Let’s Chat

October 28, 2012 in The Daily Blog

There’s nothing quite as restorative as a good long chat with your best girl friends. Sarah and I have been friends for over 8 (!) years. We worked together in the summer of 2005, which was when we met. Sarah met her husband Mark that summer, and I met Jason that summer, too. They live far away now – feels like halfway around the world – but a long phone call (like we had today) always makes her feel so much closer. I’m thankful for that.

So, let’s chat! Let’s feel a bit more connected. I’d like it if we did!

1. Jason and I went and visited our nephew this weekend. I don’t think babies are cute, but this guy is so precious. I am stupid-in-love with him. It is so, so hard to hand him back to my sister and say good-bye. Ugh.

2. Life and work have been non-stop lately. And so, it’s all about making things ahead of time so that weeknights don’t make me want to sink into the couch and eat only chips and salsa. This garden enchilada bake from Mama Pea was an awesome meal to make on Sunday, cover and stick in the fridge, and then throw into the oven after a busy day. Also, it was delicious. I doubled the zucchini (frozen from the garden this summer), added in minced 2 jalapenos and several shakes of Mexican hot sauce, served it atop a bed of tortilla chips, and with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of green onions. I highly recommend this dish.

3. Oh yes, donuts have also been happening! These peanut butter cup donuts from Ashley were super fab. I subbed normal milk, and used almond meal instead of coconut flour. I loved these donuts with a sprinkling of kosher salt on top. Heck yes.

4. My fantasy football team has been doing only okay this year. I am currently 3rd in my division, with a 4-3 record. It’s looking like I’ll add another point to my wins column this week, so 5-3 will be where I am. Not terrible, but not great either. I need to step it up.

5. Broncos play tonight, against the Saints. I have been waiting for this moment for the last two weeks. Bye weeks are so difficult.

6. This. My husband sent it to me earlier this week and I watched it at lunch, with a classroom full of kids. Based on my reaction, I’m pretty sure they thought I had lost it. You’ve probably already watched this little gem, but I would feel like such a socially irresponsible child of the 80′s and 90′s if I didn’t share it here, if only for good measure.

7. What great recipes have you been making lately? Share in the comments below!

Moonlit Voyage

October 7, 2012 in Education, The Daily Blog

Yesterday evening marked the end of Homecoming week for my school district. As a district sponsor, I work with seven other sponsors to plan, implement, and chaperone all of our district events. It was a non-stop week, filled with meetings, craft sessions, last-minute planning, and, finally, pulling off all the events. My fellow sponsor and good friend Marci is in charge of Homecoming. She always does such an amazing job; this year was no exception! The dance was last in a long line of Homecoming events: pep rally, parade, carnival, and game, and then the dance, which was themed “Moonlit Voyage”. Marci and I worked together to plan the decorating and each of the spaces. We were both so pleased with how it all turned out!

First, the “loading dock”, which students walked up to purchase their ticket and enter the dance.

From the dock, it was into the gym. The gym floor was the ocean, and the bleacher/stage area was the ship. It was the Titanic, but without all the drowning and tragedy.

From the gym, students could exit to the cafeteria, which we set-up as the ship’s ballroom. Our goal was gaudy and over-the-top, Titanic-style. I love those chandeliers.

And then, the calm dissipated and over 300 high school students packed into the dance spaces. My view from the top of the bleachers:

It ended up being a great night. Marci and her sophomore students did a fabulous job. I’ve chaperoned a lot of dances in my teaching career and, honestly, it was the first dance that I’ve wished I was a student at. The night felt really special. I always love seeing my kids at dances: they are dressed up, in good moods, and happy to be there. Seeing them at outside-of-school-events reminds me of what cool people they are and it makes me proud of them. It’s times like this that my job is the best in the world.


Homemade Supreme Pizza

October 1, 2012 in Italian, Pizza, Recipe, The Daily Blog

When I was young, my mom used to take me and my sister on “fieldtrips”. It would be a weekday during the summer, or a Saturday during the school year when my dad had to work, and the three of us girls would head out on a fun trip. We would visit historical places, like the Molly Brown House or a museum, and we would go out to lunch. Often we would go to a Mexican restaurant, but sometimes we would go to Pizza Hut for their pizza buffet. These fieldtrips were one of the rare times we would eat at Pizza Hut, opting normally for Little Caesar’s (back in the day before they only did the $5 specials!).

