It Starts With A Thought


Citrus Mint Quinoa with Golden Beets


It always starts with a thought, doesn’t it?  That little idea that sparks the desire to experiment.  “I like this and this.  I wonder how it would taste together.”  That’s how it starts with me at least.  This particular thought came to me while driving home from the grocery store a couple of weeks ago.  Of course it was after I left the store.  It would make too much sense for me to have it in the store where I could actually purchase the items needed for the experiment.  I could have turned around and gone back for it, but having the thought after the fact gave me time to plan.

So the thought started with beets.  I saw some lovely beets in the grocery and realized I hadn’t fixed beets in a while.  Then I thought of a bulgar wheat recipe from one of The South Beach Diet cookbooks.  It’s a delicious side with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint.  Bulgar wheat is out of the question in recipes so I thought, what about quinoa?  Then, what if I used some citrus and beets in the recipe?  Hmmmmm…

So, I mulled this over for a bit and finally put it on the menu this week to go along with some Slow Cooker Citrus Fish.  I chose golden beets simply because this was an experiment and I didn’t want the purplishness of beets to bleed onto everything.  Yet.

The result was tasty and clean.  The only thing I would do to improve upon it is letting the quinoa cool completely.  If you look closely at the picture, the heat from the quinoa wilted the mint, which in turn killed a little of the mint flavor.  I did cook it ahead of time, but did not put it in the fridge or keep turning it and fanning it to cool it down.  Lesson learned.

Citrus Mint Quinoa with Golden Beets

3 golden beets, oven roasted, cooled, peeled, and diced

1 cup quinoa, cooked in 2 cups water and cooled completely

1/2 lime (or lemon), juiced

1 tablespoon mint, chopped

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy.


Christmas Blessings

Lilies from my husband

My husband came home from work last week Monday while I was still cooking dinner.  He walked into the kitchen with several stems of lilies wrapped in clear cellophane.  I looked at him, then I looked at the lilies.  I looked back at him and again at the lilies as he got closer.  I looked at him one last time and said, “What the hell did you do?”

Him: “Screw you.  When have I ever gotten you flowers because I did something?”

Me: “Never.  But you rarely get me flowers when it’s not a special occasion either.”

And I messed with him a little more just because he rarely brings me flowers outside of Valentine’s, anniversary, and birthday.  Not that I want flowers all the time.  It’s more the thought behind the flowers.  Besides, they make good decor!

Our new Christmas tree

Christmas trees went on clearance at work last Sunday.  I really didn’t have time that day to check out what was left that day.  So, Tuesday, I went in a tad early to get a few things and see if any tall lit trees were left.  To my surprise there were several 7 1/2 foot trees pre-lit left.  How exciting!  Since moving to our new place, I’ve thought about replacing our little 4 foot tree.  It served its purpose while we lived in smaller apartments.  Our new place has high ceilings and the living room is the largest living room we’ve had.  That 4 footer would have looked a bit Charlie Brown-ish.  Clearance price was 50%.  Add another 10% off for my team member discount, plus another 5% for using my Red Card.  Yes, I got an amazing deal on the tree.  A better deal would have been to buy one of the display trees at 75% off.  Mess with taking it down and disassembling it before checking out?  I don’t think so.  Maybe if I didn’t have to work that night.  I still got a good deal.  It even motivated me to make room for it the next day (read as, shoving it in the corner for now because it took up too much room in the walkway where I really wanted to put it).

Cheesing with Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts from Auntie A

I lucked out and was only scheduled for 4 1/2 hours on Christmas Eve.  And, I wasn’t closing.  Those 4 1/2 hours were still stressful enough to exacerbate a migraine I had since the day before and have me nauseous.  I knew it was all stress since the nausea went away as I drove home and my migraine finally abated after a while.  While I was at work, my husband did some dinner prep for me.  I made turkey soup with leftover turkey I still had in the freezer from Thanksgiving and some of the turkey broth I made from the Thanksgiving turkey.

