Monday, September 24

Menu Idea Monday: Using Zucchini

Photo from Food in Jars blog
Today, I am going to send you over to the Food in Jars blog for the best compilation of recipes that use zucchini I've seen this year.

Personally, my favorite use for zucchini is tucked instead veggie lasagna where you barely notice it. Still, with no garden of our own this year and people willingly passing us lots of zucchini I've had to broaden my repertoire slightly. I don't like to see food go to waste, so I think it's important to learn how to take whatever is available and turn it into hearty, enjoyable sustenance whenever possible.

Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe?

Monday, September 17

Menu Idea Monday: Italian Seasoning

Photo from
Last week I shared a chili powder recipe I've started using, since I refuse to add clutter and expense to my spice cabinet by purchasing spice combinations. This week, I thought I'd post a link to one of the other most common spice recipes I run across in cooking: Italian Seasoning.

Also from, this recipe is just like the chili powder - I have nearly everything in my cabinet already! If you tend to make a lot of pasta dishes, tuck this recipe in your cookbook - you're likely to see a lot of it. I expect to make a big batch before canning season next year - marinara sauce anyone?

Saturday, September 15

The Peanut Butter in Schools Controversy

Peanut butter bans are once again in the news as an Arkansas schools experiences push-back over a teacher's decision to confiscate a student's lunch when he brought a forbidden peanut butter sandwich.

Food is intensely personal, as are a parent's choices regarding how they raise their children, so every time food allergies come up in the news explosive and hyperbolic arguments erupt. 

I weary quickly of reading internet articles on the subject because there is so little relevant debate on the actual issues at hand. How is it that a subject with so much potential for informed, thoughtful and innovative problem-solving is squandered rants about individual drama, pride and ignorance?

If you would like to skip the drama and participate in actual, productive discussion on this fascinating and complex topic, I would like to suggest a resource you may appreciate. 

The Unhealthy Truth is the true story of a mother who, in search of solutions to a range of health problems in her family, discovers that all four of her young children have serious food allergies (to different foods). Her journey through the process of discovery and then the struggle to adapt their lives and environment to deal with the new reality is well written and informative in an engaging, easy-to-relate-to style.

Opponents of PB bans will appreciate the author's attitude of personal responsibility towards her children's dietary needs, and parents of children with food allergies will empathize with her fears and struggles. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, O'Brien's book can provide valuable insight and a good starting point for sound, reasonable debate on the subject.

Hyperbole and Straw Men may fuel headlines, but our nation's children deserve better than reactionary thinking, irrational pride or a nanny-state. They need us, as adults, to model healthy decision making and problem solving - which always start with getting the right information. 

Wednesday, September 12


The first time my husband suggested we try a Piyo class last spring, I was petrified. Balance, strength and flexibility are not high on my list of attributes and I vividly envisioned flailing around like a train wreck in a room of sleek, composed fitness buffs. He was very gracious about my hysteria, and I agreed to at least try it.

Given that inauspicious start, it wasn't really surprising that he was shocked when I decided in July that I wanted to become a Piyo instructor! Wonderful as he always is, he agreed and I was able to attend the training this past weekend. Halfway through I sent him a text saying the new workout routine was awesome and crazy!

What made me go from petrified newbie to freshly-minted Instructor? I discovered in Piyo a workout that fits my personality!

Piyo is an athletic blend of Pilates and Yoga set to up-tempo music and taught in hour-long classes. I couldn't help but fall in love with it for three reasons:
1. It's completely honest.
2. It is the exercise version of multi-tasking.
3. You don't have time to be distracted.

The Piyo instructor who led the first class we went to was completely upfront about the poses/movements she couldn't do because of a knee injury and encouraged all of us not to be embarrassed about modifying anything that was outside our current comfort zone. Everything can be scaled back to where you are and scaled up later when you want a challenge so you can always have the fun without killing yourself or being left out. 

Much like Insanity (which I also liked), Piyo takes a full-body approach: you are never working just one muscle group. You consistently get a big bang for your buck, which is vital when you don't have a lot of free time to work out.

