Leftover Pork meets Fresh Blackberries and Feta

I love to cook... that being said... I love to entertain. Sometimes I make a tad bit too much for the folks! That's OK, as it just causes me to think of ways to stretch what I have and make a new dish.

Fresh Vegetables with Pork and Berries

2 T. olive oil
1/2 c sliced onions
1 cup fresh green beans, snapped into 1 inch pieces
2 ears of cooked corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 T basil
1/2 t salt
4 oz cooked pork sliced thin
2 T wine vinegar
1 t Dijon mustard
1 T olive oil
2 cups fresh beet greens
1/2 c fresh blackberries
1 oz feta cheese, crumbled

In a heavy skillet saute onion until softened, do not brown.
In a saucepan, in lightly salted boiling water, cook green beans 4 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain.
Add corn, beans, basil and salt to skillet. Raise temperature to medium high and add pork. Heat for 2 minutes. Stir. Remove from skillet to platter. Put last 1 T of olive oil into the skillet.
Add wine vinegar, mustard and stir. Add beet greens allow to wilt, then add the berries to give them just a bit of warming up and put this mixture over the meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with feta cheese.
Serve with a good crusty loaf of bread and enjoy!

How Green Is Our Garden! Snap Peas Recipe

In March Dale tilled the land, he had the rototiller furrowing lanes, working in nutrients, and breaking up stiff ground. Or was that our stiff knees? April arrived and the pea pods, onions, lettuce, spinach and carrots went into the soil. May marked the flurry of weeds... so what else is new; we picked and pulled and then planted sections of tomatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, string beans, cucumbers, pepper varieties, acorn squash and herbs.

Welcome June and the start of our salad lunches with fresh strawberries and pea pods to go with the lettuce and spinach. But those pesky weeds clung to tiny carrots, onions, and just about everywhere. Take the position and weed for a few hours was the plan for the day/weekend.

Hello July! Huge salad lunches, full freezer of broccoli, fields popping out berries, green beans over loaded with slender long green beans and still more pea pods. If it can grow in Michigan, I think we have it planted out there. That garden cracks me up, as the vegetables grow as does the plot... stretching each year, and always a new vegetable to try.

I am not a pea lover, neither is Dale... I think of peas and I can smell a tin can. Ahhhhh but they don't grow that way! We had no idea how they grew, didn't know they needed a trellis. Therefore our rows mangled into each other and are not a pretty picture of perfect garden farming! But my goodness, they produce the pods. Difficult to spot. I sound like a birder who has caught a glimpse of a speckled loon or something! Daily I have been bringing in 3 cups of these beauties. Now... what to do with them, besides give them to my friends?

Salmon with Snap peas, Corn, Banana Peppers and Pesto.
Pesto recipe Put aside.
2 T Olive Oil
2 c sliced onions
3 yellow banana peppers, seeds removed and sliced lengthwise
2 c. cleaned snap peas, strings and ends removed
2 leftover ears of cooked corn on the cob with corn removed
1 t garlic minced
Salt, Pepper
1 T Olive Oil
2 salmon fillets, or one large one cut in halves.
Parmesan cheese for the table

Heat first 2 T olive oil in a heavy pan over medium high heat: caramelize onions ( cook for 20 minutes over medium low heat. Do not allow to brown). Add peppers, and saute until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add snap peas, cooked corn, and garlic. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Saute until vegetables are just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a platter - do not clean skillet. Place half of pesto on top of vegetables and tent with aluminum foil. Set aside.
Heat remaining 1 T olive oil in pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper (I like to use a blacken pepper). Place salmon, skin side down in pan; cook until skin is crisp about 3 minutes. Turn salmon and cook until almost opaque in center, about 3 minutes longer. Arrange salmon fillets over vegetables on platter. Spoon more pesto on top of each fillet and serve.

The Thrill of Little League

We just finished up our inaugural year of Little League. As the mom of one of the best-players out there (ahem... I said I was a mom) I have to say how much fun T-Ball was! Everyone told me how boring it would be and how I'd be ready to gouge my eyes out after sitting through each and every game. But I could not disagree more.

I'd bring my chair every week, sit on the sidelines with my water-bottle and watch & cheer as the kids came to life out there. 45 to 60 minutes of pure relaxation. Now I will admit, T-Ball in our community is not competitive. Every hit is one base. Yes, you can get out, but that happens one in five batters; the chances of the other team catching the ball and throwing it to a baseman in time to get the runner out was pretty low, and pop-fly outs were unheard of. The inning is over after either three outs or 6 batters. No more than four innings, usually three. As for score, I can't keep track... but it's hardly something that is focused on. This is my kind of competition. Laid back and relaxed!

