Lucky Girl

May 14, 2012 in The Daily Blog

Hope you all had a wonderful day celebrating your mom, your grandma, your aunt, yourself, your dad, your siblings….whoever plays the role of a “mother” in your life! For me, that’s my mom and my mother-in-law.

We also celebrated my sister, who is a little mama-to-be!

It was a great day. We spent it over at my parents’ house, with a picnic-style feast: chicken salad, potato salad, green salad, fruit, pasta salad, and a trifle.

I’m a lucky girl to have so many amazing women in my life!

And now, we have a giveaway to announce. Thank you to everyone who entered and tweeted!

The winner of the OXO Food Scale is….comment #2: Matt! “I am on the hunt for the world’s best pancakes and need a scale to make it perfect. We have a scale, but it’s not sensitive enough for the small ingredients that I use in pancakes.” Congratulations, Matt! Check your email inbox for an email from me!

No-Knead Pizza Dough, With a No-Measure Technique!

May 8, 2012 in Italian, Pizza, Recipe, The Daily Blog

***This giveaway is now closed! Click here to check results.***

My new favorite tool is a kitchen scale.

I always thought that a scale was foolish, that it was one of those unnecessary items like under eye concealer. But then. But then, around my 5th year of teaching high school students, I realized that not only is under-eye concealer necessary, but it is actually vital. Ditto on the kitchen scale!

The scale is amazing, because it helps me measure ingredients with accuracy. It makes the mixing of baked goods go more quickly, it makes me feel confident that I’ve “measured” correctly, and it is slim, compact, and tucks right into any little corner of the kitchen, unlike the pasta boiling pot that I just had to have when we got married. Hello, wasted space.

Ever since OXO sent me this scale, I’ve found myself seeking out recipes that use weight measurements, rather than volume measurements. Enter the cookbook section at my library, where I found a copy of Jim Lahey‘s My Pizza. His no-knead pizza dough uses weight measurements, and it was the inaugural recipe I used with my kitchen scale. His book is gorgeous, filled with amazing photos, beautifully-worded recipes, and mouth-watering food on every single page. Today, I have his no-knead pizza dough recipe to share with you. But this blog post does not do his book (or his concept) justice. I’d encourage you to find a copy of his book at your library or bookstore!

Ingredients for Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough:

500 grams (about 3 3/4) cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping

1 gram (1/4 tsp) active dry yeast

16 grams (2 tsp) fine sea salt

350 grams (1 1/2 cups) warm water

Directions:

Thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. Add water and mix thoroughly, using a wooden spoon.

Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise at room temperature for at least 18 hours, until the dough has more than doubled.

Flour a work surface and split the dough into 4 equal parts. Work with each portion of dough, pulling the right side of the dough toward the center, then do the same with the left, then the top, then the bottom. Form each portion into a ball of dough and place seam side down. Mold into a circular round. The rounds should not be sticky. Dust with flour, if they are still sticky to the touch. Cover with a damp towel until you are ready to work with each round.

When you are ready to bake the dough, begin with one round. Stretch it out, gently, using your knuckles, until it is uniformly thin – but do not allow holes to form – with a thicker edge for the crust. Top each pizza crust with your choice of toppings.

Heat broiler to 500 degrees and place a baking stone on a rack about 4 inches from the heating element. Heat the stone for 30 minutes, then remove, carefully (with oven mitts!) and use a pizza peel (or a really thin plastic cutting board) to carefully slide the prepared pizza on to the stone. Return to oven and broil for about 6 minutes, until crust is charred and blistered and the toppings are bubbling. Slide peel or board under the pizza and remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly and then slice.

You can top these little pizza pies with any toppings you like. Get creative!

We had four pizzas (each dough round creates one pizza), all with different toppings. Pizza One: Rosa Pie (a Lahey recipe), with tomato sauce, oregano, red pepper flakes, and sliced garlic. Pizza two: Bechamel sauce, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. Pizza three: Marinara sauce, Italian sausage, and mozzarella cheese. Pizza four: Bechamel sauce, baby spinach, and parmesan cheese.

Now, back to that scale!

