Do Yourself a Favor and Put the Lid on Bottled Dressing!

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Don’t you love those days or evenings when you get to have a meal with your child; just the two of you?  When my husband has to travel, I enjoy having the “girls night” with my 6-year-old “baby.”  We’ve run the gamut from pizza night to the time that she selected both our outfits, did her own hair and we went to Sato for Japanese.  Most recently, we stayed in and had a good ol’ fashioned spaghetti supper.

Whenever I serve pasta, it just seems natural to accompany it with bread and a salad.  Without either of them, I feel like I’m serving some half-baked grad student type of meal.  Plus, I love bread and I love salad.

One perfectly perfect salad for an Italian inspired meal is what my sister and I refer to as “the Mullaney salad.”  Sometimes, blue cheese hits the spot.  But this time, something herbal was in order.  So, I mixed up this dressing and I’m still thinking about it:

Creamy Italian Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tbs grated Parmesan
  • ½ shallot, minced (remember: this is NOT a scallion or green onion)
  • ½ tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ¼ cup mayo
  • 2 Tbs sour cream
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper (of course!)

Directions:

  1. Whisk vinegar, cheese, shallot, garlic, oregano & basil together.  Microwave about 30 seconds to melt cheese and until fragrant.
  2. Mix mayo, sour cream and vinegar mixture in your blender.  Slowly add olive oil in a steady stream.  Season with salt & pepper.  Place in fridge for awhile to marry the flavors.

**  This makes about ¾ cup of dressing

See how easy that was?  All these ingredients are probably in your kitchen right this second.  Making your own salad dressing is simple and so worth the 5 minutes that it takes.  It’s fresh, it’s bright, it tastes better and it’s not packed with stuff you can’t pronounce…unless you’re a professional chemist who specializes in food additives and you like that junk.

buon appetito!

Girl’s Best Friend

By: Katie Austin

Dafny as she looks off the back deck of the house

They say a man’s best friend is his dog, but I would venture to say that a dog can be a girl’s best friend too.  We have a 10-year old black Labrador Retriever named Dafny.  She is more than a pet, she is an important part of our family and we couldn’t imagine life without her.  Like a mom bragging about her child, I want everyone to know how truly special Dafny is and I think after reading my post, you will think she is too 🙂

Where to begin?  She is by far the cutest dog in the world!  Of course, I am biased because she is our dog, but she really is one of the sweetest, loving animals I have ever known.  What you see in the pictures is what you get with her and is just a small insight to what it is like to have here with us every day.  She, like her other furry friends, loves to go for walks (good for us too!) and meal time is her favorite part of the day as she runs in circles with excitement!  In a nutshell, she just wants to be loved and to love you back.   She is always there to greet you with a toy when you come home.  After a long day, all your troubles seem to fade away as you look down to see Dafny jumping up and down, almost smiling that you have arrived home.

Dafny sits in the snow, patiently waiting for her favorite thing - a cookie!

Dafny secured a special place in my heart during my breast cancer battle.  It was as if she knew I was sick and that she was going to sign up to be one of my caretakers.  She kept me company during the day as everyone was off at school/work, lying beside me for hours as I rested.  If I was in the bathroom sick from the treatments, I would open the door to find her sitting there, waiting for me to come out to see if I were ok.  She would check on me periodically as I lay in bed or on the couch, coming up to sniff me, lick my hand or face, then laying down as if wanting to be right there in case I needed something.  There were many days that I would hold her, crying as I didn’t know if the treatments were going to cure me.  She became my confident with whom I could tell her anything and knew that she would keep it to herself.  I think what helped is that no one else knew dog language, plus I bribed her with cookies which does the trick every time! 🙂

During that time, I learned just how special she is and how much I valued her companionship.  She was my guardian angel and she made me smile even during my toughest days.  I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have made it through my cancer battle if she wasn’t in my life as she seemed to nudge me forward in her special way.  She is more than a dog to us.  She is an important part of our family and we are so truly blessed that we adopted her so many years ago.

Do you have a pet that you couldn’t imagine life without them?  Have they helped you through a difficult time?  Post your story here for the Every Woman Blog family to honor them and appreciate the good deeds they have done 🙂

“Thank You Thursday” Extended

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary Pat Baldauf

Inspired by Julie Smith Turner’s “Thank You Project,” I started my own “Thank You Thursday” project for Lent.

