Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My summer reading list

Do you have a summer reading list?  An "all year long" reading list? Stacks of books here and there and everywhere that you call your "list"?
That would be me. I have book stacks everywhere and since I read several books at a time, they're pretty much all over. Then, I have a Kindle too. Yup. Lots and Lots and LOTS of books on there. My summer reading is within my stacks. There was a time I was trying to declutter my books and find homes for them. (Get rid of the stacks) I realized that this is just part of who I am and I'll always be. A book stacker. No matter where I live, I will always have book stacks scattered around here and there.
 Embrace the stacks
Stacks. I'm not picky, I'll read anything. From Dragon Keepers to Depression cures to Creaky Knee hikes.

There was a time I had to finish a book, even if I didn't care for it or it bored me. I don't do that anymore. Lifes too short and there's too many really good books out there to waste my time on a bad read. Reading is one of my most favorite past times. Full times. Present times. Future times. Yeah. Getting lost in a good book is one of my most longed for experiences in life. When that happens, the world disappears, and you feel as if you're part of the story? Heaven. So I don't waste time on time wasters.

I love great writers. A writer that can take you on a journey that you'll not soon or ever, forget. Lots of authors out there. But a writer, one that can whisk you away on a fantastical journey can be a bit hard to find. At least, that's what I've found lately since everyone and their mother is writing a book. Doesn't make them a good writer just makes them an author of a book. Seems to be the new thing lately. If you have any type of celebrity, you write a book. It's a money making machine. I find it hard to find really good writers that write really good books. (Please...suggest some of your favorites. I would LOVE to know.)

Since my summer reading "lists" are my stacks that are random and forever change, I do have several that I intend to read this summer and books that I have read, that I felt were a lot of fun, and I want to share with you. I'll be sharing my reading this summer so hopefully you'll find a good book you'll want to grab and get lost in. I know everyone has different reading tastes so my likes might not be your likes and that's cool.
 We can all still be friends.

I'll be honest about the books I read and talk about here. If it's a waste of time? I let you know how I feel about it. If it's a great read, a lot of fun, and I recommend it? I let you know what I think. Some may agree. Some may not. I'm certainly not a book critic and I'm not being paid to do this, I'll just give my honest opinion on whether I think it's a great or not so great read and hopefully you'll find something that catches your eye and I'll take you on a fantastical journey!

So! I'll share a couple of books I've read the last couple of weeks and you can decide if they're for you.
Here's a couple I have read and enjoyed, maybe you will too.

#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso (on my kindle)
I LOVE this book. She's incredibly inspiring, especially for someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit such as I. It would be a great read for a young women starting out in her career or her own business, that with hard work, determination and an attitude of not quitting, you'll be successful. I'd say it's a must read for any young woman. For this middle aged gal who is just now getting into #GIRLBOSS mode, since my young son is getting older and needing less and less of me, this SAHMom is needing to get out into the job force or start my own business. This book was just the book I needed. She really builds you up, in a realistic way, that you can do anything you want to do. With hard work. I related a lot to her so that may be why the book so resonated with me. Not only is she the CEO and owner of a company worth 100 million bucks (that part didn't resonate) but she's an inspiration and a great writer to boot. Well, worth the read. Well worth the purchase!

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
This is a super fun read! He's a pretty funny writer and can keep your attention in anticipation for what will happen next. He's a pastry chef turned cookbook author that moved to Paris to "start a new life". I'm about halfway done with this book and I'm loving it! You get some french recipes as well. Well worth the purchase.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (kindle)
This is a young adult book. I actually LOVE young adult books. (But NOT Twilight. Yuck)
This book was...OK. It's about a kid who ends up in this maze with a bunch of other kids. Their memories are hazy so they don't know where they are or how they got there. These kids are trying to find a way out through this maze that has a  living area in the middle. There's huge stone doors, that open up to the maze, that are in the enormous walls that surround the living area. The doors open in the morning and close in the evening and the kids don't want to get caught outside the doors. They have runners running throughout the maze to try and find a way out but have to get back before the doors close.
It was pretty suspenseful at times but had some times in the book that seemed to drag on and times where you just want the author to get to the point. But overall, it was like a good show on tv that you watch and then forget. It was entertaining but not can't-put-it-down-can't-wait-to-get-back-to-it kinda book. I've read some young adult can't puter downers. This one? Not so much, but you may not agree. Young adults would probably think differently. There's a cute little romance, maybe, going on.
I did purchase the next book in the series since the ending caught me up into the storyline enough to want to know what happens next, but it you want to read it? Get it from the library.

