Dining al Fresco Out of a Brown Box

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

Ok, I am not IN a brown box. But I am in love with a brown box. This past Saturday was my second delivery from Brown Box Veggies. I am their new biggest fan. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the “Veggie Girls” stock up a big box of fruits and veggies to deliver on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. They reach out to as many local farms as possible to grab what’s fresh and what is being harvested right now. Then, they pack the box FULL of what they’ve found and sell it to people like us for only $22! I couldn’t duplicate what I received for $22 in a grocery store, and the produce was fresher and didn’t go bad on me before I could use it all.

Brown box #1

My first box was so beautiful, I almost cried when I opened it. Even my little one got excited helping me unpack. The box contained broccoli, parsley, tomatoes, spinach, kale, Carolina Sweet onions, squash, zucchini, pears, oranges, potatoes and asparagus. A true cornucopia. We used every bit of it with delight.

This past Saturday was my second go-round. Sorry that I didn’t take a photo of box #2- we dove in and never looked back! This time, we received Carolina Sweets, cabbage, collards, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, radishes, romaine, corn, strawberries, apples and dill. Lots and lots of dill. I’m talkin’ about two humongous bunches, each about 3″ around and 12″ long. My head is reeling trying to figure out what to do with all of it. This week might be the week I dive in and try to make my own pickles.

But, first, dinner. Of course, when you think of dill, one of the first ideas you have is salmon. Since my daughter is eating salmon (happily!), I’m cooking it every chance I get. I whipped up this dinner and we ate al Fresco on the patio. Now, my title makes some sense, huh? Salmon with dill sauce, sauteed pea pods, and yellow rice.

Salmon with dill sauce, sauteed pea pods, and yellow rice.

Salmon with dill sauce, sauteed pea pods, and yellow rice.

Here’s what I did: I salt and peppered two 6oz. (skinless) salmon fillets. I placed them on foil and topped each with some slices of Carolina Sweet onions and lemons and wrapped up the foil tightly to enclose them. I baked them for about 20 minutes or so at 350°. While that was happening, I mixed together these ingredients to make a sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. light mayo
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. white wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp capers
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Carolina Sweet onion
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp horseradish
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • pepper

Then, we just drizzled the sauce over our salmon and devoured it! I’m a sucker for anything pickled, so I think I’ll add a few more capers next time. I have actually eaten capers out of the jar with a spoon before. (The first step is admitting it, right?) Thank you Veggie Girls for my jam packed boxes of loveliness. And, you may be the reason that I finally embark on this pickle making project. The idea of canning is a little intimidating, but I can’t let all this dill go to waste! If any of you need some dill, I can hook you up.

Elizabeth also writes “Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef).” She loves all things food and wine and how they fit into our lives.

T.G.F.A.D.

By: Katie Austin

By the middle of every week (sometimes by the end of Monday), I find myself looking forward to Friday, knowing that the weekend is almost here.  Then, come Sunday evening, the Monday blues settle in as I prepare myself for another work week.  I wonder where the time has gone and notice the weeks are moving faster as I get older.  Even as I write this, I can’t believe we are almost to May! I begin to wonder how I can capture the Friday-feel-good feeling every day during the week. Wouldn’t it be great if every day were Friday?!  Of course. But how can I bottle up this feeling so that I can spritz it on at the start of each day?

Then, it hits me! The light bulb over my head is aglow and I realize that I can feel like it’s Friday every day!  How, you ask?  All we need to do is change the way we look at those “other” days during the week. Yes, even Monday 🙂  Now, I look at every day as Thank God For Another Day.  Instead of being thankful for just Friday and being happy that I made it to the end of the work week, I try to remind myself that I am thankful each day that I wake up. I am thankful to have a job, a wonderful group of family and friends, and the opportunity to make each day one to remember.

T.G.F.A.D.

I know some of you are thinking, “Katie, take off those rose-colored glasses!”   But as I bring those rose-colored glasses to the end of my nose, I peek over the top of them to ask one simple question: if you knew today would be your last, would you feel the same way??  No matter what is going on in your life, you can find something positive when you look at life differently.  Believe that no matter what happens today, if you are given another day, things can change. We should look forward to tomorrow!  I am thankful even for the bad days, as I realize I am a strong person and that life events prepare us for future challenges.  I wouldn’t have made it through my breast cancer battle without first getting stronger from my past struggles.  You can and you will get through life hurdles, small and tall, when you believe that you can and when you are thankful for every day.

Life has a way of speeding up as we get older.  I think we should pause often, be thankful, and appreciate each day for what it’s worth.  Seize the day and make it one to remember!

Katie

Easy Ways to Green Your Cleaning

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Earth Day is the perfect time to discuss green cleaning, the growing trend of using environmentally-friendly ingredients and/or packaging for your household cleaning.