Every Thursday, I wrote a thank you letter to someone who made a difference in my life or the life of the community and posted it on my blog. I also spread the thanks by tweeting a link and posting it to Facebook. Following are links to the thank you letters I wrote during Lent:

Thank You #1: February 21
Thank You #2: February 28
Thank You #3: March 8
Thank You #4: March 15
Thank You #5: March 22
Thank You #6: March 29
Thank You #7: April 5

Easter has now come and gone, but I’ve decided to continue my “Thank You Thursday.”  In this hectic world, the project has caused me to slow down and be thankful for the little things, which in so many cases, make such a big difference.  Instead of focusing on the negatives, it’s trained me to look for the positives, and when you start looking, you find a gracious plenty.

I encourage you to start your own “Thank You Project.” It doesn’t have to be as formal as the ones that Julie and I are doing, just an occasional thank you to someone who probably doesn’t get many.  It will be a nice treat for the person who receives it, and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy it, too.

Between the Sheets

By: Roshanda Pratt

Let me first say I love my husband. We really have some funny moments (see the post about us debating  who makes better Peanut Butter & Jelly).  Well, this post is no exception.  I have written about it before on my personal blog and decided to share the story with Every Woman readers.  Usually at night while in bed my husband and I have pillow talk, discussing about our day.  It never fails what happens next.  I am listening intently, and then I start to feel trapped, stuck, wrapped like a burrito.  I can’t breathe! I feel the walls caving in. Ok, maybe not, but it is extremely tight.  I then interrupt my husband and ask him the question I have been repeating for 7 years now… “Are you under the fitted sheet?”  My husband usually grins and chuckles as he replies, “No.”

I am the kind of gal who makes up the bed with the fitted sheet, flat sheet, shams, pillows and comforter.  I will admit to get the bed you have to fight your way through all the décor.  I grew up in a house where a bed was never complete without a flat sheet and all of the above trimmings.  My husband thinks a flat sheet is pointless!  Matter of fact, his response after I busted him was and I quote: “Flat sheets are for women, you always got to have extra!”  Say what Dude?  What’s extra? Just peel back and jump in the bed.  That sounds pretty simple to me don’t you think?

I think it is funny that my husband would rather sleep on top of the flat sheet than under.  When I first blogged about this rather “uncozy” matter last year I was surprised by how many men and women nix the flat sheet altogether.  One reader wrote: “I have to vote with your husband here Ro; I hate a flat sheet as well.  We are fitted sheet with a comforter people here.  When I do stay away from home the only thing that makes me crazier than a flat sheet is when they tuck it in at the foot of the bed!”

So what else do you do with the flat sheet, it’s a standard when you purchase bed linens?  Do you use it as curtains, a table cloth or tuck it under and pretend it’s a fitted sheet?  How do you ignore a flat sheet?  It seems so unfair to break up the happy couple (fitted sheet + flat sheet = love).  Ok, maybe I am taking this too far, so as usual what do you think?

Meanwhile, I will try to make up our bed without the flat sheet, at least once and find him a support group of other men who loathe the beloved flat sheet.

P.S. Enjoy the short video on how to “correctly” make up a bed. And I would love to hear from you about what’s got your spouse tossing and turning at night.

…For so He giveth his beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2 KJV

Run for Life

By: Shannon Shull

At the end of last year, 2011, I had the honor of doing an ‘acting for dance’ workshop with CCPAC – Central Carolina Performing Arts Center’s award winning dance company, Central Carolina Dance Force.  When I was working with these dancers, head choreographer Hiliarie Covington asked if I wouldn’t mind watching one of their pieces.

I had the great honor of watching a raw version of a piece called “Run for Life,” a song by Melissa Etheridge.  I was incredibly touched by the piece and was not the only one in the room choked up and wiping away tears after I’d watched the dancers. These young women all danced with utter passion, because they each have had an experience with cancer in some way. Nowadays, most unfortunately, we’ve all been touched by cancer in some form or fashion, whether we’ve lost a loved one to the cancer beast, have helped aid someone in their battle against cancer, or have battled it ourselves.

This song was always touching to me before I’d seen this dance piece. I have always been a fan of Melissa Etheridge and even had the honor of interviewing her twice when I was working in Los Angeles. I interviewed her before her own diagnosis with cancer and had the privilege of interviewing her after her battle when she was in remission.  Both times she was positively beautiful, humble, attentive, passionate and kind.