At these pizza buffets, my mom, sister, and I would gorge on the many varieties, bringing slice after slice back to the table where we’d laugh and laugh about how much we were eating. Those fieldtrip days were great days that we got to spend together.

Now, although Jason and I don’t frequent pizza buffets, supreme pizza remains a special treat in our house. There’s something about that combo of flavors: the spicy, the crisp, the salty, the sharp, and the cheesy that just tastes so perfect. It brings back fieldtrip days, as well as childhood pizza nights and makes me want to crack open an A&W root beer and eat dinner with my family in front of a new episode of Full House on a Friday night.

Ingredients:

1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 package mushrooms, sliced

1 package pepperoni

15 oz. can black olives, sliced

1/2 cup pizza sauce, homemade or store bought

1 clove garlic, minced

pizza crust, homemade or store bought

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Stretch out room temperature door onto a greased and lightly floured baking sheet or a baking stone. Poke dough several times with the tines of a fork, then sprinkle with minced garlic. Bake for 7 minutes, until dough is springy.

Remove from oven, then spoon pizza sauce on top and spread with a spoon. Cover evenly with cheese, then lay out all other ingredients. Bake for around 10 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is golden and bubbly.

Slice and serve with a big green salad and a can of cold root beer, if you are so inclined.


My Nephew

September 27, 2012 in The Daily Blog

Wednesday night there wasn’t a baby, but by Thursday afternoon, there he was.

Me, my sister, and my tiny, precious nephew, Axle Louis.

He is beautiful, and my sister is amazing. I am one proud Auntie. Happy Friday, my friends!

Steak, Cilantro, and Caramelized Onion Street Tacos

September 23, 2012 in Beef, Mexican, Recipe, The Daily Blog

Mondays are rough. They’re get out of bed early, put on a nice outfit, cram your feet into a pair of heels, and hustle yourself off to work days.

I am super susceptible to the Sunday blues, the dread that looms over me from about noon on Sunday until I go to bed. The weekends are just so precious, and so brief. Sigh.

What makes Mondays better?

Being thankful I have a job. Being thankful for the students whom I am proud of. Knowing that I have a great workout scheduled for the evening. Having a lunch of ravioli, sauteed zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and buffalo mozzarella packed up and ready to take to work with me. Having coffee scheduled to brew in the moments before my alarm goes off. Knowing that the next chapter of The Lovely Bones is awaiting me in my car CD player for the drive to work. Reminding myself, over and over again, that work is just what I do, not who I am.

Yep. I’ve got a bad case of the Sunday blues right now. Funny thing is, though, I had already loaded the photos into this post prior to coming here to write tonight and, as soon as I pulled up this post with the photos, they made me feel better. These photos, with their brightness and their connotations of genuine goodness, made me smile, and made my stomach growl a bit, and made my mouth begin to water. These tacos make Sunday nights and Monday nights and Tuesday nights, and any other time you like, better.

These are street tacos, which I’ve posted the recipe for before, but which I just couldn’t stand not sharing with you again.

These street tacos are made from the second steak that Jason grilled for this meal. Here, the meat is chopped up and a yellow onion is sauteed until perfectly golden and sweet. Then, the steak is added to the pan with the onions and stirred around until heated through. The meat and onion mixture is nestled inside of warm corn tortillas, then sprinkled with chopped cilantro. A lovely, spicy sauce is made of Greek yogurt, fresh-squeezed lime juice, and a drizzle of Mexican hot sauce, until the spice is to your liking.

These tacos are easy, and they are delicious, which is all that can be asked of a Monday night meal. I hope that your Sunday night and your Monday morning, and your entire week is just as easy and as delicious.

 

3 Years

September 19, 2012 in The Daily Blog

SONNET 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

I remember the first time I read this poem. I was in Mrs. Samson’s 12th grade AP Literature class, and it was around the middle of the year.  We had been reading, and struggling with, many sonnets that week. I was in a place of “kind of understanding” sonnets – it took me a bit of thinking to get at the heart of each message. But then, I read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, and it resonated with me almost instantly. I got it, and though I had had a couple of boyfriends, I knew that I had yet to experience the kind of love that Shakespeare was talking about, the kind of love that survives time and survives struggles, the kind of love that directs and guides.

