Posts Tagged ‘great vegetable recipes’

Today was my first day at the gym. Managing to put this off since I first received my membership card, in desperation I made a pact with a friend with a membership at the same establishment to go together. If I know someone else is counting on me, I will get my lazy behind in my Spandex and hit the road. You never realize what bad shape you are in until you are faced with such medieval torture devices as the elliptical machine. The first time I stretched and bent these squeaky old knees it put life in perspective. Good news, there is one muscle in my right index finger that is not screaming my name.

For me this has been a busy week. I feel uncharacteristically scattered. Usually I can remain organized in chaos but this week has stripped me of my sash reading “Extreme Multitasker” leaving me unfocused and a bit cranky. Perhaps it’s the weather. It has been odd. Day before yesterday the thermometer was hovering around 90. I know! Today it is in the 70’s and rain is on the horizon. Outside everything is blooming with my allergies following suit and flowering themselves. Aside from looking a bit like a hungover lab rat, I spend my hours sneezing and blowing my nose. Whine, whine, whine. I hear you. I shall stop now. Thank you for allowing me to vent.

My mother recently went down to the DMV to renew her license. Studying vigorously for the written test she passed with flying colors, but when she got to the eye test she stumbled. Unfortunately, her macular degeneration had progressed making reading the chart on the wall impossible for her to do. I explained to her she would not want to be on the road with poor eyesight becoming a danger to herself and others. Nodding her head as I spoke I could see that as much as she understood what I was saying, accepting it wasn’t going to come as easily. I can only imagine watching that last piece of true independence exit out the side door must be sooooo very difficult. Not being able to hop in your car when you need something such a hard thing to accept. For a person as independent as my mother having to lean on other people will be a hard pill to swallow.

I have been told I’m a bit male in my approach to such things. When faced with a problem I tend to immediately go into a solution mode. First I looked at public transit solutions for alternate transportation. Often they fall into categories. There are those provided for low income seniors. Then those for fiscally solvent older citizens. These all start at $40-45 one way. Hmmmm. This is me stroking my chin again. At this point, I turned in the direction of Lyft or Uber. These two would be obvious solutions but for the fact my mother is technologically challenged. I am being polite here. Several years back I attempted to teach her how to use the computer. This took us down such a prickly path, I ended up enrolling her in a class at a local adult school. She attended four classes after which I believe the teacher tendered his resignation. Not true, but mother did not persevere. The blocking point is her intrinsic fear she will “break” the computer if she hits a wrong key. Though she types like a pistol (typing- done on a machine called a typewriter plugged into the wall), she finds keying daunting which holds her back. On some level she would have to learn to manage the APPS necessary to summon drivers for the two above mentioned services in order to use them. Again, hmmmmm.

In the middle of working on the driving situation I have been doing a lot of side work for the food ministry I volunteer for. They are a lovely group of humans who donate their time to help people in our county who cannot afford the food necessary to feed their families. Working with them is good for the soul I find. In the midst of an unsettled world it is lovely to find human beings giving freely of themselves for the sake of those around them with no repayment expected except for the joy of doing so. Like it. Like it a lot. As well as nurturing my soul my “job” for them if you will keeps my computer skills fresh. Although I’m sure technology with regard to the graphic arts has long since left me struggling in the dust, I can still whip up a catchy logo or create a media campaign suitable for publication. This is a good thing. I don’t exercise my artistic self as often as I should these days. It’s not that I don’t have time. Actually thinking about it, I don’t. It’s more that I don’t make the time. When I finally do sit down and put my feet up I find my hands are more likely to want to remain in my lap rather than search for a pencil and a piece of paper. Signs of the passing of time I would suppose.

To add to my busy schedule Murphy is acting up at our house. Things always seem to fall apart in threes around here. You know, like when one famous person passes away, two others often fall quickly behind them. First the battery went out in our car. Not a big deal, they weren’t running out at the store. Then yesterday the refrigerator stopped working. This is a bigger deal. It is a relatively new refrigerator (4 years). I have noticed that a refrigerator never ceases to function before you stock up on groceries, rather lying in wait until you’ve just spent half your check at the local market on food. Hopefully, we’ll break the three’s a charm rule and stop at two this time. I have my fingers and toes crossed. This brings to mind living in Alabama during a particularly hot summer. At the time we kept a dedicated freezeer in the garage to hold overflow items. Before leaving for vacation (naturally) we had loaded it up with fish caught on a recent day on the lake as well as venison given to us over the winter months and a 20 lb. meat package recently purchased at a local butcher. After a glorious two weeks on vacation we returned home to a garage so ripe I’m amazed it hadn’t exploded. Ewwww. No one willing to open the lid on the offending object, we ended up paying a local hauler to remove it as it sat contents and all. For months the garage smelled like a crime scene no matter how many cans of room deodorizer we exhausted on it.

These veggies are such a hit at our house. The tomato sauce is amazing.

Green Beans and Corn with Cherry Tomato Sauce

1 lb. green beans trimmed
1 1/2 cup cooked corn kernels
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 red cherry tomatoes, halved
10 yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley

Trim beans and cook over high heat covered with lightly salted water until tender. Drain. Add corn and heat on low.

In another saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add pepper, sugar, and basil to pan. Add tomatoes and cook and stir until tomatoes begin to wilt but not turn to mush. Add salt and additional pepper if desired and parsley. Pour over vegetables and toss gently to combine.

Serves 4

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The first few weeks of a new year always leave me a little depressed. Not weepy, or anything, but rather with a letdown feeling such as might set in after going to a much-anticipated party or event once it is over. Perhaps it’s not having the Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, or the anticipation of family and friends coming and going, or simply a new year opening up before me and not knowing all that it might entail. People seem to hibernate a bit during January. The weather, usually on the blustery side during the earlier months, encourages inside activities with people holing up with a good book or a project. Unless, of course, you have snow on the ground and a pair of skis strapped to your feet. As much as I enjoy seeing snow falling in our yard, the idea of heading up our steep driveway and onto the slippery streets keeps me closer to home during winter months.

