The Food Fight Is Over…

I win!

Well, that’s it! After a year of waiting to see it come to pass, Food Fighters finally aired and I can say with joy: this little mama threw down and beat some of the best chefs in the world!

I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion this last week as we awaited the episode. It was exciting giving interviews and seeing my story unfold in the media… but I was nervous to see how it all would come together. Thankfully, I LOVED IT.  So, thank you Electus and NBC – I am honored you chose me to be part of this amazing project.

Words cannot do justice to the experience of competing on Food Fighters. Nothing I say will ever help you fully grasp the emotions – the anxiety, stress, fear, and excitement! – I felt as each new chef walked on stage. While America watched an hour long episode, in reality the competition took hours upon hours to unfold.  The freshness I took to the first couple rounds was soon zapped by the pressure, and by the end of the day I was exausted, dehydrated, and running on nothing but pure adrenaline.  It was so hard; and, you can see the nerves started to take their toll as I began making mistakes in my last two rounds! Thank God He pulled me through and I was able to recover after that devestating loss to Marcel! UGH! I honestly didn’t think I could keep going…

I am so thankful for ALL OF YOUR LOVE you’ve poured out on my blog, facebook, and twitter. It especially warmed my heart to hear from fellow Guamaians expressing pride over seeing our island represented on national TV. Yay, Guam!!!

Here are answers to some of the questions I’ve received (and that you may be wondering about):

Q: How did the morning show in Seattle go? 

I kicked off yesterday in Seattle where I appeared on New Day Northwest. We talked Food Fighters, and I made a chocolate quinoa pudding – a ‘healthified’ version of a traditional Guamanian dish called ‘champulado’. Here’s the segment:

Q: When are you going to Guam?

Good question! Lord willing, it will work to go this December. My hope is to be there for about a month. It takes almost a full 24 hours to get there – and airfare alone will be close to $12,000! So, if we’re going, the plan is to stay as long as we can and make the most of it. We have tons of family to see. PLUS I really want to work on a Guamanian food series while I’m there. Guamanian food is exceptional… and I plan to continue sharing our food and culture with the world.

Q: What happened to your finger?
Ohmygosh – my finger! At the beginning of the second round my nerves had me shaking so bad! I had to cut open the plastic bag the fish was sealed in and, while I held it in one hand and sliced at it with the other, the tip of the exteremely sharp pearing knife knicked me just enough to cause a small problem. Thankfully it took just a minute to wrap it up and I got right back to cooking. Thank God it didn’t jeapordize my round!

Q: Can you share your recipes?
NBC has all the recipes HERE.

Also, check out the ‘extras’ from the NBC website:


Q: I missed the show… where can I watch it?

NBC has the full episode posted HERE.

Anyway, while I don’t think I’m fully processing anything in my brain just yet, I couldn’t let today go by without saying THANK YOU for your support, encouragement, and for cheering me on! Food Fighters was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my woman skin… and, I am grateful for every minute of it.

So, again, thank you for being here with me… and I hope you’ll watch every week and make Food Fighters one of the summer’s best new shows!

Much love to you, my sweet friends.

 

It’s Finally Here: NBC Food Fighters!

In less than 12 hours, millions of people will be watching as I battle against five of the best chefs in the world on NBC’s brand new culinary competition, “Food Fighters”.

I’ve been sitting at this computer for over an hour trying to figure out what to say about it… and, to be honest: I’m speechless. Even though it’s happening, I can’t kick the feeling that this is too good to be true. Me? Really? Am I really going to be on NBC? Really?

I’m humbled.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m honored.

I’m grateful.

And, more than anything, I give all glory to my Heavenly Father for bringing me to this place and to this opportunity, for I am nothing without His grace and mercy over my life.

Wow. Wow. WOW.

I guess the only thing left to say as we push forward to 8pm tonight is… LET THE FOOD FIGHT BEGIN!!

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Photo Credit: Food Fighters, NBC Universal

TUNE IN!

