Monday, July 29, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 19: Nothing says "I love you" like an 18-mile bike ride

Good morning Crushers!

Steve and I have officially been married for one year and one day today. I know! I know. I know. It's not like it's the biggest deal in the world, but I firmly believe that things should be celebrated. Instead of going out to a fancy schmancy dinner or a weekend getaway, we had a low-key weekend. It was so nice.

If we were on a running date, I would tell you that I didn't even know it was possible that every campsite in the entire state of Wisconsin could be booked in one weekend. Seriously, people?!

Anyway, it ended up being a chilly weekend, so I was glad to sleep indoors. A year ago, we had the hottest summer on record in a long time with a drought. This year? We went fishing with friends on their new boat while wearing jeans, long-sleeved shirts and jackets. Huh.

If we were on a running date, I would tell you all about our four-day anniversary extravaganza filled with totally random fun. Thursday night, we went to Germanfest and sang German songs while eating potato pancakes and drinking Weiss beir. Delicious! Friday night, we hung out with one of my friends and her kiddos at the Washington County Fair. Her 5-year-old LOVED telling us all about the tractors and animals. He is so smart! Her little guy, who is only 2, was more interested in trying to eat everything he could get his hands on. Since it was the Fair, he knew that great food was all around him! Smarty.

As promised back in this post, we are still running. Saturday morning, we ran for about 3 miles on a path near the farmers' market and picked up some tasty coffee and a bouquet of flowers for the house since we were supposed to have a showing on Sunday (which didn't end up happening - oh well). We helped a neighbor pack up their house and load a truck since they'll be moving. Then it was time to fish at Browns Lake! My good friend Hannah and he husband bought a fishing boat this spring and they hosted us for the whole afternoon and evening!
Steve caught the biggest fish.

His Bear Grylls moment

Me with Hannah, the hostess with the mostess!
When Hannah heard that all of our anniversary plans were falling through, she quickly offered to organize a cook out and everything! We spent a few hours on the boat, caught lots of fish of all sizes and then had a bonfire back at their house. We brought cupcakes and this corn salad that I previously mentioned. I have a feeling that I'll be making it every time we get together from now on. So good!
Nothing says "I love you" like a long bike ride.

Anniversary Ducks in Lisbon
If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you about Sunday when we took a long bike ride on the Bugline Trail out to the town of Merton. We got to play tourist and had the most delicious chicken at "On The Rocks" before hoping back on the bikes to go home. We saw deer, ducks and a few lakes.  It was such a nice day for it.
Steve got a Bloody Mary at the pub.
Since Steve is the hardest person in the world to surprise, he guessed my surprise of taking him out to dinner for his ultimate splurge food: Pizza Hut's stuffed crust pizza. Instead, we're planning on trying to make our own version of it at home this week. We used up a gift card and went out to a Chinese restaurant instead.
A very fitting first anniversary fortune cookie message:
"Many pleasurable and memorable adventures are in store for you."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Spills

Good morning, Crushers,

This week has been full of spills. I'm not just talking about how I forgot to screw the top back on the juice bottle before Steve shook it up. Whoops. I actually injured myself by stepping off of a stair in a goofy way and rolled my ankle really bad. I thought I heard a snap, but that might have been the gravel I was walking on and not a bone. So, despite a lot of pain, there has been barely any swelling, no bruising and no trips to the ER. WHOO!

If you know me in person, you would say, "Jen, this is SO you." like my friend Courtney did after I posted this message on Facebook:
In the past year, I've seen bears in Yosemite and hiked up Half Dome, made it down my first black diamond hill skiing, got a new personal best running a half marathon, saw a shark and snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and never got more than a bruise or scratch, but I trip and roll my ankle walking to my car after playing horseshoes. Go figure. At least I have a new high average!

Anyway, this is one of the many reasons that I have the Bible passage Isaiah 40:31 inscribed on my Road ID.
"but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
I know that no matter what crazy stuff I do or what troubles I have or how many times I sprain something, I have God there by my side. It's a simple as that. Fortunately, I can share God, my constant, with others because he is there for everyone. For instance, remember Beth and Brandon that I wrote about in my last post? Beth is continually praising God for every positive step that Brandon is making and leaning on Him when Brandon's health has a setback. It's amazing. She knows that no matter what they're going through, God is there. He will always be there. I love that and I hope you do too.

