Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just a Little Update

So, we are now on week four of school and I have acquired my first illness. I have come down with a cold which I am combating with NyQuil/DayQuil. I'm surprised that I'm still awake actually. I do hope that this little cold will go away before the weekend. We get a half of a day off Friday and Monday off for Labor Day, and I am way excited. We are headed to Raleigh on Saturday to do some shopping and go the first NC State game of the season. I'm so pumped. For now though, I will begin a strict vitamin regimen to hopefully avoid any further illnesses. I'd prefer not to have a repeat of last year (the flu twice & strep).

I haven't cooked for a few days so sorry no new recipes to post. Tomorrow I am going to do a barbecue crock pot chicken, so dinner will be ready when I get home!

In other news, I am very glad to be going shopping on Saturday as I have decided that I currently just do not love anything I own. This usually happens to me toward the end of any season so I am happy to maybe hit up some good Labor Day sales. I am also hoping to plant some fall flowers this weekend. I am planning on doing a pretty arrangement of mums. I have also been contemplating doing a winter herb pot for the house. I'm not sure if I want to commit to that just yet. I also don't know if my little heart can handle any more herb-growing failure this year. This past weekend I got some fall smelling candles which make me very happy. I. love. fall. So, the cooler weather we've been having lately and the falling of leaves bring a smile to my face. I am looking forward to picking apples, making a lot of different apple-inspired dishes, and to eating Little Debbie pumpkin cookies this season.

Well, I am beginning to close my eyes which means bed time for this girl. Until next time...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Homemade Croutons & Bagel Pizzas

I love a salad with croutons. But- most of the time, we don't have any store-bought croutons on hand. If we do, I always go with Rothbury Farms. They're my favorite, and they've won the "best taste award". A few nights ago we made some fresh garden salads and I wanted croutons to accompany my salad. Since we had none, I decided to make some. They are so easy and so good; I would say even as good as Rothbury Farms, and great when you're in a crouton pinch. Here's how to make yours:

You'll need: some sort of crusty bread (ciabatta works well), it can even be stale, extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

First, preheat the oven to 400. Then, cut your bread into cubes. You can make them as large or small as you wish. Then, spread the cubes out on a cookie sheet. Drizzle them with evoo, and sprinkle with the garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss them all together to get the flavors on all of the cubes. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are light brown and crispy. Done!
You can also play with the seasonings if you'd like. I think that dried basil, oregano, or parsley would also be a nice addition.

Last night we made bagel pizzas, a recipe from September's Cooking Light. This was a recipe that was featured in the 20 minute Back to School section of the magazine. For the first round, I strictly followed the recipe. Then, I made another round for husband's and my lunch today. I spruced these up a bit. Here's how to make my adapted version:

You'll need (for 2 servings): 2 bagels, split, about 1 cup of pizza or marinara sauce (we used Classico pizza sauce=good), 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 medium/large grilled chicken breast cut into small slices, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbs dried basil, and 1 tbs dried oregano.

Preheat the broiler to 400. At this point, if you need to, grill the chicken. Place the bagels, cut side up, on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven for 2-3 minutes until toasted. Next, spread the marinara sauce over the bagel slices. Next sprinkle the garlic, basil, and oregano over the sauce. Then, top with the chicken and cheese and place back into the oven for 3-5 minutes until the cheese has melted. Done!

The meal did prove to be just about 20 minutes (including grilling the chicken). If you don't have time to grill chicken, you could use Tyson's pre-cooked grilled chicken strips, found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. I also don't think that you need to measure out the ingredients, which could be another time saver. Just sprinkle until it looks pizza-like!

Tomorrow is Friday, enjoy!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wrapping up the Week

This week has seemed to fly by...which, I'm thankful for because I get to go back to Rockbridge after school tomorrow.

Tonight as I was walking next door (and when I say next door, I really mean, walking through the closet connecting us to the neighbor's house) to say hello etc., I was asked to keep an ear out for the kids and potentially help with dinner as the adults rushed out the door. No big deal, I was glad to do it. So, I conjured up some fresh spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes and onions similar to my summer spaghetti. It was nice to use what I consider one of my "gifts", cooking that is, to help out other people. I don't feel like I do that enough.

After we ate dinner, I head back over to our apartment and set out to water the plants (which I've neglected for several days now..they are hanging in there). It is a cool night so it was pleasant to just be outside to take in the fresh air after being cooped up all day. I rather enjoyed pruning the plants and making them look a bit nicer. Pruning plants always makes me think of how God sometimes needs to prune us and refine us to make us better servants of his love. I am considering making a winter herb pot for inside so that I can have herbs all winter long. I am hoping to find some basil and thyme on sale. We shall see how that goes...

Last week, while still on my peach kick, I made a grilled peach for dessert. So simple and so tasty. And- the best part about it is 1. it requires no baking skills and 2. you can make as little or as much as you want. All you do is: Preheat the grill to about 300 (medium heat). Cut a peach in half, removing the pit. Brush the peach halves lightly with evoo. Then, grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Take the peach off the grill and sprinkle with brown sugar. You can also drizzle it with honey if desired.

Tonight I cut up the last of my peaches. It was a white peach that had seen better days. I have decided now after having both yellow and white peaches that yellow are still my favorite. They just taste more, well, "peachy".

Every day I am reminded of how terribly I need to get back in a work out routine. I just loathe it so much; I want the results but I don't want the work. And- for the past two days I have been really sore from the class I took for the first time on Tuesday. But- I'm going to fight through the soreness and do a pilates video tonight. Consider it a "late night workout" as it is quickly approaching 9pm. After pilates, I need to pack so I am ready to go to see my husband tomorrow. Yay!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Gym & Zucchini Caprese

Today on the way to the gym I ate half of a bag of m&ms. Ha.

At the gym today I discovered a new class, Body Sculpt, that I really like. And- it is way better than lifting weights.

Tonight for dinner I made a Grilled Zucchini Caprese sandwhich. It was quite tasty. I forgot to add the tomatoes that the recipe calls for, but it was still good. The recipe is from August's Cooking Light magazine.

You need:
  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 6 slices
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 (2-ounce) ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

To do:

  • 1. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. Place zucchini in a shallow dish. Add 2 teaspoons oil and garlic; toss to coat. Arrange zucchini in grill pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Cut each zucchini piece in half crosswise. Return zucchini to shallow dish. Drizzle with vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
  • 2. Brush bottom halves of rolls with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Top evenly with zucchini, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
  • 3. Brush cut side of roll tops with remaining liquid from shallow dish, and place on sandwiches. Heat the sandwiches in pan until warm.

-Cooking Light, Aug. 2011

It's been a long day, so I'm off for now. Until next time...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Should Be Packing...

No matter how excited I am to go a little traveling adventure (tonight's case: Rockbridge tomorrow to see my husband!), I hate to pack. I do everything I can to avoid it...such as cleaning out the fridge, blogging, facebooking, and researching new music- not that I'm doing any of those things right now as I should be packing.

It's been a pretty hectic week at school. We are all trying to adjust to changes at the same time which gives way to a lot of chaos! But- each day has gotten progressively better. I am glad for that. Mom came down last night and we had a good time running errands in town (including picking up some more peaches!), cooking, and watching "Waiting for Forever." We had intended on seeing "The Help", but due to my small town movie theater, it was not showing yet. So, conveniently I had "Waiting for Forever" in my mailbox from Netflix. It's a good movie with an indie feel, somewhat confusing at times, but overall a good watch. And, from the movie I have discovered "The Mostar Diving Club" band. I love their music in the movie. They also have a song called "The Honey Tree" which reminds me of honey jars and my slight obsession with obtaining the perfect one.

For dinner we had parmesan-crusted tilapia, Mom's mashed potatoes (my favorite), zucchini ricotta fritters, and a fresh garden sliced tomato. The fritters were a recipe from this month's Food & Wine. They were awesome. I made up the fish recipe. Here they are:

For the fish you'll need (2 servings): 2 tilapia fillets, 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, 1 egg, beaten, 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. On a plate, mix together the parmesan, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper with your hand. Put the beaten egg on the other plate.
3. Coat each piece of fish with the egg and then dip it in the parmesan mixture to coat both sides.
4. Place the fish on a foil-lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 13 minutes until cooked through.

As I said, the zucchini fritters were a recipe from Food & Wine by Mario Batali...
For the fritters you'll need (makes 20)- 2 zucchini coarsely shredded, 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced, 3 scallions thinly sliced, 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 2 large eggs, 2 tsp lemon zest, salt, pepper, 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour, and olive oil for frying.

1. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, garlic, scallions, ricotta, eggs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir well, then stir in the flour just until incorporated.
2. Line a large baking sheet or large plate (which is what I did) with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, add 2-tablespoon mounds of the zucchini batter to the hot oil, spreading them to form 3-inch fritters. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain the fritters on the paper towels and serve right away.

It was all really delectable! Well, it is 10:07 and I really should pack and make my way to bed.
Until next time...