Green cleaning

Why does green cleaning matter? Consider this:
• Some cleaning products contain ingredients that pose health hazards and/or harm to the environment.
• Cleaning products are frequently involved in home poisoning, many involving children under the age of five.
• According to the US EPA, levels of pollutants indoors can be two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, and the number one culprit for indoor pollution is our use of cleaning products.

Contrary to popular belief, green cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. Here are some quick and easy tips that you can start implementing today.

1. Look for products in containers that are:
• Minimally packaged
• Recyclable in your curbside or drop-off recycling program
• Recycled content, preferably post-consumer
• Large (a gallon instead of four quarts)
• Refillable
• Pump sprays (not aerosols)

2. Purchase products that you reuse instead of throwing away:
• Buy rags or cloths instead of paper towels and wipes.
• Use a mop, not one-use wet floor wipes
• Select a feather or static duster instead of disposable dusters
• Use a traditional toilet brush, not clean once and flush scrubbers

3. Look for eco-friendly ingredients like grain alcohol (instead of toxic butyl cellosolve), plant oils (rather than petroleum) and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus (not triclosan).

4. Avoid toxic ingredients such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, antibacterials, ammonia, butyl cellosolve, butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl, chlorine bleach, d-limonene, diethanolamine and triethanolamine.

5. Be on the lookout for “greenwashing,” misleading claims regarding product eco-standards. There are no standards for words like nontoxic, eco-safe, environmentally friendly, natural and green. Read the labels and research products before purchasing them, and look for third-party certification. Also note that unless you compost them, biodegradable containers end up in the landfill, where very few things ever degrade.

6. Make your own cleaners with ingredients you already have in your cabinets. These cleaners are less expensive, safer and more environmentally friendly. One of the best sources I’ve found is Apartment Therapy’s 25 Green Cleaning Recipes for the Entire House.

Let me know what you think about green cleaning! Are you already using some of these tips around your home? If so, how do they work for you? If not, which one(s) are you willing to try? Do you have a tried and true recipe for green cleaning? Please share it!

Silent, No More (Part 2): What Parents Can Do

By: Roshanda Pratt

April is Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Prevention Month. Last month, I shared with you why we cannot remain silent about this issue any longer.  Did you know that according to experts, ONLY 1 out of 10 sexually abused children will come forward and tell someone about it? This means that even your well-meaning child whom you already had a discussion with about safe and unsafe touch, might not speak to you if they become a victim of sexual assault.

As a mother of three young children, I am always rehearsing and talking with them about stranger danger, as well as the danger that could happen with the very people they know.  A scary thought, I know, but we cannot live in fear; we MUST be proactive.  Rosalyn Moses, Executive Director of the Family Resource Center trains and equips teachers, counselors, parents and children on this topic. She says we must first begin by talking to our children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms. Ms. Moses says by doing so, it teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.

Here is how the conversation should go:

  • Credit: Michal Marcol

    Credit: Michal Marcol

    Teach children the names of their body parts, not nick names, so they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.

  • Teach children that some parts of their bodies are private.
  • Let them know people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care.
  • If someone does need to touch them in those private areas, a parent or trusted caregiver should be there too.
  • Tell children that if someone tried to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, or if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
  • ALL children should be told that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable or if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
  • Don’t try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex.
  • Be interested in your child’s activities by asking questions about their day.
  • Talk about the media, especially if your child watches a lot of television or plays video games. Use these opportunities to start up conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
  • Know the other adults that your child may talk to.
  • Be available, spend time with your child and let them know they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Ms. Moses also adds, “When you empower your child to say ‘NO’ to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse.”

As parents, the best we can ever do for our children is prepare them.  While I would hope that no child would ever have to deal with the trauma of sexual violence, it is still a dark reality. However, if we take the time to shed light on it now, we can eventually eradicate this epidemic from our community.

Want to know more? All of the statewide Child Advocacy Centers are available for training. You can locate a local CAC by visiting www.scmcac.org.  If you are a victim or need to find a rape crisis center, you can find one your area by going to www.sccadvasa.org.

Kids Say the Darndest Things…

By: Shannon Shull

We all know that kids indeed can say the darnedest things. And us parents and teachers certainly experience our share of interesting situations when we react with either chuckles, body shaking laughter or complete, speechless horror at what we hear come out of kids’ mouths!

Over Spring Break, I had the pleasure of experiencing this sort of thing at its height. My precious children never cease to amaze me with their brilliant minds. Sometimes their 9 and 7 year old ways of thinking truly astound me–in all sorts of ways. I thought I’d share just two occurrences with you fabulous readers–it’s sure to make you giggle, laugh out loud or at least smile!