Watch Food Fighters TONIGHT (Tuesday, July 22nd) @8pm ET/PT on NBC

Grilled Beef Bone and Quinoa Kadu Soup

One thing my nana frequently said as I walked into her kitchen to eat was “All I had was ‘x’, but look… I made something real good.”  She’d say it as she was pulling the lid off the pot of steaming yumminess, or removing the napkin from the plate of freshly fried beauty. I’d sit at her tiny table, roosters crowing outside and mosquitos on my legs, and she’d serve me ‘all that she had’.

Nana with the ever present kitchen towel over her shoulder

Nana with the ever present kitchen towel over her shoulder

If ‘all she had’ was a coconut milk and some flour, we’d end up with some handmade tortillas that would blow your mind.

Nana making her homemade tortillas

Nana making her homemade tortillas

Or, if ‘all she had’ was overripe bananas off our tree, we’d get buñelos aga (banana donuts). Most of the time, though, ‘all she had’ was a potato and a small piece of beef (or even beef bones) out of the freezer, or a couple pieces of chicken from the neighbor and some pumpkin tips out of her yard. And, when that was ‘all she had’, we’d end up with kadu.

Kadu is the Chamorro variation of a broth soup and it’s what I was raised on. It would be 85-90 degrees outside; I’d be sticky from the heat, yet I couldn’t wait to get off the school bus and let nana serve me a bowl. Almost every day I ate kadu over rice with a generous helping of finedene and ice cold rain water to wash it down. And, while I don’t have my sweet nana anymore, every time I make kadu I do it with her heart and feel her right her with me.

For nana, kadu was typically beef or chicken, onions, garlic and water since that was usually ‘all she had’.  While I often make it just as she did, this has become one of my favorite versions:

Grilled Beef Bone Quinoa Kadu

When you have leftover BBQ bones, this is a beautiful way to use them. I mean, even when you cut off all the meat you think you can, look how meaty they still are!

leftover porterhouse steak bones

So, next time you BBQ and have leftover bones, gather these ingredients and turn those meaty bones into a beautiful summer kadu:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 cups of water
  • a couple pounds of beef bones
  • 1/2 pound or so of any cut of steak (fat trimmed)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the best)
  • Black pepper and salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a rapid boil.

Once it boils, cover, and turn heat down to just above simmer. Allow soup to simmer for 3-4 hours on stove top until the bones are dry and the meat can be pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the bones. Serve over precooked quinoa; and, when you set it before those you love, I hope you’ll say, “All I had was leftover bones, but look – I made something real good.”

(I miss you, nana.)

This photo was taken a handful of days before my sweet nana passed away.

This photo was taken a handful of days before my sweet nana passed away.

 

 

 

Pepper Boats Filled With Lemony Quinoa Tuna Salad

Growing up, my mom didn’t cook often.  She could cook – and when she did she filled our house with delicious Puerto Rican inspired food – my favorite being her famed tostones with a sprinkle of sea salt. But, since my nana lived with us and my nana lived to cook, over time I think my mom just leaned into nana’s love and was happy to let the responsiblity of cooking regular meals out of her hands.

With that said, my mom was our snack queen. It was my mama that took our armfuls of just harvested avocados and whipped together the guacamole we’d devour by the spoonful; it was my mama that mixed our over-ripe papayas, bananas, and mangos into cold cottage cheese; it was my mama that would take our just-picked calamansi lemons and squeeze warm juice over green pepper boats filled tuna. Yep, it was my mama that welcomed us in from the mid-day, sticky island heat and made in-between meal snacking something of refreshing delight.

So yesterday, as I retreated inside from the 90 degree weather craving something light and refreshing for mid-afternoon sustenance, I spied these two things…

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and, as a vision of my mama flashed through my mind, I knew what I had to make: pepper boats filled with lemony quinoa tuna salad.

All you need is 5 minutes and:

  • 1/2 cup of pre-cooked quinoa
  • a can of tuna (I like the tuna in olive oil because it’s less dry)
  • 1 sweet bell pepper
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 TBS of soy sauce (or liquid amines which taste almost identical)
  • 1 TBS of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of black pepper

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Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil...

Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil…

drizzle with soy sauce...

drizzle with soy sauce…

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squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mixture.

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Next, slice the cheeks off the pepper so you end up with pieces like this…

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and, after you’ve mixed your tuna salad really well, fill the cheeks like this.

Since there’s no mayo or sticky binder in the salad, yes – the filling might be a little loose as you eat. But hey – it’s summertime! Make up a plate, head outside in the shade, and don’t let a little mess get to you. The kids with popsciles dripping down their arms don’t seem to care… :)

Crowd-Pleasing Golden Potato Honey Citrus Quinoa Salad

 

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Last week while we were in California, my man’s little hometown had a pre-Fourth of July potato salad contest.

“I’m going to enter,” I announced the morning of.

“You don’t make potato salad,” he said with a laugh.

He was right. Potato salad isn’t something in my normal repertoire of food. I didn’t grow up with it, I’ve never been a fan of store-bought versions, and I’m not a big user of mayonnaise in many things. None of those facts were going to stop me from trying, though.

“Hey, but I do know quinoa,” I announced with a confident smile. “So I’m just going to make a quinoa salad that’s heavy on the potatoes.” We high fived and I was off to the kitchen.

The key for quinoa (and most any salad, really) is it only tastes as good as the things you put in it. So, I asked my mother in law what’s typically in a potato salad then decided simple and ‘traditional’ ingredients would be the base for my quinoa: potatoes, hardboiled eggs, celery, and green onions. Regardless of the ingredients, though, I knew what mattered most was my dressing – and I needed something that seemed traditional even though I was going against the grain and not using mayo. Hmmmm….

It took a bit for the flavors of the dressing to come together just right. I tasted, amended, tasted again, amended a little more, and then, when I felt it was done, I called in the big guns: my girls. They are my thumbs up, thumbs down critics – and I can always count on the truth and nothing but the truth when it comes to my food.

“What are you making,” Kenna asked with Selah in toe.

“Here, it’s the potato salad I’m taking to enter in the store’s contest,” I said as I maneuvered a bite into her mouth.

Three, four, five seconds passed as she let the flavors fall on her palate. She was looking me in the eye the whole time she chewed.

“Mmmmm, I’ll have another bite,” she said as she grabbed a new spoon and dug into the bowl.

“I want to try it, too,” Selah said, almost as if she was being left out of something spectacular.

Now I had both of them chewing… both of them saying ‘mmmmm’ as they looked at me and each other… and both of them asking for their own little bowl to take out by the pool for lunch. I was pleasantly surprised, to be totally honest – surprised I got them to eat potato salad! But they did – and they loved it – and it was time to get it to the store.

I walked my quinoa potato salad to the back of the market hosting the challenge and threw my proverbial hat in the ring. I was told they were only expecting 5 or 6 entries for the contest, but when I arrived there were close to 30! I didn’t have high expectations. I recognize with food that ‘good’ is subjective… and dressing my quinoa potato salad with a non-mayonaise, non-traditional dressing in this All-American town was a stretch. But, we can’t win if we don’t try, right?

Did I win? …no. And, that’s okay. When they announced the winner it was a gal a little older than me – a local mom that screamed a little when she heard her name then called her daughter with the news. She was so excited for the $500 prize I got a little teary-eyed seeing that blessing fall down on her and make her day. “It was my grandma’s recipe,” she bubbled as I congratulated her – her face was bright and her eyes were beaming. Her joy warmed my heart.

was declared a ‘Crowd Favorite’ made it to the top 5 judge off, though. And you know what else? While I wasn’t the champion of the store’s competition, the fact I got my girls to not only try this salad but ask for more… well, that’s all the win this mama needs to feel like a champion.

