Bountiful Blueberries

Summer, summer, summer time means it’s time for harvesting fruits and veggies and berries.  Just a week ago, some of my coworkers and I went on a quick hour long road trip to a farm just across Lake Pontchartrain—Blue Harvest Farms, where we were able to pick and eat bucket loads of plump, sweet, juicy, ripe blueberries.

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As a kid, I always thought my grandpa owned his own farm and I knew what it was like to be on a farm, to pick fruits and vegetables, to husk corn and snap peas.  Little as I was, those rows and rows of vegetables in the garden of his front yard hold no comparison to the rows and rows of blueberries at Blue Harvest.

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Upon entering the farm, we were each given a one gallon bucket lined with a plastic bag and also offered a blue strap to clasp around the bucket handle.  What a clever idea?!?  As you can see, I opted for the strap; it was a great help to not have to hold the bucketful of berries and have two hands free for pickin’ and eatin’.  There were also some signs showing a level $10 dollar gallon or a heaping $15 gallon. 

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I picked my $10 gallon but probably munched on the $5 heap as I walked the three designated rows tasting in search of that perfect tree that taste as sweet as honey.  Once I found that tree I went to town loading my bucket then moving on in search of the next.

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Along the way I happened to lose my $20 bill—perhaps pulling my iphone in and out of my pocket taking pictures.  I began thinking to myself, “Now, I’m on a farm.  Surely these are good, honest, hardworking people.”  And lucky for me, they were.  An unidentified lady, who I would’ve loved to thank and hug for that matter, turned my twenty into  Mr. Farmer Man.  I was so grateful. 

After an hour or two of eating, sweating, and picking the girls and I finished filling up our buckets and headed to check out.  I paid my $10.00 in exchange for my 8 pints of very selective, most plump, most sweet, blue berries.

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To reach maximum ripeness, we were informed to spread the berries out on baking sheets and let them sit out 36 to 48 hours.  So I did just that. 

And ever since there has been much blueberry consumption on my part as evidenced in my—-well, let’s just be reminded that what goes in must come out (without being too graphic).

DSC01810 On oatmeal.

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On bread with peanut butter.

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In an oven baked blueberry crisp.

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More oatmeal.

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Mixed in with greek yogurt, granola, and milk.

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And in dessert–A blueberry cream cheese with pecan crust.  I completely forgot to take the final picture with a cool whip and pecan topping.  Nor did I take a picture on Father’s Day when the family cut into it.  Woopsy.

I still have about 8 or 9 cups of berries left in my freezer.  Don’t worry, they will be consumed. 

And a couple tips that I learned on the farm—

1. If you want to grow your own blueberries, you must plant at least two species of blueberries next to each other so they can cross-pollinate in order to grow.  My husband planted one species in spring which sprouted slightly, but it has yet to produce anything.  So take that as you wish.

2. If freezing the blueberries, do not rinse them until you are ready to use them.  If you rinse prior to freezing they will become a mass of ice and you will not be able to use them.

If you are interested in picking your own blueberries, click here to find a farm near you.  I had a great day doing something I’ve never done before.  Do it if you get the chance, but only if you are not afraid of bugs or sweating.

Presently…

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As I live a life aspiring to be healthified, I sometimes encounter some setbacks.  In know way am I the perfect picture of healthy.  Though I do try.  Lately, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon eating out far too much and exercising far too less.  Perhaps that may be why I’ve been putting blogging on the back burner.  Oh, well it may also have to do with my current addiction to couponing and finding a deal.  Or maybe I’m just burned out with work and want to just take it easy in the evenings.  I’m hoping once summer gets here in about 2 and a 1/2 weeks I’ll get back into the swing of things. 

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On a positive note, I never knew how much wearing a dress to work would make people notice me.  I generally wear capris, jeans, or dress pants.  Nope, not today.  I went with a dress.  And got literally about 20 compliments.  One of my students even asked, “Mrs. Lay, do you exercise?”  “Yes,” I responded."  He sated, “Oh, cause I can tell.” 

