Posts Tagged ‘food’

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 »

I enjoy sharing my favorites with you. I know it’s just my opinion and you may not share it, but it’s been fun to think about what I like and then narrow it down to just five things. So to conclude a rainy, sloppy, cold-then-hot-then-cold-then-wet-then-tornado month, here are my final five for May.

(1)  Casey’s pizza

For those of you reading this from anywhere other than Middle America, you have no idea what Casey’s pizza is. I’m sorry for your loss. Casey’s General Store is a chain of convenience stores in just about every small town throughout the Midwest. They have decent coffee, really good donuts (if you get there before they’re picked over), normal convenience store items like small cans of oil, overpriced 2-liters of pop, whole shelves full of beef jerky, beer (and more beer), bottled water and…pizza. Really good, greasy pizza. Download their app so you can order it at the end of your tutoring session and have it ready for pickup at your most convenient location. As I ordered my large pepperoni pizza the other night, I had four Casey’s locations within 1 mile of me…life can be so good sometimes.

(2)  Lemon Asparagus Pasta with Grilled Chicken

img_2780-1Don and I enjoy trying new recipes. Made this pasta dish over the weekend. Definitely a keeper!! Didn’t take any pictures of the finished dish but trust me, it looked and smelled amazing. And tasted so so good. Lemon zest and lemon juice in the alfredo-style sauce made it feel lighter than other pasta dishes…so I had two helpings. Don’t judge.

Another culinary entry – this makes 3 out of 5 favorites are food related. I know – I’m suffering.

(3)  Gianni’s Italian Beef

My downfall is that Gianni’s is within close walking distance from my work so though we’ve only been there twice, we’ll definitely be going back…over and over again. Take the time to read the back story on the restaurant’s owner and how the name Gianni’s was selected…and tissues.

If the story doesn’t grab you, the Italian beef will. Or the Italian sausage. Or the seasonal Italian ice. I plan to try the salad and the beef hot dog at some future visit, but that Italian beef is tough to pass up. Small menu but big flavor. Love the atmosphere too.

(4)  Joy Williams 

My go-to resource for new music is my adult children. All four of them love music so I have a never ending list of artists to try out. David and Tristen love Joy and now I do too.


Joy Williams – Front Porch

Give a listen to her latest album “Front Porch” – such a sweet, soulful, slightly country sound. An interesting side note: I am also a huge Ben Rector fan. Ben’s song “Boxes” off his “Magic” album talks about CDs given to him by wanna-be musicians as he tours around the country. It’s a really good song (as are all of his) and includes these lyrics:

“On through this Rolodex of railroad tracks and fresh-cut hair
I see Joy who won some Grammys and is now a millionaire”

That’s Joy Williams – isn’t that cool? Well, I think so anyway.

(5)  Ephesians 4:1-3

I read my Bible every morning. Sometimes things jump out at me…sometimes not. But I trust that my obedience in reading God’s Word will feed my spirit, even when I may not “feel” like it. Recently read this passage from The Message version…

“In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”

Isn’t this awesome? Run on the road God has called you to travel. Run!! Quit sitting around waiting for God to tell you what to do. Move forward until He tells you to stop. This journey He has for each of us is not a sprint – it is a marathon. And our training isn’t done via YouTube…it’s done out there in the real world. So put on your running shoes and run!

Read Full Post »

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve compiled five favorites. Since I love to eat and love music, it’s no surprise what I’ve picked this week.

(1) Wilder Woods

I have been a NEEDTOBREATHE fan for years, often taking my kids (and sometimes Don) to their live concerts. I was very happy when I found out NTB lead singer Bear Rinehart has recorded a couple of songs as the solo artist Wilder Woods. I first heard the new music a few weeks ago on Spotify but the videos are on YouTube as well. Bear’s voice has always been distinctive so there was no way a fan couldn’t figure this out before the big reveal today. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ rating, for sure.

