On a Personal Note… Love is Hard

 

Very rarely do I write this openly… but it’s my blog. So. I’ll do what I want to. I firmly believe that every relationship we’re in, prepares us for the next. As someone who got married young… I never really experienced this. It wasn’t until now, in my 30′s, that I’ve began to understand what this means. And… I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful to the Universe for bringing amazing people into my life. Each of these people have taught me something valuable about being in a relationship. I’ve learned about  friendship, fighting fair, caring, supporting one another, being a cheerleader, accepting help, pain, loss, and love. I’ve been in love. And I’ve been loved. But I don’t know that it’s ever been at the same time in a healthy way… until now. I’ve met someone who I can’t imagine a day without. We’ve discussed our past relationships and it’s clear that we’ve reached an amazing place in our lives.  And still… Love is hard.

 

So… I trust. I believe. I give. I let go of what is required. And I seal it with a kiss to the Universe.

 

Hunger in America

Dennys-Team-No-Kid-Hungry

I struggle with this topic. This is America. One of the world’s richest nations. How can we possibly be dealing with hunger in America? And yet… we are. Did you know that 1 out of 5 kids in America are facing hunger every day? That’s nationwide. Let’s break it down even further. I live in the state of Arizona. In Arizona, 30% of kids struggle with hunger. THIRTY PERCENT! Out of school-aged kids in Arizona, 493,000 are receiving free or reduced-price lunches and only 46% of those are getting school breakfast. Translation? Most of these students will only eat ONE meal a day. At school. What about in the summer? It’s time to stop hunger in America. I know I’m only one person… but we can all do something to help make a difference.

Kids who eat breakfast have a higher school attendance and are more likely to graduate high school. Twenty percent more likely, as a matter of fact! Those same kids are proven to go on to earn $10,000 more annually on average than their hungry counterparts. Additionally- these kids are less likely to experience hunger as adults. I suppose that we could assume that their children would also be less likely to experience hunger- stopping the cycle.

If you read along regularly… you know that I’m on the Denny’s Brand Ambassador Team. But I’m not invoicing Denny’s for this post. I’m writing it because it’s an important topic… not because it’s on my editorial calendar or because I’m being paid to do so. Denny’s is one of many brands on a mission to end childhood hunger in America. They need our help.

Every dollar we donate to No Kid Hungry is tax deductible. That dollar can feed a child up to 10 healthy meals. All proceeds go to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry, a campaign that ensures every child in America has access to free and nutritious food. Donate $3 and receive up to $9 of value (in coupons) on all your Denny’s diner favorites. Visit nokidhungry.org/dennys for more information. And tweet with us at #DennysNKH and #NoKidHungry.

Join me in doing this one small thing to make a difference.

xo

Kelly

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s, however I was not compensated for this particular post. Not that it matters… I only post about the things I authentically love. Thanks for reading! xo -Kelly

That One Time That I Passed on the Fries…

Fries. I. Love. Fries. I love them plain. I love them with ketchup. I love them with beer. I love them with soda. I love them with burgers. I love them alone. I. Love. Fries.

In case you were wondering…. Denny’s has amazing fries. I took the kids to a Denny’s event last week and not only did they order fries… but we ordered jalapeno buttons! Deep fried slices of jalapenos! Oh. Yum. But… I digress. This is about that one time I didn’t order fries. It’s true! I ordered fruit! How novel!

This summer Denny’s launched a few new menu items! My favorite? The chicken salad sandwich! So much so… that I’ve tried to recreate it (scroll down for the recipe). I think I got pretty close to the Denny’s version… but I’m so lazy… I’d rather just head to my local Denny’s and order it! The Denny’s version is made from scratch with roasted, seasoned chicken and served on toasted 7-grain bread. It’s amazing.

Below… you’ll find my own recipe. Let me know if you try it out!

chicken salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boiled chicken cut up into little cubes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup red grapes cut in half
  • ½ cup of chopped almonds (or walnuts if you prefer)
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

Add the chopped chicken to a large bowl along with the celery, grapes, chopped almonds (or walnuts), mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Stir them all together until all the ingredients are evenly combined. Chill. Then eat! Yum!

 

Disclosure: I’m a paid ambassador of Denny’s. This really excites me, because Denny’s was one of my first real jobs as a teenager! You can check out my first post in this series all about my real, authentic, love of Denny’s here. I’d never share about something I didn’t truly feel fondly about! xo -Kelly

Recipe: Roasted Green Tomatillo Salsa

m4s0n501

Newsflash: I do indeed make recipes which do not involve a slow cooker.  This is one of them.  I love my green salsa recipe and you will too.  Or scroll down to the bottom for a red salsa recipe which doesn’t taste “dumbed down” but is so full of shortcuts it’s embarrassing.

