Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Feature - Sandwich ideas

I'm not a bread person and I can pass it up easily, unless it's a nice crusty specialty bread or sourdough. Then I love it toasted and topped with butter, avocado and salt. But alas, all of the above are high calorie and high sodium.

To me, sandwich bread is there to keep the mayo off your fingers. I usually pack a salad for my lunch at work, but that can become same-ol'-same-ol'. And if I'm going somewhere without a fridge, then a sandwich is what I'll pack. I'm always looking for other ways to pack a lunch, cut calories and add flavor.

Currently, I'm using corn tortillas in place of bread. On the NuVal scale (nutritional value compared to calories*) corn tortillas are 91 and flour tortillas are around 20. But corn tortillas need to be cooked in some way to make their dry texture palatable. In the past I've always fried them in oil, but I wanted to get away from that extra fat, so now I spritz them with a little cooking spray and put them in the toaster oven. They come out nice and soft or crunchy depending on the time in the oven. Sometimes I sprinkle  a tablespoon of grated cheddar on top. I still use flour tortillas occasionally when I want to make burritos or wraps. I also use pitas and fill them with just about any sandwich ingredients. Below are some recipes for a tortilla wrap and pita sandwich. 

BTW, I made the St. Patrick's Day cupcakes that I posted a couple of weeks ago and they disappeared at my work pot luck. I did half with the German chocolate frosting and half with the vanilla cream frosting, which I dyed green by mixing in green sprinkles.

*NuVal is a scale to help consumers choose nutritious foods. The nutrient content is compared to the calorie content of a food and the higher the number the more nutritious the food is per calorie. Many supermarkets now post these numbers on the shelves next to the price tags. Check it out

Banish Boring Sandwiches
Boost your kitchen creativity with unexpectedly craveable sandwiches

(Family Features) It’s time to break out of your ordinary lunch routine and make boring turkey sandwiches a thing of the past. With a few innovative tricks, you can turn any regular sandwich into a delicious and satisfying meal.

Versatile and delicious, a sandwich is perfect for any occasion, whether you’re sitting down with the family or packing for a lunch on the go. And you don’t have to be a professional chef to take a classic sandwich and turn it into a tasty meal. Try these simple tips and recipes to help boost your creativity in the kitchen:

—There are things better than sliced bread: Give your sandwich a makeover by piling your favorite fixings on a better bread option, such as focaccia, tortillas or whole wheat pita. The sky’s the limit.

—Smart substitutions: Lose the calories, but keep the taste of your favorite BLT by using new Hidden Valley Bacon Ranch sandwich spread instead of mayo — you’ll get all the same flavor with a third of the calories.

—Repurpose your leftovers: Make extra meat and vegetables for dinner, and use them for tomorrow’s lunch by placing leftovers between two pieces of your favorite bread.

—Turkey sandwiches don’t have to be boring: Add walnuts, avocado or apple slices to jazz up a childhood favorite.

—Go veggie: For the perfect Meatless Monday, try a sandwich on whole wheat bread with slices of avocado and tomato, topped with your favorite cheese — an instant vegetarian masterpiece.

For more ways to turn a sandwich into something unexpectedly craveable, visit.

Italian Wraps
Makes: 1 serving
Prep time: 15 minutes

    • 1/2       cup shredded rotisserie chicken
    • 1/2       cup finely sliced spinach leaves
    • 1/4       cup shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 1          tablespoon finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
    • 1/2       teaspoon chopped fresh basil
    • 2          tablespoons Hidden Valley Oven Roasted Garlic Parmesan Sandwich Spread & Dip, or more to taste
    • 1          10-inch sun-dried tomato basil wrap

Stir together chicken, spinach, cheese, tomatoes, basil and sandwich spread. Spoon onto wrap and spread to edges; roll up. For entertaining, slice into 1-inch pinwheels.

Salmon Pita
Makes: 2 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
    • 6          ounces fresh salmon fillet, cooked and chilled (about 1 cup flaked) or 1 pouch (5 ounces) ready-to-eat premium wild caught pink salmon, skinless and boneless
    • 2          tablespoons minced shallot or red onion
    • 2          tablespoons minced celery
    • 1          teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1/4       cup Hidden Valley Oven-Roasted Garlic Parmesan Sandwich Spread & Dip
    • 2          pita pockets
    • 1          slice iceberg lettuce, optional

Flake salmon; stir in shallots, celery and lemon juice. Add sandwich spread and gently stir to combine. Fill pockets with salmon mixture and lettuce slice.