I'm also loving the fact that despite being accident prone, I've learned to listen to my body and let it heal. I did not play softball on Wednesday night because I know that we have packed weekend. (Plus, I took a really awful spill while running to first base back in 2010 because of a broken shoe, which resulted in a sprained wrist, scarred knees/legs and a lot of bruises).

I'm going to make this salad for when we go on the boat tomorrow with Hannah and Lee.

Also, if you ever come to Milwaukee on the last full weekend of July, please go to Germanfest. Milwaukee is filled with rich German heritage (as well as Italian, Polish, Jewish, Irish, Greek, Norwegian, Native American, and more!), so of course, we all stand up and sing "Ein Prosit" together while drinking a beer. We also dance and listen to "ooh pa pa" bands. Got to love the music, the food (hello, potato pancakes!) and the camaraderie.

Please note that we did not spill our beer or potato pancakes while dancing and singing.
Also, I will admit that I saw the guy playing the matter horn and said, "Look, it's a German didgeridoo!" Fail.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Salad Experiment Results

Hey Crushers,
This salad experiment worked REALLY well. I just took the lid off of the container, put a bowl upside down on top of the container and flipped it so that the greens went to the bottom of the bowl and the veggie toppings and dressing were on the top.
Before: here is the salad that I made at about 8 p.m. on Sunday night.
The greens stayed away from the dressing which kept them from going limp and soggy. The tomatoes, peppers and olives got nicely marinated, and did their jobs keeping the dressing from the greens. Overall, I'd say this was a success and will probably make my lunch salads like this from now on.
After: being in a container overnight, the salad was still fresh at lunchtime on Monday!
I wonder how this would work for a taco salad... Good thing we're having tacos tonight and I can report back later. UPDATE: We didn't have any taco leftovers, so I can't report on how this worked. I'm still thinking it would have been awesome.

In other news, one of my co-workers is out of town this week, so I'm getting her crop share as part of our office's community supported agriculture project with the Wellness Committee. I'm not signed up since we have our own booming garden, but I am really excited to see what veggie goodness we're going to get! I hear green beans, cabbage and carrots are part of this week's share.

Steve and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary on July 28. I can't believe how fast the year has gone, but time flies when you're having fun, right? I'll do a little photo recap that day. Plus, I've got something up my sleeve to surprise him with on our anniversary. Since he reads the blog, I can't tell you now, but rest assured that he'll be surprised this weekend. Muwahahaha!

FYI - the top tier of our wedding cake has already been eaten. You see, in January we noticed that the cake was starting to look a little wonky in the freezer and we weren't sure how tasty it would be come July. Instead of waiting, we decided to celebrate our "half" anniversary and ate the cake. So good, but slightly freezer-burnt. In order to keep tradition (sort of), I ordered a dozen cupcakes from our bakery in the same flavors. Yum.

Last piece of news: I ran into one of the kids that I went to grade school with last night. Small world, right? Anyway, his sister Beth is due to have her first baby any day now. About a week ago, doctors discovered her husband, Brandon, had a brain aneurysm. He survived, thankfully, but is in VERY serious condition at a local hospital. Please include Brandon and Beth in your prayers. They need them!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 18: A salad experiment

Good morning, Crushers!

For today's virtual running date, I have to admit that I didn't run last weekend. I was not feeling all that great, so running for miles in hot weather did not seem like a prudent idea. That unfair feeling of "why am I sick on a Saturday?" that you had when you were in grade school seemed to follow me into adulthood. "Why do I feel gross in Summer?" Summer should be the healthiest time of year, right? Never mind all the injuries, bug bites and rashes from various plants that emergency rooms see during summer...

Anyway, if we were running today, I'd tell you that we had a house showing this weekend, so our plans got further tossed about by doing a mega clean. Our house is usually very neat, but when we have a house showing, I go in mega clean mode. I even made Steve help me pull apart our big picture window on the front of our house to clean it. FYI - vinegar and water works great, but makes your windows smell like pickles. Perhaps, I'll stick with Windex?

If we were running today, I'd tell you that if you're not feeling so hot, don't run, but I guess I barely listen to my own advice. Instead of running, we decided to play 18 "holes" of disc golf. If you haven't played, find someone out there to teach you. It's really fun! I bet if you tossed it out there on facebook or any other favorite social media site, you'd have a disc golf buddy in no time. It's a nice long walk, you don't usually lose  the discs (I lose at least one golf ball when I golf the regular way every time), and it's a nice alternative to whatever exercise you were going to do.

