Disclaimer: This is going to be one of my venting posts. Maybe I’m not venting as much as I’m just thinking “out loud” because its 9 p.m. in Goodyear, Arizona, both my husband and my pooch are already passed out (sawing logs) and I’ve had some stuff on my mind for the past few weeks…
As my close friends who are all currently pretty far away know, I’ve been doing a good amount of whining this spring training. I’m not proud but I’m not perfect and I’m sure in the hell not content 24/7 so it is what it is. Every time I complain, I feel some kind of guilty. Maybe I consider how fortunate I am. Maybe I realize that things could be worse. Maybe I think of all of the people who would be quick to call me names if I expressed my current feelings on social media. Maybe… Just maybe I know that I have nothing serious to complain about but that still doesn’t change the fact that I just don’t feel like a ray of sunshine all of the time.
There are many baseball ladies who do not accompany their significant others to spring training. Some have children who are in school, some have other responsibilities at home, and for some, it’s not even a possibility due to financial restrictions or job schedules. You will find many MLB and MiLB ladies out there as we speak who are bummed because their favorite dude left for spring and they won’t see him for a few weeks or even months. That’s not me. Like every other season, I packed my junk and made the temporary move to Arizona because that’s just how we do it.
In the past, spring training was always a temporary move leading to another temporary move. There were seasons where we didn’t even know where we would end up at the end of it and others where we drove over from San Diego and then back to an apartment with a ton of unpacked boxes for decorations because I knew we wouldn’t be there long anyway and it was just inefficient to unpack things we didn’t really need just to pack them up again. Last season, we flew back to Cincinnati and stayed at the Westin, living out of suitcases for a while. Looking back, I guess my jokes about being a gypsy were never a joke at all.
The difference this spring training is that we actually have a home to miss (an even bigger reason to feel ridiculous for not putting my super happy Stepford wife face on every day). Granted, I have no actual desire to be home without my guy yet I can’t help but miss waking up to foot warmers in the form of cats sleeping on my feet and 3 huge dogs slobbering all over the place. I just want to drink coffee in my own kitchen while I plan out my errands for the day. I miss my gym. My routine. My friends. My sister. I might even miss the lady down the street who always thinks we’re speeding because our cars are loud. The thermostat in our bedroom that always makes it either too hot or too cold- I kinda miss that too.
I refuse to believe that these feelings make me ungrateful or unaware of my blessings. I’m thankful to wake up every day in sunny Arizona to my husband’s 6 am alarm (okay, I hate the alarm). It’s nice that he gets home from work at a decent hour and aside from a knee injury, there’s been nothing serious to stress about.
When I get back home, there will be a ton of chaos and I will no longer have afternoons to spend with Mat. He’ll be working 10 hours a day IF he’s even in town. I’ll be holding the fort (read: the zoo) down and trying not to miss him or my flights every other week. I’ll probably even get a little frustrated every now and then. As the months progress, I may even start looking forward to a little off-season peace. Who knows. I might just be a human with real human feelings and everything! (crazy, right?)
It doesn’t take any deep reflection to know that one of the greatest challenges is learning to appreciate the present no matter how blue the past, how bright the future or how screwed up things might get at any given moment. But I don’t think that looking back, looking forward or appreciating your current situation has to be a mutually exclusive mindset. What I’m saying here is- don’t do what I do and feel bad about feeling bad from time to time. (I’ve almost decided that it’s okay to stop beating myself up about this. almost.)
I’m no authority to tell you what to do but I’m pretty certain that feelings are feelings and they are valid no matter how silly or irrational they might seem to others or even yourself when you really step back and think about it. As much as I keep expressing that I want to be home, I know that being in Cincinnati right now would have its own set of challenges.
What I’m trying to say here is that the grass may seem greener but it’s never, ever easy and all we can really do is try our best to make what we can out of what we have at any given time. And you know what- if you want to feel grumpy despite the number of things you have to be grateful for, feel grumpy. (Just try not to do it too often because that’s no fun.)
After all, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? Right. It’s only then that you can choose to fix the things that don’t bring you happiness or you can learn to be at peace with them.
Happy happy hunting.