So, in case you’re looking to please a crowd tomorrow with your potato salad and you love quinoa and you love going against the grain of ‘traditional’, I highly suggest giving this a try. :)

Ingredients for Salad:

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5 pounds gold potatoes, chopped into small cubes and boiled in salted water until soft
3 cups cooked quinoa
5 hardboiled eggs, diced
1 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped green onions

Ingredients for Dressing:

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3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2  cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 rice vinegar
2-3 TBSP fresh dill, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed
1 TBSP mustard (yellow or dijon)
1 TBSP honey
1 TBSP lemon zest
1 TBSP + 1 tsp sea salt
1 TBSP + 1 tsp black pepper

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Dice your potatoes in little cubes then place them in a pot of salted water to boil til soft

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While your potatoes boil, whisk all your dressing ingredients together, and set aside.

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When potatoes prick easy with a fork, drain them and put them into a large bowl. Add your diced hardboiled eggs, celery, and green onions.

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Pour your dressing over the mixture.

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Stir the mixture until all ingredients are evenly coated, then add your quinoa and stir again to incorporate.

Then…. ENJOY!

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(NOTE: This recipe will feed 20-25 people.)

Have a wonderful and SAFE Fourth of July! As always, I’m honored you’re here with me…

 

Going Back Home

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…We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame… Romans 5:3,4

 

We just returned from our annual summer kick-off road trip from Portland to Acton, California. We spent two days driving down, spent seven full days with our family, and then took two more days to drive home. For the last three years we’ve skipped town the week after the kids get out of school because you can never, ever count on Portland weather til after July 4th… and, so, we’ve learned: no reason to sit around wasting the first couple weeks of summer in June gloom!

While we typically journey the I5 for ease, this time we took the ‘scenic’ route and headed down the 101. We made a journey through the Redwoods – a journey my man and I last made when we were 21 and just out of college. Back then, it was just us – holding hands, hiking through the massive trees, making stops along the way to picnic and savor ‘dating’ in the ancients. This time, however, we saw it through our babies eyes… eyes that said ‘wow’, and then about 15 minutes into it said, “now how much longer to grandma’s house?”

We spent the night not too far from the Redwoods and the next morning continued down the 101 to the 5 – a route that took us smack dab through my childhood hometown of San Leandro, California. San Leandro was home for me from when I was about 3 ’til I was 8. It’s where my dad had his gyms; it’s where I tap danced; it’s where I had a best friend Beth; it’s where a neighborhood boy took me home on his bicycle handlebars and hit a bump so hard I went flying and scraped off the entire side of my face; it’s where I picked raw sunflower seeds out of the huge sunflowers that hung over the fence two doors down. And, since I hadn’t seen the house since we left over 33 years ago, I knew I couldn’t drive through without going back home.

I had no clue what our old address was, so I called my dad. “It’s on Corvallis St,” he said. “I don’t remember the number, but for some reason 356 sticks out in my mind. I think it must be 356.” I mapped it – we were less than 5 miles away.

As we routed to Corvallis street, I didn’t recognize a thing. I drove slowly with hopes something would jog a memory, but even as we drove down Corvallis, nothing seemed familiar. I remember a tree-lined street, yet the street was very sparse on trees. I remember a quaint little road, but Corvallis had a double yellow line down the middle and was obviously a main thoroughfare. I remember kids playing in fronts of houses and swings on trees and kids on bikes, but I didn’t see one child – just aging folks on slow missions. I started to think maybe my dad had it wrong… but then I saw it. I slowed – and then I stopped right across the street to take it in and make sure. The skin on my arms stood up and announced loud and clear I was officially on the sacred ground of my childhood.

It was so much smaller than I remember… much, much smaller. I didn’t remember it sat on a corner, either. The fence was gone – the big fence that held us kids and all our problems hidden from the world. The big tree was gone – the tree that sat just beside our front door where I’d swing for hours as my nana would cook our meals on her outside wood burning stove. It was not everything I remembered, but yet my heart knew the instant I saw it that I was home.

My eyes welled with tears and I fought the urge to weep. “That’s it. That’s my house,” I said through my tears. “That’s it…” I just sat there, window down, hoping the little man of the house painting the front concrete wall wouldn’t turn and notice me. I didn’t want to be noticed.

