Category Archives: Holidays

Buehler?……Buehler?

I woke up at an ungodly hour to put in a few miles in honor of National Running Day!  My injury has been much better the past couple weeks, so I felt safe running a little.  My trail of choice for a 6am run was the Al Buehler cross-country trail that surrounds the Washington Duke Inn on Duke’s west campus.  My car was one of two when I got there a little before sunrise, and when I left 45 minutes later, there was a line to find a parking spot.  Obviously, it’s the place to be!  Probably because it’s supposed to get up to 98 degrees today (seems like Durham has confused itself with south Florida) and running at 6am provided the best temperature option.

The trail itself is great, with scenic views of the WaDu’s golf course.  However, there are a few hills that no matter how many times I run them, I will always mutter certain 4-letter words under my breath because they are HORRIBLE.  I walked them all today, and even still, they’re a bit ridiculous.  But, among the soft sunlight and chirping birds, I had a very peaceful run.  

Go outside and get a run or walk in today!  Or, read through the list of 10 Ways to Celebrate National Running Day and do the one that’s best for you.  It’ll make you feel good!

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On Top of the World

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Earth Week!  This week (really April 17th – 22nd) is a chance to not just learn more about environmental impacts that you incur on the environment every day, but also to make some changes to make your life better, and hopefully the planet a little better.

I’ve loved this holiday week since elementary school.  Yes, it may be weird, but Earth Day was always one of my favorites!  The highlight of Earth Day came in P.E. class each year.  My school had these huge inflatable Earth balls (and oddly are available for sale on Ebay!).  I would run, jump, and roll onto the top, trying not to fall off as my teachers kept the ball rolling.  As corny as it sounds, I really was on top of the world then, and it was a great feeling. 

Well, I do not get a free Earth Week to just play outside with huge balloons anymore, but I still find ways to celebrate the planet each April.  If you’re looking for a way to make a difference this Earth Week, just make a pledge or attend a local event.  You’ll help raise awareness and probably learn some new things, too.

Another option — just take a walk and marvel at what Mother Nature has to offer.  I went for a walk this evening in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on campus.  These gardens are one of my very favorite places to visit at Duke, and are absolutely gorgeous this time of year.  Spring is definitely their time to shine. 

Enjoy the pictures!  I was amazed by many of the plants and flowers I saw, and just being able to see, smell, and take photos of them made me feel like I was on top of the world again.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. 

– Native American Proverb

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day…

…a day late! This no computer thing has put a bit of a damper on my posting abilities, but at least it allows me to extend the holiday for a bit longer.

Yesterday made me think about the word “green” for obvious reasons. Being the nerd that I am, I looked it up.  Dictionary.com gives a whopping total of 33 definitions!  That’s a substantial number, but I actually think there could be more.

“Green” was an apparent theme throughout my day yesterday, and thought it would be fun to share how many ways one word can mean a different thing based on the context.

 

For starters, I made sure to wear green clothing to show my spirit for the holiday.
Definition #1 – “Of the color of growing foliage.”


I ate my greens at lunch yesterday.
Definition #22b – “The leaves and stems of plants, as spinach, lettuce, or cabbage, used for food.”


After my training class ended, I went for a run and saw many bright greens filled with sunbathing, relaxed UNC students (yes, I ventured into enemy territory).
Definition #24 – “A piece of grassy ground constituting a town or village common”


I had my hair cut by a green stylist at a salon on the main drag in Chapel Hill.  He had only been on the salon’s floor cutting hair for a month but did a nice job!
Definition #7 – “untrained; inexperienced

 

I felt green when mid-shampoo, I was told to evacuate the salon because the fire alarm went off.  This led to almost 200 hair stylists and their clients flooding onto the main downtown thoroughfare in Chapel Hill in the middle of the afternoon.  While I could have been annoyed or embarrassed that I had sopping wet hair and a black gown on in public, the whole experience was hysterical to me and very enjoyable.
Definition #11- “full of life and vigor”

 

A good stylist checked his client's highlights while we were evacuated.

 

I think that last definition is the one of my favorites for the word “green.”  It goes along with joie de vivre quite nicely.

