Fresh Salsa, Drying Herbs, & What Happens When You Grill Turkey Dogs

There are a few things I want to write about this morning, but none of them warrant an entire post, which means this post is extremely random (as you may have guessed from the title.)  You’ve been warned. 🙂

1. Grilling Turkey Dogs–on Monday night, we cooked dinner on the grill.  While evaluating our options at Trader Joe’s earlier that day, we decided on turkey dogs, rather than all-beef dogs, like usual.  I don’t know why, and I regret the decision for this reason:

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Appetizing, huh? 😉  On a positive note, we also grilled zucchini, and it turned out perfectly!

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Zucchini is not my favorite vegetable, so I made a dipping oil to go with it: olive oil + basil, thyme, and oregano from the garden + garlic powder + salt and pepper.  Delicious.  And speaking of herbs from the garden…

2. Drying Herbs–We currently have more herbs growing in the back yard than we can use fresh (though we have been using them often,) so we have started drying them to store for later use.  Last night while I was working on the computer, Andrew said he was going to hang some more herbs.  Twenty minutes later I turned around to see this happening in the kitchen:

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He may have gotten a bit carried away.  Anyone need some herbs? 😉

Speaking of things we’ve picked from the garden, we harvested one small, beautiful strawberry on Saturday morning:

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We had a few more turning red, but they have since been eaten by an animal (or possibly a neighbor.  We aren’t sure which 😉 )

3. Fresh Salsa–Last night (pre herb-drying,) Andrew and I made tacos and fresh salsa, the way my college roommates and I make it, minus the onion:

-6 Roma tomatoes
-2 Large cloves of garlic
-1/4 Jalepeno
-Juice of 1/2 lime
-A few sprigs of cilantro
-Salt & pepper

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I found the most beautiful organic Roma tomatoes I’d ever seen at Kroger–bright red and unblemished.  Unfortunately, they did not look equally wonderful on the inside.  Still, the salsa was very tasty.

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And there you have it:  a 100% random post 🙂

Have you ever tried grilling turkey dogs?  How did they turn out?

Any advice for keeping critters off the strawberries?

 

Cape Charles (Memorial Day Weekend)

As we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Saturday morning, I thought about the popular get-to-know-you question:  Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?  Then I thought, God bless Virginia, because I don’t have to choose.  Mountains Friday, beach Saturday and Sunday.

Andrew’s dad and his girlfriend recently purchased a house at Cape Charles and have been working hard to renovate it before summer.  The house is finally live-able, and this weekend we helped them move furniture from Richmond.  Saturday afternoon, after moving all the large pieces into the house (plus lunch and a 2-hour nap…hah!), Andrew and I set off the explore the small town. Unfortunately, at 60 degrees with 20 mph winds, it was not a great beach day, but we were content to walk around in sweat shirts. 🙂

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Cape Charles definitely has a small-town feel.  There is only one street with stores–a few restaurants, a pharmacy with a lunch counter, a hardware store selling everything from paint to hula hoops to cleaning supplies that may have expired in 1987.  Outside most of the shops, locals sit in rocking chairs, greeting passerbys.   It was charming.

After dinner Saturday night, we caught a beautiful sunset over the bay:

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On Sunday morning, I went for a short, easy run; my primary motivation was to snap a few pictures before too many people were out and about.

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I saw an otter (that Andrew tells me is a muskrat…) swimming in a pond!  Walking closer to the water I thought, “Either this is an otter (muskrat,) and this is going to be awesome, or it’s the biggest snake I’ve ever seen, and I’m in big trouble.”  Thankfully, it wasn’t a snake. 😉

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For lunch, Andrew and I walked to the Cape Charles Coffee House (where I had also grabbed a coffee at the end of my run :-D.)    On Sundays they only serve breakfast, which suited both of us just fine!  Andrew ordered the egg platter, with scrambled eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit (including local strawberries!,) and I ordered the Belgian waffles, which came with fresh fruit, whipped cream, and sausage links.  The waffles were huge, and other than Andrew helping me with the sausage, I ate every bite.  I was pretty hungry, and it was so, so delicious!  I wish I’d taken a picture!

On the way to lunch we passed this pretty blue wall.  This is what happened when I asked Andrew to model in his red shirt:

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How did I get so lucky? 😉

After lunch we packed up our bikes and drove to the nearby National Wildlife Refuge, then Kiptopeke State Park.  The NWR had paved or fine gravel trails, but not many of them, and the state park had lots of trails, but most of them were grassy and tough to ride through.  Still, between the two, we spent about two hours on our bikes exploring.