Turkey & Brown Rice Soup

We opened presents while the soup simmered.  We got a beautiful sushi ornament from Messa and a cute piggy ornament from Mom.  Mom also made us each an apron.  Mine is so cool it’s reversible!  She also sent us a little whisk (great for whisking up a small bowl of dressing or an egg) with a little piggy as the handle and a set of plastic measuring cups and spoons that are magnetized so they stay together in the drawer.  Messa also made me a beautiful necklace.  Can’t wait to wear it somewhere.  Auntie A & Uncle A sent us treats from back home – a few boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts and a big container of chocolate covered kake mochi (rice crackers).  Now that’s one thing I miss being gluten free is the kake mochi.  I used to eat it with my popcorn all the time.  Even though it’s made from rice, it’s covered in soy sauce, which means covered in wheat.  I believe my husband is enjoying it for me though.  He even took some in to share with his co-workers today.  My husband surprised me with a canning pot, utensils, and a canning book by Ball.  I asked if he was trying to tell me something.  “Get in the kitchen and cook me something, woman!”  He got a bit of stink eye for that comment.  But, I really appreciate the gift because I’ve been wanting to can, but haven’t had the tools to do it.  My best friend even put together a video for me earlier this year.  She was going to give me a lesson in person when we were visiting last year, but things got a little crazy.  She’s a bit of a canning guru and has been since college.  My husband also got me 2 of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks – Food Revolution and Jamie Cooks at Home, as well as The Spunky Coconut’s Grain-free Baked Goods and Desserts cookbook.  The presents weren’t all about food though.  I got some CD’s (Depeche Mode and Michael W. Smith) and DVDs.  Witchblade marathon anyone?

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

After dinner on Christmas Eve, I made a flourless pumpkin pie and flourless peanut butter cookies to take with us to Louisville for dessert Christmas day.   The pumpkin pie recipe was in the holiday issue of Living Without this year.  There was a little gf flour in the recipe that was supposed to settle to the bottom and form a small crust while baking.  No such luck on mine.  And forget taking pictures.  It was a mess to just get a piece out.  Plus, I wasn’t thrilled with the taste.  Too much bourbon, too much cloves.  Everything was just out of balance even though I made it according to the recipe.  I’m still eating it just because I don’t want to waste, especially since I used real pumpkin purée.

The first batch of flourless peanut butter cookies I decided I was going to use 1/2 cup maple syrup instead of 1 cup brown sugar.  The batter was a bit thin, but not so thin that it was runny.  The cookie on the right is from this batch.  There was no rolling needed since the batter was thin and as you can see, the cookies were a bit thin after baking.  They weren’t sweet enough and my husband agreed.  However, they are very moist and still are 4 days later.  Since that batch was a bust, I made another batch the next morning.  My husband doesn’t like pumpkin pie, so basically the cookies were to ensure he had something for dessert, too.  The second batch I made (pictured on the left), I used coconut crystals.  The consistency was the same as my original batch.  My hands were such a mess from rolling out the first pan of cookies that I forgot to give them a little head start on flattening out before putting them in the oven.  I was rather surprised when I pulled them out and they were spread out on their own.  Score!

My husband was on the phone with his mom while the second pan of cookies was in the oven.  It was decided that since the roads were dangerous between here and Louisville, we’d reschedule.  So, I had all these desserts for just the two of us!  My husband then decided we had to go see  Tron.  Well, sure.  It’s rare these days that I get a full day with my husband and it’s even rarer when he suggests going to see a movie.  Plans were dashed due to weather, but I got to spend all day with my husband.

Yesterday marked the end of retail madness.  Yes, I survived working my first holiday season in retail.

I am blessed!

The Spirit of Christmas


Mr. & Mrs. Claus ornament


It seems there is more and more controversy every Christmas/holiday season over political correctness.  Every year there are more people who go out of their minds to get a great deal in the stores.  People pull their hair out trying to buy gifts for loved ones.  And some people become ruder and more entitled than they are the rest of the year.

I know that Christmas became the Christian celebration of Christ’s birth to replace the Yule celebration of the Winter Solstice and, in some cultures, The Wild Hunt.  Of course, I didn’t learn this as a child.  I learned this as an adult.  So, Christmas for me is still always a reminder of Christ being born and beginning of the fulfillment of a prophecy.   However, saying “Merry Christmas” for me isn’t about Christ being born.  Rather it is a greeting/blessing/wish for the spirit of Christmas – peace, love, joy, togetherness, etc.  Like Thanksgiving, I believe the reflection of this time of year should be year-round and not just once a year.

