Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day

One of my favorite memories growing up was celebrating May Day with a basket and special ceremonies outside where the flag pole was decorated. 
A May Basket is a flower-filled basket given out as gifts by adults and children in the tradition of the ancient Roman and Druid holiday of May Day. May 1st is a centuries-long celebration of spring turning into the pleasures of summer. May Day baskets can be given to friends, family and neighbors as well as to nursing home/care facilities residents. 
Perhaps you recall making a basket, setting it on your neighbor's doorstep or hung from the front doorknob, ringing the bell and running like crazy so no one knew it was you who left it behind. 

In school we would weave strips of construction paper to create a basket, adding tissue paper flowers, candy and packet of seeds.
Several years later I worked at a school where we would make up May Day baskets to distribute in the neighborhood. Each basket included a cheery note to brighten some one's day and a packet of seeds. The baskets were hung on their front doorknobs or set on the front steps.
It's not too late to send along a basket full of cheer.
Here are a few easy ideas to get you started.

Take note how easy it would be to make these flowers. Use a Popsicle stick for stem and a Hershey kiss for flower center. The basket cone shape can be made from scrapbooking paper. There's still time if you hurry to make one of your own.

Life is an opportunity,
benefit from it.
Life is beauty,
admire it.
Life is a dream,
realize it.
Life is a duty,
complete it.
Life is a game,
play it.
Life is a promise,
fulfill it.
Life is sorrow,
overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.

by Mother Theresa

With Cinco de Mayo trailing close behind May Day check back on Ever Ready this week for several Mexican recipes just in time for May 5th.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Art in Bloom

A huge dose of creativity and imagination made for a very healthy Friday as I wandered through The Minneapolis Institute 160 Art in Bloom exhibits. After some four hours with a short coffee break and 103 photos later, I decided the participating floral artists and commercial designers must have read the sign below.  
The 33rd Art in Bloom was presented by The Friends of Institute. It's a four day event, a celebration of spring, where the galleries are filled with floral arrangements that mirror pieces of art found at the Institute.
This year I noticed that the artists paid as much attention to the vessels/vases that held the floral arrangements as to the overall display.  
An inviting whimsical floral display of a ballgown made of flowers was outside the building entrance 
and let's not forget the shoes for the dress.  
Inside these charming floral hats really caught my attention as well as the clothing items embellished with flowers. 
Watch as art unfolds into floral displays

Titled: Scholar's Playthings
While this floral display was stunning with the colors and materials used I found the vase extraordinary. It was helpful that many of the artists were on hand to talk about their floral display, vision and materials used. I learned this vase made of fused glass and the firing of the glass is a 14 hour process.
 Titled:Three Standing Forms in a Garden
Note the attention to detail with this representation as three similar containers were used to mimic the art piece.
Titled:Leopard Water Pitcher
One of my favorite pieces titled: Clock 

Each of the clocks were working and the floral creation below was even in sync with the time 1:26.

Titled: Rudiakshamala Necklace

Some eye catching floral displays that incorporated unusual flower varieties and/or arrangements.  

A framed window picture art that looked over the park with downtown Minneapolis skyline in the background.
The brochure advertised the event as bold, beautiful and fleeting. These words indeed salute the showcase of artistry, creativity and imagination found at Art in Bloom.  For me it was a lovely way to spend part of a spring day enjoying creative and imaginative art.   

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thursday Cuisine Go Asian

Thai Peanut Noodle Salad
Cook's notes:
Add some Asian flair to your menu with the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavors that make up Thai Peanut Noodle Salad. Top with grilled pork or pulled rotisserie chicken for a main dish.

It's packed with flavor and healthy veggies and makes a very satisfying meal. The dressing really elevates this salad to a whole new level. 
Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites

Salad Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Udon noodles (vacuum packed) or linguine noodles
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped cilantro
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • chopped peanuts
  • a variety of veggies-1/2 cup diced red pepper,1/2 cup diced yellow pepper, 1 cup matchstick carrots, 1/2 cup diced red onion, 1 cup diced cucumbers, 2 cups thinly sliced purple cabbage, 4 cups romaine lettuce
Thai Peanut Salad Dressing
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested
  • 2- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 T B. seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 TB. soy sauce
  • 3 T B. honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB. minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro 
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp. Sriracha chili sauce (1 is mild with a bite, 1.5 is medium, 2 is hot)
  • 2-4 TB. water or chicken broth
  • Cook noodles in salted water. Drain noodles and place back in pan. Cover to keep warm. 
  • If you’re not going to use noodles right away, add a drizzle of the peanut dressing and stir to coat. This will prevent the noodles from getting all clumpy. Keep dressing in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Combine dressing ingredients in a blender, pour into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir and heat until warmed. Remove from heat. 
  • Toss cooked noodles with dressing and divide among 4 bowls. When you’re ready to assemble the salad, place noodles, veggies, and chicken in a large bowl.Sprinkle with green onions, cilantro, chopped peanuts, and garnish each serving with a lime quarter. 
  • Before eating, squeeze lime juice over noodles and stir to combine.
Cooking tip: You can add meat to this dish by stir-frying shrimp or very thinly-sliced chicken (partially freeze it first) in some olive oil with a couple cloves of garlic, some fresh ginger, some green onions, soy sauce, and a small squirt or two of Sriracha chili sauce.
Days of rain and cold have sent me searching for some color and sun. I found a place that promises warmth, pops of vibrant colors and creative displays-check out the annual Art in Bloom at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (April 28-May 1) .   

