Archive for the ‘eating’ Category

My poor husband. When we married 32 years ago, he did not know that I could not cook. And I never mentioned it. And I didn’t get much better for a number of years. Oh sure – I could boil water, warm stuff up in the oven, fry a hamburger, make a decent ham and cheese sandwich. I could even follow a recipe, as long as it involved only about five ingredients. Too many steps and I pretty much zoned out. I wasn’t a terrible cook. I was an apathetic one.

I didn’t really care about cooking until I realized I’d better step up my game for a new husband. Thankfully he was a good cook so we didn’t starve (or eat cereal at every meal). We fixed simple meals at first – a meat, a vegetable, a potato. Occasionally we had a pasta dish, spaghetti most frequently.  We ate out if we wanted something fancier – Italian and Chinese were favorites. Don loved to grill so once we got an outdoor grill we branched out into steaks, chicken, hamburgers, brats…you know, meat. After our kids were born, we perfected chicken nuggets and pizza.

The funniest thing changed our whole outlook on preparing food in our home. We started watching the Food Network. We were fascinated by the antics of Chef Emeril Lagasse on “Emeril Live” with his studio audience and live band.  He was so entertaining, he made cooking good food appear to be fun and easy. We added a few more shows from favorites like Rachael Ray (her “30-minute-meals” show is still the best for people wanting to learn how to cook without a lot of fancy or weird ingredients), Ming Tsai, Giada De Laurentis, Alton Brown, Tyler Florence, and Bobby Flay.

We learned some techniques and purchased some tools to make cooking easier and more enjoyable. We found out we liked working together in our little kitchen, putting together meals that tasted good and didn’t take all day to prepare. We tried new dishes, condiments, vegetables, and seasonings. We learned (and tried) new methods of cooking: braising, stir-frying, roasting. We pulled out our Crockpot and put it to use for soups and meats. Sadly, I’m still pretty pathetic at making a decent roast beef, but I’m money with pulled pork.

So – my tidbit of wisdom for today is learn to cook. Start slow – pick an easy dish that sounds delicious, but with few ingredients and steps. Don’t set yourself up to fail by trying Beef Wellington right out of the gate. How about sticking a pork shoulder in Crockpot for 8-10 hours on low with some sliced onions, seasoned salt, black, pepper, garlic powder, a bay leaf or two, and a can of Dr. Pepper? It’ll be “fall-apart-tender.”

Don’t skimp on good tools. It makes all the difference between having fun and being frustrated. Sharp knives, good pans that won’t fall apart, fresh seasonings, proper measuring cups and spoons. Add more as you gain confidence.

Start making stuff for friends and family. Take your cake to work. Have people over to test out your new lasagna recipe. Sign up for a cooking class through your local community college or grocery store.

I get a lot of enjoyment out of trying a new recipe and having it succeed. But I’ve also learned a lot through my failures (remember: celebrate failure) – such as learning that baking powder and baking soda are NOT the same; you can’t substitute sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk in my fudge recipe; vanilla is necessary in chocolate chip cookies; and just yesterday I found out that putting muffins in the oven and forgetting to turn it on will not help them bake. Always learning.





Read Full Post »

clip-art-pot-potato-soup-clipart-1It’s cold again and instead of whining (at least verbally), I’m going to make soup. We love soup year round, but there is something about cold, blustery days…soup is just the comfort food I need to get through this stretch of “when will spring arrive and stay?!” Oh wait – this is how spring arrives…in Iowa. And yes, I’m grateful I don’t live in Minnesota right now.

On to my Baked Potato Soup recipe…I wish I was making it as I’m blogging. Such cool pictures of each step, my fingers beautifully manicured, showing the wonderful progression from raw potato to creamy goodness with perfect garnish. Alas – not happening today. Plus, I’d have to go get a manicure. I don’t even have a picture of the finished product because I haven’t made it yet.

You will need potatoes, butter, onion, flour, chicken broth, water, instant mashed potatoes, salt, pepper, basil, thyme, half-and-half, cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions.

I’m going to give you the recipe below, but I have a few tweaks I’ve made to the original through the years. One, you do not have to bake the potatoes in the oven. I love a good oven-baked potato, but for this recipe, you’re going to scoop out the contents and toss in the soup anyway…just use the microwave. Makes the construction of this soup much, much faster…I’d say you can have this on the table, or into your mouth, in 30 minutes, start to finish.

Two, you can make this recipe or you can swap out a few ingredients for low-carb, low-fat alternatives. The butter can be olive oil, the chicken broth can be low-salt, the half-and-half can be 2% milk, and the cheddar cheese can be…never mind, you have to use cheddar cheese. Though I will allow you to use turkey bacon, absolutely do not use Bac-Os instead of bacon. Absolutely do not. It’s against every known bacon rule.

Third, the seasonings are standard. Adjust to your own preference. We keep the salt to one teaspoon until we taste it at the end. We up the black pepper and even add a little red pepper because we like kick. Be careful with the basil and thyme – too much more than what I have listed with alter the flavor dramatically.

