mid-week meditation #13

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our new subscribers! {I’m especially loving Kiley’s blog, Food Friends, which I just subscribed to… I’m already eying her sweet potato & sausage skillet as a possible dinner recipe for tonight!}

Yesterday I spent the whole day with Allyn which was such a treat! We pretty much just worked side-by-side on our computers for most of the day, but it was so nice to have some company during the workday. Sometimes those ordinary “routine” days are the best, ya know? Plus, my sweetie is the best thing for my productivity because he inspires me so much! He is extremely diligent and driven, so I tend to stay seated at my computer, booty-in-chair, writing writing writing, for longer periods than I might otherwise if I was on my lonesome. {I am the queen of snack and tea breaks when I am writing on my own at home! Anyone else the same way?}

For dinner we made BBQ baked chicken + herbed wild rice + a tomato, corn, avocado salad that I threw together without a recipe. It turned out delicious!

corn avocado tomato salad

I know that photo is kinda bad, but trust me, it was a goodie! All I did was boil an ear of corn, cut the kernels off the cob, and mix it up with one diced tomato and half of an avocado. {A whole ‘cado would probably be even better, but we only had half.} Then add some salt and pepper, mix it all up, and you’ve got a great side dish. Quick, simple, healthy = three of my favorite things when it comes to cooking!

Today Allyn had to take his car into the shop for a check-up, and I had some errands to run and laundry to do, so we are back to working separately. I’m hoping to get a lot of random items that have been languishing on the old to-do list finally CHECKED OFF today. We shall see! I’ve got my workstation going on the dining room table. And a bowl of oatmeal for lunch! Sometimes you just gotta give the body what it wants, and mine wanted oatmeal. 🙂

workstation

This week’s meditation comes from one of my favorite writers, Louisa May Alcott. Whatever you are up to today, I hope these words come at a good time for you and your beautiful aspirations:

aspirations quote

 Question of the day:

  • What are your highest aspirations?

springtime veggie pasta bake

Hi everyone! I have a simple, delicious and healthy recipe to share with you today. This meal is simple to make, easily adaptable to your preferences, and is bursting with fresh veggie flavors! Hope you enjoy!

springtime pasta bake

– 1/2 box whole-wheat pasta {I used rotini}
– 1 yellow squash
– 1 green bell pepper
– 2 roma tomatoes
– 1/2 sweet onion
– 1 cup fresh baby spinach
– 1 tbsp minced garlic
– a drizzle of olive oil
– your sauce of choice {I used a combination of tomato sauce & pesto}
– 2 cups shredded cheese {I used an Italian blend}

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

3. Chop and dice the veggies. Toss them in olive oil and saute them in a large pan on medium heat, until onion and garlic are fragrant and spinach is wilted.

4. Drain the pasta and pour cooked noodles into a large casserole dish. Toss with sauce and veggies until everything is well mixed.

5. Top with shredded cheese.

6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve and savor! This is one of those recipes that makes terrific leftovers, too!

pasta bake

What are some of your favorite springtime recipes?

if you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
easy veggie, potato & sausage bake
cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken
tilapia with pineapple salsa

year of kindness challenge: week 8

Happy Monday, friends!

I spent this past weekend in Louisville for a literature & culture conference at the University of Louisville. I presented a paper on Saturday morning, and then Mike and I stayed an extra day to take in the sights and have a mini “vacation.” We had so much fun! Louisville is only a few hours south of where we live in Indiana, but it felt very different there — warmer weather, lots of fun shops and new restaurants to explore, and that lovely Southern twang! If you’ve never been there, I would definitely recommend it as a great city to check out! We are already talking about going back sometime in the spring or summer.

Another novelty about the weekend? Both Mike and I left our computers at home and neither of us have smartphones, so we were Internet-free for two days. It was a nice break to be “off the grid” for a little bit! We both returned home feeling recharged. I don’t really think of myself as someone who wastes time online — usually when I’m online, I’m checking emails or reading blogs or looking up recipes or reading submissions for Sycamore Review, etc etc etc — but in the past few weeks I’ve found myself checking my email and going online perhaps more often than I need to. I think it’s easy to fall into “Internet autopilot” and feel like we must be constantly engaged with the web, staying updated, checking posts … and all of that can just be exhausting after a while, you know? It was such a relief to lie down on the hotel bed, crack open a good novel and not feel like there was anything else I was “supposed” to be doing. I think Mike and I are going to try to “unplug” more often as part of our weekend routine!

Now, on to the kindness! 🙂

year of kindness button

Last week’s kindness challenge was to drop off a donation of canned goods to a food pantry, homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. This idea came when I was thinking about how we often hear a number of opportunities to donate food to the hungry during Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it seems donation efforts die down once the holiday season has come and gone.

