Roasted fruit? Yes. Spinach? Sure. But never put a beet in your smoothie.

IMG_1068.JPG

Roasted fruit is my latest smoothie obsession.

That, and spinach. Kale? Never again. But spinach? You can’t even taste it, especially when you toss a handful of spinach in a smoothie of roasted fruit. It requires an extra step, but it’s worth it.

[That reminds me of a sidebar: Kale ruins a smoothie pretty quick, but never, never mistake a leftover cooked beet for a good addition to a berry smoothie. It's all purplish, right? Sneaky way to add a vegetable to one's diet? No way. Horrible. You can taste the beet, and it does nothing to improve the flavor of a triple-berry smoothie. I didn't take a picture of that one. Blech.]

The centerpiece of this morning’s breakfast-in-a-glass was roasted peaches and blackberries. How to? The night before, I cut a peach into eighths, added a handful of nearly moldy blackberries (roasting is a great way to salvage over-ripe fruit), sprinkled it all with a spoonful of brown sugar and roasted it in a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes. After cooling briefly, I dumped it all into a sandwich-sized Ziplock and put it in the freezer overnight. That’s the extra step — roasting.

This morning I emptied the bag into the blender and added spinach, plain yogurt, a few walnuts and about a half cup peach-flavored coconut water. It was sweet and delicious. Yummy.

What I did on my summer vacation

Autumn officially begins tomorrow (here in the United States’ Central time zone anyway). Summer is officially over, and I’m left sifting the grains of sand that were the days of summer through my tanned fingers.

Unfortunately, the ramifications of the Very Bad Thing that occurred Aug. 2 continue to hang over this household and, frankly, over this blog. My mind is often filled with thoughts and opinions related to the Very Bad Thing that are not yet ready for public consumption, so many days my blog is left lonely and neglected. I’m sorry, dear readers.

So as I reflect on the summer of 2014, I can’t imagine ever thinking of it as anything other than the summer the Very Bad Thing happened. But maybe I’m still too close to it to have any real perspective. For today, the last day of summer, I’ll reflect on a few other events of the summer.

For example, I overcame a challenge that required me to draw on skills I possess only in small amounts — nursing. I did OK, and so did the patient, who’s in better condition than he was when summer officially began three months ago.

I also celebrated a big milestone with my parents in June when they observed their 50th wedding anniversary. My sister and I had an awesome little party for them, and fun was had by all.

Despite pretty much ignoring the garden, I enjoyed a lot of yummy meals from the infrequent harvests — rhubarb crisp, mulberry smoothies, tomatoe-y pizzas and quiches — and not a single kale smoothie. Today, we savored cream cheese-stuffed smoked jalapeño peppers, made with hotties grown in our little plot of soil. Delicious!

We didn’t travel much this summer (we’ll remedy that this fall), but we did make it to Minnesota to pick up a new (to us) camper and use it a couple of times in pleasant places in Wisconsin. Did I tell you we sold the 1983 Pace Arrow? Ah, yes, I did. The new camper feels like the Taj Mahal in comparison, but let’s be real here — the Pace Arrow was30 years old. We even have dreams of taking the new camper to Florida for the winter (maybe, maybe not — don’t tell Old Man Winter — he’d just spoil things).

Writing? Oh that. I claim to be a writer, and I can’t boast of any new books this year. Well, I did finish the draft of one manuscript (it needs a rewrite, I’ve decided) and outlined another. The new concept is quite exciting, actually, and has something to do with one of my biggest accomplishments this summer — I’ve lost 20 pounds. It came at the price of lifting weights (I hate lifting weights), but I derive an inordinate amount of satisfaction from the results. I have biceps now — biceps you can see. Well, when I flex, you can see them. You get my point I hope. A 47-year-old has to bask in the reflection of her biceps, else her wrinkles overshadow them.

In any case, the summer wasn’t a total loss. It was, in fact, filled with a lot of pleasant moments.

On to autumn.

New straw for the nest makes for better sleep

Ye olde mattress in Minnesota Transplant’s household is nearing the end of its life.

I bought her eight years ago when I moved out of the house I shared with my first husband. I spared no expense buying a new mattress, or at least I thought I did. I now know $1,500 is more the middle of the scale than the top, but she’s held up well. Many a night, I slip into bed and thank God for such a comfortable nest.

But eight years on, she’s getting grooves and looking a little disheveled. My Beloved and I have been shopping twice for a replacement but we haven’t yet found the right one.

two top sheetsIn the meantime, I discovered a cheap and easy way to spruce up the bed: A second top sheet. A representative for Westin Hotels & Resorts suggested this fix in this month’s O Magazine, and at first I was skeptical. But I dug up an old top sheet and added it to the mix, and lo and behold, a second sheet adds a bit of luxury and greater temperature control (which is paramount to menopausal me right now).

