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Sweet Potatoes and Apples

recipe for sweet potatoes

Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Sweet potatoes have basically been relegated to a Thanksgiving cameo once a year….and I never am the one who makes them or puts them on my plate. Convinced I didn’t like them, or maybe it was the marshmallow smother (gag), I have lived a happy, sweet potatoe free life. Until now.

My daughter, who lived in Mexico for a couple of years, taught me redemptive grace for the oh-so-good-for-you-vegetable. Packed with vitamin A, potassium and fiber, they are a great, low-fat partner in health. In fact, I’m going to plant them in my garden next year – now that is full vegetable salvation!

This recipe is simple (10 mins to prep), delicious as a side dish to chicken or pork, or as a meal in itself. It is gluten-free, sugar-free, can be made vegan, and would also be great for toddlers and kids. Let’s hear it for a vegetable win … and a little swagger on the GF/vegan status too!

 

Sweet Potatoes and Apples

This recipe makes about 4 medium servings but can be scaled up or down easily.

  • 2 sweet potatoes (peeled) and 2 apples (not peeled) cut into cubes (I do about 1/2 inch bites). Firm varieties of apples work best like honeycrisp or pinks, but any kind can work. The softer apples will just be a bit mushy, but still taste amazing. Also, on apples, the sour types like granny smiths might be a little tart since there is no sugar, but make it your way, you can always add a little honey to sweeten if that is the apples you have.
  • Mix in 1/2 c of dried cranberries
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon (about 1 T) and mix
  • Place all in a greased casserole pan or a lined baking sheet. I use a little butter to grease, but coconut oil works too for you vegans or really conscientious – extra points for less fat! I’m not all Paula Deen level, but I do love me some butter.
  • Dot the mixture with 2 T butter* cut into small cubes. *See note above about butter and swap out with coconut oil if you prefer.
  • Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup nuts. I like pistachios or pumpkin seeds, but use what you have on hand. It adds a nice texture and crunch, plus some bonus protein.

Bake at 375 until potatoes are soft when poked with a fork, about 30-40 minutes.

You can make a big batch and use the extras for leftovers. They are great for lunch, transport well, reheat well and last a week or so in the refrigerator. I cook it year round but it has all the fall feels for sure. A Thanksgiving party in your mouth, minus the marshmallows!

Enjoy.

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Pears are Ready

Pears are new to me. We have a small hybrid tree with Bartlett and two different types of Asian pears on our farm, so I’m especially in learning mode.

I’ll be honest to say the gritty texture has always had me coming in with a “fine” score for pears. But, pears right off the tree are much more tasty. And the frugal side of me that hates to waste was determined to find a way to use them!

I made a homemade pizza with sliced pears, feta and a balsamic reduction, which was really yummy, but used 9nly a couple. So today I got serious and found a recipe on Ball’s website for Honey Cinnamon Pears. I added extra cinnamon, which is no surprise. And I made my own version of salted caramel pear butter (also on their site). But I made salted caramel sauce and just added it before the final reduction. It took much less sugar this way and then I could add just a little to not completely take over the pear taste. This will be super tasty on  Turkey sandwich or pancakes!

Happy Fall!

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Confession of a lazy farmer

20180913_1255082800339723616609168.jpgLate spring and early summer, I was so excited to plant a sunflower row – part of a romantic vision of happy flowers on the farm. This lovely picture is not.my.flowers.

Truth is, I did plant more than 200 sunflowers (and I threw in Shasta daisy and hollyhock seed from my previous garden) across the 300 feet of front fence line of my farm. Two grew. Two….and they only got about 10 inches high, so, there’s that.

I would love to feign shock and alarm, but truth is, although we did some hard work, I didn’t adequately prepare the soil for flowers. I got it dug up enough (by hand mind you) to get seeds in, but figured they would take off from there. Nope lazy farmer. It doesn’t work that way.

So my lesson? There is no shortcut or easy way. If I want a beautiful crop or garden or (fill in the blank)….I have to do the preparation and hard work …for months. Ok, so, there’s next year and mark my words….I will have adorable sunflowers to wave hello at anyone who passes by!