Now that I’m working in retail, I really see the other side of shoppers.  I’m no longer just another fellow shopper in the store.  I’m the one helping them find things and making sure the store looks orderly.   I’ve had a couple get upset because something accidentally rang up twice while I was doing backup cashier.  Even though it’s easily voided out, they spoke under their breath about me to each other in front of me.  I’d like to mention here that this couple decided once they got to the register was the time to figure out the plan of how to pay for everything.  It took them at least 5 minutes before I could start scanning things.  Even after I started scanning and hit the total for the first set of toys, they still didn’t know what they were doing.  Yes, for some reason that couple bothered me.  I’ve had people give me the “how dare you” look when I tell them we are sold out of something.  Regular price, sale, door buster item.  Doesn’t matter.  Apparently, some people think our back room should be a black hole of inventory just waiting for them.  Just last night I had a woman interrupt me while I was helping a gentleman and started to raise her voice because I couldn’t tell her exactly what aisle held the treasure she was seeking.  She disappeared before I could call a co-worker to help her.  Later, I found exactly the items she was looking for in an abandoned cart.  Some people can never be pleased.  Yes, because of how she treated me I started making up stories in my head about her.  You know the stories I mean.  She’s the type that has to have a perfect home presentation for company coming over, but is a procrastinator at heart.  You get the drift.

There are guests that come in that are truly thankful for any help they get, whether we have what they want or not.  One night I had a woman looking for polo shirts and I got a long story about how she had been to every other department store in town and no one had polo shirts.  She grabbed on to a rack near her as she told her story to emphasize her exhaustion.  I was worried the rack would come down on her and got her to the polo shirts as quickly as I could to prevent an accident.  I helped her pick a few shirts and as I was walking away I heard her say to a man who walked over to look at some of the polo shirts, “You won’t find these anywhere else in town.  I’ve been all over today looking for them.”  Last night, a couple was ecstatic when my co-workers and I helped them find a wine refrigerator when they couldn’t find it on their own.  It only took a few minutes of time, but they were thankful for the time as if I had spent an hour with them.  The gentleman I was helping last night when I was interrupted by the rude woman finally got what he came to the store for after a lot of time looking and patience on both our parts.

I am all about giving.  Anyone who has received presents from me will attest to that fact.  I’m not one that will wear myself down looking for “the perfect gift.”  I won’t go out of my way for that “great deal” for something on sale and then get mad at the sales person because they are sold out.  A lot of times I am shopping throughout the year when I see things.   I will look for things that are either useful and I know the receiver wants or things that I know they would appreciate.  I like to make gifts, too.  Aromatherapy baskets, jewelry, scrapbooks, and a cross-stitch here and there.  I’ve never really stressed about gift giving.  As I get older, I think to myself, “If I end up not getting them something, they’ll understand.”  I always have every name crossed off my list in the end though.  If a gift is late?  So what?  They just get to celebrate a little longer.  Right?

I have gotten real lax in the decoration department.  I really don’t care if I have 3 trees up, lights all over, stockings hung by the chimney with care…wait.  We don’t have a chimney.  Two years ago when I was real sick.  All I managed was to get our 4 foot artificial tree up and put lights on it.  That was it.  The ornaments, stockings, Christmas Village, and all my other decor stayed in boxes in the closet.  This year….nothing.  I have no room to put anything out because I still have things that were unpacked but not put away still everywhere.  I managed to find a small space in a corner to put presents for now.

I really don’t care that nothing is out.  It may not look like Christmas in here, but I can feel it.  Because that’s where the spirit of Christmas is.  Inside.  We just manifest it on the outside with decorations, gifts, and food.  My one wish for everyone this season?  Lighten up!  So your house isn’t magazine or Martha Stewart worthy.  So you couldn’t find that perfect gift.  So you had to get dinner from a food bank.  You have your family and friends.  Gift them the gift of you and it won’t matter what the setting looks like or where the food came from.

Merry Christmas!