Monday, August 30, 2010

12 New Things - Black Bean Burgers

A couple of weeks ago I let you all know about a challenge that I'm participating in to learn or do 12 new things between August 2010 and July 2011 (my list can be found here). The first thing on my list was to make my own black bean burgers. I'm not entirely sure why I wanted to learn how to do this; my guess is that while eating a frozen one (Morningstar Farms makes a delicious southwestern variety) I was inspired. Regardless, I got the ingredients I needed and got to work.

When I went searching for a recipe, I could not find one that had all the elements of what I wanted flavor-wise in my burger. This of course meant that I had to incorporate several things that I wanted from all of them, study the recipes to get a general idea on how to make the burgers, and come up with my own. The recipe passed the "Steve Taste Test", which means that I can not only post pictures of the burgers... I can share my recipe with you!

Southwestern Black Bean Burgers

  • 2 15-ounce cans or 1 29-ounce can black beans (rinsed, drained, and slightly dry)
  • 1 tsp. crushed garlic (the kind found in a jar) or 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed.
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup frozen corn
  • 2 eggs (or the equivalent in whatever egg substitute you use)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup whole grain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp each: cilantro, chili powder, ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

  • Put the black beans into a large bowl and mash them until they look... uh... mashed.
  • Add the garlic, onion, pepper, and corn and combine.
  • Add the egg (or substitute) and the flour - combine until well incorporated
  • Add the bread crumbs and combine until well incorporated and sticky (mine kind of made its own loaf once it was all combined... so I could have made black bean loaf if I *really* wanted to)
  • Make into 8 patties of equal size
  • Cook 8-minutes per side on a grill or grill pan (use non-stick spray if your surface tends to stick)
  • Serve with your favorite veggie burger cheese and/or condiments.
Here are the photos I took of the process... I forgot to get a picture of the mashed up beans, but I think you'll get the basic idea.

Here are the burgers in their uncooked pattie state

8 patties cooking on the grill pan

Patties served naked with a side of couscous. We like 'em with melted cheddar and gouda as well.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Top 5 - Football Snack Foods

Football season is just around the corner (pre-season is already well underway) and that means it's time to start thinking about stocking up on the Sunday afternoon snacks. I know that Steve is already excited for afternoons of chili & pulled pork while we watch the boys of fall snap some balls and score some touchdowns. My handy-dandy Tedi Bruschi jersey is ready for wearing, and I'm already excited for the season opener of my beloved Patriots. All I need now are the snacks... which makes me think about my

Top 5 Football Snack Foods
Cheese, Crackers, & Pepperoni: This trifecta is the absolute must-have combo for me if we're having a football party. I love the taste of a good sharp cheddar paired with a slice or two of pepperoni on top of a butter cracker (think: Ritz). Aside from the fact that this is such a tasty combo, it's often one of the first trays of food to go at any party - let alone a football party where people eat nervously as their team drives them to the point of screaming at televisions.

Doesn't this make you just want to stack a cracker up and stuff it in your mouth?

Ripple Chips with Sour Cream & Onion Dip: Growing up, my mom sometimes would make us sour cream & onion dip with a packet of Lipton French Onion Soup mix. That and a bowl of Market Basket brand ripple chips made the perfect football or party snack for my siblings & I. To this day, I still think that the dip made with the Lipton soup packet is the best onion dip around. 

Great. Now I want to make some Lipton Onion dip right now. Sheesh.

Chili: While this may not qualify as a technical snack food, because I tend to make at least 3-4 batches of it during football season and munch on it while I watch the game - I'm listing it here. I have my own recipe for a turkey chili that I've created and "perfected" over the years that lends itself to adjustable heat (I make it mild-ish so that people can heat it up themselves to their liking). A small bowl of chili with some shredded cheese on top is a great way to curl up and watch the first quarter of a football game (in my humble opinion).

This is not my chili, as is evident by the watermark from iStock photo. It is how I like my chili though; with cheese and cornbread.

