was awake. As if the experience couldn’t get more wonderful, I dreamt about Justin Bieber. Not even joking.

So here I sit praising God that I can sit.

I rejoice that my test results weren’t just good, y’all they were “EXCELLENT.” Every aspect of the tests were EXCELLENT! #shablam #eatgreenthings

As the medication wore off and the doctor spoke to my husband, over and over again, I said, “You have no idea what your prayer did for me. Thank you. This was the BEST COLONOSCOPY EVER!”

Me

Me

Pass this post onto someone you love who needs a colonoscopy. Tell them that yes, it’s awkward, unpleasant and a basically big giant poo-fest but s/he can do it. I did and I’m a wimp. I hope I kept it real but not real gross. God does show up in the strangest and most amazing places.

Five Minute Friday – Race

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The view from our 10th story apartment

While watching the Chicago marathon from the 10th story of Jenkins Hall, I was inspired.

One of my favorite signs!

But when I went downstairs and came face to face with the thousands of runners, I was overwhelmed. Tears welling up in my eyes and throat, I know I’m an emotional person but it surprised me the wave of feelings that waft over me.

I just imagined being one of those runners and having legions of people cheering me on. Honestly I need that kind of encouragement in my daily walk of mortal life let alone a 27 mile run which will never happen this side of heaven. Hearing someone calling my name, seeing a sign with MY name on it, or a treasured friend or family member, I’ve never done a marathon but seeing the Chicago marathon up close and personal tugged my spirit. We all need a pep squad to help us run physically, emotionally, spiritually. When we’re downtrodden, discouraged, beaten up, don’t we all desperately want someone to say, “Hey, you matter! Go, you! You can doey it!”

It was so awesome how the announcers just randomly picked out names they spotted on the runners’ jerseys and encouraged them! Loved the Moody Mile!

On this blustery fall morning, as we were getting ready to meet Aaron and the other two OS going to Aaron’s new church in downtown Chicago, I witnessed these people, every hue, body type and outfit race past us. I heard praise music filling the streets, everyone was of one accord motivating the runners to keep going. Tears.

The most awesome writing gig on Fridays! Where a beautiful crowd spends five minutes all writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here. Join us!

What got me the most emotional was the encouragement. As the runners jogged by the Moody Mile, they were greeted with cheers, posters and horns. It felt like a New Year’s Eve celebration. The announcer randomly called out names of some of the runners, I saw signs in many languages, what must this have been like to among the crowd? I felt blessed, moved and stirred. Lord, help me run THIS race of life…

Here’s a snippet of the event…