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Gifts from My Mom

Tuberose in bloom

I sit here writing as the sweet scent of tuberose fills the room.  Some in my family think it’s quite overpowering, too heavy a scent.  But I like it.  It reminds me of my mom.

You see, this tuberose was my mom’s.  She was passionate about gardening, spending more time in the summer sunshine than most people ever do.  Her green thumb was deep-rooted, and plants of all kinds flourished under her care.  But I think her real love was flowers.  That’s why the tuberose reminds me of her.  It was one of her gifts – something left of her that continues to produce heavenly scented white flowers even since her passing.  Her green thumb stretches far.

Gladiolus – Welcome

I have other flowering gifts from her that bring back memories every August.  Gladioli flowers were one of her favorites, and in her prime she grew around 3500 or more glads.  For a bulb that has to be planted each spring and dug up each fall . . . well, that’s pretty amazing for a small town gardener in my opinion.  I have fond memories of walking through her garden as a little child, finding and eating ripe gooseberries, helping her at the county fair by filling with water the bottles that would hold her glads, sorting through more purple and blue ribbons than you’d ever know what to do with, and learning how to arrange attractive bouquets. Roses, lilacs, Peruvian daffodils, peonies, and dahlias are all gifts from her garden that I now have.

Gladioilus – Atom

But I think she left much more than tangible flowers and bulbs.  Her passion passed on a love of the outdoors, of nature, of eating fresh picked vegetables from the garden, of staying active and healthy.  These are gifts too. But even these are surpassed by other heartfelt, even more intangible, gifts. Memories are one.  She also showed and gave me a reverence and love for God, love for her family, and commitment and love for her husband.  Those are the lasting, intangible gifts . . . her legacy.  And those gifts, those roots, run much deeper than even her green thumb.  They run deep to the heart.

Gladiolus – Mt. Index

Looking at those flowers now causes me to stop and reflect on my own family.  What are my gifts, what’s my legacy to my loved ones?  It’s something that I think is worthwhile to reflect upon.  I hope and pray they will have a healthy lifestyle, cherished memories of time spent together, cuddles, hugs, and kisses, a relationship with and love for Jesus, and a love for others.  That’s what I hope.  Those are the gifts I want to give.  You may not have a green thumb or a desire to stay healthy but you will leave gifts.  And I wonder . . . what will your gifts be?  What is your legacy?

Dahlia

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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Faith, Family, Gardening, Health, Parenting

 

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Homemade Concord Grape Jam

Homemade Concord Grape Jam

Mother-in-laws . . . gotta love them.  Seriously, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have the best mother-in-law ever.  She called earlier last week wanting to know if I’d like some concord grapes from the farm.  The vine was loaded, she said, and she’d be there for a couple more hours.  Call back if I want some.  Great, I thought, until I saw that she had called the day before and left the message.  Bummer – no concord grapes.

Fast forward this past weekend and I found out she went ahead and picked some for me anyway!  I’ve made jam from these grapes before and it’s always so good.  She remembered.  So I’m thankful for my thoughtful mother-in-law.  When we got back concord grape jam was on the cooking list.

This time I used a recipe from Epicurious.  It doesn’t call for any pectin, and it takes a little time to slip the skins from the grapes, but it’s well worth the effort.

Grape skins before pureeing.

Peeled grapes

Mixing the skins and grapes together.

I cooked mine a little longer this time and it’s a bit thicker than I like, but it still tastes sweet and wonderful.

It’s almost ready!

You can find the recipe here.  Enjoy – I know my family and I are.  Now I need to put a jar aside for my mother-in-law before the kids eat all of it!

Finished product – ready to eat!

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Cooking, Recipes

 

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Monday Musings on a Wednesday – Balanced Eating

Balance . . . it’s about balance.  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself the last day or so.  We spent the last weekend with family, attended a wedding and finished up at my mother-in-law’s house.  She is the best mother-in-law ever, but when we visit it’s kind of like a continuous food feast.  Add to that a wedding and travel time, and my quest for healthy eating seems to vanish. Do you have a place like that?  A place where your determination to eat healthy just disappears?  In its place is a ravenous appetite for the snacks and meals you normally don’t have at home.  You know, like wedding cake or kettle corn – two of the temptations I faced this weekend.