From OXO’s website: “OXO’s user-friendly Food Scale with Pull-Out Display is perfect for weighing all ingredients. Weigh items directly on the platform, on a plate or in a bowl, and pull the display away from the base to prevent shadowing from large plates and bowls. Accurately measure ingredients when cooking and baking or stick to a diet by weighing portions. A weight indicator shows the capacity left on the Scale before maximum capacity is reached. Press the zero button to offset the weight of a container or to set the weight back to zero so you can add additional ingredients. The display features large, easy-to-read numbers which measure in 1/8-ounce (US) and 1-gram (metric) increments. The plastic platform can be removed for cleaning. The Scale has a 5-pound capacity and two AAA batteries are included.”

The good news is that today, I’m giving away an OXO Food Scale, identical to the one I use in my kitchen.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment on this post telling me how you would use a Food Scale in your kitchen! You can get yourself an extra entry to the giveaway by tweeting about the giveaway and leaving a comment here letting me know that you tweeted about it. (To make it easy on you…) “I want to win an @OXO Food Scale from @blackboardkitch! http://wp.me/p13DOV-1Qz”  

You have until Sunday morning at 8 a.m. to enter the giveaway. Winner will be selected via a random number generator, and will be announced in Monday’s post. I’ll ship the scale e to the winner next week! Good luck, friends!

Thanks to OXO for sponsoring this great giveaway!

I’ve Been Doing a Bit of Reading

May 6, 2012 in The Daily Blog

1. First, a very belated, but very heartfelt thank-you to the overwhelming response to my last post.Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my story. It is a story I have very, very rarely told before this, and one that is indeed still very raw and emotional for me. I’ve had a hard time knowing how to respond and even how to follow that post up. This, I suppose, is the best I can do, for now.

2. There are 13 days of school left. Me, my students, my broken air conditioner, and my 80 degree classroom could not be more thankful.

3. My father-in-law was in town last weekend. While he was here, we ate a copious amount of pizza, survived a chilly Rockies game in the Rockpile stands, and we drank at 100 ounces of beer in one sitting. Overall, it was a super healthy and carb-free weekend. Other than that, and even including that, it was a wonderful weekend. We really wish we got to spend more time with him.

4. My garden is growing. Alleluia. Pictures and more details to come.

5. I cooked like a maniac today, in preparation for the upcoming week. From 1pm-5pm today, I made marinara sauce; built a lasagna; prepared lamb meatballs; made yogurt sauce; hardboiled eggs; made egg salad; peeled, sliced, cored, and cubed a pineapple; made granola bars; prepped all the produce for the week; and made catfish po’boys with spicy remoulade and steamed broccoli for tonight’s dinner.

6. I’ve been reading insatiably lately. The Help, Commencement, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Juliet Naked, and Baby Proof have all happened within the last three weeks. On the docket for this week is Playdate and The Postmistress. Sometimes I start a book and I just can’t make myself stop, even to write a blog post, or to reply to emails. This is my excuse for my two weeks of silence. My favorite of all these was The Help. I know I’m a bit behind the times on this one. I loved it so so much.

7. Saturday marked the return of the Farmer’s Market! It was a gorgeous day and I felt so incredibly happy to be back grocery shopping outside. Best part of the day was seeing one of my old students, whom I taught when she was a junior in high school. She is about to be a senior in college. Oi. Time flies. I am so proud to have been her teacher.

8. We went to a Kentucky Derby/Cinco de Mayo party on Saturday. We had such a great time. Jon and Kate, thanks again for hosting all of us! I’m sorry I started falling asleep on your couch at 10pm. I’m so old, I can barely stand myself.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with a really cool giveaway! See you all then!

13 Years, And It Still Isn’t Over

April 19, 2012 in Education, Life Lessons, The Daily Blog

It’s been 13 years since I rode in a car past Clement Park and watched in confusion as I saw my classmates running towards us.

The first people I noticed were dressed in their gym clothes; I thought they were out on a gym-teacher-mandated run. But then I realized that there were others – not in gym clothes – and that they were screaming, crying, clutching each other.

We hollered to them, trying to understand what was happening, why the street was blocked off, why there were so many sirens, why a helicopter was beating overhead. They shouted back, “There are people shooting in our school!” We didn’t believe them.