Fourth, the last three ingredients are optional – just for garnish. Feel free to leave off the cheese, bacon and green onions, if you want. But don’t complain to me if your “Loaded Baked Potato” soup tastes like plain old potato soup. Those garnishes make it special. And you deserve special…because it darn cold outside and cheese + bacon = comfort.

Lastly, you may have noticed I have no serving size, number of servings or calorie content. I will not tell you how large your portion size should be…that’s all on you. Which means I don’t know how many people this will serve – maybe you’ll eat the whole pot. And calorie content? Who really cares? It’s comfort food. Calorie content only brings guilt and I’m all about letting that go.

Forgot one thing – use a large spoon. Grab a little bit of potato chunk, bacon, cheese and onion in that first bite. Creamy, smoky goodness. Happy slurping.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup


Read Full Post »

This is going to be a great summer! I’ve set some lofty goals, anticipating some pretty awesome results and all while enjoying my husband, my family and my friends. But it won’t be easy…because what’s the fun in that?

First, I’m joining with a long time girlfriend as we, once again, take control of ourselves and lose some extra poundage. We’ll be each other’s best cheerleader, motivator, inspiration and coach – all rolled into one dynamic package…actually two dynamic packages, I guess.It’s so easy to get off the path of healthy choices and slip down the slope into JunkFood Jungle. “But it tastes so good!” Yes, it does, but that momentary pleasure usually gives way a short time later to guilt, shame and condemnation – the Three Ugly Stepsisters. No thank you!

Bible_blogpostWe’re going to go through Donna Partow‘s “Becoming the Woman I Want to Be,” the book I used three years ago to get started on my 30-pound weight loss. Great time to crack it open again and get back on track… This isn’t solely about physical changes, but discovering a plan to renew myself spiritually and emotionally as well. Of course, today was the day my office served Panera for lunch and dropped a 25-box of chocolate cookies in the lunchroom. Great way to get started – No! No! No! I’m so weak – but so far, so good.

Another goal is getting back into the Word, regularly. I don’t know why this is a struggle for me, but I’m being vulnerable here…I love God’s Word but I can be easily distracted by louder, yet less important, things. So this summer – the Bible is the first thing I’ll read – even if it’s not until my lunch break.

I’m scheduled to backpack the Sierras with my older brother in early September so another goal is to get in hiking shape…which, I suspicion, is quite different from sidewalks-through-downtown-Cedar-Rapids walking. I’ve borrowed a couple of library books, researched hiking boots and proper backpacks, priced flights to Sacramento and prayed for wisdom on how to record this whole amazing journey without electronic gadgets.

Lastly, I’m going to attempt to blog throughout the summer – at least on Mondays and maybe more. You’ve been warned. You may want to set your own goal of getting off social media for a short time, or cutting back on unhealthy food choices, or spending more time playing (as opposed to working), or doing something you’ve put off because you never found the time to “git-r done.” Now’s the time – time to kickstart your summer.

This is going to be fun!

P.S. The following is one of many verses I meditate on as I train my spirit, soul and body to say “no” to temptation:

“Let your eyes look straight ahead,
Fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
And take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or the left;
Keep your foot from evil.”
Proverbs 4:25-27


Read Full Post »


If you don’t like eggs, you may as well stop reading right now, because this post is all about my recent egg-knowledgement of the egg-straordinary egg! (And if you don’t like puns, it’s too late – you’ve already been egged!)

A few years ago, when I started making better lifestyle choices, I added eggs to my breakfast routine. I needed to add more veggies to my diet, so I began sauteing zucchini, onion, broccoli, and red pepper in a little olive oil every morning. When they were soft (about 3 minutes or so), I added two eggs that I had stirred up in a bowl (with about a tablespoon of water and a dash of salt & pepper). I cooked these scrambled eggs with veggies almost every morning for a couple of months, and I never tired of it. But it takes a little extra time and eventually I switched over to oatmeal or fruit and yogurt every morning.


This week I made the switch back – only in a more time-friendly manner. I discovered Eggs in a Mug. So easy, so delicious. Three minutes from start to finish. Now I can workout or run before breakfast and not feel rushed when getting ready for work. Egg-cellent decision!

The benefits of eating eggs is well-documented. Full of protein, inexpensive, low-cal…no carbs, no sugar…good source of many vitamins and minerals, including omega-3 fats (you know – the good fat). I find that I stay full longer when I have eggs for breakfast. So my low-calorie first meal also means no high calorie snacking by mid-morning.

We’re going to start purchasing pasture-raised eggs. My friend says his hens lay about five dozen a day so I feel as though I’m helping those ladies out by buying up their produce. And it gives my friend a little cash and I’m getting better eggs. Another eggs-tremely wise decision…


With Easter only a few weeks away, many of us will have a plethora of decorated, hard-boiled eggs that will need to be used somehow. (This is not the time or place to debate the good or evil meanings of Easter eggs). Of course, the very basic, but delicious deviled egg is always a favorite (and lots of ways to change it up using different mustards, or adding smoked salmon or crab – yum). My mom always put hard-boiled eggs in her potato salad. I love egg salad sandwiches – and once again, if you change up the plain mayonnaise to mayo or plain Greek yogurt mixed with chipotle, or jalapeno, or hot sauce, you’ll get a different twist on a classic taste.

