Sauteed Spinach

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Leafy greens are some of the best things that you can eat. They’re cancer-fighting superfoods that help clean out your system and boost your energy. Interestingly, when I was doing all of my nutrition research about a year ago, I learned that while most fruits and vegetables are healthiest in their raw state, cooking actually makes the iron in spinach more digestible. In other words, 1 cup of raw spinach yields 1 mg of iron while a cup of cooked spinach yields 3.5 mg of iron.

Okay, enough talk about health benefits. What I meant to say was sauteed spinach is delicious and a great complement to most meat dishes (or eaten completely alone). All you’ll need is:

1 bag of spinach (I usually get it pre-washed)
1 lemon
olive oil
salt

Yup, that’s it. Now, get a large, deep saute pan and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once it’s been heated over medium heat, add in your spinach.

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With a pair of tongs, start turning your spinach so it gets coated in the olive oil and slowly, you will see it start to wilt.

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Once it gets started, it goes pretty fast. I usually take it out when it looks this.

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Now, add in the juice of half a lemon.

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And a healthy shake of salt.

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I’m in love with this Redmond’s Sea Salt, which tastes just like table salt, but retains all of the natural minerals.

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As soon as you’ve adjusted the lemon and salt to your liking, you’re ready to go!

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As you can see, one bag of raw spinach does not make all that much cooked spinach and I generally eat the entire bag by myself, so if I were making this for multiple people, I would adjust the quantity of raw spinach accordingly.

The Sickies

Well, it was bound to happen, but I didn’t expect it to happen until after we finished packing. I’m sick. I’m bedridden. I’m completely useless and all I can do is look around the house and cringe at the work that still needs to be done.

This week is all kinds of craziness. The movers get here on Wednesday morning. The Irishman and I drive up on Thursday evening and take possession of our stuff on Friday morning. We’ll then spend a fun-filled 4th of July weekend unpacking the essentials and then jet back to Tallahassee on Sunday night (Parker is staying with my in-laws) so that I can attend a final work meeting on Monday morning before packing up the circus (i.e. my dogs and cats) and heading back up to North Carolina on Wednesday.

I will have just over two weeks to get the house in order and all of my new job stuff taken care of before the rest of my little family joins me the first weekend in August. We’re excited about starting this next chapter in our lives, but so not excited about executing the next several weeks. The good news is that there’s a micro-brewery 1/10 of a mile from our house so at least we’ll be in good spirits.

Now, please excuse me while I go flop on the couch and will myself to get better in the next 8 hours.

Island Coastal Views

On my last Saturday on the island, my father and I took a trip around the coast. Since I live a good distance away from them in the States, it’s nice to get some one on one time with each of my parents.

My dad orchestrated the soundtrack for our trip with his iPod and I got an education about music from the 30s, 40s and 50s. We took our time making are way around and dad was more than happy to oblige each time I yelled, “Stop the Jeep!” I’ve been his daughter for almost 31 years now, so he’s accustomed to my outbursts.

Of course, before we even got started, we had to wait for a flock of sheep to clear the road. Man, I miss the sound of their tinkling bells already.

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The drive is so picturesque that I would be content just driving in circles day after day. The shore changes along the island from sand…

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…to rocks…

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…to sheer bluffs.

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There are very few big stretches of beach like you see here in Florida. Instead, you have small pockets of paradise.

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Can I go back please? Mom, dad, are you reading this? Please send a ticket asap. Thank you.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

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So, I’ve been hearing and reading a lot of promotion for the new Black Eyed Peas album. However, contrary to the intent of the print ads (i.e. getting me to buy the album), it’s put actual black-eyed peas in the forefront of my daily thoughts.

After weeks of thinking about them, I finally had to email my mom for her recipe and when I saw how easy it was, I kicked myself for not making it sooner. Our ingredients couldn’t be simpler:

2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 small onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar

(I actually halved this recipe since it was only for me and I’m trying to avoid leftovers since we have to completely clean out a fridge in a week.) First, quarter your onion and slice it very thin so that the end result looks like this.

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Put your sliced onions into your bowl…

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…sprinkle them with a little bit of salt and rub them together (the salt rub softens them).

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Okay, now throw in your chopped parsley…

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…and your drained and rinsed black-eyed peas.

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Now, add in the 1/2 cup of olive oil…

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and the 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar.