One nifty trick I learned from the Food Network is that you can turn your salsa into enchilada sauce by sautéeing it with a little flour (I’m simplifying–if you take that literally as the one step to make enchilada sauce, you will be a very dissatisfied, hungry person in the end).  But with that knowledge there are more ways to use this recipe–which is why I make a triple batch most of the time, because if I’m going through the trouble to roast vegetables and get the heavy blender down off the top shelf then I want to make it worth everyone’s while.

I’ve separated the ingredient lists into those for “roasting” and those “used raw”.  Partly because that’s how I remember what to buy at the supermarket without a written list and partly because I don’t have a single photo with all ingredients.

salsa 1Saturated with olive oil, salt the silent killer, and freshly ground black pepper.  Let’s do this.

Ingredients for Roasting:

  • ~1lb tomatillos, husked (one pound is about 1/3-1/2 the capacity of the baggie from the dispensers in the produce department)
  • 1 yellow (or white) onion, chopped into thick pieces or wedges
  • a couple gloves of garlic (yeah I used like ten cloves of garlic here)
  • 1jalapeno pepper, to taste.  Or three.  I used three.

Roasting Instructions:

  1. Organize ingredients on baking pan.  Drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Sprinkle with salt the silent killer and black pepper.
  3. Broil at 500° for 6 minutes.  Keep watching, it could take one or two more minutes before things start browning.  Then remove from oven.

 

Raw Ingredients:

  • one bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (some stem is okay)
  • one bunch green onion, sliced into thick pieces (your blender will pulverize them, so no need to spend the time to slice them shorter)
  • juice of one lime

salsa 2

Instructions:

  1. In a blender*, layer roasted tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, green onion & lime juice.
  2. Set blender to pulse, being mindful that a chunky salsa is sometimes preferable to a completely smooth, pureed salsa.
  3. It may require more than one batch in your blender–try to divide the ingredients so that a little of everything is in each batch, and then combine the mixtures.

*I used the Ninja Ultimate Blender for this recipe.  I included the top blade, which is what powers through chunky ingredients like the tomatillos.  This meant that my mixture spent less time at the bottom of the pitcher getting pureed and resulted in a slightly chunky salsa–which is ideal.  I will never use a regular blender again for this recipe.

 

salsa 3

salsa 4

Footnotes:

  1. If you’re a tomatillo novice: you’ll find them in the produce section, usually around the jalapeno and bell peppers, although tomatillos are not spicy.  They look like small green tomatoes covered in a papery thin, green husk.  They’ll roast more evenly if they’re all the same size.  Also, be aware that sometimes there can be dirt on tomatillos which can be rinsed off, but if a tomatillo has black specks which require scraping off, that’s mold.  And mold is no good.
  2. The recipe calls for a jalapeno, but you could use any pepper.  If I’m making salsa just for me, I use habanero or ghost peppers.  You could use a serrano, too.  I suggest starting with a jalapeno and see what you think.
  3. Before juicing your lime, nuke it in the microwave for fifteen seconds.  It loosens up the juices inside.  Thanks for the tip, Rachael Ray.
  4. If you have a Ninja Kitchen blender, use it for this recipe.  I’ve made this recipe for years using my regular blender (food processor works, too) and it does the job, but this recipe is just made for that dual blade on the Ninja.  So efficient.  It works like a dream.

salsa 5MOAR CILANTRO!

I love tomatillo salsa.  The tartness of tomatillos is so appealing, and I love experimenting with different spicy peppers.  If this all sounds fine and good to you but you just don’t have the time or inclination, I give you permission to forgo this recipe and try out my go-to recipe for red salsa which is laughably easy but still tastes like it’s homemade.

You don’t get pictures of this one.  It’s too easy.

You need:

  1. Two cans Ro*Tel Tomatoes & Green Chilies (found on the shelf with other canned, diced tomatoes)
  2. One bunch cilantro, washed and the bottom stems cut off (some stem is okay, just not the thicker, woody stems at the bottom)
  3. One bunch green onion (scallions), roots cut off and the rest roughly chopped into smaller pieces
  4. One jalapeño, stem removed, roughly chopped
  5. Juice of one lime

Put all ingredients into your blender on pulse until you’re satisfied with the consistency.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  You’re welcome.

rotelThey did all of the hard work for you.

 

Link to your favorite salsa recipe in the comments, or if you have a favorite brand of salsa that you don’t just tolerate but you love, share that too!

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Slow Cooker Chicken Gyro Bowls

Earlier this month I found something new and tasty-sounding try on BettyCrocker.com: Slow Cooker Chicken Gyro bowls.  Greek food (“Greek food”, as I assume Greek cooks would be offended if I thought this was true Greek food–it’s tasty, though) at home which doesn’t involve something complicated like buying lamb, or owning a vertical rotisserie attached to a broiler–imagine!