(2) Maddie Poppe’s new album Wildflowers

More music from Iowa’s sweetheart is a good thing. Winning last year’s American Idol propelled Maddie into the national spotlight but she seems to have stayed true to her musical roots. A little pop, a little country, a lot of catchy lyrics and toe tapping tunes. I enjoy each song, but especially the title track.

(3) Ham & Cheese Rollups

Made these last weekend for a brunch with girlfriends. Turned out great and will definitely be making them again. The sauce poured over the top would taste good on a flip flop.

(4) Street Tacos

I’m too old to care if my food choices have the latest cool ingredients. Hey – I loved Brussels sprouts before they were cool. But I do enjoy eating tasty food and I’ve really enjoyed eating street tacos. Now I can buy street taco size tortillas (both corn & flour) at my favorite grocery store. They are smaller, easier to hold and not as sloppy. And you can put just about anything inside: shrimp, fish, beef, pork, chicken. So good.

(5) Psalm 91

I have a few friends struggling with tough health issues and though I pray for each one, sometimes I struggle with what words to pray. But this psalm cuts to the heart.

God is our refuge, our place of safety. He is our rescuer, His angels are ordered to protect those who trust in Him. Read the whole thing and believe it!

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 »


I should probably just stop right there. That would be the shortest blog ever.

Simply put, fasting is to abstain from food, usually for a certain period of time or for a certain purpose.

The discipline of fasting is not unique to Christians. In fact, many religions are required to fast, including Muslims who fast from dawn to sunset for the month of Ramadan. During Lent, Catholics are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from eating meat on Fridays (hence those awesome fish fry dinners at every American Legion hall in America).

Though the Bible is full of references to fasting, from my observation, the practice is not a consistent discipline in an average  Christian’s life. Mine included. So yesterday, because I had a friend who desperately needs healing, I fasted and prayed all day. Well – most of the day. Well – from dawn until sunset…less than 12 hours. And I actually thought I deserved a medal or something.

This is my confession. I’m proud and arrogant when it comes to Christian disciplines and I have no will power when it comes to food. If I hadn’t left my normal lunch at home (and thankfully no one brought anything good to work yesterday), I probably would have caved by 10 in the morning. Why is it I think I’m starving after only one hour without food? Pathetic.

So – that’s my newest addition. I’d like to study the discipline of fasting, maybe read a book or two, and get into what the Scriptures say about this “doing without food” thing. I don’t anticipate any 40-day fast in my future…let’s be honest. It’s like telling me when I first started running that I would do a marathon that same year. Not going to happen.

But if the practice of fasting was a normal part of the people of the Word, it should be a normal part of my life as well. Thanks for reading – now, you can go back to your snacks.

Isaiah 58:6 – “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.”



Read Full Post »

If you’ve been keeping up with my social media postings, ask yourself “why?” Really, people. Get out there and live your own life!

#RoadTripWeekend just concluded! We got into our beds around 3 o’clock this morning, exhausted from driving through thunderstorms all the way from Madison, Wisconsin. There may have been a few miles with no rain, but very few. And my amazing husband did all the driving on the way home. Thankfully we found a BP gas station open at 1:30 a.m. in Dubuque. Not sure our bladders would have made it otherwise.

Today I’m reflecting on the ups and downs, the good and bad points from the whole experience. Interestingly enough, I did have a few disappointments. For one, my food consumption was not only unhealthy but also didn’t taste all that great either. Seriously – if I’m going to partake in mega amounts of calories, fat and sugar, it should be worth it, right?

maple bacon

So here is the best food of the weekend: Definitely CJ’s Bagels and Topped Doughnuts in Ankeny. I only had one bite of Sean’s bagel breakfast sandwich but it was sooo good. The maple bacon doughnut and sugar-coated twist were wonderful. Melt-In-Your-Mouth-Delicious. We will be visiting this place again real soon.

vesuvius pizza

Another great find was Vesuvius Wood-fired Pizza in Ames. It may have been the company (my youngest son), the fact that I adore pizza, or the toppings (Buffalo chicken and bleu cheese) but this small place was big on flavor, and wasn’t very expensive. Perfect meal right before a movie.