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When I was a young adult, I didn’t want to be noticed.  I would often wear big, baggy clothes to hide my body.  I would stand in the corner against the wall at “boy-girl” parties in middle school; I certainly was not the one in the middle of the dance floor shaking it.  Had I wanted to be that girl?  Maybe.

As I’ve gotten older I am not as self conscious as I used to be, but there are still some things that bother me.  I’m working on loving ME for ME more each day.

Often times, I think my attitude is dependent on how much effort I put into being my best me.  I know when I take some extra time on my appearance I feel better all around.  I encourage YOU to do something out of the ordinary this week with your appearance.*  Stand out and let YOU shine.

*Please don’t take this post the wrong way.  I am not Shallow Hal. 

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Wednesday’s What I’m Fixin’ in the Kitchen

Oatmeal and Peanut Butter Makes Its Return + Instant Coffee

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Leftover’s For Lunch E-Z Baked Ziti

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Plus a slice of cake for Teacher Appreciation Week 😉

And chips and salsa once home.

Dinner was “Breakfast for Dinner”

Pepper, Spinach, Chipotle Frittata

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Sautéed Potatoes

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And a couple slices of turkey bacon.

Altogether Now

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The night was capped off with a couple pieces of chocolate.

E-Z Baked Ziti

This meal is much less of a unique recipe, but much more an easy satisfying meal to throw together rather quickly.

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E-Z Baked Ziti

Ingredients:

1 13 oz. box whole wheat rigatoni

1 jar tomato basil sauce

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 bag baby spinach

2 cups mexican cheese shreds with a touch of cream cheese

1 tsp. sugar

Seasonings to taste:

garlic powder

onion powder

salt and pepper

italian seasoning

oregano

basil

Directions:

1. Boil pasta according to package and drain.

2. Preheat oven to 350*.  Brown ground meat and drain.

3. Add sauce to meat with 1/4 c water to rinse jar.  Add seasonings to taste with sugar.  Mix in spinach.  Simmer over medium heat for ten minutes or until heated through and spinach is wilted.

4.  Mix pasta, sauce mixture, and cheese until combined.  Add salt and pepper if desired.

5. Pour mixture into casserole dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Cover with foil.  Bake 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake 5 minutes more.

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Top 8 of My Spring Break

Wheww!  What a week it has been!  I decided to not only take a spring break from my day job, but also from blogging.  It was nice to not feel obligated to do anything.  I just took it easy at home, hung out with my family, and enjoyed my much needed time off.  Here is the top eight highlights of my spring break.

1. Hanging with my family.

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Mom, Sister, and Nephew playing tourist in downtown New OrleansDSC01358

Easter Sunday we had a crawfish boil at the grandparents’ house to celebrate Easter and my Dad’s birthday

2. Painting at Corks N’ Canvas with my husband and some friends.

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The painting is “On the Balcony” as though you are looking down onto a French Quarter street.  We brought some wine and painted for three hours.  This is one of the more difficult paintings, so I was not overly joyful with how it came out, but for my first it was cool.  Definitely want to go back.

3. Eating some good food.

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Here is a video tutorial in case you are unfamiliar with how to eat crawfish.

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There is some other techniques, but this is the quickest method of getting the tail from the shell.  Many people just pull out the meat from the shell by hand and first remove the black vein before consuming.

  4. Eating more good food, maybe not so healthy though.

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Mom, Sis, and I split this muffaletta (pronounced muff*a*lot*a).  We also shared a shrimp po’boy.

5. Drinking some tasty drinks.

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Spicy Bloody Mary

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And a strawberry colada ice cream daiquiri (pronounced dack*ir*ie).

6. Then there was sightseeing and photo snapping.

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St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans

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7. Of course some cooking took place.

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Homemade red beans using the slow cooker method.

8. I also got in some show time.  Again, mom, sis, and I got out the house to see Water for Elephants.

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The movie was good, but I actually enjoyed the book better.  The movie was pretty darn similar, though some things were left out and changed up slightly as expected.