Wild Times with My Wild Ones...

So one night my 9 year old, angel girl Miss Mina, had climbed into bed with me at some point in the wee hours of the night and she promptly woke up way too early. I opened my eyes to this precious lil’ blonde fairy child staring right into my face, literally about an inch away from my nose. As soon as my eyes opened, that was her cue – Yay! Mommy’s up! Her mouth immediately went into overdrive. As we snuggled, the stories and questions went on and on. (This is one of those times as a parent when you really wish you could get video footage!) One of her topics of discussion was, “If you could have ten wishes for life, what would they be?” I struggled to make my brain operate at 6 a.m., knowing that not only had she awoken me, but she’d also woken up the dog too, who was itching to go out to do his business. So one of my ten wishes was, “I wish pets never had to pee or poop.” This naturally prompted a ‘kids say the darnedest things’ moment…my Mina’s immediate response, with total serious concern, was “But Mommy, their butts would explode!” ☺ Oh let me tell ya, I was awake then! I started laughing so hard, she couldn’t help but laugh with me, though she was still very concerned about these pets whose butts would explode if they never peed nor pooped. This led to a discussion, led by her of course, about how animals would just look too weird without their pee pee parts and as she put it, without butt cracks. I had to explain to her that with my wish, the pets would still have all their body parts and look the same, their insides would just be such that they’d never have to go potty, and therefore we’d never have to clean up their messes! Wouldn’t it have been totally priceless to have had a video or recording of that conversation!

My kids certainly say the darnedest things!

Now moving on to my 7 year old son, Sawyer. Now there’s a kid whose personality and “ways” will keep you on your toes! He can be shy, overly sensitive and nearly impossible in one moment and a total ham the next. Over Spring Break my Mina was sick and required a visit to the doctor. We had about an hour and a half before the doctor could see us, so I decided to utilize that time to take Sawyer to get a much needed hair cut. We went to Snip Its, which my child usually LOVES. On this particular day, he decided a haircut was the last thing in the world that he wanted to do and he proceeded to torture me during the entire experience. Pouting, moaning, groaning, tears, the whole bit, and all while my precious Mina was feeling absolutely terrible with fever and an awful stopped up head. So I did the ‘Mommy tap dance’ to try to keep everyone happy and tried to convince the stylist that my boy really isn’t a total pisspot all the time.

We survived the haircut experience and Sawyer looked incredibly handsome. Well, he must’ve picked up on the fact that he really did like his haircut because some way, somehow, by the time we got back to the doctor’s office and were sitting in the examine room, Sawyer had turned into a confident, wild comedian. And I’m not kidding, this kid WAS ON! I’m talking, constant fart noises, bouncing around, jokes and all. Fortunately the doctor was a friend of mine that I cheered with in high school, who has young children of her own, so she kept reassuring me that it was ok every time she saw the look of embarrassment on my face. I seriously thought I was going to have to duct tape Sawyer to a chair in order to get him to chill – that is how “ON” he was. So here’s one of my kids having to endure her throat being swabbed and a long q-tip stuck into her nose up to what seemed like was too close to her brain to test for flu – and we all know that is NOT fun! And my angel girl was the most amazing patient ever. The child did not even cry! I think I would have cried had it been me! I was utterly amazed at my child.

Well after experiencing that, feeling terrible, and then adding Sawyer’s wild antics to the picture, let’s just say, Mina was about ready to kill her brother…literally. Mina declared, “I wish I was an only child! Mommy, I’m mad at your tummy for making Sawyer!” I proceeded to look up at my doc friend and under my breath say, “Well, it wasn’t my tummy that’s responsible for making the kid.” Of course supersonic, wild man Sawyer didn’t miss a beat, and he declares, “Yea, it’s your pee pee’s fault! I came out of your pee pee!” followed by a mischievous, evil laugh…… my oh my, yep, the body shaking laughter followed after that one. The doctor literally about fell out of her chair! Even Mina was laughing. It was the pinnacle of it all, after all his poot noises and other silly antics, and proved to be one of those moments in which the only thing you could do was laugh! Oh and let me tell ya, Sawyer knew he’d pulled a good one; I thought the kid might even bow or something! He followed suit with inappropriate declarations of where he thought babies came from. Yea, it got bad – I had to stifle the laughter something fierce and kick into threatening Mommy mode to get the kid to hush. I felt awful for the people outside waiting – all these sick people who feel terrible and they’re having to hear us all cutting up and laughing in the examining room, not cool! And it doesn’t end there!