It helps that my 6 year-old doesn't have his hands in the dirt the whole time. (Yes, it did happen though.) He had his head in the game and had his share of getting runners out. He didn't hit the ball out of the park but made it around the bases. He looked forward to the games; the camaraderie on the bench waiting to bat; and the team-snacks after, of course.

Yesterday night, amid light-sprinkles, we had our final game of the season. At *E*'s first up-to-bat he popped the ball into the air. By some stroke up luck it went right to a fielder and the fielder caught it mid-air. I have never seen a child so surprised at what he had just accomplished (and thrilled!). There were cheers all over the field and amongst the spectators on both teams. (Pop-fly outs just don't occur in T-Ball, after all.) Yes, my son was out, but even he was smiling at the other team's good-fortune. This was certainly my kind of baseball!

So now as the season has come to an end a trophy sits on my son's bedroom shelf. Yesterday afternoon that shelf had plastic-army men and humvees & even a giant Blackhawk helicopter on it. Those have all been pushed off the shelf for something more: A trophy. In 20 years it will be a dust-collector. Right now it is his pride-and-joy! A memento of the thrill of baseball in the eyes of a 6-year-old. And a reminder of good-clean memories in the eyes of his mom.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Hot Topic: What's in your Garden? Lots of Green &Red! Baked Beets with Feta and Pesto

Folks want to know "What is growing in your garden?" If it was just up to the garden, and not the gardener... the answer would be weeds, weeds, weeds. However, with a quick check of my nail cuticles... you know that at our house it is a daily stretch out there, and the weeds get 'bucketed'. I do not know a better looking vista, than a neatly planted, well maintained vegetable garden. And hooray, this year we have a frameable picture.

Two new rows of lettuce are just popping out. 3 early plantings are so tall... that if I don't use them quickly (and giving them to friends is tone of the best uses) they will go to seed. I snapped 14 pounds of broccoli off of the healthy plants are stand tall, and are continuing to produce new crowns. Green Lake bush string beans are producing like there is a marathon race to see which plant can put out the fastest, longest and most beans. Not bad! Our rows and rows of carrots are tall, thinned and plumping up. Sweet, crunchy carrots - a pretty gift from the ground. Herbs have thrived: basil, rosemary and parsley. Oh they smell so good! And a fall crop of potatoes and Brussels sprouts will keep these quasi farmers happy.

Our tomatoes are our continual problem child. We have had the 'wilt' the shrivel, the bugs the ughs. But we still have plants - lots of them and some are producing fruit... I give the plants the excuse that it is cool, overcast and not prime time yet. (As I give them the pep talk, I want to yell "Get With the Program" - but that will not do a lot of good...)

The beets are beautiful. I love their leaves which I use in a tossed salad just as if it were a type of lettuce. In the past I did not thin them enough, so the plants were small as were the leaves. This year they have had room to relax and do what I do on vacation... get a bit wider. Okay, for them it is a good thing.

Baked Beets with Feta and Pesto

3 medium size beets, skinned and sliced

Put in a microwaveable dish with water to cover and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Drain.

1/2 cup basil leaves,
2 T sunflower seeds
1/4 c walnuts or pecans
2 T olive oil
1/4 c Parmesan cheese

Whirl in blender until a crumbly paste has been formed. Set aside.

Place beets in a baking dish, sprinkle generously pesto. Crumble feta cheese over all. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil to keep a bit moist.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.

What is in your Garden? - Military Family Life Question of the Week

There is stress relief for me found in getting down and getting my hands dirty. It starts in very early-Spring and extends through the beginning of Fall. I feel capable. I feel healthy. Wielding a shovel makes me even feel *a little* stronger as I work arm and leg muscles. I swear at the weeds and talk baby-talk to the very-capable vegetable plants. (I'm quite certain that's why they 'produce' for us!)

Summer time equals a small (yet growing every year) garden for us. This year we have:

  • Cucumbers in abundance

  • Peas, their season has passed, but blessed us with lots of early Spring munching

  • Carrots that need to be thinned

  • Tomatoes which are still quite green

  • Lettuce which has fed us, the neighbors plus more friends

  • Radishes a plenty!

