Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's a Wrap: "Greek" Fajitas

What do your meals look like when you eat alone?
Fast food?

My lunches are often not very interesting, but once in a while I get inspired!

Like the other day.

I had quite a few vegetables I'd bought on sale and I thought about how best to incorporate them into my lunch. I started cutting up multi-colored sweet peppers, scallions, and mushrooms. I decided to dry sauté them in a little olive oil. I looked in the fridge again and found a bag of fresh spinach, some pepperoni,  and black olives.

I added a large handful of spinach to the sauté pan, cut the olives in half, and three slices of pepperoni into quarters. I tossed the veggies until they were all cooked and the peppers and mushrooms were starting to brown. A little salt, a little pepper. Toss in the olives (which are what make it "Greek" but maybe I should call it an "Italian" Fajita because of the pepperoni) and pepperoni to warm them and then I folded it all into a small flour tortilla, added some dressing, and "pinned" it shut with a toothpick.


It might not be a family meal recipe (unless your whole family has highly refined taste!) but sometimes you just need a grown up, healthy dish.

"Greek" Fajitas (1 serving)

2 tsp. olive oil
1 each mini-peppers in red, yellow, and orange (or any combination), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1-2 scallions cut into 1 inch lengths, including the green tops
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves (I used 2)
3-4 black olives, cut in half
3 slices pepperoni, cut into quarters
1 fajita size flour tortilla
dressings of your choice (I used 2tsp Cucumber Ranch and 1 tsp Raspberry Walnut)

Heat the oil in a small non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When it runs thin add the peppers, mushrooms, and scallions. Stirring frequently, cook until they begin to become tender. Add spinach leaves and continue stirring until they wilt completely and the peppers and mushrooms begin to brown. Add the olives and pepperoni. Place the tortilla over the pan to warm it for about 30 seconds.

Carefully place the tortilla on a plate and line up the veggies in the middle of the tortilla. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a little of your favorite dressing. To make it even more "Greek" throw in a tablespoon of Feta cheese!

*Variation: I've used strips of zucchini instead of mushroom when that's what I have. You can make your own variation with whatever veggies are in your fridge.

Fold the bottom up and the sides in. "Pin" with a toothpick and enjoy!

For a printable version of the recipe click here.

I liked it so much I made it again the next day! 

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Dinner Guests We Forgot Were Coming

We had a veritable United Nations around our table.

Leon and I went to college together. We were both born in the states. His wife, Linda, is Bolivian and they have raised their three now-grown children (two were at our table) in Mexico. 

Roger's parents are Canadian and Spanish and he grew up in Spain. Rosana, his wife, whose parents are Chilean and Brazilian, grew up in Brazil where they live now. 

Photo Credit

My husband was born in South Africa and we lived most of our married life in Peru and Colombia.

It was a fun group to bring together. They hit it off right away and we were all switching back and forth from Spanish to English comparing traditions and lifestyles in the various countries we come from and have lived in while eating a very American summer supper of pasta salad, lettuce and grilled chicken salad, and fruit salad.

Then the phone rang.

I'm sure glad they called. And I'm glad we decided not to ignore the phone call during the meal, because two more people called to say they would be late to dinner...two people I had forgotten about! I blame it on inviting them just before we went away for our anniversary last week. ;-)

I stood up and said, "We need to put a leaf in!" Everyone cleared their dishes to one end or the other of the table. The table runner and centerpiece went to one side. People on the ends pulled the table apart while my husband brought the table leaf. A guest ran to the bedrooms to get two more chairs. Another guest set two places. I added the rest of my lettuce in the green salad. Thankfully I had made a large pasta salad! With everything set, we all breathed a sigh of relief, laughed, and carried on eating.

Photo Credit

When our new guests arrived, completing our tour of continents as he was born in Japan to American parents and that is where they currently live, we just said, "We went ahead and started."

The conversation switched to all English and we found out about the traditions and lifestyles in Japan, too!

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Why do I tell you this story? 
Because it should have been a comedy on a TV show.
Because we all make mistakes.
Because even forgetting that guests are coming can turn into a wonderful memory. 