I would like to start this post off by saying that I absolutely love the name of this event. If we ever expect to help people overcome hardships, not only do we have to provide a helping hand but we absolutely have to establish a system that will assist them in reclaiming independence and building a new life.
This off-season we were fortunate enough to be able to do a little volunteer work at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky. I was more than impressed with the dedication of the staff, the way the shelter is run as well as what it offers residents. While we sadly wont be able to attend this event as we will still be in Arizona for spring training, I am asking you guys to check it out, spread the word, attend if it strikes a chord in your heart or even make a donation if you would like to.
Homeless to Hopeful is an event to raise awareness about homelessness and it is taking place on Friday, February 28th from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Notre Dame Academy Theater.
Following is the official press release for the 2nd Annual Homeless to Hopeful Event:
This winter has proven to be a challenge for all of us, but especially for those who are homeless. The Emergency Shelter of NKY has sheltered already this winter close to 400 adults and Family Promise of NKY that sheltered family was full every night. Local statistics within the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky, indicate an overall 18% increase in homelessness. ESNKY is also searching for a new home to ensure that we continue have the one and only cold weather shelter in our region.
The 2nd annual Homeless to Hopeful event will raise awareness of homelessness in our own NKY community. Videos with real testimony as well as live speakers will be a part of the event. Jessica Noll, from WPCO will act as emcee. The event will also feature basket raffles and a silent auction to raise funds for both Family Promise and the Emergency Shelter of NKY. Mat Latos has provided a signed jersey and baseball. Wine baskets, round trip airline tickets and other themed baskets will be available.
Tickets: $15.00 for adults $5.00 for students (college/high school/grade school)
To purchase tickets: Call Janet at Family Promise 859-431-6840
Thank you for taking the time to read about a cause that is very important to us! A little bird told me that you might find some items autographed by Mat in the silent auction…
This post is sort of another recipe and sort of another plant-based cooking tutorial. Gluten-free pasta is great and all but if you are really interested in packing the nutrients into your meals, I highly suggest that you learn how to cook a spaghetti squash (you can google it but I’ll write a post on this soon) and that you invest in a julienne peeler to make “noodles” out of raw zucchini.
I purchased my julienne peeler from Williams-Sonoma at the Kenwood mall in Cincinnati but you can also find them on their website HERE. When I am in more of a hurry, I use this spiral slicer from Bed Bath & Beyond. Find it HERE. I LOVE the spiral slicer but the difference here is that the julienne peeler will set you back about $10 while the spiral slicer will set you back $30. If you’re not sure you’ll be making a ton of veggie noodles, that may not be a wise investment for you.
To make this dish, you will need:
A julienne peeler or spiral slicer
Seasoning of choice (I used Flavor God’s garlic lover’s seasoning)
Sea salt to taste
4-6 mushrooms (sliced and then halved) (depending on size)
8 cherry tomatoes (or similar) (cut into quarters)
4 oz of pesto sauce (give or take a little)
(Note: you can make your own pesto if you have a food processor but I don’t always have time for that so I picked up Le Grand brand pesto which can be found near the dairy products at the Fresh Market near Kenwood. I’m pretty sure every grocery store has pesto though.)
(If you’re not into the vegan thing, see recommended modifications at the end of this recipe)
- First, use your julienne peeler or spiral slicer to create noodles out of the zucchini. They will be very full of water so I usually use a paper towel to squeeze them and get some of the water out once I am done peeling them into a bowl. Once you have drained some water out, set them aside.
(Note: if you plan to cook/heat the zucchini noodles, having some water will be beneficial but if you ever plan to eat them cold, you will want to essentially ring the noodles out.)
- Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat for a minute at medium heat. Add about a teaspoon (or 1 clove) of garlic and sauté for about a minute. Now add your mushrooms and continue to saute for about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms look done. Set aside.
- Rinse your skillet out with warm water (or wipe it down to get mushroom residue out) and another 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, heat for a minute over medium heat. Now add your zucchini noodles to the pan to heat them up. In order to not turn them to mush, don’t stir them. You want to move them around the pan gently.
- Once the zucchini noodles are mostly heated, add the mushrooms back to the pan and season with your seasonings of choice. If you don’t have Flavor God garlic lover’s seasoning, I would recommend that you go with some garlic powder and parsley and of course, sea salt.