Being there instantly overwhelmed me. I felt a rush of anguish from the pets my young heart loved and lost there: two dogs we put down because of a rare skin disorder, a kitten that died in my lap on our front porch, a rabbit that my dogs got to and played to death, and numerous hamsters to who knows what. I could see my Holly Hobby bedspread on my hand-me-down antique brass bed; my plastic yellow record player that sang to me when yelling filled our halls; nights in front of the TV watching Hardy Boys (and my heartthrob Shawn Cassidy); and, I could see my nana – my rock. (Oh, how I miss that old lady.) I felt the pain of being told on my 6th birthday, “If you’re always this bossy you’ll never have friends“; my mind’s eye saw my parent’s fights and struggles in those early years, and the ackwardness and angst I felt in that home.

Seeing my home created an emotional whirlpool and I simply couldn’t hold back the tears.  “Are you okay, mommy?” my little guy asked as he reached his little hand over my seat and touched my neck.

“Yes, honey, I’m okay.”

As I sat there staring at the new life that corner was obviously living, my tears fell, not because of hard memories (although there were many), but because of the realization of the new life I live today. I cried not because I hurt from remembering – I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else, the little girl who lived there made it out. I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else, my babies have a better life than I did. I cried because, by the grace of God and nothing else…

He has given BEAUTY for the ashes of my childhood

He has given STRENGTH for the fear of my childhood

He has given JOY for the mourning I once felt

He has filled my life with PRAISE instead of the despair I was destined for.

While I don’t revel in the trials of my 41 years, remembering where I’ve come from (and what I should have and could have been had my Father not saved me) humbles me and fills me with gratitude and thankfulness. That’s why I cried… because by remembering where I’ve come from, I am overwhelmed by the kindness, grace, mercy and love of my great big God.

Life will never be easy or perfect – even though Facebook wants us to think it is and should be. No, there are struggles, and misunderstandings; we hurt people, and people hurt us – often unintentionally; and, every single one of us comes from a past with disappointments, failures, and things we wish we could just wipe away.  No matter where we’ve been, however, every day is a new day… a new day to love, to forgive, to let go, to appreciate.

Every day is a new day to choose joy and find HOPE in this Great Story we are part of… every new day is a new day to be thankful.

TV SPOT: AM Northwest Quinoa Falafel Salad… and A GIVEAWAY

I know, I know… I’ve been MIA. Life has been a little crazy…  and, I’ve missed you.

Honestly I’ve been writing every day – but on my cookbook project instead of here on the blog. Yep – you heard me: I’m working on a cookbook! It’s an ebook, actually, and it’s a no-cook cookbook/guide on how to eat quinoa. I’ve talked about it for years; and, I’m thrilled it’s finally coming together. So, stick around, okay? Lord willing it will be ready for purchase sometime in the first two weeks of June.

Anyway, today I spent some time away from my desk and headed over to AM Northwest where it was nothing but energy from start to finish.

First, I met one of my all time favorites:

On the set of AM Northwest with Damon Wayans!

On the set of AM Northwest with Damon Wayans!

He was on the show talking about this super cool app he just created called FlickDat. (As if he wasn’t talented already, right?)

Then, I had to fly by the seat of my pants when I was told my typical six and a half minute cooking segment would have to be done in four minutes! But, we did it… and we had lots of laughs while we powered through:

http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/A-Healthy-Spring-Garden-Greens-Salad-261018291.html

And now, I’m back at my desk and excited to… DO ANOTHER GIVEAWAY!!!

Yep! My friend, Nick Evans from Macheesmo, has this gorgeous new book out called “Love Your Leftovers“… and I’m honored he’s given me FOUR copies to give away to YOU! See my giveaway spiel here.

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Here’s where you enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Okay, now back to my ebook… and another cup of coffee.

Good luck – thanks for being here!

Get Ready: Whole Foods Greenway Opens TOMORROW (5/21/14)!