Honorable mention goes to the breakfast casserole, fresh fruit and protein balls I had for brunch on Sunday morning. I won’t embarrass the cooks but for newlyweds, they did a great job! Yes – I had seconds on everything. I don’t have the recipe (yet) for the protein balls but I know they contained peanut butter, honey, oatmeal, chocolate chips, chia seeds, flax and probably some other good stuff. May have been the only somewhat healthy thing I ate all weekend.

Tied for worst of the weekend: both BBQ restaurants. This is very sad. I love BBQ. I took special people out for BBQ both times and both times they disappointed. Granted, I took people who had recently experienced BBQ in Kansas City and Memphis, so the bar was set pretty high, but it wasn’t even close. I won’t say that I would never go back but there are a lot of great places I’ll try out first.

I’ll try to blog more tomorrow on some other aspects of this amazing weekend. Expectations met and a few disappointments too. But tonight is all about sleep. Serious sleep.

Read Full Post »

Not exactly Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but my weekend is going to be tremendous. And because it will be so amazing, I started it a day early. If you’ve read any of my blogs (don’t do it now – in fact, find some better reading material for yourself. Dr. Seuss comes to mind), you know that I’ve been trying to get beyond my little world and explore things I’ve never done, or said I’d never do, during the month of April. Well – today’s April 30th. Do or die day.

There were a bunch of things on my list that I never got to. Eyebrow waxing, for one. It can wait. In fact, seems the thick eyebrow look is trending right now and I’d hate to bring it down. I also never got to a Zumba class. Tried to find a DVD for in-home use, and the local public library is woefully lacking in the Zumba category, as in…none. This naturally segues into my desire to learn how to bake bread. The library does have how-to books on bread making, but since both Don and I are watching our calories this month, it is a good thing it never happened. Just the thought of homemade cinnamon rolls causes ninja pounds to jump on my scale. I wanted to pick up garbage along the nature trail, serve lunch at a homeless shelter (actually – I have done this, just not in April), and eat veggies only on Meatless Mondays. Didn’t do any of these either. Nope, nada, zilch. But now I have a great list started for another month of “new things.”

What I DID accomplish – shorter list, but felt good, nonetheless.

Ran another 5K – through Hiawatha – finished 6th in my age group (though I was bested by two women in their 60s). Still work to be done here. My running adventure will continue.

Signed up for a public display of an art piece. Scary. I’m not an artist but I decided to go for it. It’ll be on display in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo district through the summer. Thankfully my name is only on the back so no one will really know which one is mine, except for you guys, since I’m posting a picture. Don’t tell.

2x2xU My Tree

Ate fish tacos for the first time. So good. Proceeded to make them at home. Very good. I’m a believer.

Had an authentic Chocolate-stuffed Almond Croissant from Croissant du Jour. Well, part of one. Which was probably a good thing since it was awesome and I’m sure it had more calories than I’m allowed in a week. I will definitely do that one again and take my guy.


Lastly, today in fact, I tried sushi for the first time. My two wonderful girls took me. They are old hands at sushi selecting and eating so I knew I would be safe. I specifically asked for one selection to be raw fish, because really, why brag about eating sushi if it’s all just rice rolled around a vegetable? Where’s the bravery in that? So one was raw salmon, one was shrimp & yam, and another was crab-something. All delicious! We had great crab rangoons too – creamy REAL crab filling – hot and oozy. Swoon-worthy. I’d definitely recommend Sushi House to anyone wanting the sushi experience without a huge price tag. My favorite part? Having Tristen and Ellie with me to explore this new thing together. They are beautiful women and I love them.

I’m certainly noticing a trend in these last few paragraphs. I seem to like food. A lot. But I guess if I keep running and working out at Curves, I’ll be okay with it.

So my big weekend continues tomorrow…road trip to Ames to see my boy. I’m expecting a superhero or two to show up, along with more good food. Of course.

Read Full Post »