There were six of us that day, and only five seatbelts in the car. Kelly decided he would ride in the trunk, rather than put Amy at risk of getting pulled over for having more people in the car than she had seatbelts. We were stuck in a long line of cars, many of them students returning from lunch, like we were, at Burger King, or the mall’s food court, and so we waited and shouted back and forth to our classmates in other cars and to those who were at the edge of park, trying to figure out what was happening in our school and why we were being kept from it. Our classmates shouted to us that people were shooting on the roof, that one person had been killed, that there were guns everywhere.

I wanted to join them, to abandon the car and just be with the exodus that continued to pour into the grassy park. But my friends were smarter, older, wiser – they said we had to keep going. We drove to Guiry’s, a paint store in Littleton where our driver Amy worked. Inside, we rushed to turn on the small television and watched in horror as the news cameras panned over our high school – the place we had just left, not even 40 minutes earlier.

As these were the days when cell phones were rare, I called my parents from the store. They were both home that day, working in the garden. They could hear the sirens. They had not yet heard why those sirens were so persistently wailing. I told them, my voice cracking, that I was not at school, that there were people shooting in my school. My mom’s voice rose, panicked, screaming, begging me to get in a closet, to get under a desk, to hide. I told her again, and again that I wasn’t at school, that I had gone out to lunch. It took awhile, but finally she understood. My dad told me to wait there, that he was coming for me. He came into the store for me and we drove home. He went out again, a bit later, to bring over my friend who was at home alone. We all sat there, glued to our television, as the screen showed us image after image of our school, where we had been only an hour before.

Columbine had transformed in that time. When we left, our school was defined by all the predictable things a high school should be defined by. My friends and I – the school’s Winterguard – had just returned the evening before from Dayton, Ohio, where we had competed in Winterguard Internationals. Tuesday, April 20th was our first day back at school. I wore a gray tank top I had bought as a souvenir from the competition, my hair was in French braid pigtails and was topped with a ringlet of tinsel from our team gifts, which we had all decided to wear in our hair that day. I had an news anchor audition that morning for the Rebel News Network, which had gone well. Before that I had sat in the guard room with my teammates and tried to frantically memorize a speech from Macbeth that I was expected to deliver in my World Literature class that afternoon.

When lunch time and my adjacent off-period arrived, I had a decision to make – did I take advantage of my double lunch period by trying desperately to memorize the speech in the library? Or did I spend the first half of the lunch period with my friends at Burger King? I blew off studying and instead, I chose my friends.

I chose my friends. I chose to leave campus that day, just moments before my school’s terrifying transformation. I saw Eric and Dylan getting out of their car in the parking lot, but I didn’t see anything that indicated what was about to happen. I saw friends and acquaintances and classmates sitting down with their lunches on the broad steps outside of the cafeteria, but I couldn’t have imagined that the next time I saw them would be on television. I saw teachers ushering latecomers into their classrooms, but I couldn’t imagine that many of them would be locked in those rooms for hours, praying with students, writing letters to families, or caring for a teacher who had been shot in the hallway.

13 years ago my high school became synonymous with a deadly, horrific incident and I am, still, always, constantly, ever changed. 13 years ago, I lost friends. We lost a teacher. There were 13 victims on that terrible day – 15 were dead by the time it was all over.

But, it still isn’t actually over. It never will be, even though I graduated from Columbine High School in 2000.

These memories are not just for today. They are not just for an anniversary. They are for all days, for me and for my friends and for my family whom I love so much that I feel my heart will crack in two. These memories are for the children I don’t have yet, and they are for my students: my students, whom I am teaching about the Holocaust, whom I want so desperately to be kind to one another.

It is not friendship that I expect from them, but it is kindness. It is respect. It is compassion, and it is understanding that I long to see from them. I want them to live these things, and I want them to feel loved, to feel that they are wanted and appreciated and valued. Maybe things would have turned out differently 13 years ago if Eric and Dylan had felt all those things.

Maybe I would have turned out differently. We all would have, I think.

Not just today, but all days, I remember those whom we lost, and I remember that kindness is the best tribute I can pay.

Cassie

Rachel

Corey

Lauren

Danny

Kyle

Kelly

Steve

Matt

Daniel

Isaiah

John

Dave

Sausages Over Mozzarella

April 16, 2012 in Education, Italian, Recipe, Sandwich, The Daily Blog, The Weekly Menus and Recipes

Prom is in five days.

Dance day is looming and, while it is sure to be the magical night in many of our students’ young lives, it’s giving me a massive headache.

