While this post is about my awesome, simple vegan potato skins perfect for the big game, can we just talk for a minute about the big game that happened here this weekend in Minnesota?
If you didn’t catch it, the New Orleans Saints had the game all but locked up when they lost in the last play. The Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a pass and Stefon Diggs caught it while avoiding the defender, running for a 61-yard touchdown. The play instantly became known as the Minnesota Miracle. The celebrations in my house, on TV and social media and in person the day’s to follow have been unreal.
Could Minnesota be the first team to make it to the Super Bowl as the host? We won’t know until Sunday night following the NFC Championship game. Either way, I’ll be there for the food, and my vegan potato skins will be making an appearance.
This recipe came together in a lucky accident: Aaron and I were looking to use food we already had on hand to make snacks for the game. He suggested potato skins with cheese. I found green onions that we can’t remember what we bought them for, and suggested taking a little tempeh to make bacon crumbles.
With a little planning and not much hands-on time, the potato skins turned out great. It doesn’t take much in time or ingredients to make enough wedges to serve two, so we will be making these again with the leftover ingredients.
I used vegan cheese to make them vegan, but you can use whatever cheese you like, Vegan bacon made out of the tempeh add a little savoriness and texture.
Crumble the tempeh into a bowl. Add the liquid smoke and enough soy sauce or liquid aminos to cover. Let it stand at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours before using.
Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Put the potatoes in the oven and bake until soft, around 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Cut in half and scoop out filling, leaving about 1/4 an inch of potato in from the skin. Drizzle olive oil on the skin side, place skin side up back in the oven and broil for five minutes. Flip it over, put oil on the flesh side and broil for five minutes.
Put a small handful of cheese into each potato skin. Sprinkle the green onions in the skins. Put the potatoes back in the oven and broil for five minutes or until cheese is melted.
As the potatoes are baking, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet (I used cast iron to create a nice crunch) over medium heat. When warm, add the tempeh and any liquid, and sautee until crispy. Sprinkle on the skins. Cool and serve.
For me and many around me, 2017 brought a lot of stress, mental exhaustion and need for self-care. There has been a lot going on to deal with (women’s health and safety issues, economic uncertainty, violence around the world, the list goes on), that embracing hygge couldn’t be gaining momentum at a better time.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is a Danish word that doesn’t have an English equivalent, but according to Oxford Dictionaries, is described as:
A quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)
Going into 2018 is the perfect time to embrace the trend that is gaining popularity. Use this opportunity to incorporate hygge for self-care and warmth.
Since it’s a feeling and not a thing, hygge is different for everyone. How you embrace it is up to you and your needs. The focus is on comfort and doing what brings you warmth and happiness.
Maybe it’s a food (think of a warm, rich hot dish in Minnesota; maybe a creamy mac and cheese in the south; or perhaps a lobster roll in New England), a cozy blanket and good book, a pumpkin- or cinnamon-scented candle, nice body products or even a sweet treat.
Comfort and coziness doesn’t have to be the only part of it. For me, I’ll be double-thinking my use of technology, instead opting for things that nourish my soul and have me live in the moment. These include:
Continuing self-care at least a few times a week
Hosting a game night
Making time for catching up with friends
Focusing on cultivating my garden
Sharing coffee and conversations with strong women
Putting my family first
To begin, think about little ways you can make your environment and surroundings more comfortable in simple ways, or opt to connect with people and things around you.
Hygge might not be for everyone, and even if you incorporate it, it’s good to be aware of criticisms about it as not to go overboard or lose site of the meaning and intention.
It’s been said that the slow pace and somewhat specific way to incorporate a feeling could be boring or stifling. Because the point is to create your own cozy sphere, it’s said it could be exclusive of other people and thoughts, creating too much of a realm of just what you believe. And others don’t like hygge because there isn’t an opportunity to be too boastful, even about good things.
Make 2018 a little more about living as comfortable and relaxing a life to take a mental break from the chaos outside.
Don’t become so enclosed in your own world. Find the small bits and pieces of the hygge concept that work for you to live a more low-key and comfortable 2018.
What parts of hygge do you already do or plan to do this year?
2017 has pushed many of us to limits and boundaries beyond what we felt comfortable with, imagined or would want on anyone. In the past year I’ve grown a lot and had the courage to push myself in many ways.
Everything from the Women’s March to #MeToo has put female voices in the spotlight in 2017, for better or worse. In both my work and personal lives, I’ve found my limits and spoken up for my boundaries this year. I realize I can’t do, get or change it all, and that’s OK. What I can do is speak up for my beliefs, perspective, expectations and feelings, explaining to people how and why I feel, and vocalizing my self-worth.
While I haven’t gotten action or resolve on everything I’ve spoken up for this year, I am empowered knowing I stood up for myself and let those around me know my feelings and desires. I feel a lot stronger having expressed my expectations to those around me, from asking for my worth at work to letting friends know when they are asking too much to explaining to my family that I need to step back for mental health reasons.
Tips for Speaking Up
This year I’ve picked up some tips by becoming more vocal about my boundaries, limits and expectations. (Let me know what you would add in the comments.)
Nobody will look out for you as much as you will yourself, and nobody will know exactly what you are thinking unless you tell them.
Practice or take notes about what you might say in a given conversation or want to discuss.
Start small. It gets easier over time to speak up, but it does take practice and self confidence.
Don’t be mean (that’s where having notes or practice helps).
Determine what your outcome or main point is before, and stay on topic.
Think about what the outcome (or lack of one) would be by not speaking. Use that as your motivation to stay firm.