I’m not a grocery store loyalist. I go to where the gettin’ is good… which means I typically hit three to four spots before my grocery shopping is complete. Wherever I shop, though, my focus is the same: QUALITY. I want minimally processed, ideally organic, as local as possible, BEAUTIFUL ingredients for my cooking…. and Whole Foods is regularly at the top of my list.

This past weekend I was invited to preview a brand new Whole Foods opening in Tigard, Oregon at 12220 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road. And, you know what? I was beyond impressed. Not only did this store open 140 new jobs, provide a $2000 garden grant (in partnership with FoodCorps) to Mary Woodward Elementary, and donate a palate of food to Tigard’s Good Neighbor Center – the store itself is an environmentally friendly stunner.

What I loved  most about the new Greenway store is how quaint it felt. Unlike the grocery Disneyland I feel I’m in when I’m at some of their bigger stores, the Greenway store gave me ease.  It’s smaller in scale (it replaced the old Lamb’s Thriftway), and every section felt like a little store within a store – kinda like shopping at an indoor farmers market.

But, hey, I’ll let pictures tell the story:

Overall this new store has everything you’ll expect from a Whole Foods:

  • 100% satisfaction on everything you buy
  • an exceptional offering of items from local vendors (over 500 in the store!)
  • local flowers whenever possible
  • extensive wine / craft beer / craft cider offerings
  • a full service seafood counter offering seafood that is 100% traceable. Wild caught fish is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which is the gold standard for wild caught seafood… and their farmed fish options are all sustainably raised.
  • a full service meat counter that will grind or season your meat choices at no extra cost. They feature the best-tasting, freshest, highest quality meats you can buy; all meat is from animals carefully raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones.
  • a full service, artisan bakery with more than just typical sweets, and many are baked for diet alternatives, too!
  • a gorgeous coffee and juice bar offering Allegro coffee, and freshly made-to-order smoothies and juice

And, this store also has some unique offerings you won’t find anywhere else:

  • It’s the ONLY store in Oregon with a fish fry program. Yep – just pick your fish, tell them how you want it seasoned, and they’ll fry it up for you at no extra cost!
  • It’s the first store to also have in-store smoked seafood.
  • It’s the only store in Oregon with a ‘street food’ inspired food court. And you know what? They’re open to suggestions for what YOU want to see offered by the cart!

So, when does the Tigard Whole Foods open for business?

TOMORROW!

May 21, 2014, with festivities beginning at 8:30am.

12220 S.W. Scholls Ferry Road

Here’s the scoop on the opening day festivities I encourage you to drop in for:

8:30am – forget ribbon cutting, it’s bread breaking time! Tigard Mayor John Cook, and Beaverton City Councilor Betty Bode, will join Whole Foods Market regional leadership, local suppliers and community partners to break a 4-food long loaf of challah bread, and welcome shoppers into the gorgeous new store.

9:00am – door OPEN!

  • The first 100 visitors will receive a Whole Foods gift card ranging from $10-$100! (Gift cards will be handed out in random order.)
  • All WF 365 Everyday items (some of my favorite, by the way), will be 25% off
  • There will be local vendors galore sampling out their goodies, including: Olympic Provisions, Unbound Pickling, Three Sisters Nixtamal, French Prairie Pork, Aurora Valley Poultry Farms chicken, Henry Higgens Boiled Bagels, Red Ridge Farms Oregon Olive Oil, Blue Fox Farms produce, and Gonzalez Farms berries.
  • There’s a cut-and-wrap truckload sale on Copper River Salmon going on from 11am-5pm; and,
  • the Southridge Jazz ensemble will play live music during a local wine tasting.

The WF Regional President, Joe Rogoff said, “We designed our Greenway store to cater specifically to the families and residents of this community. We hope the store will become a community gathering place, and a destination for high-quality, affordable food with a focus on local, healthy, organic, and fresh.”

And, you know what? They really did… and I hope so, too.

If you see me there, be sure to say HELLO! I’d love to give you a hug….