Don't sweat the small things. Roll with life. Enjoy yourself. Whether it's burning the family's dinner or leaving a child at church (yup, we did that, too!) If you can laugh at your own mistakes everyone enjoys being with you, even your kids.

Laugh around your table tonight.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just the Two of Us

After my husband and I moved to South America to be Bible teachers and my younger brother moved out, my parents often went away overnight for their anniversary. In the midst of the chaos of four small children and then life with teenagers, I wondered why two retired people in a beautiful quiet house needed to "get away". I thought being alone with my husband in a neat clean house sounded like luxury! (And it is wonderful!)

We aren't retired, and don't have a completely empty nest, though it's more often just the two of us at home, but now I know.

  • At home there's always something that needs to be done.
  • At home we can get into a rut.
  • At home we can be interrupted.
  • At home we don't take the leisure of hours and hours together.
  • At home we don't just relax into the time alone together.
  • At home we need to get up early.

So now that we don't have children keeping us from talking to each other, we find ourselves getting away for our anniversary regularly--maybe because it's easier now that we don't have to organize child care. That is definitely a factor.

Today we are away for our anniversary. 
We are celebrating thirty-two years of love, laughter, tears, 
and forgiveness. 

Usually we discuss what we want to do together and make plans, but this year I had a different idea. Almost every week at the grocery store when I paid with my debit card I asked for $5 "cash back." These I stored in a secret place for our anniversary. I ended up with $140 to spend celebrating our marriage.

My original plan had been to "kidnap" my husband, by picking him up from work. I would have the GPS set to various destination for coffee, appetizers, dinner, a hotel and he would just have to follow instructions.

But then he started asking me what I wanted to do for our anniversary and I realized this would be hard to keep a secret. So I moved to "Plan B." I still made some plans, printed out some things I'd found on line, wrapped them up in a box along with the money and presented this to him. Together we made the final decision and he tells me it's more fun this way to anticipate it than to be surprised. 

One thing I'm doing is giving him 100 reasons why I love him. Since it is our 32nd anniversary, I think he was expecting 32 reasons, but when I passed that number he seemed surprised. I started far enough ahead to give him one or two pages each day for two weeks before our anniversary.

Another thing I did was to write up and print out twenty discussion questions for us to talk about with each other as we ride in the car (we will probably get to have about 5 hours alone together in the car--one of our favorite ways to spend time together!) These involve recounting the memories of our early love so that we can remember the joys of early love when your stomach is all flip-floppy and you can't wait to be together again. 

To find these questions click on these links: (They are formatted to print directly on Avery® Business Cards 28878  (Avery®  Template 8371or print them onto cardstock and the guidelines will show where to cut to get cards of uniform size.)

Fun Anniversary Questions for Married Couples 1
Fun Anniversary Questions for Married Couples 2

My parents celebrated 59 years of marriage this Spring. My dad no longer remembers when their anniversary is coming or how many years they've been married, but they still go out to eat together and Mom has Dad choose an anniversary card from a stack she has saved from him over the years to give to her. Sometimes, on his own, he'll even think of loving things to say to her. I'm sure Mom is not sorry at all that they took the time and spent the money to celebrate their anniversary every year back then. Now she has all the memories and knows he loves her and that she gave him all her love, too.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Be The Perfect House Guest

"Do you think I could ask to do a load of laundry?"

"Should we sit in our room here, or do you think they want us to come visit with them in the living room. I'm having trouble reading them."

"They take their shoes off when they come in, we better, too."

"Do we offer to help again. She didn't seem to want us in the kitchen."

"It was so cold last night, but don't say anything. I don't know if they own extra blankets."

These are from actual conversations that Jim and I have had when we are guests in people's homes around the world. Although we love having people stay in our home, we often find it difficult to know how to be good houseguests. We have the added factors of usually not knowing our hosts until we meet them at the airport or get dropped at their house and we are crossing a cultural barrier to reach out to them. Sometimes we speak their language (English or Spanish) and sometimes our presence forces them to use their second language to communicate with us.