So that’s all folks.  That about sums up my spring break.  Much enjoyed.  Looking forward to summer break in four short weeks.  Wahooo!

Just Another Manic Monday

Today has been quite the hectic day.  It was a Monday, first of all, which is certainly not my favorite day of the week. 

It actually started off well.  I awoke to immediately stick a roast, carrots, and an onion in the crockpot (does anyone still call it that???) along with a Lipton powdered soup mix and a cup of water so dinner would be ready when I got home.  Then I made myself a quick bowl of cereal for breakfast.DSC01304

In my bowl, I mixed Special K Vanilla and Almond, a handful of plain old fashioned oats, a sprinkle of flaxseed, a sliced banana, and some lowfat milk.

Lunch was just a simple turkey sandwich with reduced fat pepper jack and some spinach plus some yellow mustard.  I enjoyed an apple and some pineapple pieces dipped in some melted chocolate courtesy of the school principal and some coworkers.

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Next up is where the day turned into chaos.  I had to go to Walmart to purchase all of the materials needed for our Family Night tomorrow night at school.  I was there about two hours pushing a cart around that was entirely too heavy.  I then went back to work to unload my car on my own and deliver all of the materials to the other teachers.  The worst part is I had to go back to a different Walmart this evening to get some items that the other store was out of.  Needless to say, two Walmarts in one day equals not a good day.

I did snack on chips in salsa prior to the second visit to Walmart, but no picture was snapped.

Oh well, at least I did not have to worry about preparing dinner.

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I enjoyed my roast over some mashed potatoes that were cooked last night with potatoes from the hubby’s garden.

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To prepare them, I just mixed the boiled, tender potatoes with a container of 1/3 reduced fat onion and chive cream cheese and some milk using my handheld blender.

Well, I’m going to call it a night because I have work til 8 tomorrow night.  Good night all!

Shrimp Pot Pie

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Shrimp Pot Pie

Servings: 4 (about 390 calories per serving)

Ingredients:

1 tbsp canola oil

4 carrots, chopped

1 tbsp flour, all-purpose

1 1/3 c low-fat milk, separated

1/2 tsp salt plus more to taste

3/8 tsp white pepper plus more to taste

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp celery seed

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb frozen cut green beans, rinsed

1- 8.5 oz box corn muffin mix

1 egg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400* and spray 9X9 glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Heat oil in small saucepan.  Add carrots and sauté until tender about ten minutes.

2. Add 1 tbsp flour to carrots and stir for 1 minute.  Add 1 cup of milk, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/8 tsp pepper, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and celery seed.  Cook over low heat until thickened about 5-8 minutes stirring periodically.  Turn off and let cool (put in refrigerator to hasten the cooling).

3. Meanwhile, mix corn muffin mix with egg and 1/3 cup of milk.  Set aside.

4. Season shrimp with salt and white pepper to taste.  Add shrimp and green beans to baking dish.  Pour cooled sauce over shrimp and bean mixture and stir to combine. 

5. Stir corn muffin mix and pour over the top of the shrimp mixture.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until corn bread topping is golden brown.  Enjoy!DSC01253 

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The shrimp pot pie turned out nicely.  As for breakfast, there was the return of the oatmeal bowl.

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Lunch included some of Mom’s black eye peas leftover from last night’s dinner.DSC01237

I enjoyed a cup of the beans with pickled meat and a 1/2 cup of white rice.  I brought a nectarine for a snack, but when I cut it open it looked bad so a coworker gave me her cafeteria vanilla pudding with sprinkles on top because I was still hungry and wanted something sweet.  Ya know, when that special monthly visit is on its way my hunger gets out of control and I satisfy it.

At work, I also had some honey wheat pretzel sticks that Mom had brought me from Chicago in my goody bag a few weeks ago.  This week is standardized testing so I actually brought the pretzels for my 6 students I’m testing.

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Oh, and not to mention the hummus and chips I ate when I got home plus a bite of chipotle cheese which went unpictured.  I told you; I’m ravenous. That about wraps it up.  Now I’m feeling full and content.  For now.