Sunday Dinner: Zucchini, Mushrooms, and Onions, Oh My!

You say that you don’t like zucchini, mushrooms, and onions? Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? While my sons were growing up, I learned to be creative with veggies, like adding zucchini in with my homemade tomato sauce and then pureeing the sauce so that no one, except me, would know it was in there. My sons’ taste buds have grown up a bit since then and they are usually willing to try anything, especially if they have done the cooking.

Although there are many ways to prepare fresh summer vegetables, to me grilled veggies always taste better. And if you add a tasty dressing before you grill, they will be even better. Even if the dressing is simply bottle salad dressing. Choose an Italian dressing with olive oil and you can’t go wrong. Here are a few additional ideas and tips.

I like using grill grates for my veggies since they get soft and could fall through onto the gas grill’s flavorizer bars and burners. What a mess! You could also use aluminum foil.

My favorite marinate for all summer vegetables that I intend to grill is simple. I usually marinate my vegetables for about an hour, but one time I prepared them and our dinner plans changed. I didn’t grill them until two days later. The eggplant was a little soggy, but the zucchini and mushrooms were fine. I grilled them all and they were great!

Grilled Vegetable Marinade

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced

Basil and/or oregano*  – about 1 Tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper

Mix ingredients about 20 minutes before you cut up the veggies so the flavors have time to mingle.

*I prefer using fresh herbs but I always have dried herbs in the cabinet for those times when fresh is not available.

 Mess-less Marinating  (useful technique for any veggies)

Zucchini (or other squash) – peel and cut lengthwise into ½ – ¼ inch thick slices. Throw the slices (gently please) into a plastic bag and dump salad dressing on them. Let them marinate for 10 minutes or so before you grill them. Toss the plastic bag and the mess!


Note: If this looks familiar, it’s a slightly updated version of my post from last summer on my previous blog. Next week’s Sunday Dinner will be brand new. I promise.


What’s New, Jularee?

Unfortunately, all of Jularee’s newest items are still sitting on my table waiting to be photographed. I’ll get to that tomorrow.

For now, I’d like to tell you a little about some of my style choices and highlight a few items that are in my shop.

I love simple, easy styles that go with almost anything. But I also love complicated, detailed designs that cry out for that special occasion or outfit.  Below are examples of each.

Minimalist Earrings: Red Jasper Teardrops 

Red Jasper Earrings

Red Jasper Earrings

Red Jasper Earrings with Crystals

Red Jasper with Crystal

Earthy Dangle Necklace with Flash:

Red Jasper Teardrops with Swarovski Crystals

Red Jasper Necklace

Red Jasper Necklace

About the Gemstone

Red Jasper is associated with the Root Chakra.

This semi-precious gemstone is considered a protective, nurturing, and powerful healing stone. It is said to relieve emotional stress and to absorb negative vibrations around the wearer. Ancient Egyptians believed that red jasper increased sexual energy.

Native Americans see jasper as a magical rain stone and a healing stone.

See more red jasper items at Jularee Hancrafted Jewelry.

Is There a Connection Between Gemstones and Chakras?

What is the connection between gemstones and Chakras?

When I started making gemstone jewelry a few years ago, I found myself gravitating to opaque gemstones: jasper, tiger eye, and lapis lazuli, to name a few. Much to my surprise, they all have fascinating histories and are believed to have metaphysical properties. Linking this to my recent study of the Chakras, I found that many gemstones play a significant role in balancing the Chakras and improving a person’s life.

Last Friday, I gave a basic overview of the seven primary Chakras. Each governs a particular area of the body and is activated by different colors.

Gemstones are also associated with the seven Chakras. Wearing or carrying gemstones is believed to stimulate or stabilize the corresponding energy centers (Chakras) of the ethereal** body.

Below I listed  the seven primary Chakras and a few of the gemstones that are associated with each. Upon further research you will find many others. Notice that some stones will work with more than one Chakra.

1st – the ROOT Chakra – (red) ruby, garnet, red jasper

2nd – the SACRAL Chakra – (orange) carnelian, citrine, topaz

3rd – the SOLAR PLEXUS – (yellow) tiger eye, amber, citrine

4th – the HEART Chakra – (green or pink) emerald, peridot, adventurine, rose quartz

5th – the THROAT Chakra – (blue) blue lace agate, turquoise, aquamarine

6th – the BROW or THIRD EYE Chakra – (indigo) sodalite, lapis lazuli, kyanite

7th – the CROWN Chakra – (violet) amethyst, lepidolite, quartz

It is recommended that the gemstones touch the skin to be most effective. Accomplish this by wearing a gemstone bracelet or necklace.

I’m always working to improve my jewelry-making skills and to combine them with my gemstone research. Check out my shop, Jularee Handcrafted Jewelry, to see some of my work. Read the item descriptions for metaphysical properties, Chakra and birthstone information for the specific gemstones in each design.

Which of my pieces speaks to you?

**Ethereal is defined as celestial or spiritual.

Inspired to Write Again

I was inspired when I attended “Poetry in the Round” at Barnes & Noble in Marlton last Monday. The featured poet was Kelly Ramsdell, author of “At the Boardwalk” a children’s picture book published in 2012. We met in 2004 as members of a now defunct writers’ group.