Goldfish or TLC Country Cheddar Crackers: I've always been a fan of anything cheese, and recently I've found that Goldfish and especially the TLC Country Cheddar crackers hit the spot way better than the greasy Cheez-It crackers we've all had at some point in our lives. They're comparable in price to the Cheez-Its and just as (if not more, I think) addicting. These and a nice glass of ice water... TOUCHDOWN!!!

Kashi also has $1 off coupons every so often, making this box of goodness usually less than $2!
Pizza Rolls: Pizza is great at football games (especially if someone brings beer), but I think that it's awfully messy & takes up way too much room on that snack plate. Pizza ROLLS, on the other hand, offer the bite-sized goodness that I love at a football party as well as satisfy that fantastic craving I'll get for pizza during the "4-O'Clock Games". With lots of varieties to choose from (and low-junk-in-their-food brand Alexia coming out with gourmet ones as well) these little pockets of pizza awesome are always on my list.

Addicting pockets of goodness, in all their glory.

Only a couple more weeks until the season opener, and I am already ready to go. September 12 at 1:00... Pats vs. Bengals... the boys of fall take the field and (hopefully) the Pats will dominate. Anyone want to come over and share some awesome snack food with me?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm SO Not a...

For years and years, I always said "I am so not a runner."

I remember very clearly when I was in drum corps and we'd have to do laps around the school. I was almost always the last one to finish, and while the encouraging cheers and good-jobs from my corps-mates were nice - it always felt awkward to be last. I never participated in track & field days, and the one time I did was the 50-yard dash. I got a ribbon for 4th place... out of 5. I'm pretty sure the 5th kid tripped.

So needless to say - I always said I am so not a runner.

Sometime last year I decided I wanted to give running/jogging another try. I don't know what moved me to this decision, but I put on my sneakers at the gym and got on the treadmill. I alternated between 2 minutes walking and 1-2 minutes jogging at first, and felt great. Over time, I took that walking/jogging routine outside when I could and at the beginning of the year I made one of my 2010 goals to state that I would participate in and complete a 5K race. Somewhere in the middle of April or May I realized that if I was going to do this, I needed to take my feet outside and get used to jogging on pavement (it's harder - I think - to run on pavement than a treadmill because the latter offers less resistance and helps you move).

Then we bought a house, and for a while exercise in general - never mind race preparations and getting used to jogging on pavement - went by the wayside.

The last couple of weeks I've made sure that once per week I get outside and literally pound the pavement. I've discovered three things doing this:

1) I need new sneakers if I'm going to be running outside. The ones I have are... well... they're good for using an arc trainer or dancing in a Zumba class, but they're getting a bit worn for running.

2) The more I run outside, the better I've gotten. I push myself a little bit harder each time, and I'm getting further. Last week I did 2.12 miles in 29 minutes, this week I did 2.25 miles in 30. It's improvement - and I like it!

3) I'm (slowly) becoming a jogger. Not sure about "runner" yet, but I think I could get there at some point.

    That's right. I said it. I'm becoming a runner/jogger. When I got home this morning from my jog/walk - I was sweaty. My muscles were tired. I was breathing heavy. But it felt GOOD. I had a flashback to when I was at the hospital in back in high school to get a stress sprain on my ankle looked at and the doctor asked me if I was a runner.

    "Psh. No," was my flat response.

    He looked pensive. "Huh. Wow. People with internal tibial rotation* usually are good runners. You should try sometime, you might be surprised."

    Well... Doctor-whose-name-I-can't-recall... thanks. You were right, and I am surprised that I actually enjoy my time outside with the sun on my face, iPod music in my ears, pushing myself to jog a little bit further between each period of walking. More importantly - thanks for reminding me not to write myself off, think I can't do something, and underestimate my own capability.

    I CAN do it. I WILL do it. I AM doing it. 
     I'm SO becoming a jogger.

    *Side note: Internal Tibial Rotation is a condition I was born with that makes my lower legs (tibias) turn in. I wore corrective shoes for a while as a kid. Pay attention next time you see me walk, I bet you notice now that I pointed it out.

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    The Value of Lonely

    This beautiful video about being alone had been making its way around the internet but I had been avoiding it. Admittedly, I have a hard time being alone and somewhere in my brain I thought that watching this video would have meant that I was preparing myself for loneliness.