Friday, March 22, 2013

World's Most Organized Junk Collector/Writer

I bought this beautiful Martha Stewart 5.5x8 notebook for
organizing my writing reference sheets on GMC, Character
sheets, Hero's Journey notes, Workshop notes, and
manuscript lists. 
Ramblings on junk and organization...

Today I need to organize my junk. By junk I mean anything that's misplaced, or misfiled, or just missed. From info printouts pertaining to writing to photo files on my computer. Today I tried to log in to Family Features, where I get the recipes and articles for my Friday Features and my log in didn't work. I have it written down in at least two places, but neither works. So, where did I write down the one that works?

Then I got sidetracked and ended up on YouTube and found that I can redesign my channel. That sounded like fun so I searched for the photo I want to put on the header, but couldn't find it. Is it in my photos folder? Or maybe in my folder of elements I use on my web site? I'll put that aside for now.

Another thing I need to do is finish the cover for my upcoming release A DADDY FOR LUKE but I haven't yet put all the elements for that cover in one location for easy access.

A family member once came in to my home office to ask to borrow something. Despite the piles of junk I went right to it. She called me the World's Most Organized Junk Collector. And I think she's right. I do know where everything is. Well, most everything. It's like an archeology dig, I know what strata to go to to look for something based on the last time I used it or saw it. But that doesn't always work. More than once I've gone into my office looking for something and not finding it I think, "Well, it must be in my bedroom." So I go to the other end of the house and look there. Not finding it I think, "I must have overlooked it in my office," and I go back to my office and look again. Sometimes I'll make three or four trips between my office and my bedroom, looking in all the other room of the house on the way. A waste of energy? I like to think of it as burning calories.

I am organized. If you looked in my drawers, you'd say the same thing. Trouble is, I have more stuff than will fit in my drawers or cupboards so it ends up in my home office/crafts room/storage room/junk room. Too much stuff equals: It's time to down size. Today I put out a pile of stuff for the Friends of Multiple Sclerosis to pick up. It's not really junk to me, except that I don't use it anymore and it's taking up space. I hope it's useful to someone else. I believe in reuse, recycle and repurpose. I don't like just tossing stuff in the dump.

The hardest part about getting rid of junk is what the junk represents. This is a project I was going to complete, that is for a still-life I was going to paint. That bag of photos, brochures and ephemera is going into a scrapbook of my trip to Navajo Nations five years ago. This pile of CDs is going to get uploaded to my computer. That box of old dolls is going to be sold on eBay. And the list goes on. Many times the item has a sentimental connection. "They" say you don't need an item to remember a person or place in the past, you have your memories. But I find visual and tactile reminders are stronger than just my memory. 

The thing about having a creative streak is that there are more ideas than can physically be accomplished, especially if you're working 40+ hours a week for someone else. There are more ideas for projects to make and more stories to write running around in our brains.

So every weekend--and I have three-day weekends--I plan on doing more organizing (in my home office and on my computer), more downsizing, and making more heartrending decisions on what to get rid of.

Are you organized? Are you a "junk" collector? Do you find it hard to "let go"? How do you organize and/or let go?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Friday Features - Something for St. Paddy's day

ROMANCING THE GREEN. St. Patrick's Day lands on Sunday this year, which I though would get me out of celebrations at work. Any excuse for a pot luck, right? 

Today, Friday, the finance office is holding a treasure hunt. Coins, some chocolate, some real cash, have been hidden around the department. The hunt begins at 10:30. I'll miss it, because Friday is my day off. Let me see... Chocolate coins vs. sleeping in late and not having to fiddle with our software upgrade. I pick a day off. 

But, that doesn't mean I get out of a pot luck. My department will have one of those on Monday. No getting out of it. I always go into it determined to be rational, and I always come out of it stuffed. We have some good cooks in our group and with 30+ people, there's always plenty to go around. 

I've just rededicated myself to using my calorie/exercise counter and being diligent to sticking to my calorie count. This time I'm going to log the calories in FIRST, then decide if the item is worth it. I think I'll have more success doing it this way instead of logging after and then regretting my choices. 