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Give it a good stir and “allow it to rest in the refrigerator” (as my late paternal grandmother would say) for at least one hour. To tell you the truth, I put this in the refrigerator…and then promptly forgot about it. The next morning, I opened to the fridge to contemplate breakfast and there it was! It was like finding $20 in the pocket of my jeans. Even though it was 8am and even though I was only halfway through my coffee, I happily grabbed it out of the fridge and ate the entire thing. Maybe only making half a batch wasn’t such a great idea after all since I’ll probably make it again today.

With the fresh parsley and the thinly sliced onions, this salad is so refreshing. Oh and in the event that you aren’t a black-eyed pea fan, give it a try anyway. The Irishman eats this readily and he wouldn’t generally touch a black-eyed pea with a ten foot pole.

Improvisation – Tarter Sauce

I’ve always been a firm believer in the phrase, “necessity is the mother of invention.” While it’s typically been applied to things like the invention of the wheel and indoor plumbing, I’d like to apply the same logic to tarter sauce.

Okay so, technically, I’m sure that I could have eaten my popcorn shrimp by themselves or with ketchup, but sometimes, you want what you want. And, of course, what I wanted was sweet and tangy tarter sauce, but I didn’t have any of the bottled stuff.

Too lazy to hop on my computer and find an actual recipe, I just whipped out what I thought were the basic ingredients (mayonnaise, pickles and lemon juice)…

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…and set about figuring it out. Since I was alone with Parker, I only needed a single serving for my already cooked popcorn shrimp, so I put a heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise into my ramekin.

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Then, I sliced up some dill pickles and added them in as well.

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Finally, I squeezed in a healthy amount of lemon juice as well and gave it a good mix.

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Since I don’t customarily eat tarter sauce out of the jar, I dipped one of my shrimp into it…

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and it came out perfectly! It was smooth and tangy and better yet, it was fresh. I didn’t need to adjust any of the amounts and I happily sat down to polish off my popcorn shrimp. I’ve also vowed never to buy tarter sauce from the store again. Why bother? I always have the three ingredients on hand and this way, I won’t be consuming any of the extra preservatives.

Guacamole

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During the summer, I try to make as many cold things as possible because it feels like adding insult to injury to consume piping hot food in 102 degree weather. One of my favorite cold things to make is guacamole, which is so easy and well worth the minimal effort.

Here’s what you’ll need:

3 ripe haas avocados
1 medium shallot, diced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt

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You’ll want to get fresh cilantro if at all possible. The Irishman returned from Publix with the tubed stuff and since I was already craving guacamole in a big way, I went ahead and used it; however, the fresh stuff is really much better.

After you dice and prep your shallot, garlic and jalapeno, cut your avocado in half and remove the pit. While holding the half, go ahead and slice it up.

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Now, just take a spoon and scoop out your diced pieces.

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Once you’ve got all three avocadoes diced and in your bowl…

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…add in your lime juice right away to keep the avocado from browning because nobody wants to eat brown guacamole.

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Add in your jalapeno, shallot and garlic…

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…and cilantro (whatever form it might take)…

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…and finally the salt.

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Now, just lightly mash the avocado while incorporating all of the ingredients and eat (tortilla chip optional).

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Usually, I’ll make a big batch and we’ll eat burritos and nachos for a couple of days because in my opinion, all Mexican food is better with sour cream and guacamole. So tasty!

Fattious Maximus

Payton the bionic cat has always battled with his weight. In a word, he’s gluttonous. Truly, he is. Since the day he was born, he has never been able to eat in moderation. If you provide him with a large bowl of food, he will eat all of the food in front of him until he vomits from fullness…and then he will eat some more. It’s gross and baffling, but alas, it’s just the way things are.

For a couple of years, he was doing really well on a prescription food, Science Diet RD. We had gotten him down to 10 lbs. (he’s a very short cat so that’s his ideal weight) by feeding him a 1/2 cup at each meal. Of course, you’d think that we were starving him with the way that he carries on, but my vet assured me that he is properly nourished.

I was perfectly content to leave him on the Science Diet RD, but the vet wanted to try him on a regular food to see how he would do. So we did. And this is what happened.

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Oh my fatness. Needless to say, the switch was not successful and he has gained 2 lbs. in 2 months. That’s the equivalent of a human gaining 30 lbs. in the same amount of time. Yowsa! So, we’re back on the “special” food and I hope that we can get him back to a manageable weight. Hopefully, “the fat cat” will be a temporary phase and we’ll have the pining, but svelt Payton back in the house.