- Toss together and then add pesto sauce. Continue to toss in the skillet until it is all heated and then move the zucchini and mushroom to your serving dishes.
- Return skillet to heat and add tomatoes. You aren’t trying to cook the tomatoes, only to warm them a bit. Toss them around the skillet for no more than a minute then top your “pasta” dish with them and VOILA!!! A 13 minute meal packed with nutrients. (Each serving includes 2 zucchinis, 3 mushrooms, and 4 little tomatoes… take that, suggested daily vegetable servings!)
I always suggest modifications because I am not strictly a vegan eater. When I cook, I usually like to use a vegan base recipe. Sometimes, I will serve it as is and other times, I will add meat or even a little cheese depending on the time of day and how I am feeling.
If you wish to add cheese to this dish, I recommend a shredded mozzarella cheese. (I added cheese half-way through eating this just so I could see how it would taste and it was so good it was basically criminal.)
If you are looking to keep this dish paleo and would like to add some meat, I suggest you either sauté some shrimp in olive oil and garlic and add them at the very end or that you add chicken. If I were to add chicken, I would either cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces and cook it in a skillet or you could even bake garlic and herb chicken breast and serve it on the side. To avoid using a ton of oil when cooking chicken, using chicken broth to either bake or sauté it works wonders.
Some random kitchen science notes:
- Always be aware of what type of oil you are cooking with. Not every oil is intended to be heated to every temperature. Olive oil really shouldn’t be used to cook anything above medium heat as high heat causes it to produce potentially harmful bi-products (some have been linked to cancer). Coconut oil however is great to use when cooking at high-temperatures.
- Sea salt is definitely a step up from table salt when it comes to your health but if you happen to see it, pick up Himalayan sea salt. It is a pinkish color and can usually be found on the spice isle. Instead of explaining all of the things that are wrong with table salt and even some sea salt, I encourage you to check out this LINK if you feel so inclined. (It’s much more informative than me giving you a brief summary as the article hits on all of the major points from a nutrition/health perspective.)
- Although it’s easier to just add everything to a skillet and cook it all at once, I find that you can create a much more dynamic flavor if you cook each ingredient separately, “set aside” and combine them at the end. I use this same method of “making things a bigger pain in the butt than they have to be” for almost every dish I cook (slow cooker and soup cooking not included). If you don’t typically do this, try it out the next time you cook and see if you can tell the difference. It’s more of a layered flavoring effect rather than just giving the dish one overall flavor.
Happy kitchen experimenting!
I didn’t want to put this whole thing in the title of this blog post but we shall call this dish:
Vegan Quinoa Pasta with Brussel Sprouts, Mushrooms, Shallots and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
(Did I mention this takes about 20 minutes?)
Whenever I post a recipe, I don’t imagine that you will follow it to a T but I do hope that you can use it for some inspiration in your kitchen. I came up with this recipe as I went along and it turned into something that I will likely put into my starting rotation of staple dinner options. (You know when you make a large serving and imagine you will only eat part of it and then suddenly your plate is empty? That happened).
Notes: I used quinoa pasta due to a gluten intolerance. I prefer it over other gluten-free pasta options (brown rice pasta, etc.) for both the taste and the nutritional benefits. It should be noted that I always cook quinoa pasta at least one minute past the recommended maximum time and that I have successfully tricked my husband into eating it on multiple occasions. If you cook it even a minute less than it needs, I highly doubt you will like it so if you have never cooked it before, I recommend that you taste a noodle every minute or so past the recommended minimum cook time to gain an understanding of the cooking process. Once it is fully cooked, you should not be able to taste much of a difference between quinoa pasta and the good old starchy pasta most of us have grown to love.
I am not going to specify many exact measurements in this recipe because it’s really all about personal taste preferences and how many you are serving. Feel free to substitute the vegetables I chose for some of your own favorites.