 

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Unemployment sucks. A guide to helping folks through it.

unemployment sucks

Three months ago, my job ended. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. I loved the company, the CEO, my team, the work I was doing and completely thought I would retire there. So when I “wasn’t the right fit,” I was shocked, disappointed, and bummed! I mean, I have furniture and rugs in my farm house purchased with award money for doing such great work just a few weeks earlier…I don’t get it.

But let me tell you, unemployment sucks. I’m not good at it either. For instance, to collect unemployment, you have to put in three applications a week, so I do eight and get told I’m spamming the system. Apparently, my over achieving personality makes me get rejected automatically for putting in too many (smh). So, I focus in and really work on 3 special jobs. I literally spend like 4 to 6 hours on each – researching, rewriting my resume with all the key terms that match (you know to get into the automated systems), writing and rewriting pithy cover letters and completing the online application only to get an automated email reply stating they can’t wait to review it, but will only contact if you’re the answer to their dreams. Then crickets.

I try remote, freelancing, job classes from back in the beginning of my career. The only consistent job that keeps coming up is Lyft drivers needed in our area. Oh hey girl, hey…need a ride? Now, don’t get offended, it’s a great, flexible job, but let’s just say I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to make the salary I need.

So in all honesty, here’s the truth of where I am at in this unemployment journey and my advice to those not in the journey. Here’s how you can support…or not, you decide. Disclaimer: mom, hubby, close friends and church friends, just work with me here. I’m half jesting and half venting, put down your lecture and rocks. I’ll be ok, promise.

1. Talking about “it”. There are two camps of people, seekers and avoiders. The seeker wants an update, every.single.time….even when there isn’t an update. I love my mom, but do you freaking think I’d not tell you if something came up after nearly four months of this special form of purgatory? Of course there is no update! But thank you for asking (insert sweet smile here). The avoider never asks. Pretends it’s not a thing and if they don’t make eye contact or never sit still, the awkward “it” won’t come up. I’m out of work, not dying or dumb. But thank you for your consideration to my heart.

2. Praying about “it”. I believe in God, I know He has a purpose and plan for me, I am praying and reading every day and most days I am trusting that the right thing will come along. I have sweet, sweet friends and family who are praying for me too and I am so grateful. But, I wouldn’t be honest if I pretended like that was all there was. Sometimes I am not dealing well with it. I’m worried, I’m mad, I feel frustrated and feel a little like I’m stuck in this weird version of Ground Hog Day, except I don’t have a job and I’m not waking up in a hotel. Nope, it’s me and goats, and the dogs, and the chickens in this same day over and over again. Get up, pray, read, look at job boards, look at email, check for requests for interviews, contemplate a lottery ticket. This process is hard and I don’t do “nothing” well. It’s hard, just let it be hard sometimes. It’s ok, I won’t stay there.

3. There, There-ing “it”. I have had an amazing career to date and unbelievable opportunities, teams and companies. I have awesome friends from jobs of the past whom I love dearly. I’m so blessed. But, I have also lost myself and nearly my health in a job, adopted my identity based on what I did at work, lost that identity and had to find a new one and that is jolting. I have done it really wrong and done it really, really right and I usually land on my feet, but it doesn’t come with no sweat off my brow. I know I have talent and mad skills in a variety of scope. Not in a “she’s so fancy, look at me” kind of way, but a confident, I know my stuff. I’m honest and deliver great work, on time and on budget. That’s good, that’s marketable. But I’m shaken. Let me be real for a moment. Don’t there, there me and quiet me so you don’t feel uncomfortable with the truth of where I am. Sometimes I don’t feel like all that and Lord knows the hiring process is not one that builds self-esteem. But, I’m using this time to pause, to learn from my mistakes, to ensure my identity comes from God and NOT my work (look at me go!), to study and stay on top of the market and trends, to volunteer, help my mom, support others and do a few projects. This time is a gift, I know. I know I will wish I had it back when I’m working, but for now, I need to be able to be honest without a “yah, but”. Please, just let me be real.