I learned today that I put in the request for money to pay for our dance floor and our DJ too late and so they can’t be paid until several days after the event.

We tried to order food to cater the event from The Pickled Lemon, this fabulous new falafel place in Boulder, but they don’t deliver to our location and nobody can pick it up because we’ll all be busy setting up for the dance.

We haven’t sold very many tickets. Like, not very many tickets at all. This makes me super nervous.

There are currently about 17 large (very large) boxes in my closets that contain oodles of difficult-to-assemble Prom decorations – we’re talking giant, lit archways, tufted tents, and sparkly gold palm trees.

Classy!

It’s Arabian Nights. A Magical Night in the Middle Eastern Desert. Proms Over Baghdad.

Super classy.

There are phone calls to be made, apologies to be delivered, promises of payment to be begged, food to be ordered, checks to be cut, announcements to be made, tickets to be sold, and emails to be sent. It’s a lot to do. But, come Sunday morning, it will all be done and the busyness of today will be a distant memory.

Funny how that goes.

So right now it’s about the little things: the run/walk (because I was feeling lazy) after work today and these sandwiches. And these potato wedges. Sausage over mozzarella!

Ingredients:

Sandwiches:

1 baguette, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into four equal sections

2 tbs. olive oil

2 red bell peppers, seeded and cored

1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tsp. kosher salt

4 cups mixed greens

2 Italian sausages

1 chunk mozzarella cheese, sliced

Herbed Potatoes:

4 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbs. Herbes de Provence

1 tsp. kosher salt

Tomato Sauce:

1 large can crushed tomatoes with no salt added

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs. olive oil

1/2 tbs. each dried basil, oregano, parsley, salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and fire up a grill.

Place potato wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and Herbes de Provence. Toss well. Cover a large baking sheet with foil, then spray  with non-stick spray and spread potatoes in a single layer across the sheet. Place on middle rack of oven. Allow to bake 20 minutes, until potatoes begin to look crisp around the edges, then flip using a spatula. Return to oven for another 10 minutes, until crisp.

As soon as potatoes are in the oven, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Heat 2 tbs. olive oil, then add onions and salt. Saute until soft and fragrant, 6 minutes, then add in bell peppers. Continue to saute until peppers soften, around 3 minutes, then remove from heat.

Once onions are sauteing, begin the sauce. Heat medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil. Once heated, add minced garlic and red pepper. Allow to soften and become fragrant, 3-4 minutes, then add crushed tomatoes. Stir in basil, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. (Hello, messy stovetop. Real-life = messy!)

Once you start the sauce, place the sausages on the grill. Grill, covered, over direct heat for 10 minutes, turning several times until char marks appear and the sausages have swelled. Remove from grill and allow to rest for around 5 minutes, then slice sausages into bite-sized rounds.

While sausages rest, prepare the bread. Place baguettes, cut-side up, on a piece of foil – 2 sandwiches per foil section is fine. Layer both sides of the bread with mozzarella cheese, then layer one side with sausage slices.

Top with the pepper and onion mixture.

Place sandwich tops on each sandwich bottom, then wrap tightly in the foil. Place foil-wrapped sandwiches on the hot grill and cover. Grill for 4 minutes, turning halfway through.

Remove from grill, unwrap, and stuff with mixed greens.

Serve alongside a bowl of tomato sauce for dipping and a big pile of potato wedges.

Now, who wants to be my date for Prom??

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake

April 10, 2012 in Dessert, Recipe, The Daily Blog, Vegetarian

My sister and I watched every single episode of the 80′s & 90′s television show Full House.

I idolized D.J. She was the older sister, and I was too, so I felt like she and I had a lot in common. We were kind of like soul sisters, really.

I tolerated Stephanie. She was the middle child, a little too whiny for my liking, but she was the same age as I was, and I thought that was pretty cool. When I was about 10 years old, I met the actress who played her at a convention in Denver and I had the opportunity to ask her a question. I asked, “Do you ever get nervous while taping?” Her answer was, “No.” Awesome. That’s probably how I came to loathe the simple “yes” or “no” question.

I adored Michelle. She was too cute, with her, “You got it, dude!”s and her mischievous little ways. I was also a bit jealous of her – jealous of all darling little sisters, really. They had it so much easier than us awkward older sisters.