4 Mexican Dishes You Want to Make (And Eat!) This Cinco De Mayo

OK, peeps, today is Cinco de Mayo and, in case you didn’t know, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day. No, the 5th of May is celebrated to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over Napoleon’s French forces at the Battle of Puebla.

In any event, even if it is more of an American holiday these days, since Mexican food is probably on the brain today I thought I’d remind you of 4 of my favorite Mexican dishes you can throw together in a snap:

1) Homemade pinto beans.

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My pinto beans just went into the pot!

Right now, do this: pull out your crock pot and add  2 cups of dried pinto beans, 6 cups of water, 1 onion chopped into quarters, 3 peeled and smashed garlic cloves, 1 tsp of cumin, 2 tsp sea salt, 2 tsp of black pepper. Cook for 5 hours on high (or 8 hours on low). These will be the most amazing pintos you’ve ever had.

2) Almost instant chicken fajitas (and you don’t need a fajita flavor packet to make it happen).
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(Make a quick run to the store sometime today and grab a rotisserie chicken, some bell peppers, and corn tortillas today and throw these together.)

3) Homemade red and green salsas with  Juanita’s (the ONLY tortillas chips I buy).

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(Seriously, MAKE THESE SALSAS. They come together in a flash and will make you think you’re sitting in Mexico for dinner tonight.)

4) Use QUINOA for a ‘tortilla-less burrito bowl‘. (While my kids gravitate towards burritos and tacos with tortillas, you know me: quinoa is my foundation for everything.)

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And don’t forget to put out a gorgeous array of fresh fixings like cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, onions, lettuce, lime wedges, and fresh diced jalapeño… and shredded cheddar cheese! Everything goes better with FRESH.

Have fun, everyone!

And hey: Let me know what YOUR favorite homemade Mexican dish is!

Five Ways To Lay Down The Truck Driver

Sometimes-a-break-from-your-routine-is-the-very-thing-you-need

Last week I hurt my neck/shoulder/back in a 6am exercise class. It pinched real quick as I did some sort of atomic push up, but I ignored it and worked through the pain. It hurt through my bear crawls, then it hurt even more through my frog jumps, and then, by the time I started sprinting, every time my left foot hit the ground it was as if I was being whipped in the center of my back. (Let’s stop and chuckle here together, okay? Laugh with me over the fact I did things called ‘atomic push ups’, ‘bear crawls’ and ‘frog jumps’… and know this: the class I’m talking about is brand new for me and the hardest thing I’ve ever forced my 40-year old body to do. Seriously.)

Because I was surrounded by amazing people who were easily rockin’ this class and doing way more ‘atomic’ stuff than I’ve ever dreamed, the last thing I wanted to do was show weakness, you know? I mean, sheesh, I’m the Quinoa Queen! I’ve birthed three babies, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m a go-getter, I’ve carried a 10 year old on my back for a mile uphill after she sprained her ankle – I CAN DO ANYTHING. But none of that stuff mattered in those moments on the the turf and, it my neck stiffened and my back tightened up, the reality hit me: I’m not as physically strong as I think.

(Isn’t that how it goes, though? We think we have it all together until something ‘pinches’ us wrong and we fall to pieces in milliseconds?)

I joked with my man after it happened and said, “Babe, I’m like a truck driver: solid, strong, independent, able to function on little sleep, and live life hauling around for everyone else.” (Can I get an amen?)

But you know what? Sometimes I don’t want to be strong, independent, and hard. Yes, I can do it – WE can do it, can’t we? And, yes, our lives as mamas often require we plug away with a firm grip, a strong back, and stiff upper lip. But I am a woman, not just a mom… and, I – WE – have to do a better job at taking care of the woman inside this mama skin.

