Category Archives: New York State

Message from ZVRS

Retraining Taste Buds

The carrots I hold in my hand are fresh from a local garden. They’re dirty and have wild bushy green tops. I wash and peel the carrots then pick up the knife. I have a long way to go until I can maneuver this utensil like those chefs on the Food Network, but I’m getting better. Faster.

I cut the carrots, chop the onion, dice the celery, slice the mushrooms and throw everything into a skillet with water. While the veggies are steam sautéing I boil tri-colored pasta in a medium pot and steam spinach in a small one. I add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet. When the pasta and spinach are ready I add those too, along with garlic and oregano.

My husband, Ron, wanders in the kitchen.

“What’s for dinner?” he asks.

“Italian Skillet Casserole,” I say.

He leans over my shoulder and investigates the simmering dish on the stovetop.

“Almost all veggies,” I point out.

Cooking healthier foods has been challenging in certain ways, but one thing I completely forgot about when I started this new path is that my husband can’t stand vegetables. He’ll eat certain items (broccoli or beans or salad) because he knows they’re good for him, but he would prefer them as a side dish, not the main dish.

But it just so happens that his company is having a Vegetable Challenge this summer.

So perfect timing.

I scoop out the meal into two bowls, light some candles, and sit down.

It’s delicious, and I look at Ron to see what he thinks. He’s pushing a piece of onion, a hunk of tomato, and a mushroom slice to the side. “I can eat them when they’re small, but these big pieces…” he shakes his head.

“You need to retrain your taste buds,” I suggest softly.

He’s a good sport so he takes a huge spoonful, onion chunks and all, and gives it a go. He likes it. This truly is one of the tastier dishes I’ve made, and when I’m done I push my bowl aside and lean back in the chair.

“Hey, what’s that?” Ron says, peering into my bowl.

“Nothing,” I say.

“Uh-huh,” Ron nods, smirking.

Okay, okay. So I really do consider myself a vegetable lover, but I’ve always struggled with cooked carrots. There is small pile of them left. I guess we both have some retraining to work through.

Honeymoon Phase

The work day was coming to an end. I was at my home office working on an article, and any moment I expected to hear my husband put his key in the lock and walk through the front door.

I adore this time of day.

I used to dread it, but I’m in a honeymoon phase. Dinnertime is almost here and I’m so in love with cooking.

Oh, sure, I’m thrilled to see my husband too. I enjoy hugging him and kissing him and sitting down together to talk about our days. But not that long ago, early evenings felt a little burdensome. Inevitably one of us would look at each other and ask: “So what are we going to do for dinner?”

Ugh! What a dilemma. We were usually at a loss because our cupboards were bare and besides, we were sick of the two recipes that we rotated through night after night after night after night.

Ever since we committed to making fresh, wholesome meals from scratch (or mostly scratch), our evenings have changed drastically. Our kitchen, for the first time ever, is abundant. We have fresh fruits and muffins, ingredients for homemade pizza, and spinach lasagna ready to reheat. We have a refrigerator full of red lettuce, apples, cherries, and tomatoes. Also we have a huge bowl of salsa because I’ve been on a salsa kick. (Basically, for the salsa I use the recipe from this book, combining corn, tomato, onion, pepper, carrots, black beans, parsley, garlic powder, and paprika. Then I add a little lemon juice, raw honey, and Dijon mustard for the dressing. I use it on everything – on top of mixed greens for a nice salad, as a topping to a veggie sandwich, on top of brown rice, as a dip for baked tortilla chips, etc.).

This week I’m experimenting with a variety of homemade salad dressings. When it comes to salad dressing though, my forever favorite is simply balsamic vinegar on top of baby spinach. I usually throw in pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and sautéed shitake mushrooms. The original recipe (which I copied from a menu in a restaurant whose name is slipping my mind) also called for bow tie pasta (I use tri-colored).

Tonight for dinner we’re having taco salad, and I’m going to mash up some avocados to make guacamole as a veggie dip. I’m excited about this.

People! How come no one ever told me cooking can be so fun?

Baby Green Salad with Dates, Walnuts and Wasa

Ingredients

1 package (4 ounces) mixed baby salad greens
1 cup fresh dates, chopped
1 tablespoon oats
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 pieces Wasa Multi Grain Crispbread

Directions

Coat dates by rolling in oats to prevent sticking together. Set aside.
Place mixed greens in a salad bowl. Add walnuts, dates, canola oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Toss greens and serve as salad with crumbled Wasa Crispbread pieces or spoon onto individual whole crispbreads.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Serves 2

Nutritional Value Per Serving

Calories 255
Total Fat 15 g
Saturated Fat g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 86 mg
Total Carbohydrate 25 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g
Protein 6 g
Calcium 3% of daily value

The Tea Girl

I feel like a dog person who became a cat person . . . a skier who became a snowboarder . . . an evening person who became a morning person . . . because I drink tea now. Me. The coffee girl. Drinks tea. And I like it.

So many colors. Tons of flavors. I can drink it at night and it won’t keep me up until 3am.

I have an “emergency kit” in my purse. It contains essentials like a hair band, dental floss, an extra pair of contact lenses, and quarters. Now it also holds a tea bag. I added it after going to a restaurant the other day where they had three tea choices: icky, yucky, or gross. It reminded me of the days when I used to be a caffeine addict yet was stuck in a meeting where the only coffee option was a stale, burnt cup of sludge.

Anyway, so I now keep a tea bag tucked away for such predicaments. That’s me. The tea girl. Š

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