Notes from a Blue Bike: the Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider (Kindle)
It was OK. I love her blog but I was a tiny bit disappointed in the book. She writes a lot about simplicity with a young family and since my kid is 14 and I don't have littles around,  I skipped over a bunch. A lot of it's common sense. I enjoyed the writing aspect of it (she writes a good story) and she has some good points but I felt she was strongly opinionated in a lot of areas that I didn't quite agree with so the book seemed a bit preachy. I felt as if I was being preached at. It was ok though. I finished it.  It's another library read too.

There's a few that I've read recently and maybe one that sparks your interest.
Until next time get your nose in a book. It's good for your brain.
Let me know your favorite authors and best reads!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Roasted Veggies on Flat Bread with Avocado Sauce

 Are you digging in to all your summer vegetables? I know I am and lovin it! I love trolling around Trader Joe's and Whole Foods scooping up all the organic goodies I can find. This is my first summer as a vegetarian and experimenting with different vegetables has been a lot of fun and tasty. The vegetables are fresh and relatively inexpensive, so trying new things this summer is definitely on my list of to dos.

Look what I made last night.

Not kidding here kids. This was an explosion of flavors in my mouth and was really hard not to overeat and stuff my face full.
Not only were the flavors outstanding but it was soooo easy! The roasted vegetables really set it off and then adding the avocado sauce and the little bit of tang of the feta? Oh. My. GAH. Soooo flipping good.

Here's what I did and here's what ya'll need:
2 yellow squash or summer squash as some call it. Medium size.
2 medium sized zucchinis
1 medium sized Walla Walla onion.(You gotta find the Walla Walla. My grandad used to say you could eat them like an apple. They're a pretty sweet onion and when roasted the sweetness explodes. If you can't find Walla Wallas any ol onion will do.)
1 Red Pepper
2 medium sized carrots.
4 Tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Soft flat bread

I was going to grill these up on the BBQ, but I got real lazy so I put my veggies under the broiler. I cut up all the veggies lengthwise so when I put them in the flat bread, they didn't fall out on me. ( Nothing more frustrating when eating taco style.) I cut them around a 1/4 inch thick so they won't get mushy and fall apart under the broiler but get nice and roasted. I used two pans and loaded the veggies on and drizzled with the olive oil and sprinkled some salt and pepper, mixed them up with my hands to coat all the veggies with the oil and into the oven they went.
 I have my oven rack in the center of my oven. Broiling seems to roast and caramelize (is that the word for it?) the veggies better than baking them.  My veggies were nicely cooked and roasted after about 15 minutes or so. But I kept and eye on them so they wouldn't burn. I wanted them where they just started to turn brown. That's where alllll the flavor is in this dish. The roasted veggies.
Ohhhh so good.

Meanwhile while my veggies were roasting away I made my avocado sauce. Ok...who doesn't like avocado? I mean the texture alone gets me all lovin it. So anything that has avocado on it, I'm probably going to like. Make me a sauce? Love you forever.  Is that creepy? Maybe. A little. Anyway!

For the Avocado Sauce you need:
1 avocado
1 clove of garlic
1 shallot just a bit bigger than the garlic clove. You don't want too much
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup of plain greek yogurt
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste.
Use a blender or a food processor and blend all that together until nice and creamy.( I tried real hard not to  sit down and eat it out of the bowl.) Salt and pepper that creamy goodness to taste. I like a lot of salt with my avocado. But that's just me.

Once my veggies were done I was off to the races piling it onto my flat bread that I warmed in the micro for a minute or so.
Piled it high, drizzled what was left of the avocado sauce, sprinkled some feta on that bad boy and stuffed my face.
The flavors of the roasted veggies, the creamy coolness of the avocado sauce and the tang of the feta all wrapped around with the soft flat bread? This is quite possibly my most favorite food combo evah!
It's so easy.
Healthy and filling.
Flavor explosive.
Yup, my kind of eating and cooking.
And, there's avocado on it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Words I speak...

 I love those times when I have these great discussions with my son. You know, those times when your teenager actually wants to listen to what you have to say. Well, I should say, we both want to hear what each other has to say.
My boy getting his purple belt in Karate.

 I admit it. Raising a teenager is tough. They have minds of their own. The sassy back talk can get to me sometimes and I can say things I don't mean.

 I notice I can do that a lot, say things I don't mean when I get upset, frustrated or---the big one for me...overwhelmed. I don't understand why I do this but I want to.

The other afternoon I was analyzing my life, as I do, to try to figure out why the heck I act the way I do. I get in these high alert protective modes. From my analysis, as I do,  I came up with the fact that growing up I had always felt 'threatened'. Now, I was never physically harmed and I want to make that very clear, but I was critiqued all the time. My character, my very existence, seemed to always be questioned. Whenever I did something, it was usually the wrong thing, whether or it was or it  or was not. Due to the circumstances in my family, I always felt I was the one that screwed it all up. I messed up everyone's life. Had I not "accidently" come along, everyone would have been happy. Those strong feelings that dominated my childhood puts me on the defensive or high alert a lot of the time in my adulthood. I tend to be very suspicious.

Here's just a little pause to look at my pretty girl... I'm just a liiiitttllee ADD. (not kidding)
she's perty huh?

Soooo, when I get into arguments with my husband or son, (yes, I argue with a 13 year old and when I catch myself, I find it amazing as well) I tend to lash out and say things that are hurtful, thinking I'm protecting myself from the hurt, I believe, they are causing me. My character, my being, feels threatened. I would never say those things any other time, but the minute I feel my character taking a hit, my defenses come up. Then the words can spew out of my mouth.

Ugly words.
Hateful and damaging words.
Manipulative and game playing words.
Words you can't take back.


Here's another picture, since I want to you to think the best of me...
Yes, I am trying to manipulate your affections with food.

Annnnyyyway, in the mornings I get a daily bible verse and yesterday's verse was very telling and hit me very deep. I should also say that I prayed last Sunday for the Holy Spirit to reveal in me those things that are blocking His love towards me in my life. The lies that I have placed around me, to protect me, that I want to come down. Here is the verse that came to my phone yesterday...

Matthew 12:36-37
But here is what I tell you. On judgement day, people will have to account for every careless word they have spoken. By your words you will be found guilty or not guilty.

Which gets me back to the conversation with my son. You know the one I was talking about earlier where we were both of the mind to listen. Was it a God moment? Maybe. This verse came into play.

We were talking about bullies and when they say hurtful things about you to you or to others, it's all about them and their insecurities. It's about them trying to make themselves feel better by cutting someone else down. It's never about you and to never take those words to heart. Never let those words become part of you and who you think you are. I wanted him to always know who he is and who he was created to be. That person is a child of God, created in the image of God, who is creative, compassionate, wise, artistic, smart, caring, peace loving, gentle kind and a loving soul that will always be no matter what. If we take in those negative words, name calling, less than, demeaning and useless words, that can come from anybody, and allow them to become our truth-- we start living lies. Then, eventually,  those lies become a part of you and  you will end up hurting  people the same way you were hurt  by one of the most powerful weapons on earth.

 The power of words. 