Today marks three years of marriage for me and Jason, and over seven years of love that has changed and grown and deepened and surprised. My friend Ben read this sonnet for us at our wedding, and as he read, I was taken back to my senior year of high school, when I knew just enough about what love really was to know that I needed to keep waiting for it. Now 12 and a half years removed from AP English, all I can say is, what a lucky girl am I! I am lucky, blessed, thankful. I am so, so thankful for the man whose dreams are my dreams and whose future is my future.

Happy anniversary, my love.

I am so glad that Shakespeare really did know what he was talking about.

2 Years

1 Year

 

Steak Over Arugula with Basalmic Roasted Pears and Crumbled Blue Cheese

September 17, 2012 in Recipe, Salad, The Daily Blog

It’s almost fall. There is one week left of summer, although my closet would tell a different story.

Right before school started, I made the great closet switch-up, pulling all my sundresses (that can’t be appropriately dressed up with a sweater and jewels) and swimsuits and cover-ups out of my closet. I tucked them into tubs and my standing wardrobe in the basement, and then pulled out the trappings of the school year: knee-length dresses, long skirts, blazers, and button-up shirts. The days are alternating back and forth between heat and chill right now, but luckily we have a new school building, which means we finally have control of the temperature. No more days of feeling like I am holding class in a hot yoga studio. I am thankful for this.

I’m thankful for the alternating days, too, because it helps me stay grounded in the now, this time of transition. The leaves in the mountains have changed, but here, they are still a steady green. The nights are brisk, and I hope all my tomatoes will be able to change to red before the cold traps them, green, destined to forever stay on the vine.

We’ve been eating exceptionally well lately, enjoying meals cooked outside. This is yet another meal that was created out of ingredients from our first Mile High Organics order. Everything was fresh, organic, and GMO-free. This is a meal that feels like the season of transition it was prepared in. A little bit of summer, a little bit of fall. It was magnificent.

Begin with a sirloin steak. Ours was grass-fed, and about 10 oz. We grilled two 10 oz. steaks at the same time, but only used one for this meal. The other we saved for tacos. Jason seasoned the steaks with lots of salt and pepper and then grilled them over direct heat, 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare, which was the perfect cook for this cut. He added in a handful of mesquite woodchips for a bit of extra smokiness and flavor. After grilling, we let the steaks rest for about ten minutes, then sliced one of them, thinly, against the grain.

While he grilled, I washed arugula and roasted pears. Two pears, peeled, drizzled with basalmic vinegar and roasted in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes.

Peppery arugula, sliced steak, crumbled blue cheese, and roasted pears served alongside a bit of whiskey. It was the perfect meal for the end of summer, as well as the beginning of fall. I hope you’ll make this soon and enjoy it as much as we did.

 

True Snapshots

September 16, 2012 in The Daily Blog

We rode our bikes to a little downtown-y area near us last night. When we left the house, it was warm – hot, almost – with the sun bright and the magic time of evening near. After parking our bikes, we sat outside on the porch and shared a pitcher of beer and chicken sandwiches drenched in wing sauces. It was amazing. I can’t tell you the last time I drank that much beer, but it was fun to act so carefree and feel like the night was ours. By the time we left the patio, the sun was gone and the twinkling lights along the streets made the night feel calm and welcoming. We walked down for frozen yogurt – a mix of vanilla, peanut butter cup, and cookies and cream for me, with a sprinkling of heath bar and a few chocolate-covered marshmallows. Then, we rode home. Our bike lights cut through the night as we rode the short distance on nearly empty streets. It was chilly, and it felt like fall was just around the corner, which it is. I wish everyday could be Saturday and that our days could keep being just like this.