Hope you all enjoyed the holiday!  Let’s hope I get my computer back soon!

 

*All definitions from Dictionary.com.

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St. Patrick Makes an Early Stop in Raleigh

Raleigh hosts the Southeast’s 2nd largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, and it took place yesterday afternoon!  A 90-minute parade was followed by the Wearin’ ‘O the Green festival that boasted plenty of Irish dancing, fair-style fried foods, and Irish beers galore.  Downtown Raleigh is home to many Irish pubs, so people of all ages and background (Irish or not) got a bit rambunctious.

I made sure to wear green and enjoy a Harp lager in the sunshine.  It was perfect festival weather!

 
Unfortunately I left the memory card to my digital camera at home, so I used my phone to take all pictures.  I think they came out pretty well, surprisingly.  Enjoy!

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Red Beans and Ricely Yours…

Trivia question of the day:  Who used to sign cards and letters with the above statement in order to show his love for red beans and rice?  Answer appears at the bottom of this post!

So, hi there!  It’s been a while.  Hectic week or so yet again, but hopefully I can make up for it.  Today is Fat Tuesday after all.  Happy Mardi Gras to all Cajuns, Creoles, and wannabes (like me) out there! 

Today, I was in the mood to make something spicy and of course, in honor of the holiday.  One of my grandads is from Louisiana, and I’ve grown up loving Cajun and Creole food of all sorts.  Shrimp étouffé, gumbo, jambalaya, okra in general…I love it all.  Tony Chachere’s is a staple in my pantry, and I continuously turn friends onto it that have never heard of this seasoning blend sent from the gods.  If you don’t know Tony….you need to meet him at your local grocery store ASAP.  He will change your life. 

 

After mentally debating about what to make for dinner tonight, I settled on red beans and rice.    It’s a classic Creole dish that’s hearty, healthy, and wholesome.  It has delicious spice to it, but more so in the flavor than heat.

I made mine a little healthier than normal since I didn’t use a ham hock, but that’s just me.  If you have an extra hock around the house, by all means, put it to good use!  My version may not be the most traditional, and yes I took a shortcut with canned beans, but I think it will satisfy any craving you have for good N’awlins-style food today!

Red Beans and Rice
Serves 2 to 3 as an entrée

1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
½ Tbsp. butter or margarine
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
½ cup finely chopped green pepper (typically bell, but you can use jalapeno for a little more heat and smokiness)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. ground thyme
¼ tsp. ground red pepper
½ tsp. Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning Blend
1- 14.5oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup water or low-sodium chicken broth
dash of hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 cup rice
2 cups water

In a large pan, heat oil and butter or margarine over medium-low to medium heat.  Add in the holy trinity (onion, pepper, celery), stir to coat in oil, and cook for 2 minutes. 

Add in garlic and all seasonings, and cook for another minute.  Add beans to pan, and lightly smash some down using the back of a spoon.  Pour in the water or broth, and bring pan to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Let cook for 10 to 15 minutes.  When bean mixture is thickened, taste and add hot sauce.

Serve over rice prepared according to package.

 

 

And in case you’re feeling a tad….thirsty…..here’s a drink recipe to help you feel a little closer to the French Quarter.  I made these once in college with a roommate.  A hurricane was headed straight towards our school, which cracked me up because I’m from Florida, and I couldn’t even escape from the storms while living in western Virginia.  There was no better way to celebrate a potential hurricane-day off from school than by making a special trip to the liquor store and concocting these on a Tuesday night.  I miss college.


New Orleans Hurricane
Makes 1 drink

2 oz. dark rum
1 oz. white rum
3 oz. passionfruit juice (use orange if you can’t find passionfruit)
3 oz. pineapple juice
splash of grenadine
citrus slice for garnish

Add rums and juices to a mixer filled with ice and shake or stir well to combine.  Pour over ice and add a splash of grenadine for color.  Serve with an orange or lime slice.

These are the actual drinks we made that night...still have the picture!

 

Trivia answer:  If you said Louis Armstrong, famous New Orleanian jazz trumpeter and singer, you were right!  Give yourself a pat on the back and laissez les bon temps rouler!