    It took reading my friend Kimberly's blog and seeing that she felt it was the single most beautiful thing she had ever read, seen, or heard for me to succumb to pressing the play button and watching it.

    I am glad I did.

    Her first words: "If you are, at first, lonely - be patient" spoke to me directly. It was almost as if she had said "Danielle" before starting that sentence because I am not patient when I am - at first - lonely.

    There are times when I am alone for 5-10 days at a time because the nature of Steve's job has him away at trainings and conferences to be brought up to date on the latest technologies. During these times I have a tendency to make plans and surround myself with my closest friends or visit family because I am subconsciously afraid of being alone

    "...and it doesn't mean you're not connected, the community's not present. Just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it."

    This video has given me the perspective I need to start to understand the value of being alone. Steve is heading out to Colorado soon for more training - a 10-day jaunt - which means I'll be given opportunity to be alone for long stretches at a time.

    I will take this time to do some of the things I've always wanted to do alone and been too afraid to try. I will find the beauty and value of being alone.

    "But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray." - Luke 5:16

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Awesome Faith-Based Art & A Giveaway

    In my last post I mentioned one of the blogs I follow - Like a Warm Cup of Coffee - and I have to say that I really enjoy this blog. She has some great inspirational posts and in fact inspired me to try a bunch of new things over the next 12 months.

    Every so often she mentions her fondness for Red Letter Art - which is faith-based art that's really pretty cool. There are a few that I would love to get and hang in my office or somewhere in my home... or at least if I was limited to one I'd be hard pressed to choose.

    I'm partial to this one as a Boston girl.

    This one is my favorite verse in the Bible - Jeremiah 29:11. It's a constant reminder that God has plans for me and wants what's best for me as His special child.

    The only downside to these beautiful pieces of art is that they're kind of pricey for someone on a budget; most of the 12 x 12 gallery mount prints that I like are $100.00 each. I could save up my pennies or see if I get any birthday money... but in the meantime, there's a giveaway going on over at Like a Warm Cup of Coffee where you could win one of these amazing prints. Of course I entered in as many ways possible, and even though by telling all of you about this contest I'm lowering my chances of winning - I'm OK with that. The reality is that most of my readers are my friends and if you win I'll get to see it every time I come visit you.

    So - head on over and enter - JUST CLICK HERE and find out how you can win! Good luck... and keep your fingers crossed for me too!

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    12 New Things - A Journey

    I was recently reading one of the blogs I follow - Like a Warm Cup of Coffee - and I saw this really cool journey that Sarah is taking and inviting her readers to take part in as well. Each month from August 2010 until July 2011, she (and the participants) will be doing a new thing. I decided to jump alongside her for the challenge and came up with a list of 12 things to do over the next year.

    August: Learn how to make my own black bean burgers.

    September: Research instructions for how to reupholster dining room chairs - and recover the 6 chairs in our dining room. (I'll be doing this with my friend Elyse who offered her assistance - it's also her "thing" for September!)

    October: Determine how to sew using a sewing machine (project number one - curtain ties for my dining room). **Edit: Changing this to SNORKELING thanks to a surprise trip to Jamaica for my 30th Birthday!

    November: Set up my own Etsy shop to sell both Steve's grandmother's creations as well as my own handmade wares.

    December: Try sushi for real (and maybe even learn how to make some).

    January: Find a recipe and make homemade vegetable stock. **Edit: Just kidding! This is when I'll be working how to use the sewing machine and making curtain ties for our dining room. This is thanks to the trip to Jamaica that appeared in October allowing me to do snorkeling instead.

    February: Teach myself how to knit (and maybe even knit a scarf).

    March: Learn how to make my own bar soap.

    April: Start my own herb garden (complete with basil, dill, rosemary, and mint).

    May: Learn how to make homemade paneer (Indian cheese) for use in various Indian dishes to cook at home.

    June: Crochet a project that requires felting and see it start to finish.