  • Watermelons ... I speak nicely to them every time I go out there. They have a lot of growing to do still

  • Spinach ... well we HAD spinach till the rabbits ate it all

  • 2 blueberry plants (Hubs 'pride-n-joy')

  • Green Peppers, at bite size morsels right now they are growing every day

  • Plus a small herb garden with oregano, basil, rosemary, tarragon, cilantro, thyme & bay leaf.
My 4 year-old is not a fan of vegetables or fruit; until he was introduced to the garden cucumber and the snap-pea he could take right off of the vine. Those two things he will devour. Especially if he helps pick them! I've noticed he is venturing to liking new vegetables now that he has had a taste in his mouth that he likes. I love the joy in my boys' eyes as they tell friends about our garden or walk with me as we take inventory of what is growing. I love grabbing a cucumber mid-day chopping it up as a snack and watching the boys devour it!

Some gardening comes with much sadness. My spinach for one... darn rabbits. I've also tried corn in the past and got half of a cob all season from 8 to 10 corn-stalks. One year when we were young my mom grew watermelon along our chain-link fence on base. The only watermelon that came to fruition did as such on the OTHER SIDE of the fence. How disappointed we were when the neighbors claimed it as their own, it was in 'their yard', after all... sigh...

What is in your garden? If you don't have one what would you LIKE to grow? It is fun to dream & think about the future. It's fun to get your hands dirty and watching something grow from seed to nourishing your family. (Of course, it is not so fun when the $#*& rabbits eat all your spinach!)

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

A Crop of Broccoli Crowns

Fourteen pounds of broccoli are in the freezer. Wow. I went outside to pick a few heads for dinner, and some to take along to a family reunion. The crop was waiting for me! I suppose I should not have been so surprised... I planted them all the same day, but I thought they would have the good sense to come in independently... whoops.

Last year we had the good sense to buy a small chest freezer, just in case we might have a few extra items to store for later. Yep, we have it filling now.

But before I froze them, I peeled off most of the skin on the stalks, let them have a boiling bath for 2 minutes and then a dip in ice cold water. It was amazing how fast those cubes melted. Freezer bags are my preferred holding tank for a cool autumn or winter night.

Side shoots are coming out of the topped plants, so within a few days I will have another picking ready for me. We love to munch on this crop fresh dipped in ranch dressing, or chopped in broccoli salad. Slice it up and serve it with pasta. Broccoli is a favorite. If you did not plant some this year, make a note to have this in a sunny spot next year. You will be richly rewarded.

Finding the Positive in Goodbye

As a Military-Brat I know the pain that can be found in saying 'goodbye', whether a PCS on my family's part or a friend's family moving away. The tears, the fear of the future, the feeling of losing friends for forever. There was nothing easy about it but I do believe it influenced who I am, for the better.

In 1984 my family PCSed from Lubbock, Texas (since closed Reese AFB) to Scott AFB, Illinois. I had my first real best-friend in Lubbock & it was my first real 'goodbye'. We stayed pen-pals (this was before the world of email) for quite some time afterwards but at some point, many years later, even the letters stopped between us. We sadly lost touch.

So here I sit 25 years later looking at a friend request on Facebook from none other than that very dear childhood friend. How very excited I am to have her back in my world, albeit the Facebook world, but it is still part of my life.

Each time I "run into" an old friend on Facebook (or Twitter or myspace or simply email) my heart is filled with joy and my memories take me back to those years; my years in Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York, Iceland... (the list seems impossibly endless). It certainly makes me happy that I didn't burn bridges. These are the people I grew up with. They are friends. They are a part of my history and even who I am now.

If you are starting the process of saying goodbye, recognize that "Good-bye" is not permanent. It is a big deal, but stay in touch. Keep the fire of friendship alive. Think about all of the new friends you will make in the next few months and into years.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

PS: We have quite a list of resources on MilitaryAvenue for preparing for your next PCS: PCS Central. As well, if you have a question about your future destination pull up to MilitaryAvenue Answers and ask away. Someone out there has been in your shoes & will be willing to help. The Military Family is just that ... family, no matter what lies around the next corner.

Transfer of Education Benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill

I just finished a very informative joint Roundtable discussion with the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration hosted by Lt Jennifer Craig of the DoD's New Media Directorate within the Public Affairs office at the Pentagon. Mr Keith Wilson, Director of VA Education and Mr Bob Clark, Deputy Director of DoD Accession Policy provided a great forum for providing information about this new program kicking off on August 1st!

So far, 107,000 applications for the transfer of GI Bill benefits to a family member have been received and over 80,000 have been approved! Are you aware of this new program? Need more information? Are you eligible to use it? All service personnel (including Coast Guard) are included but there are restrictions based on career service time limits. If you have questions about eligibility you should contact your service and for actual use of the benefit the VA is the right source for information.