As I thought about it, and talked it through with my husband since he’s trying to maintain a healthy diet too, the word ‘balance’ came to mind.  Years ago, during my time as a wellness dietitian, I often encountered people who would totally avoid anything like, well, wedding cake or kettle corn . . . until they had a weekend like mine. Then they went overboard, eating everything in sight.  It was all or nothing, up or down, with no room for anything in between.  Sometimes they would come back from such a weekend and get back on track – but feeling guilty.  Many times, however, they felt like they failed and went right back to their old eating habits.  Two steps forward, three steps back – not a healthy way to eat.

So what can be done?  Is it possible to have a healthy diet when faced with temptations? Let’s think this through.  What options are there?  For our family it was important that we attend the wedding and visit my mother-in-law.  Those relationships are important, so not attending wasn’t an option.  That meant we’d be faced with all kinds of not-so-healthy, but appealing, choices.  Some we indulged in, like sharing a piece of wedding cake or having a  small brownie.  Others we didn’t, like going back for a second piece of cake.  We brought watermelon, bananas, and water for snacks during the drive – a good choice.  I also made use of the treadmill in the hotel’s workout room – another good choice.  At my mother-in-law’s we both had some of the kettle corn she offered, but didn’t go overboard.

So back to balance. While we made some choices that others would deem unhealthy, we also made some good choices.  And really, there’s much more to eating than the nutritional value of food. The food itself should be appealing to the eye and have good flavor.  The eating experience is important too, should be enjoyable, and includes the people we dine with, the conversations that occur during a meal, and celebrations that call for feasting.  And a wedding is a celebration.  Should we throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight? No.  But we shouldn’t feel guilty either if we choose items we wouldn’t normally eat because of the sugar or fat or whatever.  The weekend was only a couple of days, not enough to throw us off our healthy lifestyle, just a curve in the road that adds a little interest to the daily drive.  If our everyday diet is a healthy one, then weekends like this won’t take us off-road.  We can turn right back, without feeling guilty, and continue our healthy lifestyle.

Now if I or my husband had to follow some type of therapeutic diet things would be a little different.  We would be more diligent in following the guidelines of the specific diet.  But that’s a post for another day.  For now, our goal is to take care of ourselves with a healthy, balanced, lifestyle.  And that sometimes includes a curve in the road.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Family, General, Health, Nutrition

 

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Summertime Salsa – Tomatoes and Mango

Tomatoes and mango, technically both fruits, but one savory – the other sweet.  Pair them together with onion, peppers, and garlic, and it’s a great start to a healthy, tasty salsa.

Tomatoes and mangoes are both a wonderful addition to any healthy diet.  Tomatoes are rich in potassium and vitamins C and A, but low in calories.  Mangoes are also a good source of vitamins C and A, and have a fair amount of fiber too.  Together they create a savory-sweet salsa that’s visually attractive and pleasing to the taste buds.  Add some hot peppers and you’ll get a little heat as well.

This salsa is another favorite for my family.  My oldest son even helped in the preparation – an added bonus!  Here’s the how we made it:

Tomato and Mango Summertime Salsa

1 mango, peeled and diced

7-8 small Roma or paste tomatoes, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 small jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

1 Ancho pepper, diced

1-2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. grd cumin

1/2 tsp. coriander

juice of 1 fresh lime

Mix together the mango, tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno peppers, and diced ancho pepper.  Sprinkle with salt.  Season with cumin and coriander.  Mix all together and squeeze lime juice on top, stirring gently to mix.  Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips and enjoy!

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Cooking, Health, Nutrition, Recipes

 

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Musings on the Question: “What’s for supper?”

“What’s for supper?” This has to be one of the most common questions uttered in homes everywhere.  At least, that’s my opinion on it.  Of course I may be biased – feeding a family of six and all.  Surely it ranks up there with “Are we there yet?” or “What time is it?” or my all-time favorite –  “Why?”  At least for my family it is.  I have no data to support my thoughts, just my experience as a mom and primary cook for my clan.