I’ve been in a season of go-go-go, which according to the chiropractor, is why the injury decided to manifest itself. (He said by the time we feel pain the body has been pushed beyond 70% of it’s capability.) So, if any good came from getting injured last week, it’s this: it’s made me think about the FIVE WAYS I LAY DOWN THE TRUCK DRIVER:

1) Get up before crazy begins. There is something sacred about getting up not just a few minutes before, but at least an hour before everyone else. The house is quiet. I feed the cats, I put the coffee on. No one is talking, I’m not talking; my mind can wake up and process thoughts and gear up for the day’s job. And, most importantly, I pray. I don’t always sit to pray, and I don’t always even close my eyes. Sometimes I’ll just stand at my counter with my warm cup of coffee in my hands and meditate on something from the Word, or from my devotional. The key is simply that I am quiet, alert and dependent on my Great Big Father. Prayer in those early moments reminds me I’m not alone and of His beautiful, loving heart that says, “Elisha – you are My beloved. I am with you. I’ve planned today from before time began and I will not let you fall.” A scripture that seems to be on repeat in my head these days is this: “Get up, and [get your heart ready], for the Lord is about to do wonders in front of you.” In other words, if we don’t have our hearts in the right place, how can we see God working in our days? We can’t. DO IT.

2) Take a Mid-Day Coffee Break. On days where managing the house is all I’ve done, by the time the kids get home I’m wiped! So, it’s really important to ‘regroup’ before they arrive from school. I ‘clock-out’ from mama duties about an hour before and I’ll make a cup of tea, check email, go for a walk, hit the library – anything that lets me be me for just a bit before I go back into mommy mode. (It’s kinda like putting lipgloss on before my man walks through the door… it gives me a little pep in my step.) DO IT.

3) Write. Putting pen to paper in this crazy technology-driven world is cathartic. I keep a little notebook in my purse and, in stolen moments, I write my heart, my dreams… but, most importantly, I write things I’m thankful for. Slowing down to journal a few things I’m thankful for lifts the spirit and sweetens the heart. (It goes back to the idea of ‘preparing our hearts to see God’. When I can see His blessings clear enough to write them, I’m reminded of His goodness.) Sometimes it’s creative writing, sometimes it’s simply a good memory that popped to mind. It’s simply stepping outside of myself and allowing creativity to flow… and creativity is a good thing. DO IT.

4) Lay flat on your back and breathe. Seriously, when everything is in full swing around here, sometimes I steal away for just a handful of minutes, shut my bedroom door, and lay flat on my back to breathe. I roll up a towel and place it under my shoulder blades; I stretch my arms above my head while my legs are flat out in the other direction, and RELAX. I focus on my lower back being flush against the floor; I feel the stretch in my chest muscles and the relief on my posture. I do what always make me sane: PRAY. (Seriously.) DO IT.

5) Wash off the Day. I didn’t grow up with hot water in my house, literally. So, ‘hot bath’ is only something I’ve come to love as an adult – and especially since I’ve had kids. I consider a hot bath like a reverse of my morning ritual: I shut the door, no one is talking, I’m not talking, and I relax in the heat. I’ll read a magazine or a book or even play some of my favorite music (the kind no one else wants to hear during the day because it’s ‘boring’). I think, I dream, and yes, I even pray and unload all my baggage from the day. It is very therapeutic and grounding for my heart… not to mention it makes for a great night’s sleep. (Sometimes it’s just a hot shower, but it still ‘washes the day away’.) DO IT.

Not every day includes every thing… and some days I lay the truck driver down with a quick workout, a lunch date with a friend, a stop for some new mascara, or even a stint in the sauna at the gym. (If your gym has a steam or sauna, USE IT. There is nothing like a good sweat to get you back on track.)

What I hope you’re encouraged with, though, is how simple it is to reclaim a little of ourselves in the midst of our service… and, it’s vitally important to our mama work to remember we must take care of the woman God created us to be.

(Ok, I’m off… got some hauling to do before I call it quits.)

Tell me: I’d love to hear your secrets for laying down the truck driver… got any additional tips?

BTW: Thank you, thank you to everyone who entered my World Market giveaway last week! It was so fun connecting with new friends and hearing what your favorite ‘goodie’ was. Brittany over at www.modernisticmama.com was the winner… and you should check her out: she’s a cutie patootie with her second baby on the way! Congrats, Brittany!!