The Worry Wort

LB, as well as some others in my life who shall remain nameless, have often told me I'm a "worry wort." LB tells me constantly that he worries that if we have children, that my worrying will turn them into crazy kids. Then he realizes that my worrying has already (obviously) rubbed off on him because he is worrying about such things. It's true. I do worry a lot. I worry about our dogs. Our bird. Our friends. I worry about our health. About getting older. About being a good teacher. About being a good scientist. About not getting my post in on time for HotM even when I am the host (some worries are grounded).

In fact, LB and I were just talking over breakfast this morning about one of my worries. One day shortly after we had gotten our dog Samson as a puppy, I had my back turned to him as I was cleaning and he started drinking out the mop bucket (I only use biodegradable, earth-friendly cleaners in my house, but still). When I saw what he was doing, I snatched him up, carried him outside to LB in a flurry and started worrying that he was going to get horribly sick. At this point, Samson started squirming around in my arms and biting them with his sharp little puppy teeth (he was a little nippy when he was little!), and so I dropped him. Oh lord, I started crying. First, I worried I had damaged him by dropping him (I dropped my baby!), then I worried that he didn't like me!! I was a little emotional at that time, which probably didn't help. It was after this conversation this morning that LB once again brought up his own worry about my worrying. Our kids really will be crazy if we have them.

I am in an endless struggle to eat healthier. My worry of the heart disease that runs rampant in my family helps fuel this. Some time ago, in an effort to get more greens into our diets - because I was worrying about our health, I instituted "Salad Days" at our house. This was back when I was enamored with the Food Network Show by Ellie Krieger because all of her food was healthy, and many of her dishes were salads. Even though it began as a household fad and has at times disappeared from our cooking repertoire we are still very likely to have a big salad as one of our meals during the week. The latest installment of this was the Grilled Sweet Potato Salad you see above. I used local ingredients, but you can improvise with what you have available. Better still? It's super healthy - far more so than any regular mayonnaise-based potato salad anyhow (though I do love my mom's potato salad I have to say. Even better is that the theme for this month's Heart of the Matter is "Heart Healthy Salads." The always lovely and inventive cook Ilva is our host this month - go check out the round-up for lots of delicious salads to get you through these days when vegetables are a plenty!

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Serves 2

2 small Okinawan sweet potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick lengthwise
a handful of sunflower sprouts
2-3 handfuls mixed baby lettuce
a big handful of green beans
a very small red onion, thinly sliced
2 medium-sized slices whole wheat baguette
olive oil
toasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1/2 inch knob of ginger root
2 tsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Ready your outdoor grill or grill pan on medium. Lightly brush the sweet potatoes and bread with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper (you can even do the beans on the grill too if you'd like - I blanched these) and grill them until they get nice grill marks (by this time your potatoes will be cooked through, or at least ours were). As these are cooking, you can blanch the beans and mix together the sprouts, lettuces and onions.

To make the dressing, put everything together in a small jar with a lid, close it and shake until it becomes emulsified (you could also add everything except for the oil, mix and then whisk in the oil slowly, but this is just easier and faster. When your potatoes and bread are finished, cut the bread into small squares for croƻtons, add them to the lettuce mixture and toss everything with the dressing. Then you have a healthy, filling salad with lots of fresh ingredients and a bit of an Asian flare!


Rosemary Limeade and The Forgotten Post

Being a host for The Heart of the Matter, or any event for that matter, is a lot of responsibility. There are things that hosts are supposed to do. Like be on top of things, get their own entries done and up, make a decent round-up. People are expecting good things from you!

But sometimes you forget. You get wrapped up in your own life and doing your own things and let yourself get busy. Sometimes you choose your recipe and make something lovely in the beginning of the month, so that you won't have to remember in the midst of all the rest of the things going on to come up with something spectacular. It's not that you don't love being a host, or love the adventure of cooking around a theme, it's just that sometimes, life is busy. You take your pictures, edit them, come up with ideas for what you'll post about it.

And you feel proud of yourself and proud that you've done your duty and can just get focused on getting the rest of the entries together and up on the web site for the round-up. You go through the rest of the month thinking things are going great and you did what you needed to do, and then the round-up comes and you're putting it all together and posting pictures and doing small write-ups about all of the lovely people that joined in and participated in your event, and then as you that very last entry up, you realize... you forgot to post your entry.

Oops. I made a refreshing Rosemary Limeade for this month's Heart of the Matter, centered around the theme of dishes with herbs as a main ingredient. I took my pictures, I thought up a post (but I've forgotten it now...it's a shame), and I put it away to do a bit later on in the month. I thought I had lots of time - a whole month is quite a bit of time, right? Not always. Sometimes time flies by and you don't even realize that things have passed. I'm teaching now and the first time you teach a course (Introductory Biology, in my case), it is always crazy and you are always only a day or two ahead of your students, writing your lectures, grading their homework. Bet you thought teachers always knew all about what they were teaching, eh? I'll let you in on a little secret: Not when they haven't taught it before (or taken it for over 10 years - I think I'm studying harder than most of my students!).