Kelly is a fabulous writer and I was inspired by the poems she read. At the event, open mic followed Kelly’s readings. Anyone willing to read their stuff to the group was encouraged to get up. The readings ranged from funny to morbid, from very good to… well… not as good. Although, who am I to critique them? What do I really know about poetry? Not much. I’ll be the first to admit it.

So, just how inspired was I that night? I was so inspired that I came home and wrote my first poem in years. However, since I know next to nothing about poetry forms, I’m not sure if it’s a real poem or just a piece of thoughtful prose. I’m not inspired enough to read it aloud at the next “Poetry in the Round” but maybe, if I attend on October 21, I’ll take it with me. Just in case… in case I get even more inspired.

Sunday Dinner: An Eggplant is Not a Football

I don’t know anyone who would mistake an eggplant for a football. However, if you make a tasty eggplant dip and serve it during a football game, it will get passed. 🙂

I know many people who turn their noses up at eggplant, but I happen to like it. Eggplant parmesan, eggplant rollatini, and eggplant moussaka are a few of my favorites. However, these recipes are time consuming to create in your own kitchen. None of them should be considered diet food either. With all the cheeses and sauces and yummy goodness, you just know it isn’t good for you, even if it is a vegetable dish.

But we’re not talking about dinner, we’re talking football. So a dip is more appropriate and this one is even somewhat healthy. It’s vegetarian, gluten free, sugar free, and if you need salt free, don’t put salt in it. There are no cheeses or sauces either, but believe it or not, it’s still tasty.

Here’s a quick overview:

Roast whole eggplants. Mince garlic and parsley. Chop tomato. Cool, peel, and chop eggplant. Mix all ingredients in a bowl with olive oil and you’re finished.
This dip is now ready for the half-time snack table.

For those of you who would rather have an official recipe, with an ingredients list and step-by-step directions, I have that here, too.

Rita’s Roasted Eggplant Dip

2 medium-sized eggplants (about 1 lb. each)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large tomato, chopped (about ½ cup)

Fresh parsley, chopped (about 1 Tbsp.)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

ground black pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash the eggplant and cut off the stem. Cut into the skin to make a few slits around the eggplant (for venting). Lay it on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Roast for about 40 minutes or until soft.
  3. Pour olive oil into a glass measuring cup.
  4. Mince the garlic, chop the tomato, and parsley. Add to the olive oil with salt.
  5. Cool the eggplant. Peel and chop it into small pieces (remember it’s a dip). It will be somewhat mushy.
  6. Mix the eggplant and garlic-tomato-oil in a large bowl with black pepper.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve with crusty bread, pita chips, or crackers. This dip is gluten free so I use it with rice crackers or sturdy gluten-free chips.

If you are making this on a warm day and don’t want to heat the oven, roast the eggplant on your gas grill.

What is a Chakra, anyway?

You’ve no doubt seen the word “chakra” popping up in various places. My yoga instructors talk about the chakras and I often see it in descriptions of gemstones and crystals. But what exactly is a “chakra”?

Chakra is a Sanskrit* word that means “wheel”. Chakras are considered to be the energy centers of the ethereal** body. You cannot physically see or feel the chakras. However, it is said that these spinning vortices conduct our life energies and, when active and in balance, they keep us physically and mentally healthy.

Here is a list of the seven primary chakras and their Sanskrit names. They correspond to locations in the physical body and are associated with specific colors. They are listed from the bottom up (literally).

1st – the ROOT Chakra (Muladhara) – base of spine – RED

2nd – the SACRAL Chakra (Svadhisthana) – lower abdominal area – ORANGE

3rd – the SOLAR PLEXUS Chakra (Manipura) – solar plexus – YELLOW

4th – the HEART Chakra (Anahata) – heart area – GREEN (also PINK)

5th – the THROAT Chakra (Vishuddha) – throat area – BLUE

6th – the BROW or THIRD EYE Chakra (Ajna) – area between the eyes – INDIGO

7th – the CROWN Chakra (Sahasrara) – crown of the head – VIOLET

Chakra Colors

Chakra Colors

Although I’m not a Chakra expert, I will share what I am learning.

Follow my blog to find out more about the Chakras, including how to activate, unblock, and balance them, and hopefully, improve our lives.

More to come…

*Sanskrit is an ancient language of India and Hindu scriptures. It is one of India’s twenty-two official languages but is mainly used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious ceremonies.

**Ethereal is defined as celestial or spiritual.

The Color Gods Have Spoken…

In case you haven’t heard, Pantone, the world-renowned authority on color,  released its Fashion Color Report for Spring 2014 last week. The colors range from soft to bright and I think I like them all.

Placid Blue, Violet Tulip, Hemlock, Paloma, Sand, Freesia, Cayenne, Celosia Orange, Radiant Orchid, and Dazzling Blue.

Reading the list I wondered, “Who comes up with these color names?” Yes, some of them, like “Sand”, are reasonable, but I wouldn’t know “Paloma” from “Freesia” without an image.

So in case you, too, are scratching your head, here’s the chart from Pantone’s website.

Pantone's Spring 2014 Color Report

Spring 2014

My favorite of the spring colors is “Dazzling Blue”. In fact, since I’m setting up and organizing my new studio/office space in my son’s former bedroom, I can see it as my new wall color. I’m picturing it with white shelves and cabinets. What do you think?

The orange must go!

Painting the ceiling

Painting the ceiling