Who is eligible to receive the benefits from the military member? Spouses, child or children or combination of both spouse and children! A quick note and recommendation from the VA: Once you separate or retire you can not add any new members for transfer. You might consider placing all eligible family members in the program so you can add more benefits later. Remember the benefit can always be changed by the member at any time.

What criteria determine eligibility for the members? Some basic rules include 6 years of service, plus a commitment for 4 more or 10 years of service and agreement to serve 4 more years or maximum allowed by their service if restricted for any reason. Eligible to retire? You qualify but may have additional requirements for service based on retirement date. One note from the forum included the fact that National Guard time in state status (Title 32) does not count toward eligibility. For detailed eligibility information go to this VA website or contact your service personnel offices.

The DoD approval process for eligility takes 3-4 weeks but there is going to be surge as the Fall semester approaches! The sooner you apply the better obviously!

Want to find out more in person? The forum leaders recommended:

1) VA Transition Assistance Programs (TAP)
2) School Certifying Officials at the college your family member plans to attend
3) State Approving Officials (Here is a list by state of contact information: State Officials NASAA

Call 1-888-GIBill-1!

This is a great program that has been placed into law by Congress! Many have pushed for years for this program and it is now there for your use! Don't wait! Get started today! Go to DoD's website, Log In and get started today! Your family member's future opportunities await!

PS: If you would like to hear the audio of the Roundtable or read a story about it please go to Defense Link at: Roundtable on Transfer of GI Bill Education Benefits.

Road Trip Tunes - Military Family Life Question of the Week

There is something about a road trip and the music you listen to while driving across country. For me, it started as making mix-cassette tapes, moved onto making mix-cds over the years & now am making music-lists for my mp3 player specific to the trip we are taking. Music keeps you awake, keeps your mind moving, sets your heart & body on fire and your feet tapping.

Years ago my family PCSed from northern-Virginia to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. I was in college in Pennsylvania so they "swung by" to give kisses and hugs before making the long journey. I made them one of my favorite mix-tapes ever as a parting 'gift' and something I knew they would enjoy while they tooled down the road to their next Air Force adventure. Great road trip songs are easy to sing to, have a little pep but not so loud that you will get a headache. Either the song is a reminder of good times in the past or you are about to make new-memories to the tune of that song!

Do you have a favorite song perfect for the road ahead? I have a couple must-adds... Amy Grant's "Oh How the Years go by" is kind of slow, but not like a ballad, very easy to sing, and a great reminder of where life has taken us. (My dad and I actually danced to this song at my wedding, great memory song.) I also can't help but like "Life is a Highway". My youngest hears it and says "It is the song from Cars!" I know it is much older than that but love that he likes it too. (After all, mix-music has to please the driver as well as the passengers.)

Let us know what your favorite road trip songs are! Let us make a great list for the summer-driving season.

BTW: Do you have a music buff, ages 13-21 in your house? USAA is looking for The Next Great American Road Song. Deadline is coming up fast! JULY 31, 2009.

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Military Family Life Question of the week: What is your favorite summer-picnic recipe?

Tonight I get to gather with friends and our families. It will be a casual potluck-picnic. The kids will be in the pool, splashing, laughing & loving life. The adults sitting around the deck, watching the kids, chatting, stuffing our face and enjoying a glass of wine (or two). This is summer!

With summer gatherings of all sorts comes the need to bring food. We each bring a dish to share and then "mmmmmm", "This is so good", and chomp-chomp together.

What is your favorite summer dish? Tonight I am going to make Rhubarb Delight as well as Broccoli Salad (I add fresh-peas to mine ... fun to make our own little twists to recipes). I only have to bring one dish... but the more food the merrier... Right?!

Do you have a favorite recipe? Give us a link to a savory summer dish (on your own blog or elsewhere) or type it out as a comment. I'd love to add more to my collection for future summer-gatherings!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Mid Morning Healthy Fruit Snack

It is funny how I regard time. It is in sections. Sections of a lifetime: childhood, teenager, college student, newly wed, etc. Then there is the where we lived time: first year of marriage (3 installations), then Nevada (ISAFAF), Panama (Howard AFB) and so on. Smaller segments and daily time measurements can revolve around something good to eat! I do love a good snack. And since loosing a lot of weight, I recognize the importance of eating less... but more often. So, for Dale and I, the 10:00 snack and the 2:00 snack are gems of the day!

