Yellow Squash and Onions

This spring I asked Russ to pick up some plants for our vegetable garden from the farmer’s market.  I wanted 4 zucchini plants, 4 yellow squash and 4 cucumbers.  When he brought them home I said the cucumber did not look like ones I had planted for the last 16 years.   He said the lady who sold them to him told him they were bush cucumbers.  HA, they were zucchini.  So we are having an over abundance of squash already.  Top it off the yellow squash are zephyr, those half green half yellow ones that  technically  is a yellow squash, just not what I thought it would be.

So I will try and not overwhelm you with squash recipes, but this one is a favorite from my Grandmother.  It is very easy and once you have it you will want it again.

6 cups of yellow squashed sliced into ½ inch rounds

2 medium sweet onions chopped

2 t. butter

1 T. Cremora or Coffee mate (Coffee Creamer)

Salt and lots of black pepper

In a stockpot put the onions and the squash and just enough water to come half way up the side.  Sprinkle a little salt in now.  Bring the pot up to a boil and reduce to a slow boil, cover. Stir every five minutes.  After 10 minutes of cooking remove the lid so the steam can release and cook until the onions and squash are tender, about another 15 mins.  Make sure you still have liquid in the pot.  The squash will start to fall apart, which is good.  After it is done add the butter and the powdered creamer. I know powdered coffee creamer sound crazy, but you will be surprised how good it is and not that bad for you. Add Salt and lots of Black Pepper.

Champions for Kids

For all you followers who live in the Triangle I want to invite you to the Streets at Southpoint this Saturday for the Food Bank of CENC’s Champions for Kids day.

Summer is a particularly hard time for kids who are at risk for hunger.  51% of all kids in public schools in our 34 county service area get free or reduced price lunches at school.  That is over 300,000 kids.

In order to help feed them during the summer the Food Bank works with agencies to set up summer feeding programs and helps make more food available to families.

If you come out to the mall think about bringing food to donate that you can spare, of course money is always welcome.   There is a Kids Feeding Kids walk in the Mall from 8:30- 10:00.  A Food Bank truck will be parked on the road that passes between Magiannos and Firebirds between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM so you can just drive by and pass your donations out the window.

If you are up at 9:00 watching Saturday morning cartoons on ABC-11 I will be live on TV.  So if you can’t come to the mall you can see me on TV.

I know that so many of you have made generous pledges to the Food Bank through the Less Dana, More Good Campaign, and thank you for that.  It takes many events and messages to educate the public on the problem of hunger and help get the support we need to help our neighbors.

What’s Not Motivating


Motivation is a very personal thing.  What motivates me is not necessarily what motives you.  I know this to be true because more people have said to me that they would rather pay me to lose weight than discuss their weight publicly.


One thing I know is not motivating to me is to be bullied into doing something.  Case –in-point is my 5th grade gym teacher.  Even though I can’t remember his name I can picture him in my mind perfectly.


He was a little fireplug of a man, who wore those ever popular among coaches in the ‘70’s sans-a-belt pants.  They were made out of stretchy material that was not yet the perfection of today’s spandex so after a few weeks of putting his hands in and out of the slash-front- pockets the front flaps began to hang down so it looked like he had two pouches.


This Gym teacher, let’s call him Mr. Bully, announced to my fifth grade class that one requirement of our school system was that each of us had to climb the rope hanging from the gym ceiling.  Not only did we have to climb the rope the twenty feet, at the very least, but when we reached the top we had to take one hand off the rope and touch the ceiling and then make our way back down the rope.  Falling off the rope at the top did not count as a successful completion.


Every week one or two students would attempt the rope climb, cheered on by the rest of the class.  There were those stellar students who were clearly descended from chimps who could jump up and grab the rope way above their heads, coil the dangling end around their feet, shimmy up to the top, remove one hand and without fear touch the ceiling and slide back down without the slightest tinge of a rope burn.


I was not one of these agile youths.  I attempted the climb.  Having never been instructed in any proper climbing technique, I would grab the rope and try and pull my body off the ground.  I would lift my legs and after what seemed like an eternity my hands would get sweaty and I would slide the three feet down the rope, having never actually made any upward progress.


This torture went on for weeks with no actual progress.  Mr. Bully would pull me off the sidelines of dodge ball having already been hit by at least three balls in the first ten seconds.


“Dana,” he would yell.  “Climb the rope!”  It was clear I was never going to be able to climb the rope.  But he continued to insist that I do it.