Long story short, the dance piece inspired me so much that I knew right then and there that I wanted to make it into something bigger – I knew that it could touch people’s lives.  I immediately had a vision of a music video production for this piece.  It took months to make it happen, but despite scheduling difficulties, production details and such, it just all beautifully fell into place. Was obviously meant to happen!

And now I have the honor of sharing it with you! To see this vision of mine come to life is a little dream come true and I truly hope that it can be used in many positive ways – to touch people’s lives and to help raise money for Relay for Life.

The video starts out with special interviews that explain the passion behind the project. Please watch until the very end and take note of the credits and note everyone involved. A big thank you goes out to my amazing sister, Chelsea Vaughan Parler, who shot and edited the video, to Hiliarie Covington, all the dancers and their families. I adore you all! I consider it an absolute honor to have produced this piece and be a part of something so special that will hopefully touch people’s lives and fill their spirits with strength! Please do share!

Filming "Run for Life"

Chelsea and I Getting Footage

Chelsea Gets Close Ups - These Dancers Performed the Piece Over 20 Times in a Row!

Choreographer Hiliarie Covington Watching Filming with her Precious Daughter

May you Run for Life – and carry laughter, love, faith and hope in your heart.

Here’s to the Survivor in us all!

“Run for Life” by Melissa Etheridge

It’s been years since they told her about it
The darkness her body possessed
And the scars are still there in the mirror
Everyday that she gets herself dressed
Though the pain is miles and miles behind her
And the fear is now a docile beast
If you ask her why she is still running
She’ll tell you it makes her complete

[Chorus:]
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me, my friend
I run for life

It’s a blur since they told me about it
How the darkness had taken its toll
And they cut into my skin and they cut into my body

But they will never get a piece of my soul
And now I’m still learning the lesson
To awake when I hear the call
And if you ask me why I am still running
I’ll tell you I run for us all

[Chorus:]
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

And someday if they tell you about it
If the darkness knocks on your door
Remember her remember me
We will be running as we have before
Running for answers
Running for more

I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother, your sister, your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for hope
I run to feel
I run for the truth
For all that is real
I run for your mother your sister, your daughter, your wife
For you and me my friend

I run for life
I run for your mother your sister your wife
I run for you and me my friend
I run for life

Mushroom-Crusted Turkey Burgers (adapted from Pink Parsley)

By: Brady Evans

I’m a first year teacher.  I knew the job would be hard.  But I didn’t know it would be damn hard.  I teach 6 sections of remedial biology each day.  Exhausting doesn’t describe it, but it comes close.  Exhilarating doesn’t describe it either – but there is a similar emotion felt when a kid that reads on a 3rd grade level, hates high school, and doesn’t believe in college suddenly understands why DNA is important to life.

My wise husband knew how difficult this first year would be for me, even though I didn’t.  To show his appreciation, support, love and understanding he planned a surprise vacation for me.

I only knew that the destination was 6 hours away, we couldn’t take our pets (tear), and to take both casual and fancy clothes.

We arrived at the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a very specific purpose: to learn about and enjoy the herds of wild horses descended from shipwrecked Spanish mustangs in the 1500s.  As new horse owners who practice natural horsemanship, this was a fantastic experience for us.  We stayed in a bed and breakfast housed in a home built in the 1700s.  Our innkeeper was a fantastic cook – she and her husband were both trained at the Culinary Institutes of America.  On our first day there, she asked if there were any foods we preferred not to have for our breakfasts.

We said there were none.  Sure, my husband doesn’t prefer fish or mushrooms, but we didn’t think they’d show up at breakfast.

The first day we had orange walnut waffles with eggs scrambled with tarragon and cream.  The second day we had luscious raspberry French toast.  The third day we had omelets with spinach and…portabella mushrooms.

It was quite a funny scene: my husband shuffling mushroom pieces onto my plate as our innkeeper hustled in and out of the dining room bringing biscuits, coffee, and juice.  I think we were able to keep my husband’s secret hate of mushrooms a secret.  He did confess, however, that he liked the taste the portabellas imparted on his breakfast.

Thanks to that remark he saw himself faced with a turkey burger filled with dried mushrooms.  He won’t know that the flavor is from until he reads this blog post.  I had seen these mushroom encrusted burgers on Pink Parsley a few weeks ago, but dismissed them due to the mushroom content.  Who knew he could love the flavor and despise the texture of the same vegetable!?