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The marsh overlook at the National Wildlife Refuge

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The Bay Overlook at Kiptopeke State Park

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I’ve said this before, but I rarely notice our height difference until I look at pictures… and then I think it’s hilarious.  I look like a child on the bike.  😀

We ended the afternoon with some beach time at the park.

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By the end of the day, we were completely exhausted.  I think we were in bed by 9:30!  It was an awesome weekend, despite the cooler weather on Saturday.  We drove home early Monday and spent most of the day resting and watching Arrested Development on Netflix.

…And I continue to be thankful that I don’t have to choose between the beach and the mountains. 😀

What did you do for the Memorial Day weekend?  Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?

Dobie Mountain Hike + Peeing in the Woods

On Thursday afternoon Andrew and I made the somewhat last-minute decision to take the day off Friday and hike.  We already had a three day weekend for Memorial Day and figured, why not make it four?  Plus, we hadn’t been hiking since that bizarre warm day back in January, and we were itching for some mountain views.  After a bit of deliberation–we wanted to minimize driving distance and maximize views–we decided on Dobie Mountain.  The starting point of this hike shares a parking lot with one of our favorites, Humpback Rocks, and is less than ninety minutes from Richmond, but we had never done it before Friday.  As it turns out, we didn’t know what we were missing.

The weather forecast for Friday showed us that we’d have a cooler hike (about 55 degrees,) and we dressed appropriately for the temperature, but what we did not anticipate was the wind: 25-30 mph!  Thankfully, when we’d walked out our front door that morning it was raining, and even though I knew it wasn’t in the forecast for where we were hiking, I ran back inside to get my rain coat.  Just in case.  I definitely needed the extra (wind resistant) layer!

Aside from the wind, which wasn’t terrible once we entered the woods, the whole day was fantastic.  We took a picture of the map in parking lot to use as our trail map:

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Starting at the Humpback Rocks Parking Area, we went up the Albright Loop, onto the Appalachian Trail to the Glass Hollow Overlook, then back to finish the loop.  The first half of the hike is downhill with a lot of rocks and switchbacks, then the trail ascends to the overlook and back to the start.  It was a good workout, but not quite as strenuous as Humpback Rocks.

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Braving the wind.  My hair tells the story.

The views at the overlook were incredible:

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Because it was a weekday and we were on the less popular of two neighbor hikes, we didn’t see any other hikers once we left the parking lot.  Beautiful solitude… Together. 😉  We set up our ENO hammock and took a break for lunch.

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PBJ’s on gluten-free bread, apples, tortilla chips, carrots (Andrew,) trail mix (Catherine;  fine, I only ate the chocolate)

Also, despite using the restroom immediately before starting the hike and drinking less water than I probably should have, nature called.  Guys have it so easy when it comes to peeing in the woods.  Girls?  It’s a little tougher…and not something I have practiced often.  Here’s my advice: after finding a safe location (no poison ivy or people,) choose a tree, point your backside downhill, grab the tree for support, and squat as if you are water skiing with your butt very close to the water.  That advice and mental image are free.  You’re welcome 😉

Cool finds of the day: a log that looked like a dragon (I decided to ride it,) and… these green things:

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The whole day was a blast, and we were glad we made the trip.  Lots of quality time, beautiful views, and–one of my favorite parts of hiking–a workout that doesn’t seem like a workout.  Seriously, if I lived within 15 minutes of a mountain, I would hike every day.  Or at least a few times a week.

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Do you ever use hiking as a workout?  What’s your favorite hike/place to hike?

Ode to Orange- Sweet Potato & Carrot Curry

“When people say you should eat colorful foods, you know they mean different colored foods, right?” -Andrew

Sarcastic, but he had a point.  Our dinner last night was a delightful orange overload:  Sweet potato, carrot, and red lentil curry.

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It was also vegan, but more on that in a bit.

Ingredients:  2 sweet potatoes (peeled & sliced,) 1/2 bag of baby carrots (sliced,) a few garlic cloves (minced,) 1 c red lentils, 3 c vegetable broth, 1 can light coconut milk, 2 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1 tsp ginger, red pepper/salt/pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large saucepan (medium heat.)  2. Add sweet potatoes and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, adding garlic in the last minute.  3. Add all other ingredients to saucepan, and stir well.  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 25-30 minutes.

And, voila: a not very attractive, but nutrient-rich, tasty meal 😉

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With all the orange consumed last night, I thought I’d take the opportunity to briefly highlight the health benefits of (naturally) orange foods. Thank you, Dr. Oz (my source😉 I can take it from here.

Why You Should Eat Orange Produce

Beta carotene, which gives foods like carrots and sweet potatoes their orange hue, is an antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Vitamin A helps improve vision and boosts the immune system.