My first step was to go through my cupboards and pantry and find a variety of nonperishable food items to donate. As you can see, a lot of tomato-based products made the list, since I have made a big effort the past few months to fully weed out tomatoes from our diet. {Nothing against tomatoes! But Mike is allergic.}

cans from pantry

Then I picked up some canned veggies at the grocery store to round out the donation, and put everything into a big bag! {Note to self: next time, use two smaller bags. Mike helped me carry carried this big bag to my car for me.}

food donation bag

A quick Internet search brought up multiple food pantries in Lafayette, including one just a five-minute drive from campus. I dropped Mike off at school and zoomed over to the food pantry before I had to teach my class. Like last week when I dropped off Valentines to the nursing home, this only took me a short time, but it brightened my whole day! The woman working at the food pantry was SO surprised and grateful for my drop-by donation. I definitely plan to go back and make more donations in the future. It was a drizzly, cold, gray day, but walking back to my car afterwards I swear the world seemed sunnier. Every week of this project just proves to me more and more how being kind to others brings so much kindness and joy into your own life.

A reader emailed me that instead of donating food this past week, they donated toiletries to a women’s shelter. I think that is such a great idea that I am officially making it the Week 8 Kindness Challenge: donate toiletries to a women’s shelter or homeless shelter. Are you someone who stocks up on those free hotel soaps and shampoos and lotions? Why not clean out your stash by donating it to those in need? Or pick up an extra bottle of your favorite shampoo/conditioner/body wash next time you’re at the store and bring it by a shelter in your area. I know it will be appreciated!

Blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn <AT> gmail <DOT> com.

Have a marvelous week!
-Dallas

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year of kindness archives:
– week 1 challenge: donate items to those in need
– week 2 challenge: leave quarters & note at laundry machine
– week 3 challenge: write & send a kind handwritten note
– week 4 challenge: give hot chocolate to someone outside in the cold
– week 5 challenge: do something kind for a neighbor
– week 6 challenge: deliver valentines to a nursing home
week 7 challenge: donate to a food pantry

stuffed chicken breasts

My favorite homecooked meal {when I was a kid and still to this day} is this stuffed chicken breast recipe my mom makes. It was passed down through my family from my great-grandmother to my grandma to my mom, who learned to make it when she married my dad. It is the meal I always request on my birthday and whenever I go home and my mom asks me what I would like her to make for a special “welcome home” dinner. 

I wanted to share the recipe with you in case you are looking for a special and delicious recipe to serve for a nice night in with your sweetie, family or friends!

Great-Grandma Rahn’s Special Stuffed Chicken Breasts

For the chicken:
-8 chicken breast halves {though this recipe can easily be halved}
-7 oz can diced green chiles divided into 8 equal portions
-1/4 lb Monterrey Jack cheese cut into 8 strips
-1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
-1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
-1 tbsp chili powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp pepper
-6 tbsp butter

For the sauce:
-15 oz can tomato sauce
-1/3 cup green onions/scallions
-1/2 tsp cumin
-salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Pound each chicken breast to about a quarter-inch thickness. Put the chilies and cheese strips in the center of each chicken breast, then roll them, tucking the ends under.

3. Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper into a pie tin or shallow bowl. Melt the butter in another shallow bowl. Then dip each chicken breast into the butter and roll it in the crumb mixture.

4. Place the chicken, seam side down, in a glass baking dish. Once all eight have been done, drizzle with the remaining of the melted butter.

5. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until chicken is done.

6. While chicken is baking, make your tomato sauce: in a small saucepan, combine the can of tomato sauce, cumin, sliced green onions, salt and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat.

7. To serve, top the chicken with tomato sauce. I like to serve this dish with mashed potatoes and some sort of vegetable, though it is also nice over rice.

Hope you enjoy!

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Time spent: 1 hour
Cost: about $10

garlic, tomato & olive oil pasta

One thing I love about being home in California is getting to eat my mom’s delicious cooking! Last night she taught me how to make a super quick, inexpensive and easy pasta dish that I immediately knew I had to share with you!

Ingredients:

– 1 box angel hair pasta
– 2 tbsp minced garlic
– 3 roma tomatoes, cut into pieces
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 package chicken breasts
– feta cheese to taste

1. Cut up the chicken breasts into chunks and saute in some olive oil until cooked all the way through.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook angel hair pasta for approx. 3 minutes. {Be very careful not to overcook angel hair pasta!}

3. Coat bottom of a pan in olive oil and saute the minced garlic while pasta is cooking.

4. Drain pasta and dump it into the garlic and olive oil mixture. Stir until all the pasta is coated. Add the tomatoes and chicken and mix well.

5. Top with feta cheese if desired.

Ta da! Could not be easier, faster, or tastier! What are some of your favorite quick & healthy recipes?

Till Friday,
Dallas

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Cost: about $15.00
Time: 10 minutes