I loved them all: Uncle Jesse with his hairspray, Danny with his cleaning products, Joey with his cartoon voices…

I loved how every episode of Full House had a lesson. I’d feel so conflicted for much of the episode – Stephanie would have crashed the car into the back of the house, or D.J. would have passed out on the treadmill, and I’d be on pins and needles – scared of the punishment sure to come down the line. But, at the end of every episode, that sappy music would start to play and the lesson would be revealed. The lesson was always so fitting: that nothing could change the love Danny had for his daughters, or that sisters are there for each other through good times and bad, or that it’s okay to love yourself and your body for who you are.

Ah, such a breath of fresh air.

Sure, Full House was cheesy.

Full House was sweet.

And the show always had a weighty lesson at the end of it.

Kind of like cheesecake: sweet, cheesy, and with a nice density. Easy to love, but not something you’d want to have too much of at one time.

If Full House were a food, it would be definitely be cheesecake.

Chocolate Almond Cheesecake.

Ingredients:

Crust:

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham crackers, finely ground

1 cup roasted almonds

2 tbs. granulated sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/3 cup melted butter

Filling:

16 oz. softened cream cheese

1 can sweetened condensed milk

3 eggs

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Topping:

1 cup sour cream

3 tbs. sugar

1 tsp. almond extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all crust ingredients in a food processor. Process until well-mixed, then scoop out and press onto the base and sides of a spring form pan. (If you don’t have a spring form pan, you can just line the bottom of any pan with parchment paper and spray it with nonstick spray, as I just learned from Heather’s post earlier this week!)

Beat together all filling ingredients and pour over the crust.

Bake on middle rack in oven for around 50 minutes, until the filling is set. You can insert a toothpick into the center; once it comes out mostly clean it is ready.

While cheesecake bakes, mix together topping ingredients, then spread over the cake once it comes out of the oven. Bake another 10 minutes.

Let cake cool completely, then refrigerate several hours, or until cold.

As Uncle Jesse would say, “Have mercy.”

My Heart is at Coors Field

April 9, 2012 in The Daily Blog

Today is the Rockies’ home opener for the season! I wish I were lined up at Coors Field right now, but sadly, I’m at work instead. I’m decked out in my Rockies shirt and my white pants (Easter was yesterday, so white pants are totally okay now) with lots of silver accessories. Baseball season is a big favorite of mine, so I’m bringing an old post from September of 2010  back up to the forefront. 

I remember when I first heard the news that Denver was getting a baseball team; it was 1991 and I was nine years old. My sister and I didn’t care too much for the Rockies at that point, but my parents did everything they could to incite some baseball fever in us. Most notably, they signed us up to be Rockies Rookies, which meant that we were officially part of the Colorado Rockies youngest fan club. Of course, this meant that we were entitled to a small amount of swag, and our Rockies Rookies pencils and fanny packs were soon in our hot little hands.

Although my mom and dad were too old to be Rockies Rookies, they were still pretty excited that we were finally getting our own baseball team and so in 1993, the Rockies inaugural season, they took us to multiple games. I remember how excited my sister and I would get for those Rockies games. We’d put on our cutest outfits, load up our fanny packs with all of our game day essentials (lip gloss, candy, sprite, peanuts, Taco Bell bean burritos- they were big fanny packs, and a girl gets hungry, okay??) and we’d be off to watch the Rockies at Mile High Stadium. The Rockies didn’t have such a hot inaugural season (they finished 67-95 that year), and my sister and I learned that maybe we couldn’t really pay attention for more than half an inning at a time, but I still learned then that I loved going to Rockies games.

I still love going to baseball games, and I still love the Colorado Rockies. Thankfully, I can now pay attention for multiple innings at a time, and luckily I have a with-it husband who has adopted the Rockies as his own team. We anxiously await spring every year not just for the warm weather and the time off work that is about to ensue, but for the start of a new baseball season. The Rockies have come quite a ways since their losing record in ’93, with a current record of 75-64. Although I don’t have my Rockies Rookies fanny pack anymore, I still look forward to every game I get to attend.