    July: Get some sort of teach-yourself series (Rosetta Stone-esque, something a bit cheaper) on how to speak Spanish. Learn some functional level of Spanish.

    Some of these things I have wanted to do for a while. Other things are ones that I thought of while in process of writing this list. I have to say that I am pretty excited about doing these 12 things and will be blogging about each one as I complete them. I have a couple of friends who will be joining in the journey as well - my friend Elyse, my friend Leigh, and fellow blogger Mary from Fit This Girl.

    Interested in following along? Go on over to Sarah Mae's blog Like a Warm Cup of Coffee for more information and to link in to the project. Trying new things is always fun - and participating in a project with others who are doing the same just increases the motivation and joy in doing it.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Thoughts for the Married Folks

    Those of you who follow me on Twitter or Google Buzz know that every so often I'll post a nugget of wisdom from my "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" page-a-day calendar. This is the third year that I've had this particular page-a-day on my desk at work, and I find that most days it helps to give me perspective and not lose focus. Anyone who works in manufacturing during this "fabulous" economic climate knows that stress can become the modus operandi, so these daily reminders of what's important can come in handy.

    However, the daily reminders aren't always things that will help at work. This calendar is chock full of goodies that can help us to keep perspective in all aspects of our lives. Last week - I got three days of perspective on how I interact with Steve.

    Thursday, August 5: Your spouse is your partner. Ideally, you'd treat your partner as you would your best friend.

    Of course! This one didn't require much thought for me - Steve is definitely my best friend. There's very little that I think about or encounter that I don't immediately want to call, text, email, or run and tell him when it happens. A great example is the other night; Steve had left and gone to Lowe's while I was packing lunches for the next day. While he was gone, a rough-legged hawk decided to perch on our back deck for a little bit and then flew across our yard into the woods. As soon as I heard the garage open, I ran down to tell Steve about what happened. Shopping - everything I look at or consider buying I think of Steve in some way. I'm lost without him - he is definitely my best friend.

    Friday, August 6: Many people say "My partner is my best friend," but most don't actually back up that statement with thoughts, feelings, and actions consistent with it.

    Ouch. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails. Sure - Steve is my best friend... but do I always act it? When I have a bad day, do I process it with him like I used to do when I was a kid on the phone with my girlfriends - or do I bottle it up and lash out at him when he least expects it? When he does something that bothers me, do I sit down and talk to him about it like a rational person or with the respect he deserves as my husband - or do I lose my patience and become testy? If I'm honest with myself, I don't always treat Steve as though he's my best friend.

    Saturday, August 7: Ask yourself, what could I do to express my gratitude toward my spouse even more than I already do?

    If you've ever read "The Five Love Languages", you'll know what I mean when I say that Steve's love languages are Acts of Service and Physical Touch. What can I do as his wife to translate the appreciation I have for how he provides for our little family, for how he gets excited when I do cable weights for the first time, for how he gets angry when people hurt me, for how he gets pumped about great things that happen at work, for how he abandoned his own dreams for adult small group ministry to follow me into my desire for youth ministry, for holding me when I cry... the list goes on. I appreciate so much that Steve does; what can I do to translate that in a way that he will know in his heart how much I do appreciate him.

    I photocopied these three days of thoughts and brought them home. I share them with you here because I think that they're pertinent to every married couple out there. Sure, you always hear "My spouse is my best friend" - but I think that it's an important question to ask. What are we doing as spouses to show our other halves that the ARE our best friends? Do we respect their feelings and thoughts and desires? Do we speak their love language to them so they know how much we care? Do we do little things and cherish all of the moments and things we do together?

    Steve and I are still young in our marriage (just over 3 years), so things like this are important for us to reflect on. What am I doing to serve my husband, to let him know I care, to let him know I appreciate him? How can I improve on the way I communicate these feelings to him so that he never questions where I stand and if I respect him? I don't ever want to become one of those old married couples who don't know each other and have forgotten what a deep, beautiful relationship and partnership God has designed marriage to be. Some of the best moments are when Steve and I look into each others' eyes for just a brief moment... and see that deep love and bond we have for each other.