Ingredients for two servings:
Olive Oil (just keep it on hand)
4 oz Sun-dried tomato pesto sauce
1-2 cups of vegetable broth
1 Shallot (finely chopped)
2 Handfuls of halved brussel sprouts
1-2 Handfuls of chopped mushrooms
2 Servings worth of angel hair pasta (your preference of pasta type)
Salt and pepper to your tastes (I prefer Himalayan sea salt for health reasons)
Seasoning of your choice
My choice: I used dried parsley and the Garlic Lover’s seasoning made by Flavor God which can be purchased here: http://www.flavorgod.com/
I really enjoy using Flavor God Seasonings in my kitchen because they are made fresh weekly, gluten-free, paleo, low salt and delicious. Basically a win-win-win. (check out the ingredients in some of the things in your spice cabinet and see if you can find anything in there that you don’t recognize… you probably can… creepy)
If you don’t conveniently have any Flavor God Garlic Lover’s seasoning, I think either fresh garlic or garlic powder with the parsley or some of your other favorite Italian seasonings would be delicious.
Cooking tip: Chop all of your veggies before you get started. Not only does it make for a seamless, stress-free cooking experience but you can pretend like you are a fancy chef with a cooking show if you’re into that sort of thing. (The second part of that tip was entirely useless but it’s the truth.)
Check the time on the package of the pasta you have chosen to use and decide when to start cooking it so that it will be done around the same time as your veggies. Your veggies will take 10 minutes, tops.
Cook your veggies:
-Heat olive oil in a skillet.
-Add chopped shallots and sauté for about a minute.
-Add brussel sprouts, cut side down and sauté for another 2 minutes or so.
-Add chopped mushrooms, continue to sauté for about a minute.
-Season your veggies with garlic, salt and pepper to your taste.
-Add vegetable broth until the brussel sprouts are about 1/3 of the way covered, cover your skillet with a lid and let them steam for about 1-2 minutes.
-Remove brussel sprouts and mushrooms from the liquid and set aside.
Put it all together:
-Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in your skillet and heat it up on low to medium heat. (We aren’t cooking at this point, we are just warming and seasoning) (Add olive oil as you see fit if this isn’t enough)
-Add sun-dried tomato pesto sauce to the skillet and heat. (If you are making 2 servings, use about 4 oz)
-Add noodles and vegetables to the skillet and season again with salt, pepper, parsley and Garlic Lover’s seasoning (or your choice of seasonings) and sort of toss the noodles around in the pan to mix with the veggies and pesto.
(I use tongs and a sort of pick up and mix method… you don’t want to use a spoon or anything that is going to compromise the texture of the dish)
A few things…
Because I cook mostly plant-based meals, I tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to sea salt and seasonings. When your diet doesn’t consist of a lot of processed foods, sea salt is not the worst thing in the world (these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA but I read too much about nutrition so there’s that).
I can usually find sun-dried tomato pesto sauce (check the label to make sure it’s gluten-free but it should be) in the produce section of my local Kroger but if you don’t find it there, check the pasta sauce isle. If you don’t like tomatoes, use regular pesto. Also, you’re crazy.
If you like cheese, serve with some mozzarella or fresh parmesan cheese on top because what isn’t better with cheese?! (nothing. the answer is nothing.)
If you are a paleo eater, skip the noodles and increase your veggie quantities. You can either serve the sun-dried tomato pesto veggies as side dish or top a chicken breast or white fish with them. OMGoodness now I’m hungry again.
Giving back and helping others is something I grew up doing. There are so many charitable causes out there and so many people and groups who can use a helping hand. Many times, all you have to have is a big heart to help them.
I vividly remember 8th grade where I had to log 100 hours of community service over the course of the school year to graduate. I could volunteer anywhere I wanted as long as it was approved by the school. I chose to volunteer at a convalescent hospital. I don’t recall why I chose that project but I do recall feeling awful for the elderly people who had sort of been abandoned by their families or simply didn’t have any family. You don’t know what “lonely” is until you find yourself living in a medical institution where you have permitted social hours and are otherwise constrained to a room with a hospital bed.
I will admit that I was uncomfortable at first. A lot of the residents had mental illnesses. Some of them wouldn’t remember my name from week to week. Some thought I was their daughter. Some came out of their bathrooms without their pants on. I was a teenage girl and quite frankly, I wasn’t sure how to process all of that. What I did know was that no matter what oddities I experienced, I would always leave knowing that I made someone’s day who no one else really took the time to care about. Need I go on to tell you that that’s an awesome feeling? Probably not.