I was soooo sad to hear that David Bowie passed over the weekend. Always it amazes me that with so many like beings on this planet there continue to be those individuals whose lights shine a little brighter than the rest of the bulbs. It puts me to wondering why some come into the world armed with such natural musical talent while others, like myself, can’t read a note. Even if I could read it, guaranteed I’d empty a room if I attempted to sing it. If someone had a gun to my cat’s head saying “write the notes on the scale on this piece of paper or the cat gets it”, Boo, sadly, would be a goner. Sorry Boo.

Speaking of Boo, the old cat is starting to show signs of wear, sleeping more and playing less. I try not to notice because the thought of not seeing that silly kitty face over my coffee cup in the morning is too much for me to bear. 2006 was the first time Boo and I shared space. I had been looking for a furry adoptee for months scouring the rescue centers in our area. For some reason, as many sweet scared 7f74ae549237ce937e6fd124aaf3e35f_180faces as I’d looked into I hadn’t found exactly what I was looking for in a companion. On the prowl again (if you will), I visited the SPCA in my town. As luck would have it (for me not the feline population) business was booming in the kitty room. All the available cages were occupied and extra cages had been set up towards the back of the building for the overload. I peered into each cage as I passed. Curious faces stared back at me as if to say “pick me, pick me”. Deciding to take a peek out back before making a decision, I walked along a dark bank of cages. Standing beside the last group a white paw reached out and touched me on the arm. The cage was in the center of a stack of three. Leaning down I found inside the prettiest white cat with muted gray and tan calico markings. One huge slightly crossed blue eye winked at me. Without another thought I signaled the attendant I would be taking “Snowball” home with me.

After filling out the appropriate paperwork and posting bail for Snowball, I loaded her in my cat carrier and put her in the passenger seat. All the way home she howled, telling me her sad story and expressing her doubts about going to a new home. Once released in the house she disappeared to the lower floors. It took me nearly a day to locate her. Such a scaredy cat. I knew she was around because the dish of food I left out would diminish from one day to the next and the food eaten recycled in the litter box nearby. Tentatively she began to show herself to us, venturing out a little longer on each visit. Snowball morphed into Boo Boo as her easily spooked personality emerged. Soon she was eating on the upstairs floor where we spent 90% of our time. At the end of the first month she had claimed the comfortable chair by the window as her own and if not curled up there spent much of her time on the sill behind it watching the hummingbirds swarming around the feeder on the deck.

Since then we have become fast friends, and I use friend exactly as it was meant. She finds my lap when I’m sick, and wakes me up in the morning with a friendly lick to have coffee with her while she enjoys her first treat of the day. After that I sit in my chair reading the paper while she takes up her place in Rick’s chair right next me. A creature of habit she never varies from her behavior unless something external causes a change in plans.

Of all the cats I’ve owned, and there have been a few, she is the only one who actively engages in hide and go seek. Also, the only one who participates in what we call “clean sheet day”, getting under the new sheet while I’m making the bed and while tented generally making a nuisance of herself.

I worked for several years at our local shelter in the “cat house”. Sad to read the stories posted on their cages, often chronicling poor treatment by the humans tasked with their care. I could have adopted them all. In Boo’s case her owner gave her up because she had white hair and shed on her furniture. Ummmmm, she’s a cat. To avoid this problem in the future adopt a Sphynx, or hairless cat. Problem solved. Of course, you have to look at the cat every day without hair. A bit unnerving on the best of days. Cats are likely going to scratch, Sphynx_Catoccasionally bite, definitely shed, and if male probably spray. If you’re looking for one expecting it not to exhibit any of these qualities I suggest you head for the stuffed animal section at Toys R Us. Like humans their personalities range from lovable to ornery, but certainly when you get a good one they bring far more to the table then they take away. So many are waiting for “forever homes”. If you find you have room for one more, be sure to take a look.

This curried cauliflower is a lovely change of pace. A little heat or a lot, it’s up to you. I like a dollop of plain yogurt on top or a squeeze of lime as well.

Curried Cauliflower with Red Potatoes

6 small red potatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
8 oz. fresh spinach, trimmed
Plain yogurt and lime wedges

Boil potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes until soft. Add cauliflower and continue cooking 6 mins. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, scallions, and garlic and cook for 8 mins. on med. low heat. Add curry powder and corinader and cook for 1 min. Add chickpeas, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 15 mins. or until tender. Add spinach in batches until wilted. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and lime wedges.

Serves 4

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1As usual I continue to find myself in the most ridiculous situations. I was hoping the advent of 2015 would have me acting in a more respectable manner, but it seems to be simply an extension of last year.

Rick’s daughter is getting married as I mentioned. The celebration is in Phoenix. A dress or semi-formal attire of some sort is in order, so I’ve been shopping. Along my shopping route I stopped at a major department store advertising a huge sale. Not being the only one with this idea, the parking was lot packed. My style of shopping, if you can call it that, is to gather as much as I can carry the first trip through the store thus making as few trips back and forth to the dressing room as is necessary. As you might gather, shopping is not my idea of a good time. Along with a new dress I needed a pair of jeans. Finding several pairs I liked, I piled them on top of everything else. Trying the jeans on first, one pair needed a smaller size. Still wearing the store jeans to avoid having to change again, I grabbed my purse, and went out to look for the size I needed. Closing the door to safeguard my room, I left my glasses, the jeans I’d worn into the store and everything I’d picked out to try on in the dressing room. Easy peasey.