4. Rushing “it”. I am NOT good with the middle space. I want to rush to the end point – skip the journey and all of it’s great epiphanies to the next step. You know, stay busy, distracted….don’t feel. But there is part of this process that is necessary, so necessary for me. Trust me, I am doing everything in my power to find the right next step for me, but to skip this process and time will skip part of the next success. The lessons I’m learning here will make me better next. And, the answer may not be the next great multi-level marketing solution to save the day that so many sweet and sincere folks have offered. I do buy from a couple of subscription companies, but I do not feel called to build a business with either. So, whether I end up driving for Lyft (hey girl) or running a marketing team again, I know that this process, whether I like it or not, has been essential to grow my faith, my character and my talent set for the next “it”. If I’m not gonna be in another job for a company, I’m gonna find a way to start the farm business I have been dreaming of for years. Insert a miracle here would be just fine with me!

So I jest a bit, but through my sass, please hear that I am so, so grateful to all of my tribe who supports me. Thank you, sincerely for your support through this time.

And seriously, if I have offended you, message me, I’ll see what I can do to restore, but unemployment is not an easy time frame….just hoping for a little grace in the process and that maybe you’ll just giggle with me.

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About the 2nd, 29th and 200th day of school…8 tips to managing a school routine.

Adult kids

It’s not the first day of school photo.

I have always loved fall. The cooling weather, the leaves turning colors, new clothing and the fresh start that a new season and school year brings.

Since my kids are grown and there is no backpack photo to share, I am providing a little unsolicited life advice for parents on how to manage school routines with kids. Here are eight points to help you navigate the new school year.

  1. Celebrate each day. Beginning a new school year is a big deal and gets so much attention, as it should. But I also encourage you to celebrate every day. Talk to your children about what was amazing and what was difficult about each day. Help them learn to recognize the good, even in the midst of challenge. This habit will serve them their entire life.
  2. Don’t compare yourself. A friend of mine shared recently that she was a loser because she didn’t have the requisite photo of her children on the morning of the first day of school. Social media provides a snapshot of one micro-moment of others. Did you ever consider that none of those photos show the parent? Who knows, they may be haggard and cranky monster on the other end with a meme-worthy morning of pure chaos to capture that photo. Remember, you only get to see one side of the lens, so be gentle to yourself. Each of us is uniquely created and we love and nurture in our own way. It does not require a cute little chalkboard sign. But if you are that parent who stages a photo shoot each year – you are awesome and the photos are adorable. No shame – just be you – either way.
  3. Eat a meal together. I’m not kidding. There is a lot of research that suggests sitting as a family unit together for a meal, is so important to health – emotionally, mentally and physically. I didn’t do everything right by a long stretch, but one thing I can say I did, was make sure we ate dinner together most nights. Was it frozen pizza sometimes? Yes.  The content of the food itself was not the point, sitting together provided not only a structure to our lives, it was our opportunity to talk and just land in the same place together. Now don’t get all spun up about time. Sometimes we sat for just 15 minutes, but that time was ours and it was important as a parent to listen and keep tabs on our how our kids were doing. This time was also our chance to check in on any homework assignments or permission slips needed.
  4. Prepare the night before. Ok, stop the eye rolling. Before you clean up after dinner (and we still do this today), make up the lunches for tomorrow. Side benefit is that you only clean up the kitchen once. Then once that is complete, have the backpacks with homework, permission slips, instruments, gym clothes, etc. packed up and placed in the same spot every night. I never had the benefit of an Instagram worthy entry with cubbies and hooks, but we had one spot where everything went the night before. The mistake many parents make is doing this step for your children, which leads me to my next point.
  5. Involve the kids in the process. No where in the universe does it say the parent must do all the work. Nope. Not true. Nor should you. Even kindergarten students can help with some of the preparation for school and every student should be taught to take responsibility for their success. So, make them pack their backpack and put it near the door. Expect them to help pack lunch, get their permission slips signed and ensure they have everything they need for tomorrow. I can tell you how wrong I did this for so long, but once I shifted the balance of accountability, it changed me and my children for the better. Note for parents of high school students: this involves “waking up” for school too – especially when they are driving themselves. Don’t give them an excuse to blame you, they need to take responsibility and secretly, they like it. It did wonders when I began to expect them to get up on time to do the 10 minutes or 1 hour of primping they needed. This may be a big shift, but if they know what is expected, they can do it. (BTW: Ask me about the day the high school called to have me excuse my late child and I did not. Mean? Maybe. But, they were not late again.)
  6. Pick your battles. This one is tricky depending on your personality. But seriously, decide if a perfectly picked up room is the highest priority or not. This is especially true to older kids. We had only two rules – no food in the bedrooms and if it starts to smell, I will get involved. When I learned to just close the door and let them have their space, they began to self manage and got tired of the mess themselves. Parents, please don’t do all the pick up after your kids – it does not serve them well in life…trust me.
  7. Dealing with uniforms. Whether school uniforms or gym clothes, this point is important. When my kids were little and had a uniform, we couldn’t afford multiples of everything, which meant washing during the week. My kids knew which days I had to wash and when they got home, they put their uniforms in the basket so I could get them started right away. Remember, I worked full time, so this little habit served as a reminder to me too! Side note, if your uniform involves small items like a tie, keep that in their back pack to avoid the search in the a.m. Those are scars talking here….you’re welcome.
  8. Be flexible. We had a routine, which worked most of the time, but sometimes when life blew up, so did the routine. Be flexible and go with the flow. That might mean that you buy lunch that day or eat a granola bar in the car, or dress in the car….but adapting to life’s surprises is a critical life skill for all of you. If you are going to be late, what good is it to show up 3 minutes late and in a frazzle without the parts you need? Just own it. Take your time, get your selves in order and then deal with the 15 minutes or 20 minutes late…or, dare I say it?…a call out day to work through the situation. Life happens, give yourself a break and do what you must, but our ability to show our children flexibility is important. And spoiler alert: your grown kids will remember what choices you made and the priorities you placed on things, time, obligations.