After I wrote a dozen suggestions for being a good host, I began to wonder if we were good guests. So I decided to ask some of the women I know who have had the frequent house guests what they liked in house guests. These "professional hostesses" are mostly Americans from coast to coast and in the midwest, and also two English women living out of their context (one in the States and one in the Middle East). Together they have almost 300 years of hostessing house guests!

1. Take the Sheets Off -- To my surprise, six of the ten who answered, said they appreciate it when the guests strip the bed, put the bedspread back on, and maybe even carry the sheets to the laundry room! This includes my Aunt Mur who, "housed many preachers, family,  friends and over 49 foster kids." She should know!

Although I appreciate it when guests do this, that's probably not the first thing I'd say. But now I least in American homes!

2. Keep the Towels Off -- Another common theme was what happens to wet towels--off the beds, off the furniture, out of the hamper. In other words: 
Hang Up Your Towel
If no place is provided fold it over a hanger hung on the doorknob. And while you are at it, "Wipe down the shower with the squeegee provided," requests Sue, who has been hosting people for 40 years.

3. Kick Your Shoes Off -- Well, not necessarily literally...Like my Aunt Bernice says, "I want my guests to feel free to rob the refrigerator if they want something to eat between meals." Gina, a single friend who has lots of longer term guests, says, "You can eat anything in the house except my diet pepsi." "I would like them to feel at ease and able to help themselves to water etc." says Ros, who has been having overnight guests for 35 years.

4. Turn the Honesty On -- My daughter-in-law, Abby, who's been hosting guests for eight years, says, "I wish every guest would let me know when they need something.  I love to be organized and get you everything you need, but I have two very young children and I forget a lot.  There's not much worse than realizing a guest was awkwardly "making do" when I could easily have gotten them what they needed.  Just ask... It makes things so much easier."

And my friend, Vicky, says, "When your hostess asks about your food preferences, be honest!  As a hostess, I do not want to serve meals people hate or can't eat due to food allergies.  Please let me know what you really don't like or what you need to fit into your dietary needs.  If it is something I don't know how to fix, offer to teach me, I'm always willing to learn!"

Gina concurs, "As the hostess, you wonder what is wrong with a lot of murmurings and whispers, wondering if  some failure in hospitality has occurred."

5. Put On Your Helper Hat -- My Mom who still has overnight guests after 59 years, says, "I love it when my house guest offers to help in the kitchen.  If I don't need help it is nice if they stay in the kitchen and visit.  Often I do need help and appreciate it so much." Vicky adds, "Even if I don't need your help when you offer at mealtime, hang around and talk with me.  I love the company and it's valuable time during your visit."

6. Turn Your Calendar On -- Again my mom has a good suggestion: "Let me know if they will be here or not for a meal." I might add, make a commitment and stick with it! Vicky's been hosting guests for almost 30 years and she adds, "If there are places or other people you would like to visit, let me know before you arrive or upon arrival so I can help plan it conveniently." Basically just be considerate of your hosts.

7. Get On the Floor -- to play with kids! Abby, the mother of my two (soon to be three!) adorable grandchildren says, "I love it when guests take the time to get to know my kids too.   Extra bonus: when they play with my kids while I finish dinner!" (I find that particular request no hardship!)

8. Turn the Charm On -- Carolyn has been housing guests for over 35 years, and she says, "The one thing I wish every houseguest would do is: tell something humorous about themselves to put everyone at ease and freely enter into conversation."

9. Show Off Your Appreciation -- Ros says, "I love it when a guest asks for the recipe of a dish that I have made for them. It is the greatest compliment for the cook!"

10. Put On Your John Hancock Hat -- Another Carolyn, who had her first guest with her husband on her honeymoon 51 years ago (a wedding guest was traveling 225 miles in the same direction, so rode along!) says, "Sign our guest book!  Brings back memories years later of the people and of the places from which they came.  (We're filling our 8th book now!)"

What do you love when your guests do it?
What do you wish they would do?

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