Walking back to the fitting rooms with the correct size I found a line had formed. Oh-oh. Sliding along the side of the line towards my dressing room as I approached the door I heard the lock click shut. Whoops. Now I’m dressed in store jeans with tags dangling beneath my shirt. The oversized jeans kept slowly moving south on my body. This resulted in my looking like one of those kids who insists on wearing his pants with the crotch hovering somewhere around his knees as if his underwear was meant to be the focal point of his attire. As I moved to the front of the line pulling the pants up with each step I ushered the women behind me to go ahead. The lady in my dressing room must have had half the store to try on because at least ten minutes passed. Ach. Pants nearly around my ankles I finally knocked and explained the situation to a voice behind the door. Several ladies behind me began to chuckle. Yes, yes, I know. I left my “I’m with Stupid” tee-shirt in the wash. A shirt I feel I’m entitled to wear even without a companion. Kind enough to open the door the woman inside and I had to rifle through the pile of clothes to find mine mixed in with hers and my pants and glasses. Sigh.

Leaving the store carrying my purchases free range as I’d forgotten my reuseable bags as usual, I headed toward an appointment at the podiatrist. This was to be my virgin visit to such a specialist. Even at the height of their glory my feet were never my finest asset. Someone in my family told me as a youngster my great grandmother’s feet were 12 AAA. Surely not. I had nightmares about those long skinny appendages for months. If she’d ever abandoned her nursing career she could have signed on immediately with the ski patrol without requiring any additional equipment. Not that I’m complaining about my piggies. Without them I would have been staring at the ground most of my life. Certainly though there was never a threat of my being lured away from my day job to make big money as a foot model. As a matter of fact, my other half tells me to keep my socks in place lest I traumatize young children. Lately, if possible, they have transformed into an even less palatable visage. My toenails once pristine have now turned a rather unpleasant shade of ecru. I was assuming this to be some sort of treatable situation like foot fungus, ewwwwwwwwww, but nonetheless.

Sitting in the doctor’s office alongside people with medical boots, casts, and crutches, my slightly yellow toenails seemed somehow less important. Ushered into a room a doctor bustled in shortly and asked me to remove my shoes and socks and hop up on the examining table. After a cursory look at my jaundiced nails, he confirmed my diagnosis. Fungus, most likely a result of taking antibiotics. Ach. Apparently a gift that keeps on giving, once you get it it likes to stick around. That’s nice. I assume a pedicure is out of the question? According to the podiatrist topical remedies for this surprisingly common occurrence currently on the market are of little if no use. There are medications you can take orally that might help, but in the end once a fungus always a fungus it would appear. Perhaps I’ll have to have healthy toenails tattooed on so I can go out in my summer shoes. My girlfriend told me to soak the toes in vinegar and water. What have I got to lose? I’ll update you if this has any effect other than making my lower extremities smell like the far end of a salad bar.

On the way home after that delightful piece of news about my feet I hit a deer. This has never happened to me before. First and foremost the idea of hurting any living thing left me saddened and shaking. Unfortunately, there was little I could do for the animal as it ran off into the trees after I clipped it. Moving at around 60 mph it rocked the car pretty good and tossed what left of my grey cells around a bit. On the right front side of the car there are several plastic pieces askew but other than that no other major visible damage. The deer, one might hope, either died quickly or somehow survived the ordeal and isn’t in pain. However with the intensity of the impact, I’m doubting the latter. I’m telling you, I’m going into my closet with a bag of fiery Cheeto’s and a jug of margaritas and shutting the door tight for the day!

It’s been a helluva day at sea I’m just sayin’.

Brussels sprouts remain at the top of my “list of favorite veggies”. They cohabit with so many other vegetables beautifully. In particular I like them done this way.

Oven Roasted Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

6 small carrots, peeled cut in large chunks
15 Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/2 lb. pearl onions, peeled
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. hot paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat medium saucepan full of hot water to boiling. Drop onions in boiling water for 2 mins. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately drop in bowl of ice water. This makes the onions easy to peel.

Boil carrots and Brussels sprouts together until tender but not fully cooked. Drain. Boil onions separately in small saucepan of water until tender but not fully cooked.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Place vegetables in large bowl. Mix all seasonings together and sprinkle on top. Add olive oil. Toss to cover well. Place in prepared dish and bake for 30 mins. turning once.

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Amazingly our garden is looking like spring, and it’s mid-February. A bit unnerving for those of us living in the Golden State. Stands to reason if we’re enjoying tee-shirt weather this early in the year, summer will be a bear. I’m not complaining about the lack of rain, however, after observing what people to the east of us are enduring. Roads like skating rinks, power lines frozen solid, roofs caving in. Even Niagara Falls looking like a scene from Frozen. Truly Disney’s movie mirrored in a way what winter was to look like this year with a polar chill gripping most of the nation.

Three times in my life I’ve lived in snow belts. Growing up in Nova Scotia, certainly winter made itself known. Three years in Massachusetts, and three years again in West Virginia. Snow makes the landscape incredibly beautiful, I think. Draping itself among the tree branches, making stark patterns along the roadways and in fields. For a kid, it’s a playground on which to sled, toboggan, skate, and ski. Building a snowman was usually the first order of business when winter arrived for my friends and I. Learning to build a good snowball also an essential for kids growing up in snow country. By the time my ankles could support my weight I had ice skates. The frog pond in Point Pleasant Park, two blocks from the house, was where we gathered to show off new skates or glide about on the ones we’d already broken in. Cheeks red as persimmons, and feet frozen solid we twirled and raced across the ice for hours seemingly oblivious to the frigid air and our numbing limbs.

February should reflect the above, but snow seems as far away as another universe on such a short-sleeved day as today. Tulips ought not to bloom in the week following Valentine’s Day alongside bright pink cherry blossoms. What’s up Mother Nature? Were you bored with hurricanes and forest fires? Allergies are in full force out here while back east gridlocked frozen highways keep people long into the night stuck in their cars.

Deciding there was nothing to do but get out and enjoy this glorious day we first took ourselves to breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict, my favorite. Rick had his usual French toast. Creatures of habit are we. Afterwards we ran errands, stopped to wash the car, and ended up at Home Depot to look for some light fixtures before heading home.