Growing my Voice
It’s been a difficult year for me for many reasons, and it’s been hard to blog, so I appreciate you sticking with me. I hope to grow my voice in 2018. I would love to use it to help further myself and those who might not have as strong a voice as I have.
Please feel free to share in the comments how you have found or used your voice this year.
Bad blogger confession: This post is way overdue (it’s 3 degrees out as I write this), but I really want to share the day I spent in New Ulm, Minnesota, this spring with you ahead of my recap of my trip to Europe, and specifically Germany. And if you are like me and planning travel for 2018, this post is the perfect time.
Located in southern Minnesota, New Ulm is about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities. This makes it the perfect distance from and size a town for a day trip; a full weekend is too much unless you are there for an event. Below I share attractions and spots to visit during a day trip to New Ulm.
New Ulm is named for the town in Bavaria of the same name, and was settled by Turner Society Germans, who left Germany after the Revolution of 1848 and were known for being very active in gymnastics (trust me, this will come up later in the post). As I was going to Bavaria later this year and I have wanted to visit New Ulm since moving to Minnesota, I made a point to go this spring.
New Ulm Attractions
Flandrau State Park
New Ulm has a state park right at the city limits, how cool is that? Flandrau State Park is the perfect place to step away from the town and take a break in nature. Although small in size, the park has diverse terrain and trails, from grassy to wooded areas. And it has a lot of nice-looking camping options that would make it a fun way to stay in New Ulm if you choose.
Hermann the German
Located in Hermann Heights Park, the monument commemorates the German victory over the Romans. Hermann is celebrated as a symbol of German independence. The 102 foot monument is topped by a statue that is the second-largest of its kind in the U.S., only smaller than the Statue of Liberty. It’s the highest spot in New Ulm and offers wonderful views of the town and valley below. The $2.25 admission fee is well worth the price.
View of New Ulm from Hermann the German monument.
Make a point to plan your day around the Glockenspiel performance times. The bells on the 45-foot tall clock perform at noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. No matter your age, it’s a fun experience.
Food and Drink
I’m going to be honest, there aren’t a lot of food options in New Ulm. It’s a small town. Since we were there for one day to experience the German culture, we went all in with lunch at Turner Hall.
This is Turner Hall like the founding Turners. Remember the ones into gymnastics? Well, this hall was founded as a gymnasium for training. There is a bar off the gym. And below that in the Rathskeller (basement, which is a great word to know in German, as that’s a good place to look for beer) is the New Ulm Turner Hall restaurant.
What the food lacks, the atmosphere (and cheap beer) make up for. Interesting facts: The menu has two prices-one for members and one for visitors, and it calls itself the oldest bar in Minnesota.
The murals on the wall are worth popping your head in for, as they depict scenes from Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The original artwork was painted over and has been recently uncovered and restored. Ahead of my trip to Europe it got me very excited to experience Bavaria for myself.
No trip to New Ulm is complete without heading to August Schell Brewery. Tours start at the top of the hour (I missed it by a few minutes and was disappointed so I’ll have to go back) and for $5 take visitors around the grounds explaining different features. Also, a tour is the only way to sample the beer on site, as there is no taproom to pay for a pint.
Even if you don’t go on a tour, stop at the brewery to see the grounds, gardens, buildings and resident peacocks. Yes, peacocks! The oldest brewery in Minnesota, five generations of Schell’s have brewed beers on this location.
Opened earlier this year, the Starkeller is a separate taproom where Schell’s features its Noble Star sour beers. They have a few snack options, and if you like sour beer, this is the place to get it. It has a beautiful bar in a minimalist taproom setting. Note: This is cash only and is only open Fridays and Saturday.
Have you been to New Ulm? What was your favorite thing you did, ate or saw?
Stress, sadness and depression are always difficult, but can easily be exaggerated in December, so self care is essential. Daylight is (much, depending on where you live) shorter. Commitments and expectations are increased as the holidays and end of year approach. Time fills so quick with parties, last-minute job tasks, baking, shopping, seeing people—the list goes on.
For me, this entire year has had its challenges. Personal time with myself and others has been pushed aside while trying to focus (mostly unsuccessfully) on other things. I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to give myself and my relationships more time recently.
When I’ve do that—be it in the form of a vacation, family event, happy hour with people I don’t often see or getting together with like-minded women—it has felt so rare and special. Every time it’s refilled my emotional tank and I walk away realizing I’m not taking enough time for this. Life’s too short.
With quality time being my primary love language, I’ve spent too much time and tears this year feeling sadness, guilt and anger for not making quality time for myself and the important people in my life. That is not OK.
Ways I’m Focusing on Self Care
This holiday season I’ve given myself permission to drop all non-essential things, be in the moment and focus on connections. I’ve tried to make this season as stress-free as possible. How?
Finding the most simple recipe for a cookie exchange when I know I’m not a baker
Buying a lot of wine at once so I can grab a bottle from the cabinet for at-hand hostess gifts
Only saying yes to things that are important to me
Trying to get people to forgo gifts (shopping and finding personal gifts is very stressful for me) and spend quality time (my love language) with them
Simplifying shopping by doing it online or shipping to store
Focusing on making memories
Focusing on self care, including working out, resting, drinking lots of water and using essential oils
Are you feeling disconnected from what the holidays are about? Don’t deny your feelings, focus on how and why you feel that way.
How are you handling all the holidays throw your way?
There is nothing wrong with sitting things out. Your personal health is the most important thing. I’ve had much more difficult years than I am having this year, and I learned so much to help get me through the hard times. If you need more help, please seek it. The National Suicide Prevention LIfeline is available online or by calling 800-273-8255