One of the reasons this recipe intrigued me (beyond it calling for the use of a slow cooker, for which you already know I have a weakness), is that it calls for pre-packaged flour tortilla “bowls” as a shortcut instead of making or finding pita bread.   I don’t typically endorse any brand of product–despite including photos of the actual ingredients/brand names that I use in a recipe–but as far as I know Old El Paso is the only maker of these soft flour tortilla bowls, so I suppose I’m not endorsing them so much as informing you that this product exists and can add to the convenience of this meal.  (That link takes you to Amazon, because Old El Paso’s website doesn’t finish loading when one navigates to the product’s page.)

 

gyro bowls 1Recognize that micro-plane? I used it to grate garlic cloves this time, but I sold you on this tool way back when.

 

Ingredients for Chicken Mixture

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • juice of half a medium-sized lemon
  • 1/3 cup of water

gyro bowls 6Yeah, it doesn’t look pretty.  Trust the process.

Directions

  1. Put everything in your slow cooker.  Don’t forget your Crock Pot Condom.
  2. Six hours on low, or four hours on high.  Something like that.
  3. Upon completion of cooking, use metal tongs to shred and stir.  Throw in some extra red wine vinegar if it looks dry.  Mine did, so I did.

 

 

gyro bowls 2You can find the Stand N Stuff flour tortilla bowls in the Hispanic foods section at your grocer.

Ingredients for Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 English cucumber (peeled, seeded, diced) (also see photo below)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

gyro bowls 3Pro-tip: After peeling the cucumber use short strokes with it on your grater, instead of dicing by hand.

 Directions for Tzatziki Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients except olive oil.
  2. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

gyro bowls 4Two words: YUM!  (Okay–just one word.)

Finally:

  • Prepare sliced red onion, halved grape tomatoes, and feta crumbles to top off gyros.
  • Fill tortilla bowls with chicken, add a few tablespoons of Tzatziki sauce and condiments.
  • Enjoy!

gyro bowls 7

Footnotes:

»  I definitely suggest to avoid low-fat feta cheese crumbles–with the fat goes the flavor, and then the calories which remain are totally worthless because there’s no taste anymore.

»  The Tzaziki recipe calls for just a teaspoon each of dill & oregano but I didn’t find that to be nearly enough.  I probably put a tablespoon of each in my recipe before it finally tasted right.

 

This dish is a tasty one, plus fun for each family member to assemble for him- or herself.

Enjoy!

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s Off to Summer Camp We Go!

summer-camp-550x372What summer camp in Arizona would look like if we didn’t have fire restrictions.  Only YOU can prevent forest fires!

 

Last week I drove my oldest two hours north, up to summer camp in the cool mountains.  I reminisced during the drive–this is the same camp where I spent many of my childhood summers, too, and I have such fond memories of those experiences.

This highway, it used to be just one lane in each direction, and now it’s sometimes six lanes across.  That McDonald’s, that used to be the one and only place to grab a quick lunch en route to camp–now there are dozens of options, including ethnic food and even sushi.  Sushi!  (I wonder rural sushi in the remote Arizona mountains is anything at all like what us city folk are accustomed to?)  In the end we played it safe this year, interrupting tradition only for the shiny new In-N-Out.

I remember my parents having to drive me through a long, winding dirt road up the mountains, through the pine trees, past scenic lookouts before we arrived at camp.  But the small town we used to pass through in the blink of an eye has grown so much and expanded outward so far the “long, winding dirt road” is now mostly paved.

The forest still looks the same.  The pine trees still smell the same.  Those same familiar summer storm clouds creep in every afternoon like clockwork.

The camp counselors got younger, though, didn’t they?  When I was a camper the counselors must have been twenty or thirty or years old, right?  Now the counselors look like all of fifteen years old.  How strange.

Check-in took all of five minutes, and then my kid takes off running to her cabin-mates just as I held my arms out for a good-bye hug.  But that’s okay–she’s excited and has been counting down to camp for months.  I totally get it.  I hop in the car for that nostalgic drive home on that modern highway which looks nothing like the path I traveled as a kid.

summer capm“Dear Mom, Camp sucks.  The hot tub is too hot.  Help.”

 

At pick-up I was emotionally ready for her to be hiding in a closet, begging to stay another week.  What I got instead was a dusty, dirty, smiling kid thrilled to see me and anxious to come home.  Aww.   I think I’ll keep her a while longer.

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Cassandra can be found on Twitter @aclevergirl.  Learn more about her family’s unique challenges and why they have hope for a cure for Spinal Muscular Atrophy at byrdsforacure.org.