James 3:1-12

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
My brothers and sisters, most of you shouldn’t want to be teachers. You know that those of us who teach will be held more accountable.
All of us get tripped up in many ways. Suppose someone is never wrong in what he says. Then he is a perfect man. He is able to keep his whole body under control.
We put a bit in the mouth of a horse to make it obey us. We can control the whole animal with it. And how about ships? They are very big. They are driven along by strong winds. But they are steered by a very small rudder. It makes them go where the captain wants to go.
In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body. But it brags a lot. Think about how a small spark can set a big forest on fire.
The tongue also is a fire. The tongue is the most evil part of the body. It pollutes the whole person. It sets a person’s whole way of life on fire. And the tongue is set on fire by hell.
People have controlled all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea. They still control them. But no one can control the tongue. It is an evil thing that never rests. It is full of deadly poison.
With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. With our tongues we call down curses on people. We do it even though they have been created to be like God. 10 Praise and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, it shouldn’t be that way.
11 Can fresh water and salt water flow out of the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives? Can a grapevine bear figs? Of course not. And a saltwater spring can’t produce fresh water either.

Pretty powerful!

Am I a bully to my son and to my husband?

 You know, I think we want people to believe the negative things that we believe about ourselves. It's the whole- you think you're a jerk so you're going to act like a jerk than call people jerks because they're treating you like--a jerk. 

Which brings me 'round to the words I say. 
What is it that I believe about myself, that's a lie, that rises up in me and then I spew words in defence. I become a bully. But even more important than that, what words will I be held accountable for in this life and in the one to come? Especially the ones that make me feel ashamed or embarrassed after speaking them. As much as you want to believe a "sorry" makes hurtful words sting less or just disappear from memory, is a lie. It doesn't go away like magic and most the time it never does.  "Sorry's" just makes me feel better about it. So, if my words have so much power to hurt or heal and I'll be held accountable for them later, I think I should start being  more acutely aware of what I say, at all times. Sometimes it's better to just walk away than say something that will never go away.

Here are some great verses for me to get down deep in my heart and not let go...

James 1:19-20 NIrV
 My dear brothers and sisters, pay attention to what I say. Everyone should be quick to listen. But they should be slow to speak. They should be slow to get angry.  A man’s anger doesn’t produce the kind of life God wants.

Proverbs 17:28 NIRV
We think even a foolish person is wise if he keeps silent.
We think he understands what is right if he controls his tongue.

Proverbs 29:20 NIrV
Have you seen a man who speaks without thinking?There is more hope for foolish people than for him.

Proverbs 15:1 NIRV
A gentle answer turns anger away.
But mean words stir up anger.

Ephesians 4:29 NIRV
 Don’t let any evil talk come out of your mouths. Say only what will help to build others up and meet their needs. Then what you say will help those who listen.

And here's my own verse-

Meredith 1:100008964538587
Just zip it. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Pine Nut Couscous Stuffed Green Pepper

This Pine Nut Couscous Stuffed Green Pepper is such an easy meal to make, satisfying and very tasty.
It's also a great vegetarian dish that gets me away from the typical salads and plain veggies I  get stuck on and since I've been trying to venture out and try new dishes that my whole family will enjoy, this one seems to have hit it's mark. 
Even my 13 year old loved it.
Works for me! 

1 box of toasted pine nut couscous ( I used the Near East brand) 
2 medium sized organic green peppers (you can use any color, I just had green on hand.)
1 small organic carrot 
1 small organic zucchini 
Tablespoon of olive oil
Feta for topping
 Turn your oven on to 350 degrees and prepare a medium sized baking dish with a little non-stick spray then fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
While waiting for the water to boil, dice up the carrot and zucchini. Heat up the olive oil in a small saute pan then saute the carrot and zucchini until tender.  When tender, put aside.
Make up the couscous by following the directions on box. 
Meanwhile, wash and halve your green peppers. Gently, scoop out the seeds, the white part and top of the green pepper to make a little bowl. You'll have four halves.
When your water is boiling, gently place your halved green peppers into the water. Set your timer for 3 minutes and allow your peppers to take a nice hot bath as it comes back to a boil, then remove your peppers from the water and place them in your baking dish.
(This cooks them a bit so you don't have raw peppers after baking.)
Now,  add your sauteed veggies to the cooked couscous and gently stir together. 
Fill each pepper with the couscous/veggie mixture. Don't be shy, fill um up!
I use all of the couscous for the four peppers. Mound them high!
Add the feta on top. I won't say how much because I like a lot, some like a little. It's up to you.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the oven to warm through. 
Set the oven to broil and broil the peppers for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese has browned a bit.
Remove from the oven.
This is a really good dish, tasty and fast. It you try it, let me know if you liked it. ;0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Horsetail the Garden Devil