If we were running today, I'd also tell you about my make-ahead-salad experiment. I have been seeing variations of this idea on Pinterest since I got an account about a year ago, but never really tried it. Or if I did, I bet it went so horribly wrong that I blocked it out of my mind. Regardless, I'm trying it (again). Here is what you do:

  1. Gather all your salad ingredients (mine included tomatoes, peppers including some from our garden, salad greens from our garden, onion, radish from our garden, parm cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. 
  2. Pour a serving (more or less) of your dressing in the bottom of a container that has a lid. 
  3. Chop up the "big" stuff and put those in next.
  4. Add any cheese or seasonings.
  5. Finally, put your greens in the container and close it up tight.
The idea is that the big veggies put enough of a barrier between the dressing and the salad greens so that they don't go limp by the time that you actually eat them for lunch at work the next day. Here is the before picture:

Note how the dressing at the bottom doesn't even come close to touching the greens.
I'll report back later to see how it looks and tastes. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Faith-filled Fridays: Answers and grilled fruit

Good morning, Crushers!

I love to know how things work. If I don't know, I will look it up. I could spend hours on the Internet researching how things work or what to do if they don't. I think that's one of the reasons I like to cook so much. I want the answers on how to make tasty food. How did they do that? I need answers! Especially about grilling fruit. Mine always falls apart. I digress...

I do not have all the answers. No one does, and that's OK. However, there are times where you have to be able to provide an answer. "No" or silence are acceptable answers in some cases. I remember some college classmate of mine who posed the question, "What about when God doesn't answer your prayers?" The professor answered, "It's not that He doesn't answer you, it's just that 'no' or 'wait' is an answer." Light bulb moment!

I recently had a few people tell me about how they had gotten into discussions about their faith, whether they wanted to or not. I think a lot of times people do not want to have to defend themselves and would prefer not to answer by changing the subject or avoiding the topic. But those moments do pop up. In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter is writing about suffering for doing good and talking about what happens when you are confronted by people who are mean and who want you to squirm. He says: "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect".

It's hard. It really is. Often times the people that confront you are not prepared to listen because they think that they already have the answers or are ready with their next statement. Some times they do it to make fun of you. Those are the worst because that no matter what you say, it won't help. 

Paul took time in his letter to the Colossian people in chapter 4 verses 2-6 saying "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Maybe add that to your prayers? Pray that when the occasion rises, you can meet it with the right words. I know that I'm focusing on "the attack", but there are going to be times when you can also show your faith and love to people who are struggling or grieving. They may look to you for why you aren't afraid or aren't despairing. You have faith and hope in Jesus!

Let's all pray that we can be more like Peter in Matthew 16 when Jesus asked him "Who do you say I am?" Let us all be able to answer clearly, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Have a great weekend everyone! And seriously, if you have good tips on grilling fruit, let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garden Update

Good morning, Crushers!

We have some green peppers almost ready to eat and our first red tomato! I'm really excited about this, so I just had Steve text me photos so I could post them and share them with you. Best. Husband. Ever. Also? He made me a watermelon and raspberry smoothie yesterday before I went to work. Ah love...

Hello tomato!

Gorgeous green peppers!
Steve is obviously a better food photog than me.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 17: Bikes, babies and gardens, Oh My!

Good morning, Crushers!

What a weekend! If we were on a virtual running date today, I would have to admit that I didn't do any running all weekend long except to chase my nephew, Ben, in a game of tag. We did however, bike 18 miles! Boo-yah!