-Additionally, these foods contain other vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which help keep our bodies healthy.

In other words, orange foods are tiny, disease-fighting machines.  Eat them.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have been reading Eat and Run by Scott Jurek–ultramarathon champion and vegan–and it has inspired me to eat fewer animal products.  I’ve been an on-again-off-again vegetarian since early high school, and I feel strongly that 1. Americans eat way too much meat, and 2. people can consume a sufficient amount of protein without it.  I am not planning to quit eating meat entirely, but I do hope to incorporate a vegetarian dinner into our week every now and then.

Andrew is extremely skeptical of a dinner that does not include meat.  Lunch?  Okay, but dinner must contain meat (in his opinion.)  I am hoping to open his eyes to some delicious, filling vegetarian dinners. 🙂  Yesterday evening as I was cooking, Andrew was getting ready to play ultimate frisbee with friends.  He typically eats a snack before he goes, then dinner when he returns.  This was our conversation immediately following his orange comment:

“What are you making?”

“It’s a sweet potato, carrot, and red lentil coconut curry.”

“Ooh!” (said in a “Isn’t that fancy?” voice)

“I made sure there was one leftover chicken sausage for you, just in case.”

“Okay… Oh.”

“It’s a vegetarian dish.”

“That’s why I said, ‘Oh.'”

He ate the chicken sausage before frisbee and the curry when he came home, and I heard no complaints.  Baby steps. 😉  I am looking forward to finding some more meatless, but protein-packed, Andrew-approved dinners!

Do you incorporate vegetarian dinners into your week?  Is your spouse/significant other on board?

Any good, filling vegetarian (and dairy-free) dinner suggestions?

College House Reunion

First, I apologize for being MIA for the last week;  it was pure laziness rather than busyness.  I am back!

Last Sunday-Monday I got together with my college housemates.  There were five of us that randomly lived in the same dorm suite our freshman year, and we quickly became best friends and rented a house together for the rest of our time at JMU–the Dollhouse.

Amazingly, all five of us still live in Virginia, so it’s not impossible to reunite a few times a year.  This week we traveled to Norfolk and stayed with Leah.  Before I left Andrew asked what we had planned for our time together, then said, “Wait, let me guess:  eat breakfast and talk…go to a coffee shop and talk…eat lunch and talk… find another coffee shop and talk…”   😀  It’s true; we’ve noticed that when we get together, we just talk as we move from one eating establishment to the next.

We all arrived around noon Sunday–two of us from Richmond, two from D.C.–and immediately drove to a coffee/sandwich shop near Leah’s apartment.  Then we walked around by the water for a bit.

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…And Sarah decided to test-sit a stranger’s boat…after climbing over a locked gate to reach it… 😉

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After a while we found a place to sit by the water and enjoy the day.  And talk.  And laugh. And talk.

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Leah, with Kate’s help, reenacted a scene in which she fell while on a run and was groped (she suspects intentionally) by a homeless man who helped her back up.  Hah!  (Leah, don’t kill me for posting this photo… you are hilarious :-D)

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From the water we headed to the grocery store, then back to the apartment to make dinner:  quesadillas and bell peppers…

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…+ homemade salsa and sangria

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I’d also like to mention that our quesadillas were vegetarian because, while none of us are vegetarians, we all decided that the packages of raw chicken were just too gross to touch, and we’d rather go without.  Andrew’s mind was blown by this, but it’s one of the millions of reasons that I love these girls. 🙂

It was a beautiful evening so we ate dinner on the back porch, then talked for hours about life and love and pranks we pulled in college (and a few we’ve pulled since…)  Then ate ice cream & half-baked cookies.  Then talked until we fell asleep.  Glorious. 🙂

Monday morning, Leah made us waffles with a strawberry syrup, all from scratch, with strawberries she’d picked herself.  It. Was. Delicious.  After breakfast, Hannah and Sarah went for a walk while Kate, Leah, and I went running.  If there are two things the five of us share, it’s a love for food and a love for fitness. 😀

After running/walking, we cleaned up and drove to the beach!  We took lunch to go from a cute sandwich shop and ate on the beach.

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It was awesome.  Beautiful day… At the beach with my best friends…on a Monday.  All I could think was, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”  Complete in-the-moment contentment.

That is, until Leah turned around and said, “Uh, check out those clouds…”

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To the East: perfect beach day.  To the West:  rain clouds of doom.  We sat in the sun and denial for a little longer until I finally said, “You guys, this really is coming towards us.  It’s probably already raining on the car.”  We packed up, and after trying to wait it out in the car, gave up and headed back to Norfolk.

