Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Favorite Summer Potluck Dish

We are often invited to summer picnics/cookouts where the hosts ask us to bring a side dish to share.  This is one of my go-to dishes (actually one of my favorites to bring) because there is not really anything in it that will spoil if left sitting out on the picnic table.  These are also really terrific as a side dish when you're serving a meal with an Asian flair.

Don't be afraid by the term "spicy" because even Mr. Helen who really doesn't like truly spicy food, loves these noodles.

Spicy Noodles

1 lb. spaghetti
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 bunch scallions
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
4T red wine vinegar
4T olive oil
6T dark sesame oil
2T chili garlic sauce 

Cook the spaghetti as directed on package.

While the spaghetti is cooking, slice the peppers into thin strips. Slice the green part of the scallions diagonally then chop up the white part.

Put the peppers and scallions in a large bowl.  When the spaghetti is done, drain it well then dump it over the vegetables.  Let that sit for a couple minutes while you make the dressing.

Whisk together sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil & chili garlic sauce in a bowl.

Dump the dressing over everything in the bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve, stirring several times.  Take out ahead of serving as you want the noodles to be near room temperature.

Tastes best if you make it several hours ahead of time so it has time to sit and the flavors can meld. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tuesday Ten: Continuing the Summer Randomness

1. Update on my wellness workshop at work.  Though I'm not participating in the weigh-ins, I'm fairly sure I haven't lost any weight, based on clothing.  As Shakira sang, "Hips don't lie" and they're telling me I'm the same size.  But wait!  I'm the same size.  Do you realize what a victory it would be for me to not diet for 12 weeks and not gain any weight?

2. Speaking of wellness, the back issue that began to dog me in the spring of 2012 has continued.  I don't talk about it because I don't want to sound like a whiny fool all the time but some days it's quite debilitating.  I finally found a spinal doctor who does non-surgical intervention and I have an appointment for August 27th.  It will mean a 45 minute drive but if I can get some relief from this it will be more than worth it!

3. We had our (sort of) annual get together with our neighbor over the weekend.  She and I coordinated the menu and decided to do something completely different than cooking on the grill.  We ended up by starting with this Blood Orange Martini and Edamame that we dipped in a spicy teriyaki sauce for an appetizer. Then we had the spicy noodles I made and the shrimp and vegetable tempura she made. Not pictured was the homemade strawberry shortcake I made for dessert. The food and the company were wonderful!

4. Speaking of our neighbor, I don't know if you remember when I showed you a photo of the cute little dog she got.  Ruby is all grown up now and still very cute!

5. Last week I started having some aches and pains in my left leg when I ran.  That's a good sign that I need new shoes.  Sure enough when I added up the mileage on my old shoes, I'd put 700+ miles on them.  I stuck with my old faithful, Asics Cumulus, but I decided to buy the new 16 model.  I am in love with them.  They have rounded the toe box a bit and made the heel fit snugger.  I also love the blue and lime green combo that I chose!

6. Mr. Helen and I were talking about what we'd do if we had a landfall of unexpected money.  I thought it was interesting when he said that we'd need to buy a bigger house right away - one that would have a room that could be turned into a gym.  When I asked why, he stated that even though he knows I dislike gyms, if I had the money and a home gym, I'd hire a personal trainer to come work me out at the things I suck at, mainly strength training.  He's right.

7. Speaking of running and exercising, it's already gone back to being more dark than light when I go out in the morning now.  Sometimes the street lights are still on when I get back home. Lots of times I'm seeing moonset and sunrise at the same time. I'm trying not to think about that as it always makes me feel as if summer is ending way too fast.

8.  First tomatoes!  I'll admit, I nearly always plant one of these yellow/orange cherry tomato plants because they mature and ripen first.  Quicker gratification for me!  The Roma Grape tomatoes are starting to turn now too but I think it will be August before I get any beefsteak.