So having said all that, I'm going to make Green Velvet Cupcakes for the pot luck! ~CO

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Flavorful Green Treats

(Family Features) St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect occasion to have fun in the kitchen with the color and flavor of the holiday – vivid green and refreshing peppermint.

“Food color and extract can transform an ordinary cupcake or cookie into a festive delight, worthy of any St. Paddy’s party,” said Mary Beth Harrington of the McCormick Kitchens.

For a green twist on classic red velvet cupcakes, stir green food color into basic cake mix and add pure vanilla extract, sour cream and cocoa powder. Whip up minty green cream cheese frosting and decorate with green sprinkles or colored sugar to make them fun for kids of all ages.

Easy Green Velvet Cupcakes
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Makes 24 servings

1          package (18 1/4 ounces) German chocolate cake mix with pudding
1          cup sour cream
1/2       cup water
1/4       cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4       cup vegetable oil
1          bottle (1 ounce) McCormick Green Food Color
3          eggs
2          teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
1          container (16 ounces) cream cheese frosting or Vanilla
            Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
            Green sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat cake mix, sour cream, water, cocoa powder, oil, food color, eggs and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed just until moistened, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes.

Pour batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.

Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Minty Green Cream Cheese Frosting:
Stir 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Pure Peppermint Extract and 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Green Food Color into canned cream cheese frosting or Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:
Beat 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened, 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened, 2 tablespoons sour cream and 2 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar until smooth. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

For more St. Patrick’s Day ideas and recipes, visit, or

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Book Review - Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell - A Riveting, Heart-wrenching, Page Turner

This is an engrossing, fascinating, and heart breaking personal account of the horrendous situation Luttrell and his SEAL teammates endured in the rugged Hindu Kush Mountains in northeast Afghanistan in the summer of 2005. Luttrell wrote the story because he wants the public to know his teammates as he knew them, and to understand the courage and dedication they exemplified, and who made the ultimate sacrifice. 
The book starts with Luttrell’s childhood dream to become a Navy SEAL, his early training, his enlistment into the Navy, and his SEAL training, including sniper and medic training. This background is important to the story because it shows how dedicated, patriotic, and strong these men are. They are heroes. The best of the best, the strongest of the strong; physically, mentally and morally. 
The rest of the book recounts how the team of four set out on Operation Redwing, were outnumbered by Taliban warriors 40 to 1, and fought gallantly to the end. Luttrell’s story paints a vivid picture, sometimes graphic, of the battle that left him wounded and the only survivor; of his struggle to escape, how he was sheltered by local Afghans villagers, and his ultimate rescue by Army Rangers. 
I didn’t want to put it down, I cried for the brave men lost, and I cheered Luttrell’s strength and determination to survive. 
I learned in this story that policy now for US troops is: Don’t shoot first. Especially if the target appears to be unarmed. If a soldier shoots first, he can be charged with murder in a civil court when he returns home. This is a heavy weight to bear for a moral man who has sworn to protect.
(And in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security started Operation Vigilant Eagle, calling for tight surveillance of returning veterans labeling them as ‘potential extremists and domestic terrorism threats’ because they may be ‘disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.’ This is how we treat our heroes? Stop the world, I want to get off. 
Written with the assistance of Patrick Robinson, best-selling author of US Navy-based novels. Together, they make this a riveting story. Highly recommended. *****