We love fruit! It is the season for fresh items. Today we are having melon and berries. Our woods are full of wild black raspberries - sweet, nutty flavored and healthy! Hooray for shipments of cantaloupe. A bit of yogurt on top would make it a great dessert. But for now, we just need a bit of a lift. Have fun with colors: strawberries, watermelon and soon fresh black berries. It's time to be an artist and paint a palate of colors right from your kitchen counter! Have fun and enjoy the tastes of summer.

Road Trip Recommendation & Our July iPod Winners!

There was much to celebrate this past weekend; 4th of July, Family, Freedom, Faith, FIREWORKS, Friends, and Fun!

Our weekend also involved the inevitable Road Trip. After a wonderful week of 'Camp Grandpa' Hubs and I and our teenager drove out to pick up the younger two boys. Over the course of the weekend we enjoyed a birthday party for my nephews, fireworks with extended-family and then headed home yesterday to enjoy our Sunday evening at home.

I have another great first-hand Road Trip Recommendation: Music Players. All of my boys own music players. The teenager's is quite a bit more high-tech (the iPod variety) but for past birthdays both of the younger boys (age 4 and 6) got music players. I bought them headphones (as opposed to ear-buds) which actually cost more than the music player! I love technology and the fact that what used to cost hundreds of dollars can now be found for $20.

I put lots of kid friendly music on each player (both of theirs look a bit like a thumb-drive) and they can skip to a song they want to listen to and then listen to it as many times as they want. (Usually a good song warrants listening to at least three or four times.) It gives them at least an hours-worth of entertainment! (And the longer the trip the more times it is used) Oh beautiful silence (except for the occasional solo-singing for all of us to enjoy).

Speaking of music. USAA & MilitaryAvenue presented iPods to our latest winners!

Congratulations to our most recent MilitaryAvenue 'Rockin' the Avenue' and 'Give A Little' sweepstakes winners!
Shannon an Army Wife at Fort Campbell

Carrie an Army Wife at Fort Bragg

and Sallie an Air Force Veteran

Sign-up today & you will be eligible for the drawing again in early-August!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

Military Family Life Question of the week: What is your favorite family-vacation memory?

As a child most of our longer-vacations as a military-family focused on visiting family across the country. Three kids, in the back of Mom & Dad's Chevy looking forward to getting to our final destination.

My parents did all they can to keep the whole family comfortable in our journey across the country. Mom had special presents for each of us as we crossed another state line. Trips always started off with a new stuffed animal and then along the way we got coloring books, hot wheels, or other small tokens that could be found at the Dollar Store. Nothing too noisy to distract the driver but still fun things to keep us excited. Of course we got a lot more gifts traveling through New England than in the Southwest. Amazing that it takes HOURS to get through Texas but only minutes to cross the tip of Delaware or Rhode Island. The Car-Gifts gave us something to look forward and made the whole trip a little bit more 'sane'.

During the course of our trips we sang a lot of songs. Maybe this is the reason I break into song immediately getting into a car, much to my own children's chagrin. We played silly games like the alphabet game A LOT, taking turns with a letter and trying to find something out the window that started with your given letter. No one wanted to land Q! Anything to keep our minds occupied... because idle minds equals quibbles amongst siblings, not fun stuff in a tiny little car.

But we were in it together! Whether driving from Texas to New York or Florida to Indiana it wasn't ALL smiles but they were great memories! We would crawl out of the car, legs cramped, bodies disjointed, a tad tired of each other. But waiting for us with arms wide open were aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. It's the KISSINGERS! More memories were about to begin! All well worth the trip.

I hope you have the opportunity to make memories this summer! What is your favorite summer vacation memory, as a child or as an adult? Leave a comment here, drop us a line on Facebook. We'd love to hear from you!

- Leanne from MilitaryAvenue.com

July Featured Military Reward

The heat of summer is here and our pets need to be groomed to help make it easier for them. Here is a great military family owned company that will come to you in the Panhandle of Florida!

This Month's Featured Military Reward is given to:

ZOOM GROOM Mobile Pet Spa

Their Military Reward says:

We give a ten percent discount to all active, reserve, Guard, retired military and family members. Present this coupon for a free bag of Boggy Dog Bakery Gourmet Dog Treats at your pet's first grooming appointment. Limit one bag per family. Discount not available on "The Basics" grooming package.

Click here to view coupon featured at: Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field or Duke Field.

A special thank you to ZOOM GROOM Mobile Pet Spa and all of our MAPP partners for supporting your military community with your Rewards.

We choose a Featured MilitaryReward each month to highlight our Partners and their wonderful support to the military community! Our military family team chooses one based on value for the military family and how well it sends the message "military friendly business".
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