As ridiculous as this sounds, I have a totally irrational fear of going through a car wash. This wasn’t always the case. It began about twenty years ago. I was dating a man at the time carrying on a love affair with his vehicle. Seriously I believe if an assassin had pointed a gun towards me and his SUV and said, “your lady or your car”, I would have gone down like the Titanic. The car, or “baby” to he who loved it, required a full bath each weekend rain wasn’t predicted. This was followed by a thorough hand rubbing with a soft chamois and a good vacuum to capture any debris daring to make its way onto the pristine floor mats. Kings have enjoyed less pampering. Taking food inside the car could be a deal breaker. Once we ordered take-out. The food was placed on a 33 gallon trash bag in the back in between two bricks to stabilize the bags. Taking the food in the house he went back to the car for a dusting of “new car spray” to remove any lingering odors of egg rolls mucking about. Water, if thoroughly enclosed, was acceptable on a trip as long as it didn’t contain any flavoring which might stain the upholstery. I suggested at one point a detailed manual might be handy to help one keep track of all the rules. This was not well received.

My car, unaware such vehicle spoiling existed, looked good but certainly not as good sitting next to the larger vehicle requiring sunglasses to view it in full sun. After several weekends without seeing me outside buffing and shining it was suggested I take my car through the car wash down the road. Fine. I worked a sixty hour week at least at the time and whether or not my car was immaculate at any given moment was on my list right after going diving for oysters. As a note, I detest oysters.

To appease, my next free Saturday the Neon and I made the drive to the car wash. A man met us at the entrance with options including waxing and wheels. Going for the works I was handed a receipt and instructed to pull forward. I did. Somehow my wheels got off the pulley used to drag the car through the cycles once inside. The Neon tipped on one wheel was being urged ahead almost sideways towards the entrance. Much yelling and waving of hands occurred outside as the car wash personnel managed to shut down the car wash completely just as the driver’s side rear view mirror was ripped from its holder and tossed under the bus, if you will. Uh-huh. After the bubbles settled I was told to submit a claim for the mirror and offered a free car wash and waxing. Um, no thank you. Since then I either go to the u-wash car wash or allow my other half to do it.

I’ve mentioned before I had my energy read at a fair in Berkeley for kicks. The reader said he had never seen energy like mine. Very powerful stuff apparently. Smile. He asked if I had a lot of problems with machinery. Did somebody tell? Ach. I can walk by a printer and get the lights twirling on and off. Always been that way. An IT guy at one job intimated I had somehow warped the screen on my computer and pulled up a page he’d never before seen. Really? Put me to good use and I could be a weapon of mass destruction. Just ask Rick.

Yesterday after enduring me holding my hands over my face and chanting all the way through the car wash, we went to Home Depot. Not finding the light we were searching for I picked up a small house plant. Deciding on the self-checkout with only one item, I scanned the bar code. A screen came up on the machine depicting (not kidding here) a hammer suspended in the air and marks below it as if indicating I should hit the machine with it. Alerting the sales person there to help stupid self-checkout users such as myself, she stared at the screen. Seems she’d never seen that screen before either. Hmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Shutting down the machine entirely and rebooting I paid my $3.58 and decided to become a hermit.

This is a meal in itself. I served it with rice and we needed nothing to go with it.

Braised Artichokes and Beans

2 large globe artichokes
1 large lemon
1/8 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 1/2 Tbsp. dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl with water. Squeeze entire lemon in bowl then toss in rinds. Allow to sit for 30 mins. Cut artichokes in quarters lengthwise. Remove chokes (furry portions near stem) with knife. Cut ends of stems slightly. These are an extension of the heart so don’t cut too much. Drop artichokes in water and leave for 30 mins.


Pour olive oil in bottom of stockpot. Heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 8 mins. stirring often. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Drain artichokes, tossing lemons, and place in pot. Add enough water to cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 mins. or until tender. Serve with a bed of rice and melted butter or mayonnaise for dipping.

Serves 4

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1Ach, I have been sick. It seems fall is going to insist on my remaining inside on these glorious color filled days. Most probably I’ll be feeling better by the time the rain moves in next week. The word hospital came up when I was told I needed to go home and take care of myself. Susie’s kryptonite. I do not like hospitals. The smell, the sadness, the desperation. Also, I am a firm believer it is not unusual to pick up a little something extra besides the bill when you are departing. A friend of mine got a staff infection while in the hospital for a hernia operation and never came out. He was fifty. The only part of a hospital that makes me smile is the obstetrics section, and only as an observer there. The last time I was interred, as I prefer to call it, I made it through all the procedures but the most painful part of my stay was the food. Some of the chefs must have been recruited directly from Purina. They did a nice job with Jello and whipped cream and tapioca but other than that I feared I would die from starvation before being once again released into the wild.  It was the first hospital stay where I was offered a menu from which to choose my meals. Amazingly no matter what choice I made they all tasted the same when you put them in your mouth.

Certainly we need hospitals. Dedicated people who staff them, for the most part, do a rough job with a good attitude. I wouldn’t want to do it. As I’ve said before I considered being an R.N. as a vocation, before choosing instead to be, uh, …………, whatever. My grandmother was an R.N. This is how she met my grandfather, who was to be a doctor. Three uncles were physicians, and my second cousin just graduated from medical school. With all that medical blood coursing through my veins it’s amazing I chose instead to be, uh, ……………., whatever.

To add to the mix, Thanksgiving will be here in a few weeks and right on its heels Christmas. Help. On my sewing table are patterns pinned to pieces of fabric. Each Christmas for about five years I get orders for aprons. Combining my artwork with the sewing, I make each apron unique with a general theme to guide me provided by the buyer. It’s a project, but one I enjoy when I’m both feeling well and have the time to devote to it. Neither is true at the moment but I’m muddling through.

Christmas always seems to sneak up on me. In October it seems a long distance off, but in a blink I look at the calendar and it’s November. Suddenly the month is powering by and I haven’t even thought about gifts or plans and it’s all right there throwing tinsel in my face. Traditionally I put my Christmas decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. Already Christmas Vacation and The Bishop’s Wife are waiting on my DVD, and the hot chocolate is in the cupboard next to the marshmallows.