“You will not be allowed to pass out of fifth grade until you pass the rope test,” he would scream at me and the other rope climbing failures.  At least I was not alone in my humiliation.

Not only was I poor in the upper body and coordination department I was deathly afraid of heights.  That fear was well developed from having to climb up the steep roof of our house to fix the TV antenna on cold Sunday afternoons when the football game reception was ruining my parents’ day.


So I really tried hard not to learn to climb because if by some miracle I was able to pull my body up the rope I certainly was not going to be able to take one hand off just to touch the gym ceiling.  I would have been more willing to kiss the gym ceiling than remove 50% of what was holding me on that rope.


Week after week, Mr. Bully never let up on me.  But as the group of non-climbers would huddle together I noticed one similarity… We all were mostly straight A students.  Now I’m not saying that all the straight A students could not climb the rope, certainly there were many of those gifted in both mind and body, but the threat of not passing out of fifth grade came into question, in my mind at least.


So one beautiful spring day, around April, when Mr. Bully had everyone come in from kickball early so they could watch the rope climbing losers fail one more time, I spoke up.


“Mr. Bully, is it really a rule that we can’t go on to 6th grade if we don’t pass the rope test?”  I asked.


“Dana Carter, just get to the rope and climb.”


“But is it a rule?”


“Yes, stop asking questions.”


“You mean that the town of Wilton is willing to pay for straight A students to repeat fifth grade just because they can’t climb the rope?”  I knew I was on to something because they passed Curtis Zelbisher out of fourth grade and he could not read.


“It’s a rule,” Mr. Bully screamed at me.


I got a little nervous then, having never really questioned authority like that before.  I grabbed the rope and lifted my legs up, still only three feet off the ground.


The next week when called to the rope I tried another tactic.


“Mr. Bully, I am afraid of heights.  I think my parents might sue the school system if I were to climb the rope and get to the top and fall to my death when I removed a hand.”  I could see steam coming from his hairy ears.  I tried again… you know the outcome.


I had never heard the phrase, “speak truth to power,” but I certainly was feeling it.  As I would question this idiotic rule he would threaten me more and more.  His mistake.


One day I was playing at friend Wendy Maclay’s house.  She happened to live across the street from the Verrilli’s.  Jamie Verrilli was our friend, but more importantly his mother, Rosemarie was the first Selectwoman of our town, which is kind of like being the mayor.  Wendy and I went over looking for Jamie and when we saw his Mom I took it as an opportunity to question the big “rope-climbing rule.”


Mrs. Verrilli, being a brilliant and calm woman with a big hairdo, listened intently to my story, with Wendy and her own agile son Jamie backing me up on the “facts.”


After I finished my too long description of Mr. Bully and my embarrassing treatment in gym I just waited.  Mrs. Verrilli did not tell me I was right nor did she tell me I had to climb the rope.  She just said, “I’m not sure, but I will look in to it.”


The last few weeks of school went on with me in the same non-rope-climbing predicament, but I persisted in my vocal protest.


School ended.  I got my report card.  Straight A’s and no mention of repeating fifth grade.  When the fall rolled around I found I was assigned to be in Dale Stoelting’s 6th grade class.  She was the best teacher ever.  Not only did not climbing the rope hold me back, but I was rewarded with the best teacher.


The first day we had to go to gym class I cringed, walking down the hall to the high ceilinged gymnasium.  As went entered the room I was surprised to see that Mr. Bully was not there.  Rumor had it that he had been relieved of his position.


I have no information if Mrs. Verrilli had anything to do with it, but I do know she was a very smart woman, proof of that is one of her other son’s Donald is currently the solicitor General of the United States.


Roast Green Beans

If you have never roasted vegetable you are missing one yummy way to enjoy them.  Even small non-green-eating children like these and they can’t be easier.

Green Beans



Preheat convection oven to 425º.  If you don’t have convection set oven at 450º.

Cut the stem end off the green beans.  Cover cookie sheet with foil spray with Pam.  Spread the green beans out in a single layer if you can, but a little overlapping won’t ruin it.  Put in the oven and check on them after 15 mins.  The amount of time it takes to cook them depends on their thickness and water content.  It could take up to 25 minutes for them to finish.  You want them to start to brown.  Sprinkle salt on them once they are out of the oven.