Best of all Piyo keeps your brain engaged. You don't have time to be distracted by mental to-do lists or emotional clutter - you find yourself completely focused in the moment, giving your brain a chance to relax, helping your body get the most out of your workout, and whisking you to the end of the workout time before you know it!


If you haven't tried Piyo, I encourage you to look for a class and give it a shot. You may not love it, and that's okay. But with winter rapidly approaching it is wise for all of us to get (and stay)  intentionally active. 

Darker, colder days and increased stress as the holidays approach can take a toll on your health. Exercise improves circulation, helps keep weight in check and balances brain chemicals - giving you stress relief and an emotional boost. Whatever format works best for you, make sure you're staying active this winter - and consider trying something new! There's lots of great formats out there and you might just find something amazing... even if you are little petrified the first time.

Monday, September 10

Menu Idea Monday: Chili Powder

I've always considered spices one of the harder things to manage in a kitchen. I love the pretty little bottles they come in, but unless you come up with a good storage system they quickly get unruly. Keeping a couple dozen different spices on hand can also get expensive, especially when you consider how often you're technically supposed to rotate through them or replace them.

Photo from
As a result, there are many spices I simply don't keep on hand. I consistently refuse to buy spice combinations, because I feel like they get little use and just pile up in clutter. It has only recently occurred to me to just look up what's in each combination and make my own in small batches with the spices I already have on hand.

If that sounds like something that might work well for your kitchen, check out this chili powder recipe from

I was very pleased that I have all but one ingredient already in my cabinet. So next time I make something that calls for chili powder (a common event), rather than just improvise the spices I can make the recipe true to form without any extra clutter or expense in my cabinet. If I'd know it was this easy, I've have started doing this sooner!

Monday, September 3

Menu Idea Monday: Blueberry Struesel Swirl Muffins

We were out somewhere last week when we passed a bakery case featuring huge, gorgeous blueberry muffins. My husband commented that they looked great, and my instant (oh so humble response) was "Muffins are easy - I can do that."

Photo from Just Baked
So when we got home and I saw jar of homemade blueberry jam our neighbors had given us, I knew exactly what to do with it! Using the Cook's Illustrated recipe (via Just Baked), I whipped off a batch of Blueberry Swirl Streusel Muffins.

Note: Photo borrowed from Just Baked, seeing as we ate all our muffins before I thought to take a picture...

So very delicious. And fast. And easy. They bake up bakery-beautiful, especially if you use a jumbo muffin tin. I particularly like that you can sub jam for the fresh fruit here, allowing for lots of variety and an easy way to get taste of summer in the dead of winter. Try them!

My Modifications:
It's going to sound like I made a lot of modifications here, but they're all simple equivalents:
Coconut oil instead of veg oil
Jam instead of fruit & sugar
Plain yogurt instead of buttermilk

I also skipped the butter entirely and didn't miss it at all. I also subbed 1/4 cup of maple syrup for the 1+ cup of sugar called for and they were plenty sweet. I threw together my own version of streusel, as well.

Dietary Mod Friendly?
Yes and no. I have no idea if you could easily make a GF version of this using a baking mix, but otherwise it is pretty flexible. There are no eggs or nuts, and you could easily sub almond milk if the dairy was a problem.

Saturday, September 1

Free Fun

It's the first day of September already, and many families are back to school. But before all your weekends fill up with school events and get-it-done-before-winter projects, sneak this fun event onto your calendar: Smithsonian Museum Day!

On Saturday, September 29th, museums across America will offer free admission! Just hop over to the Museum Day website and print off as many coupons for free admission as you need. Then grab your kids or a couple friends and head over to that museum you keep meaning to check out but never quite get around to!

Check here for a list of participating museums. (Don't see the museum you were hoping for? Call them and ask if they know about the event. As crazy as it sounds, not everyone does and they might be delighted to sign up!)

So take a minute to stick this event on your calendar, and maybe to invite a friend along. Take the money you'll save by not paying for admission and stop for the last ice cream of the season or a pumpkin latte. What museum have you been wanting to check out?