Rick didn’t start out as a likely candidate for elf’s assistant. At some point he will take out his “Christmas Sucks” hat to show his support. Over the years I’ve never been associated with a male partner or mate who threw himself into the decorating with me. Several have gotten on the ladder and hung outdoor lights but usually it is me with my sea of boxes wearing my elf hat with the bells and singing happily to the cat.  A Christmas movie deal is not on the table for this story, but it makes me happy.  For the first time this year he said he looks forward to the lights and the blinking tree (not a euphemism). It is true when all is said and done the house takes on a warm and friendly feel not duplicated any other time of the year.

Boxes line the upper shelves of my garage marked Xmas or Christmas. This house being much smaller than our previous home, I have to be careful not to turn it into a Christmas store or put some of the larger items in places where they can be knocked off or become a hazard. Thinking on it, I need a larger house for the holidays with this one doing fine the remainder of the year.

I haven’t been out all week so today is the day. Our larder is bare and the dog has no bone. Oh, I don’t have a dog, but if I did he definitely wouldn’t find a bone in the cupboard. Rick said he went looking for a snack last night and settled on a stale graham cracker and some string cheese. Mmmmmm. Maybe I’ll feature this in my next blog?

In our house the shopping is mostly left to me. A list maker from way back, I always have a long one when I get to it and Rick gets antsy after about ten minutes in a store. Honestly I like grocery shopping for the most part. Making a list makes it easy for me. Somehow I seem to manage to omit one item no matter what only to get home and find I have to go back out again. It’s a personal problem.

Anyhow, I’ll make this list short for today. This cauliflower was really good and totally different. Give it a try if you get a chance. The lime juice and salsa give it a lovely tang.

South of the Border Cauliflower

l large head cauliflower
1 onion, diced
Juice of one lime
1 15 1/2 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes with juice
3 Tbsp. hot chunky salsa
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

Place diced onion in small bowl with lime juice. Let sit for 15 mins. to soften onions.

Steam cauliflower and drain well. Season with salt an pepper to taste.

Heat tomatoes and salsa over medium heat until hot. Add onion mixture.

Pour over hot cauliflower florets. Top with feta cheese and sprinkle with cilantro.

Serves 4

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A friend of mine has recently dived into the dating pool after ten dry years. According to him, dating at this time of life is a task more terrifying than surviving a Halloween corn maze or spending a dark night in a haunted mansion. According to his testimony it is an endeavor fraught with far more zombies and unspeakable ghouls. Let’s face it, men are at a premium as we age. Statistically they leave us earlier than women do, leaving less of them to go around.

I must admit I have always questioned the perception we women are predatory beings circling the human pond hungrily trolling for the catch of the day. It is perceived by some we should view our men as some sort of prize and ourselves as incredibly clever for being able to trick them into accepting the heavy yoke of commitment. I for one have thrown several back, and am here to say prize is not the descriptive word I would choose if asked to describe them.

Words cannot express how delighted I am not to be in his shoes. The very thought of starting at A again, leaves me shimmering with sweat. Having to meet for the first time and endure awkward conversation and uncomfortable shoes only to be left to wonder if he liked me enough to dial my number again or if who I met sitting across from me bore any resemblance to who he was when I was not in the room. Scary business that. Not to mention if you do progress forward and down the road the business of either him meeting your children or, if both parties have offspring, you meeting his comes to the table. That’s always a defining moment. I felt a bit sorry for men who came up against my two. They lost their dad when they were seven and eight and in their mind if you weren’t a super hero or didn’t own a candy factory don’t bother applying for the job. To me this is the most difficult hurdle when attempting to have a personal life as a single parent, getting that link to connect. At the time I was doing it, I never introduced anybody I was involved with to my children unless the game was in the fourth quarter and my team was up by 21 points and we were first and goal. Anything more would have been confusing for them, and certainly confusing for me. If it hadn’t been for the fact my parents insisted on spoiling my children at least one weekend a month I would have been an acceptable candidate for the sisterhood.

Over the years I’ve had some strange dating experiences. On one occasion I actually made two dates for the same evening. While getting ready to go out for the evening with one man, I opened the door to find a second one standing there with a lovely bouquet of wildflowers in his hands. Whoops. That was extremely awkward and resulted in basically ending the need for any further involvement with the gentlemen with the flowers, as he did not find the humor the situation.

In my late twenties I went to dinner with a group of friends. It was a first date with an engineer from work so I felt safer surrounded by allies. We decided on a Polynesian restaurant in Hollywood famous for their flaming drinks and excellent cuisine. Whether he was nervous or simply a totally sot, my date went through the Mai Tai’s like he’d just been told he had twenty-four hours to live. At one point he became so inebriated he slithered like a reptile down the seat and puddled under the table. After we looked under the table to ensure he wasn’t damaged, we tried to help him up. At this point he became somewhat belligerent, then curled up and went to sleep. It was unspoken but unanimously decided by the group to allow him to remain there.

Another man I dated, with the unlikely job of professional barefoot water skier, was the tighest man I ever met. By this I do not mean he had an impressive six-pack, but rather he still had the first $.50 the tooth fairy put under his pillow when he was four. He believed in sharing everything. Again, I do not mean he offered you half his burger and fries, but that he expected you to pay for yours. If the restaurant didn’t have a coupon or promotion going on, you wouldn’t find him sitting at their table. From what I understand he was quite well heeled due to all this thrift, but it was a bit too much for me. Once I invited him over to dinner. I kept the receipt for the meal and when he’d had dessert I left a bill on the table for $11.50, his half of the food cost leaving room for a tip. He did not find this amusing. Hmmmm.

I shall continue to watch my friend’s pursuit of happiness from the sidelines with a bucket of popcorn and a smile. I am proud of him for diving back in and giving it a try, and wish him much success in his efforts. A really nice man with a ready smile, I’m sure he won’t have any trouble finding what he’s looking for. No, I cannot divulge his number.