Enough already – be an egghead and choose eggs as a healthy alternative to cereal for breakfast, a delicious appetizer or main dish any day of the week.

For making it all the way through this eggciting and sometimes eggravating blog post, you’ll love this website – enjoy the yolks, my friends.







Read Full Post »


I love food. I especially love fruit and vegetables. Since I changed my diet pretty dramatically about 3 years ago, I’ve eaten a quart-size ziploc bag of raw veggies at almost every weekday lunch. And I eat an apple every afternoon at 3. My favorites are crisp, sweet and juicy…mushy apples are horrible. When I get a mushy or dry apple, I feel as though my day is ending on a bad note.

I found an article on the internet giving the Top 10 Reasons to  Eat More Fruit & Vegetables:

10.  Fruit and vegetables add color, texture and appeal to your plate.

9.  Fruit & veggies are nutritious in any form – fresh, frozen, canned, dried & 100% juice.

8.  They provide fiber that helps fill you up and keeps your gut happy.

7.  Fruit & veggies are naturally low in calories.

6.  Eating plenty of this good stuff may help reduce the risk of some diseases (like heart disease, high blood pressure & some cancers).

5.  Fruit & vegetables are rich in vitamins & minerals (another plus on the staying healthy bandwagon).

4.  There are an infinite variety of both fruit & vegetables…always something new to try.

3.  They are nature’s treat – easy to grab for a snack any time of the day or night.

2.  In their raw form, those fruit & veggies are fun to eat! Some crunch and some squirt. Some you peel and some you don’t.

And the number one reason to eat more fruit and vegetables?

They are nutritious and delicious!

By the way, on Sunday I’m giving the kids’ sermon again and this time we’re going to talk about the fruit of the Spirit. According to Paul, who wrote a short letter to a church in Galatia, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Paul says this fruit is produced naturally because we are living according to the way the Holy Spirit wants us to live. Just as a fruit tree doesn’t have to struggle to produce its fruit, so we shouldn’t have to strain to produce the fruit of the Spirit…it’s just a natural by-product of godly, Spirit-led decisions. And when you produce good fruit like the list above, then people will notice. They will see the fruit in your life and want to be like you or at the very least, find out why you are the way you are! So, if you belong to the family of God, your fruit will be evident, and as appealing to others as a piece of delicious fruit is to me! Don’t be a mushy apple!

Read Full Post »


My taste buds are excited about next week. The Hungry Games are coming to Cedar Rapids.

Cedar Rapids Restaurant Week is March 1 – 6 and 29 area restaurants are going all out to draw us in and feed us great food, for a pretty inexpensive tab. Making it into a competition, participating restaurants are serving up special Hungry Games menus for lunch (only $10) and dinner ($25). They are hoping you’ll try more than one and then vote for your favorite. Check out the link to see all the restaurants and their offerings but, working downtown for the last 8 years has given me the opportunity to check out a lot of downtown eateries. So if you can’t decide where to start on your Hungry Games tour through food, I’ve compiled a Top 3 for various categories. I’m only listing those restaurants participating in Restaurant Week. Let the Games begin!

Top 3 Downtown Lunch Stops:

  1.  Need Pizza – so good that when my college kid comes home, it’s where he wants to go. They make your pizza any way you like it…truly.
  2. Rock Bar American Grill – great hamburgers, great price. FYI – The mechanical bull doesn’t run at lunch.
  3. The Lost Cuban – I’ve only been here once but really, really liked it. If the number of Rockwell engineer-types eating there is any indication, I’m not the only one.

Top 3 Outside of Downtown:

  1. Winifred’s – a special place to eat with special people. I have wonderful memories of my last time in the purple building along First Avenue. It’ll probably always be #1.
  2. Zeppelin’s – very good, very busy.
  3. Emil’s Hideaway – you’ve got to look for this one. It’s hidden behind the Taco John’s on First Avenue across from Lindale Mall, but it’s worth the search.

Downtown Top 3 I’m going to try (if not next week, sometime soon):

  1. Daisy’s Garage & Filling Station – ok, not right downtown, but I’ve been intrigued with this new restaurant since it opened last summer. The front door is a garage door which stays open on good weather days (which won’t happen here for about 4 more months). The menu is my draw: Steam pots, oil can burger, and Guinness shrimp.
  2. Popoli’s – more expensive and only open for dinner so it’ll have to be a “date night” try.
  3. Sauce – one of the many new restaurants in Czech Village. Located in a building slated for demolition after the 2008 flood, it was lovingly restored by the owners. I enjoy supporting local chefs who use as many local providers as possible.

I’ve personally eaten at 13 of the 29 restaurants participating in The Hungry Games so I have quite a few yet to sample. Probably won’t happen in one week but since eating is one of my favorite pastimes, I’m looking forward to a fun summer. Better get back to running!

Read Full Post »