In fact, it’s a question I frequently ask myself – all too often at the same time my hungry kids make their way to the kitchen to ask the very same question or my husband calls to say he’s on his way home and was wondering “What’s for supper?”

I’ve pondered this question lately – probably as a result of listening to a reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen. In it, he speaks of the choices we have in selecting our food, and how that’s changed over time. While I don’t agree with everything he writes, it did cause me to look at how our family answers the question: “What’s for supper?”  Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Taste and food preferences
  2. Availability
  3. Nutrition
  4. Cost
  5. Convenience

All these factors influence our food selection in one way or another.  But I think for my family taste and food preferences trumps them all.  If my family doesn’t like it and won’t eat it, it really doesn’t matter if it’s healthy, cheap, and convenient.  Are they ungrateful? No. I still try including those foods on our menu once in a while – usually as a side dish – just to see if I can expand their tastes a little.  And they usually humor me by trying it, and sometimes even liking it.

After taste come availability.  After all, if it’s not available in the store, pantry, freezer, or garden – it’s not likely to be found on our supper menu.  With today’s transportation abilities, however, that’s quickly becoming a weaker influence.

Nutrition and cost tie for the next slot. I realize others may think differently.  I’m all for eating healthy, and as a dietitian I’m always encouraging a healthy way of eating.  But there are times when a nutritionally superior food is just, well, too expensive. I love salmon, and it’s super healthy for you, but in the middle of the midwest in the middle of winter it’s just too much – at least for our budget.  So instead of the fresh salmon, we might have tuna or another type of fish that’s not so hard on the wallet, but still a healthy choice.  Suffice it to say that there is a balance.  For our family I will pay a little more for something that is healthier it if fits in our budget.  To me that is an investment in the lives of my family.  I just can’t fit in everything.

Last, but not least, is convenience.  This is not as high on my list of influencers, but it may be for others.  And truthfully, there are certain times of the year when convenience moves up the ladder a bit.  Baseball and basketball seasons come to mind – when quick meals and sandwiches seem to reign.

So that’s it. “What’s for supper?” All things considered, if it tastes good and my family likes it, it is reasonably priced, nutritionally healthy, and is available it will most likely make it to our menu at one time or another.  Convenience is icing on the top. So now, I’m curious.  What influences your food selection?  I’m sure there are other things I’ve missed or just don’t apply to our family.  How do you answer that question “What’s for supper?”

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Cooking, Family, General, Health, Nutrition

 

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Taste of Summer Salad

Salads are a wonderful treat all year long, but summer lends itself to some particularly wonderful mixtures of fresh vegetables and fruits.  This is one I made today for lunch, and it was so good – healthy too.  I started with a layer of red and green lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden, diced watermelon, sliced strawberries, spiced walnuts, and feta cheese.  This was topped with a drizzle of cherry balsamic vinegar – a much healthier option than the typical salad dressing.  I didn’t have any red onion, or I would have added that too as I think it would have been a nice complement to the salad.  Yum!

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2012 in Cooking, Health, Nutrition, Recipes

 

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It’s a Growing Garden. . .

I took my camera out as I walked around the garden yesterday.  It was such a beautifu morning and I wanted to snap some photos of what’s blooming and growing.  Here they are. . .

Fresh basil. . .it’s about time for some homemade pesto!

Black Eyed Susan is bright and cheery.

Tomatoes are starting to ripen. This heirloom Brandywine is peeking out from
the leaves and is almost ready!

One of my mom’s glads. . .beautiful.

Such pretty Zinnias!

This is the canteloupe that wouldn’t grow – or so I mistakenly told my son who had faith and planted the
seed from the melon in March, and saw it grow! Can’t wait to try it with him.

Peppers are finally getting a little size on them now. They’re looking good!

We’ll have tomatillos again this year. Looking forward to making some tomatillo sauce and salsa
for chicken enchiladas – yum!

A new favorite this year: PowWow Wild Berry Echinacea

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Gardening, General

 

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