9. My sweet Gracie, enjoying a beach vacation this week.  I just love her zest for life and how she always puts that little extra flair into everything she does!

10. I found the furniture pieces I've been wanting to get for my spare room while out on a walk last Friday.  Every time I've visited a yard sale that said they had bedroom furniture for sale it has either been so outdated or so beat up it wasn't worth even the few dollars they wanted as I'm not like Lori and into refinishing stuff.  I didn't mind a bit of wear but I wanted something that was basically in okay condition.  I negotiated the price with the guy then had to wait 8 hours for Mr. Helen to get home with his pickup truck to go get it - and hope it would still be there.  It was!  I paid a bit more than you would normally at a yard sale but look how good this stuff is - and it was still less than even buying something from Target for example.  Now my spare room actually looks a bit more inviting instead of just a room with a bed.  Anyone want to come visit?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Miscellany

I swear I cannot figure out what is going on with my running lately.  One day I'm a speed demon - the next I can barely make it through the run and have to take walking breaks.  Lots of humidity lately and that definitely affects speed but for goodness sake, not this much.  As I slogged around this morning I kept thinking how glad I was that I wasn't training for any race because I'd be making myself crazy trying to hit certain pacing.  I've been running long enough to know that this is just how it is sometimes, but it still makes me a bit crazed.

The other day I came across a couple of sunflowers blooming away on the side of the road. Obviously a bird must have dropped seeds because where they are make no sense.  This morning I ran back by that area and found it's a whole sunflower patch just sitting there.  How fun!


We got to have some Jacob and Grace time this weekend.  They're 7 and 10 years old now (or as Grace said about 10 times so it must be important, "I'm nearly 8 and I'm officially a 3rd grader and Jacob is almost 11 and is going to middle school so we won't be in the same school again until high school!")  They are pretty self sufficient now so it's a lot different having them than when they were younger, but I swear Grace can still wear me out.  She is just talk, talk, talk - go, go, go!  Since we only had Grace for 24 hours because she had to go home early Sunday to start Pony Camp this week (Pony Camp!) we packed Saturday full.  We spent several hours at the beach, which they love because Uncle Mr. Helen spoils them and takes them to the arcade and lets them buy clam fritters and chicken fingers (even though I packed sandwiches) - not to mention he'll spend several hours in the water throwing them around.  

Look how much Grace has grown up:  the left photo was exactly 5 years in July.
The years are flying by!

After the beach we went back to the house to chill out for a bit and have some dinner.  We introduced the kids to the classic movie ET which they'd never seen.  They loved it.  Mr. Helen had his heart set on getting pizza but the kids talked him into going to Moe's.  He such a good uncle he gave in, of course.

That evening was the annual fireworks over the river. We had to keep them up late as it doesn't even get dark enough to do them until 9:15 but I figure that meant Grace would willingly go to sleep when we got home - I was right.

This was the night of the super moon but I didn't want to zoom in because I wanted to show the beautiful water and marina.

It really was a great weekend, even though by the time Mr. Helen dropped Jacob off at Mama Helen's last night (he's going to Paint Ball Camp this week), pretty much all we did was sit and stare at the TV lol!  We were both t-i-r-e-d.

Mr. Helen got his pizza too: BBQ Chicken and Veggie.  At his request I made it rather than buying it. I'd not had to cook for two days so I didn't mind.  Plus, he just loves my homemade pizza.  

I'm feeling like summer is full steam ahead right now!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Grand Time Was Had

We had a really nice Independence Day long weekend.  Mr. Helen was supposed to work then at the last minute they gave him the day off.  As he had already taken Sunday off that gave us 3 days off in a row together - the most time we've had together since our vacation in May.

On July 4th it poured rain here as two fronts met - a cold front coming from the north clashed with the remnants of Hurricane Arthur.  Of course that postponed all the fireworks shows and I'm sure many other festivities but we had planned on having our cookout on the 5th since we knew that rain was coming.