2016 Signature Design 
The Laurel Tree of Carolina (Magnolia Grandiflora) Engraved and hand-colored by Georg Dionysius Ehret; after Mark Catesby 1771

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Chicken SpinachTortellini Soup and Room 13

This was a good day to catch up with Room 13. I found some things have remained the same since my last December visit
 working with iPads
enjoying books
 working on their sight words, letter sounds and writing words to make sentences
and some are still what I call "fashionistas" 
while others have changed.

This young man got glasses
this young lady lost a few teeth (wanted to make sure I saw this) 
and many were a lot taller. Several made sure I knew they were a lot smarter since I last saw them. As they slide more towards vacation countdown their teachers are faced with the monumental challenge of keeping them all engaged.    
Tortellini Spinach Chicken Soup
As the weather continues to be in an unlike spring mode comfort food in a bowl was the perfect evening meal. This recipe puts a different spin on traditional chicken noodle soup by using cheese tortellini instead of plain noodles and a healthy dose of spinach. A rotisserie chicken was a great time saver. I liked using matchstick carrots as they softened up quicker than regular sliced carrots.  
Recipe serves 5 - 6.
  • 1- 1/2 TB. olive oil
  • 1- 1/2 cups chopped carrots (from about 5 medium) or matchstick carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery (from about 3 stalks)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boxes (each 32 oz.) low sodium-chicken broth
  • 1- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 9 oz. package refrigerated three cheese tortellini
  • 1 TB. dried  parsley flakes or 1/3 cup packed Italian parsley plus more for serving
  • 1 tsp. Herbes de Provence
  • 2- 1/2 - 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken 
  • 3 large handfuls of torn baby spinach leaves, stems removed 
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add carrots, celery and onion and saute 3 - 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. 
  • Stir in chicken broth, Italian seasoning, parsley and Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low and cook 45 minutes. 
  • Add tortellini, chicken and spinach leaves. Cook  6 - 8 minutes longer (or one minute less than time listed on package you want it al dente). 
  • Serve warm, topped with chopped fresh parsley leaves. Pair the soup with garlic bread sticks. 
Note; I did not add any salt and pepper because a rotisserie chicken gives the soup enough flavor and added salt.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring for Another Salad

Keep the healthy eating going this week with another salad.
Lemon Chicken and Orzo Salad
Cook's notes: A Greek flavored salad that keeps well in the refrigerator. Make a day ahead for the flavors to meld and you'll have a delicious meal ready to go. Orzo does soak up some of the liquid so you'll need to add more dressing the second day. Making your own dressing keeps the salad on the lighter side but using a prepared dressing is another option as well as using a rotisserie chicken for saving time.
Health Boost 
Make It Vegetarian: Toss in garbanzo, chickpeas or cannelloni beans instead of the chicken 
Keep It Fresh: If don't have dill use thyme, oregano or basil. They're all big flavor boosters. 
Save it For Later: Make twice as much lemon vinaigrette for dressing the salad the next day.
Recipe adapted from People Magazine October 19 2,015 and serves 4.
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  •  3 TB. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless chicken (about 2 large breasts)
  • 3/4 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1/2 cup each diced yellow and red sweet mini bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 TB. dried parsley flakes or 2 TB. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • optional 3/4 cup sliced black olives
  • Cook orzo according to package directions al dente (omit salt if it's called for) Drain and rinse with cold water, drain and place in a large bowl.
  • In blender add lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper, garlic and dill.   Mix well and drizzle over cooked orzo and toss to coat.
  • Add chicken, cucumbers, peppers, scallions and parsley.  Mix well and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Add crumbled feta to serve with black olives. 

(April 26, 1785-January 27, 1851)

John James Audubon was the founder of modern ornithology. He was also an explorer, woodsmen, hunter, prolific writer, painter and self-promoter. He is considered to be one of the world’s greatest bird painters. His masterpiece, "The Birds of America"(1827-1839), depicts almost five hundred North American bird species, each image—lifelike and life size—rendered in vibrant color.
Check out Nancy Plain's award winning book "This Strange Wilderness".
Her book is well researched and meticulously documented with appendix, glossary, source notes, bibliography, and illustration credits included in the back of the book. Nancy effectively captures the essence of Audubon’s personal journey to uncharted places where no one had seen, drawn, or written so much about the animals and birds of this young country. In Audubon’s words, “My whole mind was ever filled with my passion for rambling.” 

I found Nancy's book to be a work of art. The first thing you will notice is the quality of paper used to print this book. It is further enhanced by Audubon’s beautiful watercolor reproductions. Nancy noted that Audubon’s birds glow with life and look real enough to hop off the page and fly away. This high quality volume combined with Nancy’s mesmerizing prose elevates this book above many on the same subject. 

“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang the best.” 
John James Audubon