Always make at least double the amount you think you will need.  First roasting shrinks them down and second you won’t be able to stop snacking on them.  This recipe is great for even the most marginal of green beans, like really old ones or out of season.

Here I Am, Lord

While at church today we sang one of my favorite Hymns, Here I Am, Lord.    Part of the last stanza goes like this:


I will tend the poor and lame.  I will set a feast for them.  My hand will save. Finest bread I will provide till their hearts be satisfied.  I will give My life to them.  Whom shall I send?  Here I am Lord.


While singing this my eyes welled up with tears, and it was not because I could hear the pitiful sound of my own singing voice, but because I was overwhelmed by the thought of all of you generous friends who have made pledges of support.


You are the people tending the poor and lame, which while not a politically correct description, it is accurate of many hungry people who depend on the Food Bank.

Feeding someone is one of the most loving acts humans can do.  And I appreciate your selfishness in doing it.


You are not just giving to me, you are giving to the world through this campaign.  Here You are!

For the Love of Tea

I was walking by a closed bookstore and a title caught my eye:  The Ultimate TEA Diet; Boost your Metabolism, shrink your appetite and kick-start remarkable weight loss.  This seemed like a dream come true to me.  You see Tea, and when I say Tea, I mean Iced Tea, said with the most reverence possible, is my vice of choice.


I have a complete love affair with tea.  Russ brings it to me in bed every morning because he is a really smart man, if you know what I mean.


I make a two-quart pitcher of my own special recipe almost everyday.  I run the hot water tap until it gets as hot as it ever does into my blue plastic pitcher and put in eleven regular Lipton tea bags, the small ones, never the big giant ones nor the Iced Tea blend.


I let those bags steep for 20 minutes, but sometimes I forget about the pitcher and it sits on the counter for three hours.  It does not seem to matter how long I let it steep.  It is always perfect.  When I ask friends who are visiting if they would like something to drink, they often say, “I’d love some of your Tea.”  See, it is my tea.  Somehow it is better than regular Tea.  Why is that?


It could be that the temperature of my hot from the tap, never boiled water is just right to elicit those delicate flavors out of cheep-ass-bought-at-Costco-tea bags.  Maybe it is the eleven-bags ratio to two quarts of water.  Who knows, but it is the stuff I crave.  Well, the Tea with fresh lime juice and Sweet’n Low.


My Sweet’n Low addiction in Tea is serious.  I know there have been a lot of newcomers to the artificial sweetener world.  Those claiming to taste more like sugar, or be less carcinogenic, but I grew up in the 70’s, era of great chemical tastes, like Tang and Tab.  I crave that artificial-pink-packet flavor in my Tea.  I even carry it in my purse because so many new-age hip eateries do not espouse those non-organic sweeteners in favor of natural stuff like Stevia.  No match, in my Tea world.


So understanding how much I love Tea and how serious my addiction is, you would think that a book called the TEA Diet would be perfect for me… Hold your horses.  If drinking tea really did do all the things that this book titled promised how the hell did I get so fat to begin with?


Without actually reading the book this is what I think about it.  Eating less is about the only way to lose weight.  Eating less sugar, white flour and fat helps you lose it faster.  Exercise helps, it helps a lot, but Tea is not the answer.


Tea, being my last surviving addiction (as long as I stay off sugar) may not actually be bad for me, but I still consider it an addiction.  I’m just glad that I don’t need to go to Tea drinkers anonymous.


I made my good-for-you gazpacho for Mah Jongg today and everybody asked if it was on the blog.  I said, “No, its just gazpacho.”  But they all wanted the recipe so I’m putting it up for the Mah Jongg girls and anyone else who wants it.  It is a great starter for lunch or dinner so you get full before you eat anything less healthy.

One trick about this Gazpacho I learned from my friend Roz Howell, was to use canned diced tomatoes.  She convinced me that they were always better than fresh since they were perfectly ripe.  In the weird juxtaposition of the world, Roz was the one who taught me how to play American Mah Jongg.

1 15 oz.can diced tomatoes

46 oz. bottle of Hot and Spice V-8 –low sodium

2 medium sweet onions chopped finely

1 English cucumber –  seeded and diced

½ red bell pepper diced

½ green bell pepper diced

1 jalapeño pepper minced

1 cloves of garlic grated

5 T. red wine vinegar

10 basil leaves – cut in tiny strips

Mix everything together and chill.  This one was garnished with a slice of avocado.  Feta cheese is also a great garnish.