I’ve been researching Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for my WIP. Luttrell mentions several PTSD symptoms he suffers after returning home and his return to active duty. This is just my opinion looking in from the outside. I have no experience with PTSD or anyone living with it.
The most interesting item I came across is an article on The Daily Beast from The Hero Project, titled: A New Theory of PTSD and Veterans: Moral Injury 12.03.2012 (Quotes are from this article).
The new theory is that anxiety and fear are not the main cause of PTSD, as has been thought through the years (even before it was called PTSD, many returning soldiers and civilians have suffered one or more PTSD symptoms).
"The common thread is a violation of what is right, a tear in what some people freely call the soul."
This new theory is that some returning military, men and women, suffer from grief and guilt; that they are more injured by what they did (killing), or were unable to do for others (not being able to save a buddy, or help civilians), than by what was done to them (heavy combat, injury). There are many facets and symptoms to PTSD depending on the person’s personal experience. PTSD can be found in non-military, peace-time civilians who have been though trauma such as a violent attack, civil or domestic; or involved in a traffic accident, or experiencing a life-threatening act of nature: Hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis.
My thoughts today center on retuning combat vets.
"It is the tale of disintegrating vets, but also of seemingly squared-away former soldiers and spit-shined generals shuttling between two worlds: ours, where thou shalt not kill is chiseled into everyday life, and another, where thou better kill, be killed, or suffer the shame of not trying. There is no more hellish commute. "
This makes a lot of sense to me. These men are heroes. As stated above, they are dedicated, patriotic, and strong. They want to do good, help and protect others, and defend our freedom. So it’s only logical that killing others, whether the victims are the enemy (kill or be killed) or innocent by-standers, they will feel guilt. And when they can’t save or protect their buddies, they will feel the guilt and grief of loss. 
"Soldiers are supposed to be tough, cool, and ethically confident. But what happens when they have seen and done things that haunt their consciences? New studies suggest that the pain of guilt may be a key factor in the rise of PTSD." 
"…killing [is] the single greatest risk factor for PTSD, bigger even than heavy combat."
"…the word killing is the last thing you’ll hear the military discuss. The word doesn’t appear in training manuals, or surveys of soldiers returning from combat, and the effects of killing aren’t something the military screens for when service people come home. It’s strictly a private word, something hissed about in bars and between bunk beds."
Professionals are working on changing the treatment plans for returning combat vets, to focus on helping them understand their guilt and grief. I hope these studies are taken seriously by the powers that be. 
"…moral injury is still a long way from the mainstream. It isn’t considered an official diagnosis by the VA or the American Psychiatric Association." 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Features - This is my way of cooking...

I like to have a pantry with plenty of canned goods so I can throw together a soup in winter or garnish a dinner salad in the summer. Dr Fuhrman has an acronym for the four healthiest foods: G-BOM. It stands for Greens, Beans, Onions and Mushrooms. He suggests incorporating these four foods in your daily diet. I like his teachings for healthy eating, which he calls Nutritarian. I try to follow his guidelines, but some days I get in a rush and just grab what I can. That's why I agree with this article, to have canned vegetables ready in your pantry. - Christy

Nutritious Meals Made Easy

(Family Features) For those who enjoy preparing home-cooked, nutrient-rich meals, but are often pressed for time, canned foods are essential cooking tools. A well-stocked pantry, or “Cantry,” ensures you always have healthful fruits and vegetables on hand - no matter the time of year.

"Cans’ ironclad seal locks in freshness, flavor and nutrients, so you can rely on canned foods to create wholesome and delicious meals for your family," said Elizabeth Fassberg, MPH, RD, CDN, owner of EAT FOOD, a food and nutrition consultancy in New York City. “Cooking with canned food means you know what you’re serving your family and helps cut down on eating out.”

To get the most nutritionally from your canned foods, here are Elizabeth's tips:

·      Select fruits that are packed in their own juice, water or 100-percent fruit juice.
·      When possible, opt for canned vegetables or soups with no sodium added or low sodium products. If these options are not available, rinse the vegetables before you use them.
·      Refrigerate leftover canned goods in a glass or plastic container.

So if you’re not sure what to make for dinner tonight, look no further than your “Cantry.”

Ten Minute-Stroni
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 8

1          tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1          large onion, diced
2          cloves garlic, minced
1          teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2       teaspoon dried savory
1/4       teaspoon ground sage
1          quart canned, low-sodium chicken broth
1          cup 100% vegetable juice
2          teaspoons red wine vinegar
1          cup canned, diced tomatoes (no-salt added)
1          cup canned navy beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1          can (8 1/4 ounces) sliced carrots, drained
1          can (8 1/4 ounces) cut green beans, drained
1          can (4 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until transparent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning, savory and sage, and cook 10 seconds. Add broth, vegetable juice and vinegar, and bring to a boil.

Add tomatoes, navy beans, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms; simmer 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Nutritional Information Per Serving: 
Calories 100; Total fat 2.5g; Saturated fat 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 380mg; Carbohydrate 14g; Fiber 3g; Protein 5g; Vitamin A 80%DV*; Vitamin C 25%DV; Calcium 4%DV; Iron 10%DV

*Recipe and image courtesy of