    What would life be like if that suddenly was missing - if I lost my best friend because I didn't nurture that friendship or treat it the way it deserved to be treated? I'd be lost.

    For you married people out there (or even people in a serious relationship who might get married at some point or have been married and therefore have insight): what do you think of all this? What can you do or are you doing to let your partner know that they are your best friend?

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    Curate Yourself

    Today on my Twitter feed, I saw the following tweet pop up:

    @Etsy - RT @kanyewest - Curate your life.

    This struck a chord in my thinking parts for some strange reason. Curate my life? What does that even mean? Like... life as museum?

    Knowing that Kanye West is a relatively educated guy (I think I saw somewhere once that his mom or dad is a Harvard professor, so clearly even if HE isn’t educated he’s been exposed to some high-level intellect), I went ahead and looked up the definition of the word “Curate”. I thought that maybe this would help to shed a bit of light on these three words of advice thrown out over the Internet. offered this as a definition:


    1. Chiefly British . a member of the clergy employed to assist a rector or vicar.
    2. any ecclesiastic entrusted with the cure of souls, as a parish priest.
    –verb (used with object)
    3. to serve as curator for: to curate an art exhibition.

    This of course made me go ahead and look up the word “curator”:

    1. the person in charge of a museum, art collection, etc.
    2. a manager; superintendent.
    3. Law . a guardian of a minor, lunatic, or other incompetent, esp. with regard to his or her property.

    At this point my brain started to ponder this a bit more. I can either view my life as a museum and think of how to decorate it with various “pieces of art”, or I can view my life as absolutely crazy with a life of its own that I need to be a guardian of. Or maybe it’s both. This of made me think of Edward Munch’s “The Scream”; a beautiful piece of art that reminds me a bit of someone in a moment of lunacy. Since a curator would take care of either the art or the lunatic - I felt that this image was pretty appropriate. 
    At this point in my train of thought I've landed at the point of decision: Is the metaphor saying that life is a museum or that life is absolutely crazy and needs a guardian?

    If life is a museum, then each moment, memory, and experience would be a masterpiece of some sort. I picture mine as a gallery mixed with Monet (“Lilypads” to capture those serene moments), Renoir (that famous one with the dancing couple and the lady is wearing a red hat for those fun moments of dancing & love), Munch (the previously mentioned “The Scream” for those moments when screaming is necessary), and a little bit of Picasso (for those times when life is completely random). Of course there's a photo-journalist gallery in my little life museum, displaying all of those super memorable times in my life in chronological order.

    But then there are those Sistine Chapel moments. The grand ones where God moves and works and creates amazingly famous works of art and beautiful things happen in my little museum. So really... should I be curating my own museum if God is going to be the one to display and create the most beautiful masterpieces at the most appropriate times?

    On the other hand, if by curating my life one is inferring that life is crazy and full of lunacy - thereby needing a curator in the third definition - then I definitely do not want to be the one curating my life. Clearly on my own I'm bound to land in a straight jacket; when I'm most stressed or self-focused or frazzled is when I make the most irrational decisions. Me as sole curator in "Life of Danielle" = not the best idea.

    Here’s where I landed.

    I don’t want to be the sole museum curator to my life. I’ve tried that. I am able to make some of the most wonderfully awful crayon drawings you’ve ever seen when left to my own "artistic" abilities, so to speak. Sure, I can orchestrate some amazing Monet-esque paintings to hang in my life gallery... but on average my life-art is mediocre at best. However - when under the apprenticeship of a Master, I can have those Sistine Chapel moments. 

    So wouldn't I want to let someone else - a Master - be the primary curator?

    And in terms of the crazy side of things - I would much rather let someone else be my guardian. I would much rather let someone else show me the right path and learn to be in tune with their direction.

    No matter which definition you choose, I look to God as my curator. Sure, He leaves a lot of decisions in my hands and so as a result some of my galleries are going to have some paintings that resemble the works of Jackson Polluck... but in the end, my museum will be beautiful. I'll be less crazy. And really - in the end I will have left myself open to His will, His design, and His intent for my life.
    Who will be the curator of your life? 

    For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. - Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)