See this?  
Yup. That's the devil.
 Well, it's a garden devil at the moment. In MY garden.  I hope to have this beastly weed under control in the very near future. 
This weed is called Equisetum
a "living fossil" that's been around for over 100 million years that is plaguing my yard  but I guess the dinosaurs had problems with it too. The fact that's it's been around so long doesn't endear me to it because,  old or not, it's a pain in my rear and needs to "git gooone". It is pretty cool it's been around that long.

I've done everything I can think of other than bringing out the really big guns (chemicals that kill everything in  5 mile radius for years) to get rid of it. I've pulled it out, dug it up, sprayed it with round up and vinegar, yelled at it, cursed it's mother and it still comes back. 
 It  has these fast growing rhizomes, these underground stems, that if you don't get every bit of it out of the ground it grows right back. You can't pull it out because it breaks really easy.
 It's really impossible.  
This little corner of my yard...

Pretty huh?

 I haven't done anything with, not just because of the horsetail, but when the  guys installed our fence I do believe this is the conversation they had-
First guy: "Hey, we have all this leftover cement from the posts...what should we do with it?"
Second guy: "humph...don't know. Why don't we pour it out here and when they cover it with the dirt, no one will ever know."  
So, I have about 6-8 inches of dirt with cement under it. Awesome.
I guess horsetail likes poor draining and nutrient less soil which apparently this must because it's lovin it!  
But I'm changing that. 
From what I read, I won't be able to get rid of it (without harsh damaging chemicals) completely but I can control it. 
 Control I can do. I've just let this corner go and not worry about it since it's not really something anyone sees but the horsetail is spreading and out of control so it's time to get on it. I know I won't get rid of it since my neighbor has just as big a crop under that fence there, and it spreads with these rhizomes, but I certainly can show it who's boss.
I want to stay away from the chemicals and go as organic as possible so this is the route I'm taking here.
Organically, I've read to spread some lime around to try and "sweeten" the soil. 
So I used this
I'm trusting since they've been around since 1949. 

I weeded the area first-

Spread about 3 cups of lime around this area-

You need to wear a mask with this since it goes airborn pretty fast and you don't want to inhale that.

Foot shot!!!

Mixed it all in all pretty like.
Now I wait for two weeks.

In two weeks I need to add a bunch of this-Compost. I love compost. Compost is your friend. Compost is your gardens friend. We shall all be friends. 

Yay! you get to see my feet again! Your special.

 I hope I'll be on my way to getting rid of this nasty creep of a weed. 

And spending more time with these-

I love her.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Balance and a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie

Balance. It's all about Balance.
Oatmeal, blueberries, walnuts and a smidge of agave for a bit of sweetness. 

Cause I would like to eat these all day long....

I love sweets. I really do. 

I think I've been doing pretty well with my eating habits but my sweet tooth gets me every time, especially if I have any kind of emotional stuff going on. I have a terrible time with emotional eating but I do find if I limit myself to certain foods and not just go for broke and eat anything and everything in front of my face...I do better. 
I became a vegetarian in January and don't regret that for one moment or miss meat for even a millisecond. I've been gradually working my way to a more vegan based diet but I love eggs so much, I'm not sure if I can give them up. But, as of late, my body has been telling me different so I may HAVE to give them up.

My mornings breakfasts, typically around 8 am, is usually a smoothie with a banana, strawberries, blueberries maybe some mango thrown in there with chia seeds and almond milk. Blend that all up together and it works out to be a great breakfast and holds me over until lunch at around noon. Lately, I've switched my breakfast up a bit having oatmeal, blueberries, walnuts, ground flax and some agave for a bit of sweetness. This seems to work very well for me and I don't get hungry and my sugar levels stay pretty level. 

