Saturday, August 1, 2015

A lovely day and Caprese Panini

NJ Caprese Panini

Today has been an absolutely lovely day.  After a record-breaking July of near 100° temps, the Lord blessed, and we welcomed August with a bright, breezy 73° morning {WHAAAT!!!!!}.  I made the most of it with a mid morning long run followed by a short walk around the neighborhood and a stretch/recover session on my front lawn. (It was so lovely I didn’t want to go indoors.)

After a shower and quick wash-n-go for the hair, the family joined in on my weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market.
Red Stick Farmer's Market

NJ walking the Red Stick Market with kids

 We had arrived about a ½ hour before the close and pickings were a bit slim.  Many of the merchants had sell outs.  The variety and volume of local produce are scaling down as we approach the end of the Louisiana summer growing season. A farmer shared that July’s heat hit the crops hard, and production was further affected.  I chatted with LSU AG Center reps about when to start fall vegetable planting. Mid-September was their recommendation. {Whew!}  I also picked up a few eggplant and peppers at a good price – thankful to get what I could get while the getting is good.

This week, the eggplant will be used in baba ganoush for me.  For the peppers, I’m thinking roasted and stuffed with Cajun sausage dirty rice for Will and the kids tomorrow.

When we got home, I took a good look at what remains in my garden. The in-ground bed vegetable bed didn’t make it. In my above the ground bed, the tomato plants (left side of picture below) are fried, but the basil nearing its end continues to flourish. 

The fragrance grabbed me so, I grabbed a few sprigs of basil and a big rock and headed in to make lunch – a Caprese panini.

Caprese is a typically a layering of slices of fresh tomato, mozzarella and basil leaves seasoned with olive oil and salt.  The combo is simple, and the flavors go together perfectly. It is delicious as a salad, in a sandwich or on a pizza.  I enjoyed a Caprese inspired salad a few weeks ago when cherry tomatoes were growing like crazy in my garden. Since I was working with cherry tomatoes, instead of the traditional method of layering slices with full leaves of basil, I cut/cubed the tomatoes and basil and tossed it with a basil garlic oil.  It was YUM!  

NJ Caprese Salad

This morning’s workout had me starving so I wanted something more substantial, and decided to use basil garlic oil as a spread in a Caprese inspired panini. 

Here is how it came together.

Beefsteak tomato
Fresh basil (1 ½ - 2 cups)
Mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
Piece of sourdough bread
...and a big rock

Fill a mini food processor with washed basil leaves. Add 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of kosher salt.

NJ Basil and Garlic

 Put on the lid and while pulsing, through the hole in the top, stream in olive oil (3-4 tablespoons) till the contents becomes a coarse mixture. Set aside.  

NJ Basil Garlic Oil Spread
(Note:  This makes a good amount of spread. Store the excess in the fridge and use in salad dressings, marinades or to bump up a sauce.  It is extremely flavorful and versatile).

If you own a panini press, preheat it.   Otherwise, heat a cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice tomato and season with salt and pepper.  Slice the mozzarella cheese. 
Cut the bread in half horizontally, scoop out and discard some of the insides of the bread. (This step is optional. I prefer a lower bread to innards ratio in my sandwiches. When the bread or roll is thick, I scoop much of the middle of the bread out.)

NJ Caprese Panini almost ready to grill

Spread the basil garlic oil on the insides of both pieces of bread.  Now build the sandwich with the cheese on the bottom piece of bread, add tomato slices, and then the top piece of bread.  

If you have a panini press, go at it.  Otherwise, brush a small amount of olive oil in the heated skillet, place the sandwich and then weight it down.  Use a sandwich press, another heavy skillet or my standby, a brick or garden rock (washed and wrapped in aluminum foil). 

NJ Caprese Panini on the grill

Cook until the bottom begins to brown and the cheese starts to melt. Flip and continue to cook until the crust gets as crunchy and the inside gets as gooey as you desire.

NJ Caprese Panini

NJ Caprese Panini close up

The basil garlic oil adds such a punch of flavor.  This sandwich is lovely.  Give it a try.

Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation Run Walk

Greater Baton Rouge, mark your calendar for Saturday, August 22, 2015 when the Annual Sickle Cell Walk will hit the streets of downtown Baton Rouge.
Your support helps provide support and services to those living with sickle cell.

More information and registration at

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Free Me Friday with Tread BR and Trader Joe's

Will and I decided to skip Summer Camp and put the kids in Momma Camp. This means I am engaged and busy keeping the children engaged and busy… all day... every day for the rest of the summer. Except for every other Friday. That is my free day.  The cherished me, myself and I day. 