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Baked Chocolate “Donuts”…Oh My

“How bad is it if my dinner consists only of chocolate donuts?”

After conducting a quality control test of the batter (always a necessary step) and then the final product of my experiment, I was so incredibly satisfied that I had to send the above text message right away.  Partly because I was ecstatic that I baked something that didn’t feel as hard as a brick when finished, and partly because I knew that if I didn’t keep my fingers busy with something besides these donuts, there wouldn’t be any left to take pictures of.  Oh my, my, these are fantastic. 

I have to warn you that these are not your typical donuts.  If you are envisioning steamy Krispy Kreme glazed beauties to pop out of the oven…stop.  These looked more like cupcakes (I don’t own a donut pan and didn’t really want to go buy one) but they taste just like cake donuts from Dunkin’.  Nutmeg is the key ingredient to this flavor, so don’t leave it out!

If you have a donut pan, go on and use it.  But by no means is it necessary.  Once topped with a quick and easy chocolate glaze, you will see the beauty in these giant, baked donut-holes and will probably wish to make them your dinner, as well.  Seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day, I think chocolate for dinner is perfectly acceptable.


Baked Chocolate Donuts
Makes 9 to 10 “donuts”

Adapted from King Arthur Flour recipe

7/8 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. kosher salt
dash of ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. plain non-fat yogurt 
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside.
2.  Using a hand mixer (or just a whisk), mix yogurt, eggs, and oil in a small bowl until well combined and foamy.
3.  Add the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined.  Batter will be thick and very gooey.

4.  Heat oven to 375 F, and grease muffin pan (or donut pan) with butter or cooking spray.
5.  Fill cups half-way with dough.
6.  Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.  Check every minute once they reach the 7-minute mark (all ovens are different).  You know they’re ready when you gently touch the tops and the dough springs back without sinking. 
7.  Let rest for 5 minutes before gently removing from muffin cups and placing on a cooling rack.


Quick Chocolate Glaze
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. milk

1.  In a small saucepan, heat butter and chocolate chips over medium-low until chips are melted.
2.  Beat in sugar and milk.  Until just combined.
3.  Drizzle glaze over donuts while still warm.  Let rest for 5 minutes to harden.

“All I need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Lucy van Pelt, from Peanuts by Charles Schulz

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Kale and White Bean Penne

In need of a good Valentine’s Day dinner recipe?  Then look no further than this one.  Sure, it may be a little garlicky, but that’s not an issue to me.  If I get married in the future, the hubs better be able to handle me smelling like onions and garlic or else it just won’t work.

This, on the other hand, works.  It’s easy, filling, and delicious.  Plus, Listerine was invented for a reason. 

Kale and White Bean Penne
Serves 4 to 6

12 to 15 leaves of kale
10 oz. whole wheat penne
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. capers
½ to 1 Tbsp. caper juice (to your preference)
½ cup dry white wine
15oz. can diced tomatoes (no salt added variety)
15oz. can great northern beans, rinsed
15oz. can cannelini beans, rinsed
Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1. Rinse kale and remove tough stems from leaves.  Pile 3 to 4 leaves on top of each other at a time, roll them together into a log, and slice into 1/2″ strips (this is called chiffonade).  Place shreds into a bowl and save for later.
2. In a pot, boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.
3. While pasta cooks, heat oil over medium in a large pan. Cook onions for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and caper juice.  Cook for another minute stirring constantly.
4. Add drained tomatoes, beans, and wine to mixture.  Allow wine to boil and cook another 4 to 5 minutes.
5. Smash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.  Add a little water if desired (½ to 1 cup).
6. When pasta is done cooking, toss the kale into the hot water.  It will cook quickly, and as soon as the color turns a vibrant, bright green, it’s done (about 30 seconds).
7. Drain pasta and kale, return to pot.  Add sauce, and stir to coat.
8.  Grate cheese on top of pasta before serving.

**Note:  You probably will not need to add salt to the dish as both capers and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese have very salty flavors themselves.  Taste before adding any additional salt!

**Double Note:   If you’re really concerned about having garlic breath, just leave the capers and caper juice out.  It’s an easy fix, and the dish will still taste great.

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