In our final hours together we parked ourselves back on Leah’s porch, ate pizza (yes, I ate more dairy this weekend than I have in two months,) and squeezed in a few more laughs.

I miss these girls like crazy when we are apart, but thanks to regular life-update email chains, we are always able to pick up where we left off when we do reunite.

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(Our one, super-grainy, self-timer iphone photo group shot ;-))

Dollhouse ❤

Spicy Shrimp Tacos + Mango-Pepper Salsa

This week in the Storey house, an awesome new dinner was born, and I’d like to share the recipe with you.  (And by “recipe,” I mean, “ingredients.”  As usual, nothing was measured, so you’ll have to work out the amounts according to your taste :-D)  It’s a perfect dish for a warm, almost summer night.

Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Mango-Pepper Salsa

Soft corn tortillas

1 1/4 lb Shrimp, tails/shells removed

Smoked paprika

Cumin

Cayenne

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

Mango-Pepper Salsa:

2 mangoes

1 bell pepper (orange, red, or yellow)

Cilantro

Lemon juice

Salt & pepper

Coleslaw:

Shredded cabbage

Coleslaw dressing

Lemon juice*

(*Already in the dressing, but I thought ours needed a bit more!)

Coleslaw: 1. Shred cabbage with cheese grater (or open package of pre-shredded cabbage.) 2.  Put in bowl, and mix with slaw dressing until desired taste it reached.

Mango Salsa: 1. Dice mangoes* and pepper very finely and place in bowl.  2. Pull cilantro leaves off stems and rip into smaller pieces.  Add to bowl.  3. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon over the bowl, add salt and pepper, and mix well.

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Shrimp: 1. Combine spices in a small bowl.  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 3.  Add shrimp, and cook for a few minutes on each side.  4.  Add spices to shrimp and stir well.  Make sure shrimp are cooked all the way through.

(*The most labor-intensive part of this recipe is slicing the mango.   This is the most efficient way I’ve found to do it.)

I made the salsa and coleslaw earlier in the evening to save time when we were ready to eat and to let everything marinate–the shrimp take so little time to cook that you should make sure everything else is ready before starting it!  Once everything is prepared, place all components of the meal on the table, and assemble the tacos as you go:

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For the life of me, I could not get a decent photo of these tacos.  Oh well.  They were delicious. 🙂

Enjoy!

What dinner do you love to eat when it’s hot outside?

Garden Update + Homemade Organic Pesticide

Gardens require work, and for two people who are firmly against spraying any type of chemical on their plants, gardens require a lot of work.  We spend hours on our hands and knees pulling weeds.  We chase and yell at squirrels.  I’d like to share a less labor-intensive (and less your-neighbors-think-you’re-nuts) organic method we found for keeping bugs from eating our plants.  But first, a photo update:

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We spread hay last weekend as a mulch to hold in moisture and keep weeds from springing up.

 

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A row of broccoli + tomato plants

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Squash, beets, pumpkin, and strawberries

A couple of weeks ago I walked outside to check on the roses.  They had been looking healthy, and my primary motivation was to see if there were any buds yet.  When I looked at them, however, I saw that the caterpillars, aphids, and some other bugs were enjoying a rose buffet.  They were absolutely devouring the leaves and the new buds.

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I did some quick research and read in a few places that garlic-infused water is effective in getting rid of bugs when sprayed on plants.  I figured it was worth a shot!  Andrew and I crushed a bunch of garlic cloves, put them in a large bowl of water, and let them sit overnight.  The next day I removed as many garlic chunks from the water as possible (or what I thought was possible; apparently I could have done better…), found a spray nozzle, and doused the roses and bugs.

I did manage to break the nozzle, unfortunately.  A small chunk of garlic lodged itself permanently somewhere in the tube.  Andrew asked me if I strained the water.

“I did the best I could.  The internet said to strain it with a cheese cloth.  Who the heck has a cheese cloth sitting around??”

“What about a coffee filter?”

“I didn’t think about that.”

“It even has the word ‘filter’ in its name.”

😉

So, if you decide to try this method, definitely strain the water with a coffee filter.

I am happy to say that it worked!  The following day the bugs were completely gone, with the exception of one dead caterpillar that looked like it had been burned in half by the garlic.  (You’re welcome for that visual.)  While there are obviously still holes in the leaves and some of the buds, we haven’t seen any bugs in weeks.  Crushed garlic, for the win!

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The first rose of the season

We are looking forward to more bug-free roses throughout the summer as well as lots of fresh fruits and veggies!

Do you know any effective methods for controlling garden pests organically?  Have you tried garlic spray?