I know you are all so excited for school to have begun and I can remember those days. I do hope you will enjoy the second, 12th and 200th day of school as well. These ideas aren’t brand new or rocket science, but even choosing just one will help your school year hum a little bit better. Best wishes to you and your homes this school year. Hope it’s the best year yet!

 

 

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Cookies…because we love.❤

20180823_19003681628518848259217.jpg

White chocolate, cranberry oatmeal cookies

I like a good cookie, but my sweet husband…he loves, no, he needs cookies, and there is no one else I’d rather bake for than him. Today, since it was a slightly cooler day and I may have put a few fall decorations out, I’m feeling the delicious warm hug of this white chocolate, cranberry, oatmeal cookie….just enough cinnamon to give me all the fall feels.

This recipe is slightly adapted from cookies that used to be served at Shriners Hospital in Spokane where I worked for years supporting that great mission.

Recipe and directions:
Cream together until fluffy:
1 c. butter (room temperature)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
2 t. pure vanilla
Add two eggs and mix well.
Combine together in a bowl, then slowly add to the creamed mixture:
1-1/2 c. flour
2 t. cinnamon (you can cut this in half, but really? why would you?)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
Stir in, just until combined:
2 c. oatmeal (old fashioned, not quick cook)
1 package white chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 c. dried cranberries (or raisins if you prefer)

Scoop dough onto parchment lined cooking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly on pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

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Meal Prep Hack – Onions + Veggies

red brown white and purple onions and garlic displayed

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Chopping veggies, particularly onions, is not my favorite cooking chore. I have tried every trick in the book to keep from crying and the closest thing I’ve found is working near an open flame (gas stove or a candle – per Martha Stewart) and it seems to help. But this post is about making it really count when you do need to cut or chop onions and veggies…and ultimately to save you time during the week.

For me, when I look at my meal plan for the week, I consider all the meals that need onions or veggies and chop them all at once. Not revelational, I get it, but my real hack is how to store it.  Since I rarely use an entire onion in a meal, I used to try to triple bag the remainder in zippered baggies, but inevitably my fridge would smell and everything in it tasted like onions.

Now, when I slice or chop onions, peppers and other veggies, I put them in a glass quart canning jar and tightly close the lid before putting them in the refrigerator. It doesn’t make the fridge or anything else in it smell or taste like onion and they stay fresh and crisp for about a week.  You can either have just one for onions to portion out or  you can prep a jar for each meal. Fajitas or tacos?  One with peppers and onions in it.  Chicken and Dumplings? One with mirepioux (carrots, celery and onion).  Stir fry veggies? Celery, carrots, peppers, onions….well, you get it. It makes meal prep so fast and the jars can go right into the dishwasher for clean up.

The added benefits of less plastic bag use and only needing to clean onion off the cutting boards once a week are a nice perk as well. Happy cooking!

I’d love to hear your tips or tricks for making meal prep easier.