Small things matter as evidenced by daily flossing and freshly ground pepper, also both worth the trouble.

Try it. You might like it, too.

(I also got a new pillow, a significantly less expensive upgrade than a new mattress. O Magazine recommends getting a new one every two years.)

Meatless but not tasteless, thanks to Mother Nature’s bounty

Tomato and Corn Custard Pie from the September 2014 issue of Food Network magazine

Tomato and Corn Custard Pie from the September 2014 issue of Food Network magazine

Today’s celebration of summer’s bounty: Tomato and Corn Custard Pie.

Rarely do I attempt Martha Stewart’s creations in her Living magazine, but sometimes I try what Food Network magazine is dishing. Notwithstanding the blender spew of hot, creamy corn, tonight’s dinner depending on a harvest of autumn veggies (and a little cheese) was a rousing success.

tomato and corn custard partial

I was pleased my version looked quite similar to the magazine’s picture, which made my mouth water.

Real men do indeed eat quiche; my Beloved had two slices.

tomato and corn custard slice

 

Effervescent dreams

Monica Lee:

Autumn brings cooler temperatures and more opportunities to lounge in the hot tub. Every time we don our swimwear and spend some time lounging in the bubbly, we do what frugal Minnesotans do when they save money — we relish the amazing deal our hot tub has been, lo, these past three years. For your enjoyment, I redirect you to the Story of the $200 Hot Tub…

Originally posted on Minnesota Transplant:

Visions of a hot tub have filled my Beloved’s dreams the past few months.

I have been Switzerland on the subject. Sure, lounging in a hot tub is lovely. But not so lovely that I’m willing to spend the money and perform the maintenance required.

When Tyler asked me point-blank if I thought we should get a hot tub, I said, “I have no opinion. That’s up to you. You know how much money we have and how much you would enjoy it, so I’m not taking a position.”

Then it was amusing to watch the consummate salesman sell himself on a hot tub. “I think we would use it a lot.” “There’s a spot on the patio for it.” “We wouldn’t need a gazebo for it if we have a cover.” “I know how to install it.”

After looking at a number of hot tubs on Craig’s List, his…

View original 655 more words

Fresh is the key ingredient in this homemade pizza

The garden’s not done yet, but we scored a major haul today.

My Beloved spent his Labor Day morning laboring in the back yard, picking every last ripe tomato he could find.

pizza tomatoes

And look at what he collected!

That’s a lot of caprese salad skewers if that’s the only way you know to use cherry tomatoes, but I think there’s nothing better than roasted cherry tomatoes.

So I roasted up a pan of tomatoes (half the tomatoes, douse in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 450 degrees for 35-40 minutes), and created a fresh sauce for my homemade pizza (hand-tossed, of course).

pizza full

Why ruin a garden fresh sauce with pepperoni? I used fresh mozzarella and fresh basil as toppings (and a dash of shredded parmesan).

Oh my gosh, there’s no better way to celebrate the end of summer than with a pizza created with fresh tomatoes, cheese and basil. So delicious. Wow.

pizza

 

Music with a message

“Now every one of us was made to suffer.
Every one of us was made to weep.
But we’ve been hurting one another,
And now the pain has cut too deep.
So take me from the wreckage,
Save me from the blast.
Lift me up and take me back.
Don’t let me keep on walking,
Walking on broken glass.”

Oh, Annie Lennox put words to my angst earlier this month when I caught her belting out “Walking on Broken Glass” on xM Radio’s ’80s channel.

That song told my story that day. I began conjuring up other fragments of pop music that tell stories — not in only bits and pieces, but throughout the song. I wished for a Pandora channel that categorized storytelling lyrics instead of genres. Here’s the short list I developed of popular music that tells stories:

  • “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band.
  • “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” by Rupert Holmes
  • “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot
  • “Cat’s In the Cradle” by Harry Chapin (a favorite of my Beloved’s)
  • “Same Old Lang Syne” by Dan Folgelberg
  • “Delta Dawn” by Helen Reddy (this might be a little bit of a stretch because we never find out what happens to Delta).

I thought for sure Phil Collins told some song stories on “No Jacket Required,” a tape (yes, tape) I wore out, I played it so often on my Walkman in 1985. But no. Like a typical percussionist, his lyrics are more rhythmic than narrative.

I could say the same for Jack Johnson. Like “No Jacket Required,” “In Between Dreams” only felt like it told a story because it was the soundtrack to a personal soap opera.

I am reminded of a fragment of a Natasha Bedingfield song I took as a personal anthem when it came out in 2006:

“Today is where your book begins;
The rest is still unwritten.”

We all have stories. Sometimes, they’re best told with a little tune.