We really, really enjoyed this burger.  They were moist and richly flavored.  I cooked them in a skillet, but surely they’re worthy of firing up your grill.

Mushroom-Crusted Turkey Burgers (adapted from Pink Parsley)

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried mushrooms, divided
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • cooking spray
  • 4 burger buns, split

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, grind the dried mushrooms until they are a coarse powder. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the powder, and transfer the remaining mushroom powder to a bowl. Add salt and pepper.
  2. Combine the turkey, reserved mushroom powder, scallion, parsley, mustard, and worcestershire sauce with the mushroom powder.
  3. Form into 4 equal-sized patties.
  4. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, and spray with cooking spray.
  5. Working one burger at a time, coat the outside with the mushroom powder, pressing lightly to adhere.
  6. Cook the burgers 4-5 minutes per side, or until the meat is cooked through. Add the cheese for the last minute or two, and continue cooking until it has melted.

Caviar and Champagne

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

It’s funny how “we” (people) are so easily influenced by others’ perceptions and buy into preconceived notions.  It’s pretty easy to figure out; someone you know and trust tells you something, you tend to believe it.  There’s probably no area of our lives that is more permeated by this phenomenon than the world of food. I’m getting ready to tell you what I think you should do, but I insist that you act on what YOU think.

Kids are practically instructed not to like vegetables. You see it in the oh-so-clever and witty marketing on commercials, even sit-coms discuss how much kids should and consequently do hate vegetables.  Then, the adults often follow suit by simply not even bothering to serve the children vegetables, because they aren’t going to like them anyway, so why even try, right?

This brings me to my thoughts today of champagne and caviar.  I’d be willing to bet that if Jay Leno and I went out on the street together and quizzed people (you know, those really bright ones that he finds roaming the streets of L.A.), that we’d find over 70% of them believe that champagne is super expensive and only rich people ever get to drink it or even have the palate for it.  This same group would also acknowledge that they’ve never tried caviar for all the same reasons as champagne, but then they’d go further to wrinkle up their faces, stick out their tongues and vehemently assert that they wouldn’t even try it anyway, because it’s (GASP!) fish eggs!  They’d demonstrate loathing and disgust with as much drama as a vegetable-hatin’ 5 year old!

When I was 12, I was in the Columbia City Ballet.  I was a soldier.  It was a small part, but it was a part and I got to have specially ordered white pointe shoes.  And, I got to fight the Rat King, who would later be named the President of my alma mater.  One night the company had a “gala” fundraising party and I was invited, as a member of the “company.”  My dad was my date.  I got to wear a silk dress, fancy hairdo and high heels.  It was very grown up, very sophisticated and very glam.  And, they had caviar…

It was the classic presentation: black caviar arranged on top of cream cheese, accompanied by chopped hard boiled egg, capers, chopped red onion (there was a smoked salmon there too).  It was absolutely beautiful.  When I realized what it was, I wanted to try it so bad, but you know, surely I wasn’t worthy because caviar is so expensive and only rich people like it and I was just a kid.  But my perfect date encouraged me to give it a try.  I’ve been hooked ever since.  When I later learned that you can buy caviar at the grocery store, I couldn’t believe that everyone hadn’t tried this stuff.  Granted, it’s not Beluga, but it’s what we have readily available and it’s affordable.  Really affordable.

Next, champagne.  Same deal, really.  Growing up, we were allowed to have an occasional sip at a special occasion, but once we were old enough, we had it whenever there was a holiday, a birthday, etc.  Once again, mom and dad enlightened us to the fact that champage is readily available and affordable.  Just like anything, there are different varieties, vintages and price points.  But, it doesn’t have to be reserved for special occasions.  It just doesn’t.  In fact, about 10 years ago, I got a phone call on a regular day, maybe a Tuesday.  My mom called to announce that she and my dad had decided that they had reached a point in their lives that they could and would, from now on, drink champagne whenever they wanted.  They needed no reason, no special occasion, and that’s the end of that.

I love that my parents opened up this way of thinking to me and my sister.  I have spread our wacky ways to my husband and most of my friends.  Life is short.  Give your kids artichokes and asparagus.  Buy some champagne or cava (Paul Cheneau is a nice reasonable one).  Stop at the grocery store and get some cream cheese and caviar and contemplate any other crazy foods that you’ve been told you aren’t supposed to like.  Then buy those too!