At lunch I usually have two hard boiled eggs and some carrots or veggies of some kind.  I like to make my own hummus, which is super easy to do, and eat that with some pita bread or dip my veggies. I try to eat enough at lunch so I can skip dinner or just have a snack. 
But then...
My sweet tooth calls. I don't why I make this stuff! I love it though and if I didn't make it I'd go buy a big bag of oreos and that's just yuck. 
So! I've been working on some healthier options for my sweet tooth. I've been playing around with some cookie recipes eliminating the eggs and butter. The Chocolate Peanut Butter chip cookies I made yesterday, pictured above, I made without butter. I used Smart Balance vegetable oil but would like to try making them with vegan butter or olive oil. I've made them using flax egg. (tablespoon of ground flax and three tablespoons water) and it worked pretty well!
Here's what I did yesterday.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 kosher salt
1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray your cookie sheet or use a non stick pad.
With a blender or hand held mixer, mix together the oil, sugar and eggs until nice and creamy. Add vanilla and mix well.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry to the wet slowly to blend the cookie dough. Try not to over mix. Add the peanut butter chips and mix gently. 
The dough is a bit more crumbly and the chips don't stick well to the dough but that's ok.
I use my hands to grab about a Tablespoon of the dough and roll it in my hands to make a ball. Place on the cookie sheet and flatten it down a bit with your hands. These cookies don't spread much in the oven, so you can place them about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes. I baked them for around 10 minutes for a chewy in the middle cookie but since I  like a more crisp cookie I usually bake mine for around 12 minutes. Remove to cool on a cookie rack after a minute or so. Store them in a closed container and they last for a few days but you'll eat them first. ;0)

These cookies are very chocolatey and the peanut butter chips take them right out of the park for me.
And, they're dairy free! Hopefully I can keep messing around with it and come up with a healthier version with no eggs.
 I'm having fun trying to make sweets better for me! No taming the wild sweet tooth beast here.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Whole Wheat Rotini with Roasted Zucchini and Cheesy Tomato Sauce

I LOVE to cook and bake, it's one of my favorite hobbies.  I've been baking and cooking for a long time but still feel like I have so much to learn and I'm trying to get better at it.

In January of this year, I became a vegetarian.
I was having so much trouble with my stomach that I had to do a major overhaul on my eating habits. Before January, I kept meat in our meals because my husband is a meat, potato and veggie kind of guy. He likes the full meal deal but I don't eat much at night with my stomach issues and I was beginning to hate cooking dinner. I was starting to hate to cook!  I rarely ate what I made (before I changed my eating habits) at dinner time because of my stomach and I was really only cooking for my husband and son. My son was never a big meat eater and add on that my husband would never eat meat the second day. I always had so much waste.

In January, I changed all that. I took meat completely out of our diets. I don't regret or miss it for a moment. My husband eats what he wants away from the home so he can get all the meat he wants at Wendy's. I still use lunch meat when I pack my son's lunch for school, but even that I'm trying to get rid of.

 I actually started turning away from meat in November 2013 Thanksgiving. I brined a turkey and at the first bite, I was so turned off, I knew my meat eating days were coming to a close. In January, I stopped eating it all together. I've lost over 20 pounds and I feel so much better. I also I don't eat dairy, except for a bit of cheese once or twice a week and I still eat yogurt at times. Sugar is a different story. I have a sweet tooth and that won't change but I do find when I eat too much sugar my body starts to crave it. If I don't get enough sleep I'll crave sugar. I try and keep moderation and balance with the sweet stuff and if I'm going to eat it something sweet?  I'm gonna to make sure it's good. Since changing the way I eat, I feel a thousand times better. More energy, clearer thinking and my body doesn't ache as much.

Since January, I've rediscovered my love for cooking again. I love using fresh vegetables and all the lovely spices to be had. All the recipes I've been trying are full of so much flavor and texture that cooking and eating is fun again!
I made this dish last night. It was tasty and full of flavor and pretty easy to do. I found the recipe in a vegetarian cook book but changed it quite a bit.

Whole Wheat Rotini with Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Sauce

2 medium sized zucchini cut into quarters. (cut length wise in half, then lengthwise half again then chop it up)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small carrots chopped up
1/2  green pepper chopped
1 garlic clove chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of vegetable stock
around three to four sun dried tomatoes chopped up (I had a small jar of Trader Joe's sun dried tomatoes that I used for this. I used about two tablespoons and chopped them up)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
One half box of whole wheat rotini. I used the Barilla Plus whole wheat pasta.
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees and on a baking sheet toss half the oil with your chopped zucchini and roast them in the oven for 15 mins or so until they are tender and lightly browned. This doesn't take long. Don't go too long or they get mushy. When these are done cooking, set aside.

While the zucchini is roasting put the remaining tablespoon of oil into a saucepan. Add the onion, carrots and green pepper and cook these on a low to medium heat until tender. I then add the garlic for a minute or two. You don't want to burn your garlic. 
While the veggies are cooking, boil some salted water for your pasta. Cook up your pasta according to the directions, drain and place back into the pot and set aside.
When the vegetables are tender add your can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup of vegetable stock the sun dried tomatoes and the oregano. Let this simmer until some of the liquid reduces a bit. Salt and pepper to taste.

Then add the 1/2 cup ricotta cheese and mix it into the hot sauce. 
When the sauce is warmed mix with the pasta then add the zucchini and mix gently. Serve immediately. 

I used a full box of the whole wheat rotini so the sauce is thinner on the pasta in the picture. I would use only half the box for more sauce. 
This was a very tasty and filling dish. Meat free....and really good for ya!

(recipe modified from the book Good food made Simple: Vegetarian)

Monday, June 2, 2014

German Chocolate Dump Cake

( a conversation between my hubs and I)
Me: " How about some German Chocolate Dump Cake? a surprise...but not really a surprise cause I just told you." (he likes German chocolate Cake, but I never make it unless it's his birthday...if he's lucky.)

Hubs: "Dump Cake? What's dump cake and how does German Chocolate become part of a dump."

Me: "Well, you "dump" a bunch of cake ingredients together, and in this case it would be German Chocolate Cake stuff and as a bonus? It's tastes good and I don't have to frost anything. I don't like frosting things."

Hubs:  *silence*

Me: "Yay! German Chocolate Dump cake it is! As a surprise-not surprise because I love ya!"

Ok Peeps...this is seriously a good dump cake. It's easy and tastes just like German Chocolate cake without having to frost the dang thing. (I have issues with frosting cakes among other things. Why do I get up in the morning? eat this! the morning. I have issues.)

A gal I follow on Instagram has a blog I follow Picture Perfect Cooking and she made this scrumptious cake but called it German Chocolate Upside Down Cake.
I made the cake but I kept calling it a dump cake to everyone I told about it and since I can't get that out of my head, and since it was so good and I wanted to share... you're stuck with it.
Anyhoo, I followed her recipe but changed one thing. I only added one stick of butter instead of two to the creamed mixture. It turned out just fine and one stick of butter less.
Here's the recipe
German Chocolate box mix
1 cup of coconut
1 cup of pecans chopped
1 stick of butter (softened)
2 cups powdered sugar
1  eight ounce block of cream cheese (softened)

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9 by 13 pan spray with a little non stick spray then put the coconut and pecans on the bottom.
Mix the cake mix according to the instructions, then pour this over the pecans and coconut.
Using a mixer mix together the softened butter,  2 cups powdered sugar and the softened cream cheese until it's nice and creamy smooth.  Put this in several spoonfuls ( I broke it up into 12 spoonfuls) around the cake batter and take the spoon and swirl it in.

Bake for around 45-55 minutes depending on your oven. Mine baked for around 55 minutes. It jiggles a bit when you take it out because of the creamy mixture but that thickens as it sits out of the oven.

It's a really good cake and my husband loved his surprise! I definitely will make this again. Thank you Tammi for sharing the recipe!