Well, friends, and fellow heart-healthy eaters - I'm going to try not to let that happen again! See you at the round-up next month, and hopefully once teaching slows down (it'll be over the middle of July), I'll be able to write posts about all the pictures and dishes I've been storing up - of course I'm still cooking, one has to eat!

This could also be made with a bit of mint, basil or lemon verbena perhaps instead of rosemary, but the rosemary gives it an earthy, almost extra vibrancy. The only change I made was to add more rosemary and decrease the simple syrup because the way the recipe was written there was quite a bit of extra syrup and I wasn't quite sure what to do with it but add it to iced tea since I didn't have any more limes! I'm going to try the limeade base with a bit of coconut juice next time to add a different flavor, as this is definitely going to be a mainstay at our house through the "dog" days of summer. Make a whole batch - I promise it won't last long!

Rosemary Limeade, makes 1 gallon
Altered slightly from the great cookbook, With a Measure of Grace (more on this cookbook and the amazing women who wrote it, soon)

4 cups simple syrup:
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 stems fresh rosemary

4 cups fresh lime juice
10 cups water

Make the simple syrup. Combine water and sugar in a sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and then boil, undisturbed and uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the rosemary stems. Cover, and let steep for 1 hour. Add 4 cups of the simple syrup to the lime juice and water, stir and serve over ice. Delicious!


HotM 15: Herbal Essence (Round-up)

Here's the round-up for Heart of the Matter 15: Herbal Essence - heart-healthy dishes that include herbs as a main ingredient! There were lots of inspiring entries from all over the world that blessed my inbox this month, including several new participants and many of you that have joined us every month to help keep this great event going! I hope you all find something to last you through the season - be it winter or summer in your neck of the woods - and we'll see you next month when Ilva hosts!

Without further adieu:

Labelga at Leafy Cooking offered her recipe for Tabouleh with Quinoa and Fresh Herbs. It looks like it's simply bursting with fresh, herbal flavor!

In her inaugural HotM entry, Another Outspoken Female from Melbourne, Australia, shared her recipe for Whole Kingfish with Turmeric and Ginger on her blog, Confessions from a Food Nazi. She's got tips for taking the plunge at baking a whole fish (something I've always wanted to try) using fresh turmeric and ginger - what a great resource!

Bee and Jai, often offering new and unusual ingredients on their blog Jugalbandi, shared their recipe for a beautiful Tarragon-scented Upma with Tomatoes, Olives and Lotus Seeds. As an added bonus, they even offer recipe for Mango Coconut Chutney to go with it!

It's great to have something new to do with green beans (I always end up blanching them) and Laurie, from her blog Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, has just the things with her recipe for Braised Green Beans (Fasolakia) with Lemon.

My co-cost Joanna, from Joanna's Food, made a lovely Lavender Syrup. That would make a positively wonderful housewarming gift, but it looks so good it might be hard to give it away!

Ali and Jon from Things We Ate For Dinner shared their recipe for a Pineapple-Basil Granita. Considering that I live in Hawaii and am surrounded by pineapples (and am lucky to have a patch of basil) I think that this recipe is going to grace our table this summer!

At Fun and Food, a vegetarian Tofu and Basil Thai Soup fit the bill for a heart-healthy herbal dish. There's even a recipe for home-made green curry paste included! Yum!

From South Africa, Cook Sister sent in her recipe for an amazing looking Garlicky Roasted Aubergine Dip. I bet there will be a great summer BBQ where I could show off this recipe!
The lovely Victoria at Oooh!Cake shared a fabulous sounding recipe for Not-Just-For-Breakfast Fish Cakes! I've never had fish for breakfast, but I think I'm going to have to change that!

Tasty Palettes offered up her beautiful and healthy Melon Salad with Mint and Buddha's Hand. I can't believe I had never heard of Buddha's hand citron before, but you can bet I'll be reading up on her blog at the rest of her recipes for it to learn more!
Katie, at Thyme for Cooking, shared her Creamy Herb Dressing with Yogurt and a delicious salad combination to eat it on. Now, who doesn't need a heart-healthy version of a creamy salad dressing to add to their repertoire? (I do! I do!) Check out her lovely herb pictures too...

My co-host and prolific blogger, Ilva from Lucullian Delights in Italy, shared two entries for this month's theme - the first was her aptly named (and very cute!) Herby Eggplant Cream/Soup:
Ilva's second entry was her innovative take on a heart-healthy and vegan Strawberry Smoothie with Mint and Oats. I never would have thought of that!

I think we finally picked a theme that the amazing Tanna just couldn't ignore! She's been unable to participate in HotM for quite some time, but the herbs called her in! (wink and hugs to you dear Tanna!) Check out Tanna's blog, My Kitchen In Half Cups for her take on a summery Panzanella.

Kopiaste, to Greek Hospitality shared her recipe for one of my favorite foods - white anchovies! She tells us how to marinate them and make them even more delicious in her first entry for HotM, Marinated Anchovies (Gavaros Marinatos).

Lastly, my own entry for...oh my gosh! I've been so busy I forgot to post it! Will have to do that...I made a cooling Rosemary Limeade. Have to get that up tomorrow as it is getting late here! Thanks everyone for participating and we'll see you next month! (It's up now!)