In high school, my mother decided that we should volunteer to prepare dinner for a homeless shelter whenever we could. Sometimes it was her, my sister and I. Sometimes friends helped. It was a small shelter that only took about 60 people a night. My mom and I would cook our butts off (with the help of my baby sister) and deliver a warm meal to a shelter of men, women and children to what was really just a building with cots to sleep on and tables to set the food on.
I will admit that I was uncomfortable at first. I felt guilty. Who was I to waltz in there with enough food to feed 60 people to people who had nothing? Were people going to treat us strangely? Were we going to make them feel bad?
The first time we served the homeless a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs was one that I will never forget. I was so nervous that I barely spoke at first. I just didn’t know how to interact because I felt so fortunate to have a roof over my head. I wasn’t living a lavish life but I had a single mother who busted her a-word and was fortunate and good enough at it to take care of my sister and I. That’s more than so many people could ever wish to ask for.
The night progressed. I served some plates. Shared some smiles. Felt terrible that these beautiful souls found themselves suffering in the place they were. Without a home. Without a family able to bust their a-words to help them. Some of these people didn’t even have family. Some of them had been laid off from their job and living paycheck to paycheck was no longer an option. One of them went to my high school and played on the varsity basketball team.
I saw his face come through the line and I didn’t know whether he wanted me to recognize him or not. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I sort of froze. I racked my brain. Do I act normal. Do I keep my head down. I wasn’t friends with the guy but he recognized my face and I his. I rashly decided that I was going to treat this as a normal interaction to ease the tension. I acted like I knew him. Made small talk. Made him feel large talk. It was the right decision. He looked nervous- like I might tell people at school. I never did. I don’t even think anyone knew I was volunteering there? I didn’t exactly have many friends in high school but that’s another subject. He will probably never know it but his energy and resilience inspired me in more ways than I can describe.
Once everyone was served I decided to talk to some other people. Socialize. Treat them like normal humans. So many people forget to do that. I learned that some had lost their jobs. Some lost everything in a bad divorce. Some couldn’t find work for months. Some had been disowned and were struggling to find their way. Some didn’t have a single family member or friend in the world. Some didn’t want to talk they just wanted to eat and sleep. The ridiculously outstanding revelation was this- they were all people just like you and me. They were all so appreciative that we bothered to bring them a meal. And care. Because no one else cared enough to help them.
I will never forget my experience there. I will never forget the lessons I learned. I will never forget that there are millions of homeless people struggling in our nation.
The thing is- it’s so easy to give time, money, and any charitable energy to a cause that hits close to home. Disease hits close to home, cancer hits close to home, animals hit close to home. All more than worthy causes. Most of us have relative or animal friends who have suffered a cruel injustice but most of us will never experience what it’s like to not know if you have a safe place to sleep at night. Many of us will never even consider that anyone could become homeless at any given moment. It’s an issue that lacks awareness and I really hope to assist with changing that.
Long story long, I am thrilled to finally have a few things in line to help the homeless in our community and I might ask that you will join me every now and then.
The only resource you need to help others is a big heart, an open mind and a little spare time.
Thanks for hearing me out.
p.s. Google your local homeless shelter. A $10 investment of a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and jelly may go a long way. A $0 investment of donating a coat or blanket you don’t need will likely make someone’s day as well.
You might have seen me mention food allergies or whine about the fact that I can’t drink wine without getting sick over the past few months. You have probably seen me posting gluten-free meal ideas. You may have caught the one tweet where I complained about having to take a million supplements every time I eat. I never planned on sharing the why with you all but in order to make a point, I am going to have to.
A few months ago, I began to see a naturopathic medical doctor for various reasons. I was mainly sick of feeling absolutely terrible and being prescribed anxiety medications because “nothing was wrong” with my blood work. I was sick of taking anxiety medication just to function. I was sick of not being myself.