My other half does not like peas. Of all the veggies, peas simply don’t tempt him. These, however, he will ask for.

Mexican-Style Peas

1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced orange bell pepper
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1-2 Tbsp. jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 Roma tomatoes
2 cups cooked peas (fresh, frozen, or canned)
2 Tbsp. water
Salt and pepper to taste
Chives for garnish

Cut a cross in the base of each tomato. Submerge in boiling water for 3 mins. Immediately drop in ice bath. Drain and peel. Cut into halves and remove seeds with spoon. Dice.

Melt butter in skillet until frothy. Add garlic and cook and stir until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon.

Add onions, orange peppers, and jalapeno to pan. Cook for 6 mins. until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes and water to pan. Lower heat to simmer and cover tightly. Cook for 10 mins.

Mix peas in with onions and peppers and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 mins. or until peas are heated. Garnish with chives.

Serves 4-6

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This particular blog is dedicated to those of you who like myself who have managed to successfully avoid scheduling an appointment for a colonoscopy. Yesterday for me was the big day. Over the past several months I rescheduled my original appointment twice. Something always conveniently came up, mostly my white flag with a huge chicken embossed in the middle of it. Finally I ran out of reasons and excuses and decided rather than having this looming over my head I’d do it and get it over with.

Let me start by saying they give you way too much information to assimilate. Prep begins 5 days prior to the actual procedure by eliminating certain medications like blood thinners out of your daily regimen. Fortunately this didn’t apply to me so I went on to the 3 days prior instructions. Along with the pamphlets provided by your doctor everybody who has every had one of these tosses in a few hints on how to survive it. In the end you will need a wall sized white board and pens of assorted colors to manage the event. A friend’s husband told me when he had his the doctor told him he could watch the proceedings on the screen as they went along. I’d be willing to comply if they handed me a bucket of buttered popcorn but otherwise I’d rather watch reruns of Cheers thank you very much. At any rate, my friend went on to say the next thing he remembered he was sitting in the passenger seat at a stop sign having no idea how he arrived there, who dressed him, or anything that had transpired after the doctor told him he could watch the screen. Sign me up for that experience please. That’s the one I’d like to have.

Day 3 prior to the procedure you begin a soft diet, eliminating our usual plans for dinner and a movie. I’m not wasting a date night on a dollop of mashed potatoes and a couple of soft boiled eggs. Day 3 you have to stop eating anything with seeds such as berries, tomatoes, bananas, etc.  As these are included in my menu daily I sadly deposited the last of my fresh raspberries on top of vanilla ice cream I was serving to my other half.

Day 2 you continue with a lite diet for breakfast and lunch and begin taking on a little extra liquid. The lite diet consists basically of cereal (without seeds) and milk, eggs, white toast, chicken without skin, fish, rice, applesauce etc.

On the day before the procedure I was allowed a small bowl of cereal with milk or poached or boiled eggs, white toast, chicken or fish, and a potato without the skin or a cup of rice and clear liquids. The clear liquids included black coffee, Gator Ade, Jello (no red or purple flavors), apple juice, 7up and on and on …. Apparently if you can read a newspaper through it, it’s clear. Now, why is it I have to drink black coffee but milk is okay in my cereal? Who writes these directions?  Already full of water so the cereal wasn’t sounding good.  My stomach, usually rather flat, had taken on proportions suitable for keeping oneself afloat if thrown overboard.

Have you noticed immediately when you’re told you cannot have something, you want it more than you ever have before? Suddenly I was craving tomatoes, seeds, sigh. Another interesting thought, why no red or purple Jello? Perhaps the colors making it so leave a telltale trail along the way?

At 2:00 in the afternoon I was to discontinue enjoying these delightful menu selections and move on to simply liquids including chicken broth. At the time I didn’t think I’d miss the cereal and boiled eggs, but found out around 7:00 in the evening either was sounding rather good. At 6:00 you down your first dose of the molotov cocktail you get from the pharmacist. The object here is to divest your body of all stored materials which I will not delve further into as I’m sure you get my drift. Then the fun begins. Again you get my drift. Take a book, really.

At 2:00 a.m. you have to wake up and take on another gallon of liquid and repeat the procedure.

Now, I am here to tell you after all that I was still nervous about what was to transpire in the doctor’s office. We arrived at 7:30 and I was quickly taken in to an operating room once I was in a hospital gown. They asked me for my choice of music, finally found a vein as they’re harder to locate when you’re dehydrated, and told me to have a nice nap.  From that point on I remember not one thing until the nurse was standing over me asking me if I’d like a glass of water. Are you kidding? I want an In n Out burger with extra cheese. Water has had its way with me.

Sooooooo, all that worry was for nothing. In the end as I’d been told the worst part of the program is the preparation. Animals are lucky. They feel pain like we do certainly but don’t suffer with the anticipation of pain. I’m so glad this is behind me (no pun intended).

I want to take a moment here to say how much I am going to miss Robin Williams. Not a friend of mine, I didn’t know the man. Although through his work somehow I feel as if he was. Mrs. Doubtfire is a movie I switch on when I’m sad. Dead Poet’s Society is like slipping on a comfortable shoe. Good Will Hunting, well, wonderful. I could go on and on. I first saw him on Happy Days as Mork and was immediately smitten as was the rest of the viewing audience. Always his comic genius and humanity shined through when he performed. Such a quick and wonderfully capricious mind. Our family has been touched by suicide on more than one occasion so I speak with some knowledge on how it feels to be a survivor.  To know you must continue on down the path leaving behind someone you loved who simply hadn’t the strength to complete the journey. Questions often remain unanswered as you move on without them. I wish his family well.

These carrots are simply the best. They almost resemble a sweet potato in their yummy goodness.

Carrots Istanbul

2 lbs. carrots, cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

Cook carrots in boiling water until tender. Drain and cool slightly. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until coarsely processed. Adjust salt and pepper if desired.