The first free-me Friday of this summer was spent catching up with work and running errands.  Not good. To stay productive and generally pleasant to be around, I quickly realized it is best to use this precious time doing something I enjoy and find nurturing.  
What to do? What to do….?  
In the past this would have meant time at a salon, getting a massage, taking in a movie or a few hours in a bookstore.  But currently, trying new foods or getting in an awesome workout hits the enjoyment/nurturing spot for me. 

Friday, I did both.

It was Baton Rouge Fitness Crawl week, an annual event where select studios open their doors to the public to sample their offerings.  It is a no cost/no commitment way to explore unique and specialized forms of group exercise available in our city. I was excited to get into a session at TREAD BR, a boutique fitness studio that offers an interesting variety of classes including TREAD, (a treadmill based interval training class), ShockWave, TRX Suspension Training, Bike, and BootyBarre.  

image source:
I took a TRX class.  While not new, this method was new to me and quite intriguing. Basically you hook your hands or feet in loops on these nylon straps hanging from the ceiling, then perform a variety of exercises.  Gravity and your bodyweight team up and kick your butt.

image source
Here is a more precise description from the TRX® Suspension Training website:

Born in the Navy SEALs, Suspension Training bodyweight exercise develops strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously. It requires the use of the TRX Suspension Trainer, a highly portable performance training tool that leverages gravity and the user's body weight to complete hundreds of exercises.

The first few moments of the class were warm up and stretching moves. The extensions made possible by the straps felt so good and looked so elegant. I smiled at myself a few times in the mirror.  The rest of the class went from a bit challenging, to hard, to hecka hard. The class was small and all but one of us were new to this form, and thus knew not what we were doing. Our instructor Stacey expertly guided us through sets that alternated strength and balance exercises with lengthening stretches. Her cuing, attention to form and the students was on fleek. She even caught me when I lost balance and started to spin out.  I got a glimpse of this in the mirror - it was a I Love Lucy-esque moment.  

The class was wonderful. No jumping or jarring cardio moves, but the strength exercises got my heart pumping, and I was dripping wet at the end.  The strength portions can be as intense as you want or need them to be based on where you position your body in relation to the strap attachment point. I was good-sore for the next 2 days.

What I remember most is that the class was challenging but doable – and there was a lot of smiling because we were having fun. Fun and effective is a great combo. 

This was a fantastic workout at a fantastic studio.  A definite repeat.

Post class, I was starvin like Marvin, so a quick trip down the street to Trader Joes followed for one of their prepackaged salads.  Trader Joe’s has a spread of delicious and different salads, ready to go for only $3-$6. This is my kind of fast food. Working my way through the offerings, I tried the Trader Joe’s Roasted Butternut Squash Red Quinoa and Wheat Berry Salad with Baby Arugula, Cranberries, Toasted Almonds, Goat Cheese and Honey Sesame Vinaigrette.  I kid you not, that is the name of the salad.  You might think that name is also the full list of ingredients, but I spied some golden raisins and roasted red pepper in the mix and on the ingredient list, and wondered why they didn't make the name. 

While I had no clue what a wheat berry was, I liked all the other listed ingredients and thought the combination would be tasty.  It was.  The key for me is the combination.  The salad is assembled in a Cobb-like fashion with each ingredient in its own little area.

The first few bites, I went from section to section getting forkfuls of just one or two of the gazillion ingredients in the salad.  That was kinda blah.  But when I unprettied it by tossing well, the interplay of flavors did their thing and it was scrumptious.  Ex. soft, slightly sweet squash with nutty, chewy wheatberries - yum. Spicy arugula with tangy goat cheese and sweet cranberries - joyful. Each combo bite was a treat. The salad was also very filling. I couldn't eat it all.  

Another definite repeat.

BTW – I googled wheatberries.  They are the whole grain form of wheat before it has undergone any processing.

So on this second free-me Friday of the summer, I tried a few new things, learned a few new things, and enjoyed some active, adult only time. Then I went home, showered and took a sweet afternoon NAP. 

It was a good day.

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Fitbit has gone fancy

 Check out my fashion Fitbit band covers.

Cute right?!

The handcrafted covers are designed to fit the Fitbit Flex band.  Secured with stretch bracelet banding, you simply slide the decorative cover over the top.  The covers are very easy to put on and take off, and tap features of the FitBit continue to work through the band cover.

Super cute and only $20.  Check em out: