Saturday, April 27, 2013

what a book!

I loved this novel so much I can barely even put my emotions in writing. Imagine the most beautiful story, about the power of love, and right and wrong, and the bonds that hold people together, and how life can be unfair and imperfect and yet perfect at the same time. Thank you, M.L. Stedman, for this beautiful tale of the human spirit. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

GaryTalk #2

Be self-sufficient; carry your weight and then some

SELF-SUFFICIENT: able to provide for your own needs without help from others

As I was growing up, the drive to be self-sufficient was introduced to my older brother (Frieden) and me at a young age and on regular basis. My mom gardened and canned years worth the spaghetti sauce. Dad never hired anything he could do himself, whether it came to digging trenches under the house, fixing cars, or tending his yard. The babysitter drove a nicer car than my dad. The difference: my dad owned his car. 

In the house, Frieden and I were constantly expected to "carry our weight". In other words, keep our rooms clean and tidy, help out with chores, in the yard, or with whatever project we were needed. Was it always fun? No. Did we know any different? No. At some point, we realized that some of our friends were being paid for "chores". A few dollars to vacuum, a few dollars to clean a bathroom. You should have seen my dad's face when we thought he would consider paying us to work in the house! Oh hell no. 

When we were old enough to grasp how money works, we were given a small weekly allowance, starting at 1 dollar a week. The talk that came before that first dollar was serious, and we were encouraged to save our dollars not spend lavishly or wastefully. As silly as it sounds now, Frieden and I were like two little squirrels, hiding away our money and saving it. Just in case. The temptations were vast: treasure trolls, Lego's, baseball cards, Ace of Base cd's, Limited Too scrunchies. The temptations remain vast: fancy cars, designer jeans, iPads, camera lenses, vacations. My dad did not want us to ever rely on anyone else to provide our needs - not the bank, the government, or other people. If there was no money for it, we didn't have it. I think that materialistically we had a lot less than the other kids in our neighborhood, but we were being taught so much more. 

Dad says that you should never rely on others to provide for you or help you create the life that you want. Rely on yourself and do for yourself. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mexican Lentil Casserole

I am always looking for healthy and tasty recipes to try on my work friends. My usually picks involve quinoa, hummus, and lentils. I strongly believe in the phrase "eat like crap, feel like crap" so the opposite applies as well. Eat healthy and feel healthy and on top of the world! I really felt on top of the world today after I got many compliments on this yummy casserole. I think letting it sit in the fridge overnight really brought out all the spices, and while initially I thought it needed a pinch of salt, today I thought it was just perfect. Especially with a dollop of white bean hummus on the side. 

On a side note, I really struggle with taking photos of dull appearing foods in a dark kitchen. I PROMISE this casserole tastes better than the lackluster photo, though I must mention that I'm using my new Sur La Table dinnerware for the first time in this picture, and I love it! 

Mexican Lentil Casserole
adapted from

1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 cups water 
1 cup uncooked lentils
1.5 cups cooked brown rice
1 six ounce can tomato paste
1/2 tsp chili powder
1.5 Tbsp taco seasoning (make your own!)
Optional topping: mexican cheese


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the onion, green pepper, celery, and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir in lentils. Cover pot and simmer for 40 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Remove the lentils from heat and drain excess water if needed.  Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into prepared casserole. Option: top with mexican cheese
  4. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

White Bean Hummus

White Bean Hummus
adapted from the Food Network

2 cans cannelloni beans
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tahini paste
salt & pepper 
1/2 cup EVOO

  1. Rinse the beans under cold water and place beans into the bowl of a food processor. 
  2. Add the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, tahini, salt and pepper (to taste). Turn on the food processor and slowly pour in the olive oil and process until smooth and thick. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spicy Shrimp and Grits

One of my favorite college traditions in Chapel Hill was dining at Crooks Corner with my mom. We just loved their shrimp and grits, and would spend an evening sitting on their patio while sipping wine and enjoying delicious Southern cuisine. The recipe was developed by the late Bill Neal, which we learned after my mom brought in his cookbook for an autograph and our server politely informed us that he was no longer among the living. Woopsies! The Crooks Corner recipe is the crème de la crème, and is set apart by the mushrooms, bacon, and fancy grits. 

With that being said, I feel that I have committed a sin, as I found a recipe for shrimp and grits that takes half the time in the kitchen and is baked into a creamy casserole with cheddar cheese on top. This is a great weeknight version, when you're running short on time or want to entertain guests without spending hours in the kitch. As always, Bon Appetit! 

Spicy Shrimp and Grits
adapted from Allrecipes

4 cups chicken broth (follow directions on grits for ratio)
1 cup grits (I love stone ground grits)
2 Tbsp butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
2 links andouille sausage, cut into large pieces
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 (10 oz) can rotel (I use the spicy version with habanero peppers)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9x12 inch baking dish.
  2. Bring chicken broth to a boil, stir in the grits, cook according to package instructions.
  3. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in green onions, green bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and andouille sausage and cook until the shrimp begin to firm. 
  4. Stir the Monterey Jack, 3/4 cup cheddar, shrimp and vegetable mixture, canned tomatoes, and black pepper into the grits. Pour into baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar cheese. 
  5. Bake in preheated oven until bubbly and beginning to brown, 30 to 40 minutes. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

photo of the week

I was just so pleased with myself after debuting our freshly painted corn hole boards at our Oyster Roast last night for Josh's birthday. I love our wedding colors and used a stencil to get the "S" just right. Unfortunately, the 50 mile per hour winds hit our area and made tossing the bags very difficult, at least that is my excuse for a very poor performance! 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

my sister (in-law) is now 29!

Happy Birthday, Liz!!

I was so lucky when my brother married Liz, because she is one of the greatest girls and we are now besties! I am writing this post to welcome her to the "29 club" and share the quote on her birthday card: Well-behaved women seldom make history". I get to see her in under a month, and I'm looking forward to misbehaving together! 

Montego Bay
Napa Vineyard Tour
cruising along the Silverado Trail (Napa) with the top down!
Running together across the Golden Gate Bridge

Matching outfits!


Eggs & Waffles

I am a firm believer in the "Breakfast Rule". (most important meal of the day!) On work days, I usually pack a greek yogurt with fruit and honey and eat when I have 2 minutes to spare and chug coffee between bites. Efficiency. 

It's a real treat, on beautiful days like today, when I can actually cook myself breakfast and eat in leisure while I read my favorite blogs and sip coffee. This is one of my go-to easy recipes, and I could seriously eat eggs & waffles every single day. It keeps me full for a long time, and right now we even have fresh farm eggs from one of Josh's co-workers!

Eggs & Waffles
2 fresh farm eggs
2 waffles (I love Van's lite or multigrain in the frozen organic section)
earth balance
smoked paprika *the star ingredient!


Toast waffles and top with Earth Balance or butter. Top waffles with two over-medium eggs, season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Enjoy with coffee. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Quinoa Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Even if it's snowing inches outside right now, I've declared it Spring inside my house. That means I am wearing pretty pastel cardigans, buying Sauvignon Blanc at the store, and smiling at this quite funny April Fools joke. Yes, it is really snowing on April the 4th, in Virginia. In the words of my great friend Katie Jo, "what the"!!!

In the spirit of Spring and warm flip flop weather, I have made a quinoa fruit salad to bring to my work friends tomorrow. I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogs (Two Peas in Their Pod) and it is light and healthy and fresh and a great reminder that beautiful weather is coming!

Quinoa Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing
from Two Peas in their Pod
*I doubled the recipe, and used fuji apples instead of mangoes

1 cup red quinoa (dry)
2 cups water
pinch salt

3 Tbsp honey
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp chopped mint

2 cups blueberries
2 cups strawberries
2 cups mango (I used apple)
Extra mint for garnish (optional)

  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions, cool to room temperature
  2. Make honey lime dressing (whisk together lime juice, honey, and mint)
  3. Combine quinoa and fruit. Pour dressing over the fruit salad and mix until well combined. Garnish with additional mint. Serve at room temperature.
By all means, substitute your favorite fruits into this salad.  I think peaches, raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, or grapes would be stellar! 

only a month away...

I get to marry my sweetheart in exactly one month!!! 

photo of the week

Since I posted my first GaryTalk last night, I thought I'd share one of my favorite photographs I've taken of my dad. This is from Christmas time last year, when we were all relaxing after a delicious meal. He's playing Harvest Moon on his guitar, and it was just such a beautiful moment. He has inspired me so much, and I plan on continuing to feature his parenting pillars, as I still need reminders from time to time my own self. 

Album of the Week

I really can't remember what I was doing or where I was the first time I heard a Mumford and Sons song, and I don't know how that is possible considering I am now obsessed with their music. Their lyrics are beautiful and full of wisdom. Here is one of my favorites. 

Josh and I recorded a documentary on the their journey to play at Red Rocks, and seeing them perform live with their raw sound and crazy enthusiasm was just amazing. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

GaryTalk #1

Work hard, Play hard

I was fortunate to grow up in a family with a solid value system and strong work ethic, which both of my parents embodied and demanded. The roots of this story go way back to a time in Wisconsin when my Father was growing up on a golf course called Edgewood and doing all of the green work on the course. It was a big job for a young guy. On top of that, after he finished with the outside work, he came inside and filled in as the bartender/waiter/pool shark. My dad learned how to work Wisconsin hard at a young age, and he has kept on doing it his entire life. 

My dad taught me how to work hard. I started working in high school (waiting tables) and continued to work through college. The less time I had to study, the more efficiently I studied, and the better my grades were. Waiting tables will teach you more than any philosophy course, and you will learn the value of one single dollar. Wait 'til a table leaves you that one dollar tip - for filling many coffee refills, going back for extra maple syrup, packing the biscuits in a to-go-box, for ONE FLIPPING DOLLAR. Yep, that can be waiting tables, at times. It teaches you to value those dollars.

My dad was always a proponent of the adage Work Hard, Play Hard! 

On the weekend, my brother and I would see him having his buddies over to play music, stay up late, scream and holler, and have an absolute blast. Since then, my Dad has encouraged me to find the balance, and play hard! 

There is so much wisdom in this advice, which I have come to truly understand as I've gotten older. Tomorrow is my PLAY day, which will end at El Rodeo where Josh and I went on our very first date! There is so much fun in declaring play time, when you do what you love because you worked to have the time off to let loose!