Serves 4

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My other half has been visiting his son for a few days so Boo and I are batching it. It’s odd not to have my conversational partner in the house. Being left to my own devices I do find I’m attending to all those things I’ve been putting off since summer set in.

People are funny when they hear you’re alone. Immediately they seem to feel the need to highlight all the horrible things recently in the news about happening to people home by themselves. Even my mother related a story about a home invasion involving two women. Both women were bound, gagged, robbed, and one was raped. Thanks, Mom. When I’m gone Rick turns off the lights at night and goes to bed as he would normally. When he’s gone I leave enough lights burning to guide the Space Shuttle in after a mission. If I’m really feeling squirrely I’ll leave the TV in the living room and the one in the bedroom on for company. Not afraid to be alone, I actually enjoy solitude from time to time, it’s being alone at night. Something changes for me when the sun goes down. After my mother’s story and several others, my nightstand, usually only holding a glass of water and my book was flushed out with a large kitchen knife and my cell phone with 911 on speed dial. What possesses people to do this? When I was pregnant people told me terrible stories about women birthing huge moles (not the animal the skin condition). Before I had surgery one friend related horror stories of surgeons removing a healthy organ instead of the diseased one because the x rays were turned backwards on the viewer. Another brought up all the potential infections one could contract, such as flesh-eating virus, even if only in the hospital for a routine procedure. Shhhhhhhhhh, please.

As a child I lived on the second floor of my grandparents large home. Mine was one of two rooms hugging the back of the house facing the yard. From my window there was a view of the gazebo where I often held teas for my dolls and the enormous vegetable garden my grandmother tended when the capricious Halifax weather allowed her the luxury. Directly across the hall was my mother’s room. Down the front stairs to the right behind my grandfather’s den led to the master bedroom where my grandparents slept. Directly to the right when exiting my room was a large mahogany door which opened on to a fully enclosed back stairway. Following it to the end to the right was the kitchen, to the left the basement. The stairwell door was left closed at night with the key dangling from the keyhole. During the day I often used this stairway. It afforded immediate access to my grandmother’s spare pantry just outside the kitchen door. The pantry housed a wonderland of confections. Colorfully decorated tins each lined with waxed paper were chocked full of gooey lemon bars or perhaps the specialty of the house Gam’s wafer thin lighter than air ginger snaps. Often I perched on the high stool with the red vinyl cover and like a frog on a lily pond hopped from one tin to the next sampling the delicious goodies to be had inside. At night, however, I wouldn’t have descended the dark stairway had the house been on fire and that the only way to safety.

Each night was a ritual growing up. After dinner I was tossed in the tub to scrub off the accumulated dirt of the day. Dressed in clean pajamas, I climbed into bed. Either my grandmother or my mother sat beside reading Honeybunch or The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Story done, I was tucked in and left for the sandman to deal with. Many nights strong winds whipped in from the sea. Trees brushed against the window creating long fingers of moving shadows across my walls. In my child’s imagination they were gnarled hands reaching out to pull me into the pitch black night. Often I lay in bed covers up to my nose waiting for whatever was knocking to figure out a way in. Darkness is after all the fodder for great horror films and wild imaginings. Unspeakable beings lurk in dark dusty corners. Rarely do you see a good monster movie set in the bright sunlight, except perhaps for Jaws. Even as a teenager when asked to take out the trash after dark I can remember walking briskly to the trash bins. An unexpected sound triggering my imagination would have had me sprinting back as if a pack of hungry wolves were nipping at my ankles.

As mentioned previously I lived in Ashdown, Arkansas for a while back in the early 1990’s. Ashdown, a small sleepy town in the Tri-Corners area of the state, was a bit of a culture shock for this California girl. We drove into town, my ex-husband and I, late afternoon on a hot and sweltery Saturday. The heat laid across you like a heavy blanket. Breathing itself required effort. Spending the first week in a small motel towards the outskirts of town, our time was consumed finding housing for ourselves and the cat and dog for the nine months we were to spend in the area. My husband, a pipe foreman by trade, was to begin work at the local paper mill the following week. It was hard to imagine him working outside in that heat. From a small town in Texas he was no stranger to the climate so from what I could see it never bothered him much. He was always saying the reason I was so uncomfortable in the heat was I hadn’t learned to sweat. Oddly this was something I was eager to embrace as I spent most days making an effort not to pass out.

After much searching a house was located in town. Basically a rectangle home. Three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, two bathrooms and  generous kitchen were distributed along the length of it. One air conditioning unit hummed in the window of the living room, barely adequate for cooling the area it was given. What cold air it spewed out of it never extended far beyond the living room door. A swamp cooler dominated the kitchen ceiling, a familiar sight in the south. Conventional A/C units struggle to cool heavy humid air where swamp coolers are made for the job. When turned on the unit sounded like a 747 revving for takeoff but it was better than the alternative.

About a month into the move my husband decided to go fishing. Other than a few people from work we knew no one in the area so he set off alone around 6:00 in the evening, saying he’d be back around midnight. By myself in the house with only the drone of the swamp cooler and the steady whir of the fans, every creak and unidentified noise made the hair on my arms stand at attention. Watching the clock when three o’clock arrived and no sign of my husband, full panic set in.

Knowing no one to call, I got in the car. I headed out into the country in the direction he said he was going. With no help from street lights the back roads were inky black. Lush overgrowth, so beautiful during the day, took on a menacing appearance when highlighted by my headlights. At the end of a dirt road I found myself with nowhere to go. Stepping out of the car insects sensing fresh meat buzzed around my head. As far as I could see nothing but muddy water lay beyond the drop off in the road, or perhaps a curious alligator or a snake or two.

Across the river another set of headlights appeared. Several men spilled out of their trucks. Their voices rose and fell captured in the slight breeze. The ember from a freshly lit cigarette briefly lit up their faces. At the same time they noticed me and yelled.

I believe that to be one of the most alone and vulnerable feelings I ever experienced. Terrified, I got back in the car. Wedged tightly I maneuvered back and forth kicking up dirt until finally managing to turn the car around.  Flying down that dirt road with my foot fully on the gas I somehow found my way home. My husband, sitting on the front porch, was about to call the police. Tired from no fish and a busy week he’d fallen asleep by the river losing track of time. Looking down at my soaked tee shirt I was delighted to report I’d learned how to sweat.

Many times I visited that fishing hole in the daylight always a beautiful and welcoming place to be. I never again went there at night even when invited to tag along on a fishing trip.

This is just so yummy. I had both on hand and decided to mix them up. My other half is on his way home and I have the lights lit for him (all of them).

Garlicy Cauliflower Brussel Sprout Mash

1 large head cauliflower florets, cooked
1 lb. brussel sprouts, cooked
3 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup half and half
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Steam brussel sprouts and cauliflower over 2″ of water until well cooked (fork tender plus). Drain well. Place both in the food processor and pulse until coarsely processed. Puree for 2 mins. until well blended. Add remaining ingredients (1 1/2 Tbsp. butter only and 1/2 tsp. only) and puree 1 min. longer. Add additional salt if desired.

Pat with remaining 1/2 Tbsp. butter and sprinkle with chives.

Serves 6.

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Even though the temperature is predicted to hover just below the hundred degree mark this afternoon, I can begin to feel summer slipping between my fingers. This has been a particularly comfortable summer in our area. Less of the usually oppressive heat, more cool breezes in the morning, and a lake that sits at the fullest level since we moved to our house on the hill ten years ago.

There are tells as the seasons begin to shift one to the next. Some parts of the country show these more dramatically with eye-catching splashes of color in the fall or showy displays of brilliant wildflowers in the spring. Yet, even if the shifts are less obvious, the days begin to get shorter or linger longer, the plants and trees begin to tuck in for the winter or start erupting in buds in the early spring. It’s that feeling of change in the air that taps at your senses.

Summer is my favorite season for clothing and outside activities. I’m happiest in a pair of shorts, a tee-shirt, and flip-flops. Days in the warm sun slathered with coconut suntan lotion, diving into a cold pool on a hot day, and the irresistible aroma of well-seasoned steaks cooking on the grill. Good stuff. Coming in at the bottom of my list of favorite seasons, for clothing at least, would be winter. Itchy wool sweaters, jackets, cumbersome boots as well as bone chilling air, making your ears ache if they are left uncovered. I like clothing that doesn’t restrict my movement. In my heart of hearts I think shoes and bras should be outlawed, but since they seem to perform a necessary function and nothing better has been invented, I guess I’m stuck with them.

The first school bus I’ve seen for the new school year passed me on the hill this morning. Children’s faces peered out the windows, some talking animatedly to their neighbors, and others looking like they were going in to have their wisdom teeth removed. Most looked freshly pressed, decked out in new clothes. Most probably each had a “signature” backpack sitting by their feet or resting in their laps. It seems that the choice of a backpack has taken on a heavier social significance over the years. Where once Barney or Miss Piggy got the job done, now a backpack apparently outwardly defines your personality to your peers. Zebra prints, perhaps an extrovert, Justin Beiber, a music fan, etc., etc.

Food shifts dramatically for me along with everything else with the changing seasons. As fall dominates over summer, the grill is retired and Crockpots, stockpots, and indoor grills are rescued from the garage. Ingredients for stews, soups, and hearty casseroles such as carrots and turnips begin to replace ears of sweet corn, green beans, and zucchini in my vegetable bins.

Growing up in my grandmother’s house in Nova Scotia, life, at times, seemed to revolve around food. Our garden, planted in the early spring, yielded a hearty crop. Cucumbers, when ripe, were picked and either served at the table or dropped into a brine for pickles. Palm sized ruby-red tomatoes were thinly sliced for salads or prepared to be put up as tomato sauce, tomato relish or spicy stewed tomatoes. My grandmother always said the best tomatoes were dark red in color and when held to your nose smelled strongly like a tomato (pronounced “toe-mah-toe” in our house). Hard to find these days. Snap beans, long and crispy, also made their way into brine or were put up in jars with red peppers and seasonings. Towards the end of the season canning jars were dusted and washed. The homey kitchen on warm late summer afternoons was often in full production. Jars were dropped into and removed from large pots of steaming water on a steady basis. During the winter months when the snow blanketed the garden beds, the wax seals would be broken, and the contents served as fresh as the day the day they had been sealed. Gammy and I spent many days together chopping and bottling all the fresh vegetables and fruits gleaned from our back yard. As her pies were legendary, apples, peaches, strawberries, and rhubarb were made into sweet fillings. Jars were lined up in the pantry to be used at a later date. Being a small girl, she would wrap me like a mummy in one of her aprons and I was allowed to observe the goings on from atop the red metal step-ladder. There was little wasted motion as her hands moved expertly from counter to pot. Thanks to her, I have never met a vegetable I didn’t like, um, except okra. I cook it but for my other half. Wallpaper paste, I’m just sayin.

It’s a nice time for me as we move into fall. I look forward to a cloud or two in the sky and a bit of shiver in the air when I retrieve the paper.

So, here’s bit of a transitional recipe to try. Have a great day!

Grilled Mexican Pizzas

1 yellow squash, cut lengthwise into 1/2″ slices
1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2″ slices
1 red pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 green pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 1/2 Tbsp. plus 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. prepared pesto
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, minced
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 8″ whole wheat tortillas
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder

Brush squash and pepper with 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and dust lightly with garlic powder. Grill over med. heat 5 mins. on each side or until tender. Cut into 1/2″ cubes and place in small bowl. Add tomato. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together maryonnaise, pesto, herbs and set aside. Brush both sides of tortillas with remaining olive oil. Grill uncovered over med. heat for 2-3 minutes until puffed. Remove from grill.

Spread grilled sides of tortillas with sauce. Top with vegetables. Top all veggies with mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese in that order.

Grill covered for 2-3 mins. or until cheese is melted.

Serves 4.

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