Greek Quinoa

September 11, 2012 in Middle Eastern, Recipe, Salad, The Daily Blog, Vegetarian

Last week, I posted a recipe that made me like quinoa. Today, I’m posting another one. It is the exact same thought as the Tropical Quinoa Salad, except it is Greek. This means just a few swaps in ingredients. The majority of these ingredients were part of my first order from Mile High Organics. I used the same items I use in my go-to Greek Salad, just exchanged the lettuce for quinoa. It’s a bit more filling and even easier to pack up for lunches. This salad would be an excellent side dish for grilled chicken or lamb. It would be delicious stuffed into a pita with falafel or strips of chicken or tofu. It is also great on it’s own, chilled, right out of your lunchbox.

Ingredients:

3 tbs. olive oil, divided

1 yellow onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

½ cup chopped parsley

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

¼ cup feta cheese

4 cups arugula

Dressing:

juice of 2 lemons

½ tsp. kosher salt

2 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced

Directions:

Heat 1 tbs. oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add quinoa. Stir to coat and allow quinoa to toast, around 2-3 minutes, until it smells fragrant and nutty. Once toasted, add 1 3/4 cups of water to the pot, stir once, bring to a gentle boil, then cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork.

While quinoa toasts, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until fragrant and translucent, around 5 minutes, then add garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Stir often.

While quinoa simmers and onions saute, prepare all other ingredients. Prepare dressing by combining ingredients in a medium jar. Shake to thoroughly combine. Taste and adjust flavors as necessary.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, then top with dressing. Toss to coat, then dish into individual serving containers for quick lunches throughout the week.


Zucchini Orzo with Tomatoes

September 9, 2012 in Italian, Pasta, The Daily Blog, Vegetarian

When I first planted my garden, I was nervous about whether or not anything would actually grow. I didn’t have much gardening experience: my mom grew a few fruits and vegetables a couple of years when I was young, but I had never had much interest and so couldn’t remember a thing about how to make plants grow. At this point in my life, however, I have discovered a major desire to work outside in the dirt and the sun, and to help seeds grow.

My garden has become a joy in my life. It makes me feel connected, deeply rooted. Gardening is a private endeavor: a few moments to be alone and to be quiet, just me, the bees, and Ava sunning herself on the concrete path. The garden, thankfully, grew with great gusto. I attribute this to good soil, good compost, the use of blood meal, the planting of wildflowers close by, lots of water, and the daily pep talks I gave the plants.

The stars of this year’s garden are the zucchini and the tomatoes. I had two zucchini plants, but the photo above only shows one, much trimmed, plant. The zucchini plants were huge, massive, and overbearing. We have had many, many zucchini come out of the garden this summer, which was such a pleasant surprise. I ended up pulling one of the plants out about a month ago in order to get some fall seeds in: broccoli, lettuce, and carrots. It was the right thing to do, but it still made me sad to pull those thick, white roots from the bed. The new, small sprouts, however, are already poking their heads above the earth. I like this.

The remaining zucchini plant is still producing several zucchinis a week, which is where this recipe comes in. This is one of the first recipes I ever posted on Blackboard Kitchen, over two years ago (!), but it is still a favorite, which is why I am resurrecting it from the archives. It is slightly adapted from Barbara Kingsolver’s amazing Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I love to eat this fresh, bright bowl of summertime pasta – it’s been even better this year, though, with the produce coming from right outside my back door. Whether produce is garden, farmer’s market or grocery-store obtained, this is a winning recipe for the precious final days of summer.

Ingredients:

1 lb. orzo pasta

3 large zucchini

2 tbs. olive oil

3 springs fresh thyme

1 tbs. fresh oregano, roughly chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup grated parmesan

4 tomatoes, diced

Directions:

Bring a pot (about 6 cups) of water to boil.  Salt water with 1 tbs. salt, then add orzo.  Boil 8-10 minutes, or until you can easily bite into a noddle.  There should be the smallest amount of crunch to it when you drain it– it will continue to cook in its own heat.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 tbs. olive oil.  Add onion to hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and saute for 3-5 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.

Shred zucchini using the larger holes on a cheese grater. Squeeze zucchini in a kitchen towel to release excess moisture, then add zucchini to pan with garlic and onion.  Add thyme (leafs only) and oregano. Sauté until zucchini is softened and lightly golden, 3-5 minutes.

Combine cooked orzo with the zucchini mixture in large bowl (or pot the orzo cooked in) and add parmesan. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Top with chopped tomatoes. Serve warm.

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