Monday, August 8, 2011

What a Day

Whew! Crazy day today! Last night husband and I drove up to Lexington and met up with the rest of our assignment crew. It was so great to hang out with everyone and get some time in with them since I can't be there the whole time. On the flip side of that, I had to wake up real early today to come back for the first day of school! And, when I say real early, I mean early- 4:45 AM. While this may not be early to some, it certainly is for me. I really don't remember the last time I saw that time of morning. On the way home I got to see the sunrise over the mountains, which was awesome. It was so peaceful..minus the rattling sound my car door was making (Dad we need to fix that). I made it back with time to spare which was great. The first day was crazy and filled with mass confusion, but overall it was good. Tonight I plan on relaxing and going to bed early. I'll hopefully get a quick convo in with husband who I miss a whole lot already. I will be glad for Friday to get here.

Tonight I made ricotta & spinach stuffed shells for dinner. They were quite tasty. You can find the recipe here.

Wednesday Mom comes for the night. We're hoping to go see "The Help". I'm excited.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just A Note

Just some random notes on life...

1. My whole life I have liked leftovers...but lately I really don't. I feel like they're not good anymore or something. Weird, I know.

2. It is raining a whole lot right now, borderline thunderstorm. I only like thunderstorms when husband is home, otherwise I get scared.

3. I. love. the. banjo.

4. Tomorrow husband leaves for Rockbridge (a Young Life camp) on assignment for two weeks. I am way bummed that I don't get to go spend the whole time with him and the rest of the team. I am only going up on weekends, including tomorrow night which is crazy because I will be getting up REALLY early on Monday to drive back for the first day of school!

5. I really love the song "Divine Romance" by Phil Wickham. You should too.

6. Tonight we had an all roasted/baked dinner. I didn't use a single pot or pan which made cleanup nice. Not that I cleaned it up, but it was nice for Kenneth. I started the whole thing off by preheating the oven to 400. I baked two sweet potatoes wrapped in foil for 40 minutes. After 15 minutes of the sweet potatoes baking, I put the pork tenderloin in. To prep the pork I rubbed it in evoo, and added a rub to the top (2 tsp each of dried thyme and dried oregano, 1 tsp each of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper). I roasted it for 25 minutes until a thermometer read 145 degrees. During the last 15 minutes of roasting, I put in brussell sprouts that had been drizzled with evoo, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. They were awesome, I love roasted vegetables!

7. While my husband's two week departure is quite sad, there is some good news. For two whole weeks I get to cook things that I like that he doesn't. I am really excited...I've already planned out my menu!

8. Today we had lunch with Kenneth's college roommate who we haven't seen in years and it was so great.

I'm off to enjoy my last day and a half of no school and time with husband. Come Monday the roads will fill with buses and the halls will fill with kids, and I will get to teach them. Until next time...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Honey Jars

While on our trip in Charleston, husband and I went in a Le Creuset store. In there, I saw this precious little honey jar (just like Pooh’s). Since then, I’ve become quite interested in finding the perfect little honey jar for my kitchen. No, I don’t really use honey all that often, but I think that it is such a great little kitchen accessory. I am typically drawn to white kitchen serving pieces, but I love a yellow honey jar. The one from Le Creuset is my favorite one that I’ve found so far, but here are some other contenders.

Le Creuset

Mug Heaven Hand Crafted Pottery

William & Bounds...a little more modern

Villeroy & Boch Home

I hope that Santa brings me a honey jar this year!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peach Crisp

You can't live in the south and not love peaches. And- it's peach season baby. I love, love, love all things peach. In fact, July's Southern Living had a whole feature on how to use peaches. Awesome. However, before I could experiment with any of their recipes, I had to make my favorite summer dessert- peach crisp. It's a recipe from Real Simple a couple of years ago.

Here's what you need: 5 pounds of peaches, sliced into 8 wedges each, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup plus 1 tbs flour, 1 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter chilled and cut into small pieces, 2 cups rolled oats, and 1 cup of almonds (optional)

Here's how: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In a large bowl, toss the peaches with the granulated sugar and 1 tbs flour, pour into a baking dish
3. In a separate bowl, combine the brown sugar, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup flour. Using your fingers, incorporate the butter until coarse crumbs form. Mix in the oats and almonds.
4. Squeeze the topping onto the peaches and bake for 45-50 minutes, until fruit is tender.

I usually half the recipe because I eat a ton of peaches before I make the crisp and typically have only about 7 left over to make the crisp. But- still so good!

It looks like I'll be making another trip to the peach stand this week!

Tomorrow I meet my students, pray for a good open house!