It was nice to have a day to prep food without feeling rushed.  I managed to go out for a run that morning in the thick, humid air thinking I could get 4 on the 4th in before the rain came but that didn't quite work out.  I was about a mile and a half in when I felt a few drops so I decided I'd better turn around and head home.

This house is owned by Connecticut College.  I couldn't resist taking a photo of it because it looked so New Englandy.

Before I'd hit the two mile mark it was raining hard.  I honestly don't mind running in summer rain but I didn't have a hat on so it makes it a bit tough to keep your head up.  At 2.5 miles in the thunder started which made me run as fast as I could for the last 1/2 mile home.  Once home, I did another mile on the treadmill to get my four miles, even if it wasn't like I'd originally planned.

In the afternoon, while it still poured rain, we decided to use a gift certificate to go to a local restaurant that has pub style food for a very late lunch/early dinner.   I think we may have reached the early bird senior citizen stage as we seem more and more to like this sort of timing on weekend eating.  Mr. Helen ordered the Grilled Cheese Lobster and I ordered the Grilled Reuben sans sauerkraut which I can't stand.  And yes, I know that technically means I had a Grilled Corned Beef and Swiss lol.  I chose to have a new type of french fry:  the Buffalo fry.  Turns out Frank's (the hot sauce maker) also makes a dry rub and they put that on the fries.  They were delicious!  In fact, everything was delicious!

Grilled Cheese Lobster

Grilled Reuben with Buffalo Fries

Saturday the weather could not have been any more perfect for our cookout - low 80's with no humidity!  We had invited 25 people, 18 confirmed and 8 showed up.  I wasn't upset because I always feel these things work out just the way they should.  I had made usual cookout fare:  Baby Back Ribs, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Brats, Baked Beans, Macaroni and Cheese.  One guest brought a huge green salad and another brought a huge fruit salad so we had a pretty nice rounded meal in the end.  I also made two fabulous desserts: a Chocolate Lasagne and a Pineapple Dream Cake.  I've made the chocolate lasagne before and it's just an easy, delicious icebox style dessert great for a crowd.  I did the other dessert because I have a sister-in-law who is allergic to chocolate.  It was super easy as well and she loved it!

A great time was had by all and I was given two patriotic hostess gifts, the first being a pretty bouquet of red, white, and blue flowers.

The second gift came from my mom, who is a hoot.  She told me she saw this in the store a couple weeks ago and bought it hoping someone would invite her to a cookout so she could give it.  I was the lucky recipient...

On Sunday, we went to the beach very early and stayed for about four hours.  Just as we were leaving they were closing the beach because it was full.  We were glad we went early!

At the end of the day on Sunday, Mr. Helen and I agreed the long weekend had felt like a mini-vacation.  That's they way they should be, right?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Tuesday Ten: Scene and Seen

It seems I don't have too much to say these days.  I feel like I've just flowed into my summer rituals.  I guess because this is my favorite season I don't want to spend a lot of time writing as I'd rather spend my time living.  How about some photos from the past week or so?

Out running and saw this turtle in the grass

These flowers seem to be everywhere.  Anyone know what they are?

We made this pineapple whip recipe to celebrate an office birthday.  It was refreshing and delicious!  I think Shelley would love it.

Had a beach day with my friend Em.  We watched this girl do a full-on body weight workout including planks, side planks, sit ups, butterfly sit ups, squats and leg raises.  The many men around us particularly enjoyed it.

Saturday night on the patio.  I'm saving a seat for you!

View from the Patio: pink and blue sunset

The recipe for this Sweet Potato, Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salad with Spicy Cilantro Dressing was in my local paper.  Made it over the weekend - Mr. Helen couldn't get enough - it's so good!  Interestingly enough, there is not one single ounce of fat it in this recipe.

Another house I often run by and admire their flowers.

The small park right around the corner from my house.  Photo taken on my way home from a run.

View from the Patio: home in time to see the sun rise...