We get Mina’s diagnosis – which was NOT good – she tested positive for the flu! ☹ The doctor walks us out of the room, everyone is watching us of course, probably wondering what in the heck was going on or ready to pummel us for seeming to be having way too good of a time with all the wildness and laughter. I have my Mina tell the doctor thank you and she does so with total, polite sweetness. Then I look over at Sawyer, who’s standing there looking down, already playing a game on his Kindle, and I tell him to apologize to the doctor for being such a wild child. He immediately looks up, all wide eyed with a crazy face and simply yells “Weiner!” and then goes right back to his game. Yep, my son, in front of EVERYONE. In response to my request that he say he was sorry, he looks right up at the doctor and yells the word “weiner.” No kidding. Even the sick people waiting laughed at this one. It was unbelievable. I will never, ever forget that moment. As a mother, it’s one of those unforgettable experiences with your children that you will remind them of for years and years to come! If only I had had a video of the whole thing, it would’ve been YouTube gold! I could’ve won tons on America’s Funniest Home Videos!

Once we finally escaped to the car, even Mina, with her 101.9 fever and aches, declared that she felt better from all the laughing! I tell ya, you can’t write this stuff. It was really just one of those days in which I felt like I was living out a comedy sitcom or had to have been on a hidden camera show or something. It was one for the memory books, for sure! So to conclude, YES indeed, kids say the darnedest things! ☺

In an ode to this subject, I thought I’d share some videos that you are sure to enjoy. Most of you will probably remember the television show hosted by Bill Cosby back in the late 90s, Kids Say the Darnedest Things. He drew inspiration and showed clips from the classic Art Linkletter show, Art Linkletter’s House Party. These clips are fantastic! Enjoy! And please do share with me any of your own experiences in which you’ve been around a kid that said the darnedest things!

Chicken Parmiginia Bake

By: Brady Evans

My mom and I have an annual tradition of running the Cooper River Bridge Run (have you heard of it?).

Cooper River Bridge Run

It is SO inspiring to do the same thing as nearly 40,000 other people.  “Hey!  Let’s run across this bridge!  Let’s get as many people as possible!”  As you can see, the crowd is just huge.

Cooper River Bridge Run

My mom has been running the race since the 1980s.  Naturally, it has grown since then, and it has even changed bridges. It just gets better and better every year.  Lately, we’ve been staying with friends of my mom’s who happen to have a beach house on the starting side of this point-to-point race.

I usually put together a meal for us to enjoy the night before the big race and pasta is a natural go-to for this sort of stuff (even though I totally don’t carb load before races). I had seen Elly’s Baked Quinoa and Chicken Parm ages ago and planned on making that meal.  When I made the motions to make this meal I realized I had no more quinoa and I sort of don’t feel like buying it anymore, so I subbed whole wheat pearl/Israeli cous cous.  It was a great sub and one that the Omnivore surely prefers.

Chicken Parmiginia Bake

I also changed it up a bit by using a whole roasted chicken.  Baking meat on the bone with the skin makes for a much deeper flavor.  Roast your own bird or pick one up from the store and you are good to go!  This meal is hearty and filling but not overly fattening or heavy.  Great for a pre-race meal or a Sunday dinner!

Chicken Parmiginia Bake (6-8 servings)  (adapted from Elly Says Opa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1Tbsp. crushed, dried, basil
  • 2 cups pearl cous cous
  • 4 cups water or broth
  • 1 5-lb whole roasted chicken, cooked and meat removed and bones discarded
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and spray two 2-qt. baking dishes with cooking oil.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the oil.
  3. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar, scraping anything off the bottom of the pan, and cook until it is reduced, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring to a low boil, and then simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  7. Place the cous cous and water or broth in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  8. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat, and simmer until cooked, about 20-25 minutes.
  9. Assemble the casserole by placing the cous cous, sauce, and chicken in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  10. In each prepared casserole, place the mixture in the baking dish until it is halfway up the sides, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.
  11. Top with the remaining chicken mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat with other casserole.
  12. Cover with foil and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly, about 10 more minutes.

 

Vote for Dr. Epps in Dancing with the Stars, Lexington

It takes two to tango, and Dr. Epps is cutting a rug for Lexington Medical Center in the Dancing with the Stars, Lexington competition on April 22, at the Koger Center.

Dr. Amy Epps, a cardiologist with Lexington Cardiology and a Lexington school graduate, is competing against 11 local celebrities in the event sponsored by Lexington School District 1 Education Foundation.

Each vote raises funds to support district programs and initiatives that are outside the scope of the district’s Annual Fund Budget, such as outfitting STEM Labs at Lexington 1 schools, equipping media centers with up-to-date technology and supporting professional development for teachers.

Dr. Epps has been training with professional dancers from Columbia’s Ballroom Company since early February, check out the video below:

Vote for Dr. Epps today!
www.dancingwiththestarslexington.com/vote.