After a few hours of testing, we discovered a ridiculous amount of things that were going wrong in my body. Goody. Of the list of health short comings, the worst was my digestive system. To put it simply, anxiety can be caused by a lack of harmony in your gut. Even more ridiculous- being stressed out can cause the exact digestive issues that in turn cause you to have anxiety. Pretty rude, right? Right. (Especially when you deal with the amount of stress I have been subjected to).
Over the past few months, I have been busting my a-word trying to get my digestive system working properly with hopes of feeling like a human again. Through supplements and mindful eating, I have managed to get a grip on things. I’m still not in perfect health but this didn’t happen over-night and it’s not going to go away over-night so I continue to work on it. I’m happy to report that I only have to take anxiety meds on rare occasions. And that’s awesome.
Let me get to the point- It feels so good to feel like myself again but it has also opened my eyes to just how terrible I had been feeling- mentally and physically.
Last year was one of the most miserable years of my life and I have been through some pretty dark times. It wasn’t just the year itself, it was that I was already so beaten down (although I would have never admitted it) that everything hit me like a ton of bricks. All I kept thinking is WHEN AM I GOING TO CATCH A BREAK. Newsflash: If you want to catch a break, you better give yourself one.
If you’re like most, you have no idea what I just said. On paper, my life looks so nice and easy that people are quick to be offended if I have a bad day. On paper, my life looks so easy that I am quick to be offended by myself when I have a bad day. But the thing is this- I am only human and the paper lies. Life isn’t about comparing your struggles to those of anyone else but it is about being compassionate enough to know that we all struggle at one point or another.
To give you some perspective, there were days that I stayed in bed until 5 pm. The day would start out with me pretending to be fine, Mat would go to work around 1 pm, I would get back in bed and lay there- lifeless, sometimes crying (embarrassing but I’m not much of a liar so there you have it), missing my friends, missing my family, ridiculously lonely, lost, sad, wondering if I was making terrible life choices. I’d eventually hate myself for feeling that way because what reason on earth do I have to be miserable on paper? I’d peel myself out of bed, put some clothes on and go to the ballpark because if I didn’t, I would have never left our apartment/ socialized with anyone other than Mat (who was dealing with a boat load of his own stress) and the Kroger cashiers.
(I think this post is quickly becoming something I never intended it to be but so be it)
I was so sad and out of sorts that I didn’t even bother to socialize with other wives most of the time because I was so ashamed of myself for feeling rotten and didn’t want to bother anyone else with my negative energy.
Note: Due to the nature of the business, wives and girlfriends in baseball try to be supportive of one another. When things like trades happen, most of them have been there, done that. They know that your life just got flipped upside down and that you are entering alien territory. Even the Reds front office reached out to us/me in ways that I will forever be grateful for.
Sure, my friends and family were only a phone call away but it takes a lot for me to admit that I am struggling and even more for me to seek help. Being strong is my thing. Other people need me to be strong (I think). They are used to me being strong and independent (I think). Part of that is me being stubborn and more of that is me needing to know that I can stand on my own two feet (I know).
Don’t get me wrong here… I had some great days in there but an overwhelming majority were some kind of awful. I felt like a zombie. Going through the motions. Trying to keep it together. Wondering when I was going to crack. There were some days that I couldn’t even bring myself to seek peace by practicing Yoga because I was afraid I would have a panic attack while driving and no one would be there to help me because Mat was at work and I had no one else to call so I just avoided driving entirely. I remember a 10 day home-stand where I was so stressed, I couldn’t even drive to the grocery store so I just ordered take out from Holy Grail every day. Love HG but that made me feel even more awful
about feeling awful.
Note: if you’ve never experienced a panic attack, be thankful. I am sure they are different for everyone but mine are usually something like a racing heart, lack of ability to see straight, tingling, freezing cold, and 178% certain that I’m about to die. Not exactly ideal driving conditions.
Let’s not forget all of the times that I was attacked on the internet. Maybe I said something that offended people. Maybe Mat gave up 6 billion runs and people wanted to send us both back to San Diego in body bags like it was our choice to disappoint them. Luckily, I had a decent amount of experience dealing with blind hatred and vile people on the internet but I don’t care who you are-you can only hear that you are hated, worthless, a terrible person etc. so many times before you wonder what you did to deserve to be treated like that.
Note: No one deserves to be treated like that.
This brings me to a point that I would scream at the top of my lungs if that meant that people would hear me….
YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH. BE KIND.
That’s it. That’s all.
If you are going through a hard time, I truly wish for some light for you because I hate the thought of anyone else struggling. Looking back, I must say that it is never in your favor to be hard on yourself. “Life is a journey, not a destination” and I am a cheese ball and a half for referencing that quote but you have to trust the process and know that brighter days are ahead… you just have to be willing to find them- no GPS included.
Tomorrow night, Mat will be a guest on the Reds Hot Stove League Radio Show at Holy Grail from 6-7 pm. He will be doing some talking, autograph signing and all of that good stuff. If you miss baseball, come get your fix from 6-7!
We are teaming up with Holy Grail to collect donations to go to the Drop In Center- Cincinnati’s largest homeless shelter.
If there is a blanket, coat, winter hat, unopened toiletry items, pantry items or really anything that you can part ways with, we ask that you bring it in with you. We will be collecting the donations and delivering them to the shelter.
For a broader list of items needed, please visit this website:
“The need for food, clothing and toiletries is continuous – many of our residents come to us empty-handed, in need not only of shelter, but of basic possessions and sustenance as well. From socks and shoes to soap and sunscreen, we always welcome donations of new clothing and grooming accessories. Your gift of food items is also welcome – such as bulk quantities of canned or dry goods in addition to gift certificates to price clubs or supermarkets.”
Idea- If you are planning on coming down and you happen to read this today, spread the word this afternoon and see if you can get your co-workers or classmates to help you help us by bringing something to you tomorrow… A mini-drive for the drive of sorts (:
Last year, we had a costume contest for people dressing as Mat or I on my blog. This year, we want to have a costume contest for your animals. Send us pictures of your animal friends in their best Halloween outfits for a chance to win cool prizes and be featured on my blog.
Email to: DallasLatos@reds.com
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If you’ve ever glanced at one of my social media accounts, you know that it’s no secret that I have an intense love affair with cooking, baking and feeding pretty much anyone who is willing to taste my science experiments. For whatever reason, I have never been content with preparing a meal from a recipe exactly as it instructs me to because I’m disobedient like that (and I like to make things more interesting while adding my own personal touch).
I stumbled across a recipe for Shepherd’s pie and was immediately intrigued after reading the list of ingredients and realizing that my extremely picky eater of a husband may just like this concoction. I just so happened to marry a guy who would probably be just fine eating chicken and rice day after day after day after day. And that would be great if I didn’t like to play in the kitchen, but I do so I constantly read recipes and look for inspiration to try new things. This particular recipe called for carrots and he isn’t exactly a fan of cooked carrots. Then there was the dry red wine I didn’t have on hand. I didn’t have a round baking dish that was the appropriate size and it needed more garlic. Everything needs more garlic.
I probably broke some rules in the creation of this dish but trust- they needed to be broken and it turned out great. I will do my best to explain my version of Shepherd’s pie and I will suggest that you add this dish to your dinner plans some time in the near future. The way I see it, you can essentially make this with any sort of ground meat despite the fact that it is traditionally prepared with lamb. I went with Bison but ground beef is a pretty popular swap for lamb and would probably be equally delicious.
So what is Shepherd’s pie? It’s basically some meat with some mashed potatoes on top. Not exactly ground breaking culinary flair here but I like to know what I think I am trying to do and I am going to pretend that you, like me, had never seen or eaten Shepherd’s pie before.
If you already make some wicked good mashed potatoes, go on with your bad self and make them how you make them. If not, you can follow my recipe below.
1.5 lb of potatoes (I always use red. If you’ve never tried it, you should)
1 cup of heavy cream (if you want to spare yourself some fat, use milk)
1/4 cup of butter (and maybe a little extra)
2 egg yolks
Meat pie filling:
1.5 lb. ground meat
8 oz diced mushrooms
2 cups diced onions
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. thyme
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste.
How to make it happen:
-Preheat your oven to 425.
-Make mashed potatoes.
If you already know how to, you can skip reading this part. If not, you peel them. Cut them. Boil them until they are soft. Drain them. Put them in a bowl. Cut up the butter into the bowl. Smash the potatoes and butter together. Season with salt and pepper to your liking. If you like garlic, add some garlic powder in there while you’re at it. Have your cream or milk on hand and plug your hand mixer in. Slowly add the cream in while your mixer is on medium speed. Keep adding it until the potatoes get to the right texture. Keep in mind that you can always add more cream but you can’t take any away. Runny smashed potatoes will never work for this dish. Once they get to the right texture, taste them. Odds are, they need more salt or pepper or garlic or carby love. Get them to the flavor you like and let them cool off (note- we will be stirring in the two egg yolks once they are cool).
-Make the meat stuff
Brown your meat for about 5 minutes over med/high heat, drain, set aside. (If you’re a garlic freak, you can add a little garlic powder here. It will be mostly cooked but not entirely.)
Saute your vegetables in olive oil over med/high heat using the same pan for 4 minutes or so. Add minced garlic and tomato paste and continue cooking and stirring for an additional minute. Now, stir in the flour. Once your vegetables are a weird goopy texture, add a little broth. Stir around a little more and then add the rest of the broth and the thyme (I also added garlic powder and salt and pepper at this point but that’s up to you). Let the mixture simmer for about 8 minutes or until it reaches a nice gravy like consistency.
Once you have your veggie gravy prepared, add the meat back to the pan and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
You have now successfully prepared you meat stuff. Put it in a 2-3 QT baking dish. The cool kids use a round one but I didn’t have one so I just used a handy dandy 2 QT rectangular pyrex (livin’ on the edge here, ya’ll). Make sure you added the egg yolks to the mashed potatoes. If you’re 1000% sure you did, put the mashed potatoes on top of the meat stuff and spread them around with a fork. You can even use your art skills and make a fun pattern with the fork tongs if your little heart desires.
Finally, put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake it in your 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. When it’s done, it might be a little bubbly, the tops of the potatoes should be a little brown and it should smell delicious. Let it cool before you cut into it.
Even if it looks like mush and even if you didn’t get the texture just right, it will probably taste delicious.
Make sure your gravy consistency is just right while you have it in the pan or it will be too runny as liquid doesn’t exactly evaporate once it’s in the oven. I’ve given you guidelines but you can always add a bit more flour if your gravy isn’t thickening up for some reason. If it gets too thick, you can counter with a bit more broth.
I used mushrooms and onions although the recipe I saw called for a greater variety of vegetables. Some I didn’t have and some Mat didn’t like. You basically want to have about 3.5 cups of vegetables. (I don’t know exactly how many cups of mushrooms 8 oz. came to because I used a food scale to get that measurement. 1.5 cups is a guess). (3-4 cups in total should do the trick). SO… feel free to tweak the veggie bit to your liking. In this household, you can never go wrong with mushrooms and onions.
Just as I suggested that you use milk instead of cream if you are watching your girlish figure, there are a million ways to substitute things in this recipe to fit your nutritional needs. If you’re gluten intolerant, use almond or rice flour. If you don’t do red meat, you could probably make a pretty snazzy dish with ground chicken or ground turkey. If you’re a health nut, try it with sweet potatoes and use almond milk. I could go on for forever on this subject so feel free to ask me if you have any specific dietary concerns and you want to play around with this. The bottom line here is that it was fun and easy to prepare.
This is not a traditional Shepherd’s pie recipe and the beauty of it is that it doesn’t have to be.
Since moving to Cincinnati, Mat and I have been looking for ways to get involved in the community. We considered doing some sort of school supply drive but to our luck and with the help of the Reds, we found that one already takes place annually! Project Backpack is an event put on by FOX19 WXIX-TV along with partner Kiss 107. To date, more than 8,500 Cincinnati-area children have received school supplies and backpacks through the efforts of Project Backpack and the community. How awesome is that?!
On Friday, August 2nd, Mat and I will be stopping by the Project Backpack event presented at Rookwood Commons to drop off some donations and say hi!
The event is from 6 am to 11 am and we would like to encourage you to swing by and make a donation. If you’re into the whole meet and greet thing, you can catch us from 10-11.
For a list of school supplies needed and other ways to donate, check here!
See you tomorrow?