Friday, we ran a whole bunch of errands including out to Waukesha to pick up a box that I had left behind at an old apartment. I'm really glad we picked it up for two reasons: 1) it had my college diploma and a few other important things in it and 2) we were near an Outback Steakhouse (gift card!). I had the new Great Barrier Trio. Let me tell you, it was not like dining in Australia, but I would gladly order that again. It was just the right amount of food and the crab and avocado salad was delicious! I need to figure out how to make that at home.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that I was really hesitant about biking from our house on the northwest side of Milwaukee all the way to the Wauwatosa Farmers' Market. I knew that the terrain was pretty flat except for one big hill. I'm usually a parkway biker and I avoid busy streets as much as possible. Fortunately, we only had to be on a busy street for a little while. Just like I advocate for runners to wear bright clothing, I'm going to throw in an encouragement for bikers to do the same. I try very hard to share the road with all bikers, vehicles and pedestrians, but I know that I'm probably not as vigilant of a driver as I could be when it comes to bikers. I figured I had best assume that other drivers were less vigilant that I can be.
We made it! I have no idea why this picture is blurry.
Dressed to be seen!
Steve in front of the Little Red Store, and yes, he had a helmet.
 Steve, bless him, wore a big-ish backpack for our ride with a soft-sided cooler in it for any/all of our farmers' market finds. We made it all the way without mishap and rewarded ourselves with coffee from the Valentine Coffee Co. I highly recommend their Bering Sea Blend for iced coffee. It was delicious! We also picked up some rosemary sour dough bread from Waterhouse Foods from Lake Mills, WI. They have cooking classes and you can bet that I'm going to jump on that!

The rest of the day was spent celebrating our nephew's 4th birthday, helping mom clean out closets at Grandma and Grandpa's house and then going to meet our friends' new addition, Baby Levi. Adorable! I offered to make dinner for them since sometimes the best way to show people you love them is by cooking them tasty food. My Opa! Greek Seasoning from Wildtree is running low, but fortunately, I happened to have most of the ingredients growing in my herb garden! A little grapeseed oil, lemon juice, rosemary, parsley and ground pepper plus chicken = delicious baked chicken that was juicy and fragrant. Even 2-year-old, Liliana was a fan!
Before: This is when I planted stuff earlier in May.
The big yellow bucket on the left has green peppers and nasturtium.
The one on the right is all tomatoes of different sizes.
Sunday was spent in the garden. If we were on a running date, I wouldn't be able to show you these photos until after we stopped running, but I'm sure I'd chat your ear off telling you about them anyway!

After: Tomatoes
After: green peppers!
This was just one afternoon's harvest. We have three other containers like this already picked.
We probably have to pick raspberries every other day from now until the end of July!

Lots of greens including kale, bok choy, Swiss chard, and arugula 

Our Easter lily that was transplanted to the garden from two years ago - finally bloomed!

Since this is a virtual running date post, please don't think that I've abandoned running entirely. We still get up early before I have to go to work to run. We just didn't run last weekend. It's OK. We'll be back at it soon!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Joy and appetizers

Good morning, Crushers!

As you can imagine, these past few weeks haven't been the most joyous in the normal sense. However, one of my blogger crushes over at Thistlewood Farms, KariAnne, shared her joy in the most random things on her blog today. What great timing for this reminder that there is joy all around us. KariAnne, you're a rockstar.

This made me think of one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 98 (bolded for emphasis):
Psalm 98
A psalm.Sing to the Lord a new song,    for he has done marvelous things;his right hand and his holy arm    have worked salvation for him.The Lord has made his salvation known    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.He has remembered his love    and his faithfulness to Israel;all the ends of the earth have seen    the salvation of our God.Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,    burst into jubilant song with music;make music to the Lord with the harp,    with the harp and the sound of singing,with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—    shout for joy before the Lord, the King.Let the sea resound, and everything in it,    the world, and all who live in it.Let the rivers clap their hands,    let the mountains sing together for joy;let them sing before the Lord,    for he comes to judge the earth.He will judge the world in righteousness    and the peoples with equity.

In keeping with KariAnne's mission to spread some joy today, I'm going to follow suit and list some too.

  1. Having my nephew cuddle up with me and lay his head on my shoulder. 
  2. Pouring over family photos and remembering what fun times we all had.
  3. The look on my husband's face when he saw a photo of me in 5th or 6th grade complete with big bangs, glasses and braces - total disbelief. (No more bangs, glasses or braces now!)
  4. One of my friends just rescued 3 baby ducks yesterday - Yay Kristi!
  5. Managing a huge contract at work all. by. myself.
  6. Planning a getaway weekend to Las Vegas to see our friends get married.
  7. Finding this t-shirt online.
  8. I haven't chipped or broken a nail all week (this might be a record).
  9. Going to lunch today with a co-worker from the past.
  10. Finger food. 
  11. Despite having our original plans for celebrating our first anniversary totally fall through, we had an offer from friends to spend the day with them on their boat! Hannah, way to be a rockstar!
  12. I can see my triceps muscles (and feel them - ouch!).
  13. Having friends e-mail you recipes, like this one
  14. I live near a lot of huge lakes and rivers. Nothing is more peaceful than watching the waves!
  15. Having more to be joyful about than I originally thought I'd come up with (this list could go on and on and on, but you have to cut off somewhere!).
I hope you are able to find lots of things to be joyful about today and every day. Have a great weekend everyone!

One more joy for today: sharing ah-ha moments! Here is this ridiculously easy appetizer that I whipped up last night. We don't usually have "courses" for our meals at home, but while waiting for some soup to bubble and making grilled cheese sandwiches, Steve pointed out that we had some cucumbers in our fridge that needed to be eaten pronto! Hmm... what else is in the fridge? Mozzarella, tomatoes and there's basil in the garden? How about a sort-of caprese salad?

OK, so it's a little heavy on the cheese, but so what? Chop up some tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and cheese and drizzle (or not) some olive oil on it. Delicious and simple. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Burger bash

Good morning, Crushers!

Inspired by Tina's blog post today about burgers on Carrots 'N' Cake, I decided to share with you two of my favorite burger recipes. If I'm going out to eat, I love burgers with swiss cheese and mushrooms or avocado and fresh onions and tomato (I'm looking at you AJ Bomber's!). Ugh! I'm hungry now and it's only 10 a.m. I know that most people think that burgers are either with cheese or without (at least here in Wisconsin!), but there are so many variations on toppings that you can do. I'm not talking about toppings here, though. I'm talking about about what's in the actual burger patty. You can argue over ketchup and mustard later.

First up is Steve's recipe for burgers. The second that he made me one, I thought to myself, "For the rest of our lives, you are in charge of making this amazing burgers." His secret? Mushrooms and a little Worcestershire sauce. Second, is the Greek burgers that I learned to make from the Wildtree Freezer Meal party I went to. We love them and eat them all the time! I posted it just a little while ago, but I thought I'd post it again just in case.

Steve's Burgers
1 pound ground beef (at least 80% lean)
1/3 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/3 cup finely diced onions (you might want to pat them dry so the juice doesn't make the burgers fall apart)
2 slices of cheddar cheese crumbled
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Lowry's seasoning to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl (feel free to use your hands). Makes 6 small patties or 4 large patties perfect for the grill or griddle! Note: if the mix is too wet and it starts to crumble on you, you can  reduce the amount of mushrooms and onions.

Greek Burgers
1 pound ground turkey
1 heaping Tbsp Opa! Greek Seasoning from Wildtree (oregano, garlic, pepper)
2 ounces (half of a small container) of crumbled goat cheese or Feta cheese
1/2 onion, diced in tiny bits

1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
Burger buns
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Dice up the onions and then put the first six ingredients in a big bowl and squish together using your hands. I know you could use a spoon, but it's so much easier to just squish it up. Form the meat mixture into burger patties. Wash your hands before giving the frying pan a light coating of cooking spray. Cook the burgers about 4 minutes on each side. Serve on a bun (or bun-less) and enjoy!

The weather here is gorgeous for grilling! Maybe we'll make a few tonight?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 16: Rhubarb Torte and Grandma

Good morning Crushers!

Although sad, I am relieved to report that Grandma found heavenly peace on Saturday, July 6 early in the morning. As predicted, she did live to see her 97th birthday. She always rallied for a party. She LOVED her birthday. Must be where I get it from...

Waving to the band with Uncle Steve
Anyway, if we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that it has been a weird weekend. It was so much fun to see the 4th of July through my nephew's eyes. Patrick loved the parade! As each thing went by the parade route, he would yell, "Hi Police! Hi horses!!" He couldn't quite say "marching band". He practiced saying "Happy birthday Great-Grandma!" and was a hit. Sometimes babies/toddlers are the best medicine!

After helping mom with some things at Grandma and Grandpa's house on Friday, Steve and I went with my brother, Mike, and sister-in-law, Melissa, and Patrick to Summerfest for the afternoon. Thanks to "Malt-o-Meal day" we got in free. Patrick loved the music and the playground. He waved at a band member of Pigpen Theater Co (great new band!) and the guy waved back! Patrick yelled "Hi Band!" Awesome!

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that I envy all of the actresses who can cry without looking like a hot mess. They have these pretty tears that just gently roll down their cheeks and never smear their mascara. Well, I don't understand why they can't cry like the rest of us with raccoon eyes and red noses and such. Hollywood, step up to the plate.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would also tell you that next to Patrick's giggles, exercise is a wonderful mood lifter. Steve and I went for a 12 mile bike ride along the Bug Line Trail through Sussex. What a great trail! There were so many people out there enjoying it on bikes and on foot. GORGEOUS!

If we were on a virtual running date, I would also tell you that tears can sneak up on you at the most random times. For instance, I picked a ton of rhubarb yesterday afternoon. Because we had so much, I had to find something to do with all of it. Thankfully, my mother-in-law gave me a ton of recipes last year! So here I was in the kitchen just cutting up rhubarb (tip: use a kitchen scissors to cut the stalks into smaller pieces - works like a charm!) and all of a sudden, the strawberry/rhubarb mix just made me think of up north with Grandma. Ugh! That's totally going to happen at random points throughout the rest of summer. I just know it. Just goes to show how it's the little things that matter. Even rhubarb!

Strawberry Rhubarb Torte
(Based on the "Mom's Rhubarb Torte" recipe published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday, April 27, 2011)

Crust: 1 3/4 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten - save the whites for the meringue topping
Filling: 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten - save the whites for the meringue topping, 1 cup sugar, 5 Tbsp flour, 3 cups fresh rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces, 1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
Meringue Topping: 4 egg whites, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cream of tartar, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract

3 bowls (or one bowl that you wash 2 times), measuring cups and spoons, stand mixer or electric mixer, spatula, and a 13 x 9 pan.

Preheat the oven to 325. Put all of the ingredients in a big bowl. Unless you let the butter reach room temperature and soften a bit, here is a trick to get it soft without getting too hot. If the butter is too hot or melty, then it will cook the egg yolks and then you get a weird scrambled egg texture in the crust. Put the butter (still wrapped) in the microwave for 10-12 seconds. Unwrap and slide the butter into your mixing bowl. Save the wrapper to grease the bottom and sides of your 13 x 9 pan. Remove any rings, wash your hands, and just use your hands to mix up the crust. It will be dry, but when it gets all crumbly, you know you're good to go. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan like I explained for the lemon bars.

Now, you can either use the same bowl and just rinse it out or grab another one. I used a big mixing bowl that had cup measurements on the side, so I filled it with 3 cups of chopped rhubarb and 1 cup of strawberries that I quartered. So bright and colorful! If you've never eaten rhubarb, it can be very, very tart, so the strawberries and sugar that you're going to add are important. Mix all of the filling ingredients together until it's well-coated. Then pour it over the crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the filling looks "set" meaning that it doesn't jiggle if you wiggle the pan.
Such gorgeous color!
While that's baking, get out a big bowl with high sides because you're about to beat the heck out of the egg whites for your meringue topping. I used my stand mixer, but you can use a hand mixer too. Unless you're really ambitious, don't use a whisk. Your arms would be so tired! Anyway, this is really the only part of the recipe where it is important to put all of the ingredients in the bowl in order. Put in the egg whites that you saved from the crust and filling. Add the salt and cream of tartar right away. Put the mixer on medium-high and let that beat for 1-2 minutes until it starts getting really bubbly. It will look kind of white. Gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Beat and beat and beat it until it starts to look white and creamy. Then keep beating it some more. If you have a hand mixer, you'll want to give up and let your arm rest, but don't! You want the topping to make stiff peaks when you stop to test it. Once it does make stiff peaks, add the vanilla and beat for another minute.
That peak was so stiff, it stood there, just like that, for about 9 minutes
before I poured it over the filling!
When the filling and crust are done baking, pull them out of the oven and pour the delicious meringue filling (tastes like the inside of marshmallow, but better!) over the top. I just smeared it around until I thought the top looked pretty, but some people like to do little swirls or bat at it with the back of a spoon so it has tons of peaks. Whatever floats your boat! Make sure that the meringue reaches to all sides of the pan like you're sealing in the filling. Then pop it back in the oven for 12 more minutes or until the peaks start to turn golden.
I cannot lie. I had two slices right away! One was not enough.
You can serve it hot or cold. If you serve it cold, it slices better, but it's hard to wait that long! Enjoy!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: A short one

Good morning Crushers!

I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day for all of the Americans out there! I don't know about your community, but we had people camping out already on Monday to get a good view of the fireworks on Wednesday night. Our city has a "Big Bang" fireworks show that is quite the show. People come from all over to see this. It is pretty spectacular, but I don't think I'd camp out to see them.

Our family usually spends the 4th of July Up North at our cabin, but because of Grandma's health, we could not leave town. It's also Grandma's birthday, so it was kind of a weird holiday for us. My brother and sister-in-law came up and brought my little nephew, Patrick. This cutie loved every part of the holiday, which he should. It's awesome. There was a parade and more fireworks and BBQ. Essential parts to a good 4th of July!

I know that holidays, in general, can be really stressful for some people. Usually, I'm not one of those people, but like I said, this holiday was kind of weird for us. I can't even tell you the mix of emotions that we all had in one day. It was celebratory with a cloud hanging over it. Just weird.

Thankfully, I ran across this Bible passage earlier in the week:
Philippians 4:5b-6 says, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
It seems funny to ask for peace when the 4th of July is known for it's parades full of high school bands and booming fireworks and boisterous picnics. But peace is what we've been asking for a lot lately. I think it's one of the best things that you can ask for because it's what everyone could use.

Praying for peace for everyone and that you had a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Steve made dinner last night: leftover edition

Good morning Crushers!

One huge benefit of Steve being a teacher is that he has offer during the summer (when he's not in class). This means that he is able to help in the family garden making sure all the weeds are gone and the veggies are growing (eggplants, radishes and onions, oh my!). He is also available to help with running errands and getting all his lesson plans ready for next year. My favorite is when he decides to make dinner!

Don't get me wrong, I love to cook. But sometimes it's nice when someone else cooks for you. Steve is a great cook, too!

Last night Steve whipped up some spaghetti with leftover Italian sausage and plenty of veggies. He did, however, throw in one surprise veggie. We had some cucumbers that needed to be used up, so he tossed those in the sauce with some onions and other things. Much to my surprise, it was really good! The cucumbers were a nice crunchy element to the sauce and they held on to some of the spice from the sausage. Who knew?

How about you? What surprise ingredients have you found lately? Please share in the comments!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 15: Oh jetlag...

Good morning crushers!
I'm currently 3 people at work, so I'm sorry that my usual running blog post didn't go out on time. Also, jetlag sucks. Big time. Sorry for the blunt opinion, but I have never had such terrible jetlag.

If we were running this morning, I would tell you that two miles feels like a long, long way. This is a route that only has one hill near our house. We encountered very few neighbors, but those that we saw said a friendly hello. Since it's summer it gets too hot to run after work. Early morning runs are better for heat control and low ozone levels. Plus, it forces me to get up and out of bed!

If we were running this morning, I would tell you that I am seriously in need of a trip to the library. My home library has been read-through a number of times now. I need some fresh pages! Our book club's latest book is "Here I Go Again" by the always hilarious, Jen Lancaster. If you haven't read it already, READ HER STUFF. Especially "Bitter is the New Black". A-Mazing. Cracks me up! I'm spending my lunch hour running to the library. The big, gorgeous, central library in downtown Milwaukee. It smells good. It smells like books and learning and adventure. Also, the kids section has a giant lighthouse that you can climb up in to sit and read. How cool is that?

If we were running this morning, I would tell you that I got to meet one of my friends' first baby last night. Little Miss Evelyn is adorable. What a doll! We brought over Greek turkey burgers, oven roasted potatoes and a fresh green salad with parsley from the garden and some nasturtium flowers (totally edible and kind of peppery). Since Evelyn's mommy, Alicia, had a c-section, she was more than happy to just chill on the couch, while I took over her kitchen. Her husband, Jason, also enjoyed it!
Colorful salads have lots of vitamins!
Greek Burgers:
1 pound ground turkey
1 heaping Tbsp Opa! Greek Seasoning from Wildtree (oregano, garlic, pepper)
2 ounces (half of a small container) of crumbled goat cheese or Feta cheese
1/2 onion, diced in tiny bits
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
Burger buns
salt and pepper to taste

Gear you'll need: Frying pan or grill, flipper (spatula), some cooking spray, knife, big bowl

Directions: Dice up the onions and then put the first six ingredients in a big bowl and squish together using your hands. I know you could use a spoon, but it's so much easier to just squish it up. Form the meat mixture into burger patties. Wash your hands before giving the frying pan a light coating of cooking spray. Cook the burgers about 4 minutes on each side. Serve on a bun (or bun-less) and enjoy!

Yeah, it's really that easy!