We were lucky to be at last night’s game – Rockies whooped the Reds with a final score of 9-2. How do you like them tacos?! It was an exciting game…Tulo (whose shirt I wear) scored two home runs and all the guys were on fire. Also on fire? Our mouths, after eating Chicago Dogs piled high with hot peppers, tomatoes, pickles, onions, cucumbers and spicy mustard. Here’s a photo of our (not-so-nutritious or local, but super tasty) dinners:

And a photo of us at the game (note the current Rockies gear – Jason has Jimenez and I have Tulowitzki – not quite as cool as the old fanny packs, I know…)

Here’s hoping that the calendar will say “Rocktober” come October!

Some Things Just Go

April 5, 2012 in Italian, Pasta, Recipe, The Daily Blog, Vegetarian

Some things just don’t go together.

High school freshmen and group work.

Taking a daytime allergy pill instead of a Benedryl right before going to bed.

Snowy days and spring flowers.

Some things just can’t not be together.

Double negatives.

A German Shepherd and a tennis ball.

White slap watches and deck shoes.

Teachers and happy hour.

Potato chips and chocolate.

Broccoli and cheese.

Pasta and cream sauce.

Me and cheese. Me and cream sauce. Me and broccoli.

Jason and the camera’s special effects.

Jason was the man with the camera on this particular evening. He was playing around with the camera while I started dinner, so I asked him to take the photos for me so that I wouldn’t have to keep taking the camera from him. He was a willing photographer. It was really fun to have him snapping the photos while I just cooked and recorded the recipe. As such, there are more photos of the process and photos with different angles than I usually go for.I think I’ll be utilizing his photog skills more often in the future.

Alfredo sauce:

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup unsalted butter

3/8 cup of all-purpose flour (7 tbs.)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half

2 cups milk (not skim)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

pinch crushed red pepper

pinch nutmeg

Pasta:

6 cups broccoli, washed and trimmed

1 pound whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)

kosher salt

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once water reaches boiling, salt the water, the add in the pasta. Allow to boil until al dente (with a bite), around 6-8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and butter. Heat until butter is almost melted, then add minced garlic.

Allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and softened, then slowly, in increments, add the flour. Whisk well after each flour addition so that all flour is fully incorporated before continuing.

This will create a thick slurry which will allow your sauce to be thick without the use of too much cheese or cream. Slowly pour in cream and milk,  whisking constantly to combine. Allow to heat, but don’t allow it boil. Once thickened, whisk in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and red pepper.

Whisk in the parmesan cheese, then taste the sauce to check the seasoning. Adjust as needed. At this point, the sauce should be flavorful and thick enough to coat a spoon and hold its line without running off.

While sauce cooks, steam your broccoli. My favorite way to steam broccoli is in the microwave; it is so quick and easy. Feel free to steam on the stovetop, if that’s more your style. To microwave steam, pour about 2 inches of water into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Add broccoli. Top with a microwave-safe plate or lid. I use my Pyrex pie pan because it fits perfectly into the Pyrex glass bowl.

Microwave on high for about 2 minutes, until broccoli is a vibrant green and is tender, yet still crisp, to the bite. Drain broccoli, then pour 3/4 of it out onto a cutting board. Roughly chop.

Mix steamed broccoli – chopped and whole – with the alfredo sauce.

Scoop pasta into individual serving bowls, then ladle sauce on top. Serve with extra parmesan cheese for sprinkling, if you like.


I (Wish I) Stole it From the Farmer’s Market

April 2, 2012 in The House Projects

I wanted a sign to hang above the refrigerator. I wanted it to say “Groceries”. I wanted it to be huge. And I did not want to pay $45 for a much (much) smaller version, which was the price of most of the homemade signs I saw on Etsy. (Like this one here, this one, and this one.)

So I set out to make my own. I entered Lowe’s with a vague idea of what I wanted to create, but no plan or real concept of how I was going to make that happen. After a couple of hours, lots of wandering, many strange looks from the 70-and-older-males that seem to dominate Lowe’s on Mondays between 1:00 and 3:00pm, and three phone calls to Jason (none of which he answered!), I finally had my project figured out and my supplies in hand.

Once I figured out how to make my sign a reality, this was a quick, easy project – and it cost less than $10! My sign is 5 feet long and about 2 feet high. You can make your sign narrower by using fewer fence pickets. Just be sure to measure your space before you go to the hardware store so that you know exactly what you need (aka: don’t be like me!).

Supplies I bought, for a grand total of $7.16:

7 fence pickets – I wanted the boards to look beat up and so I went for the cheapest wood (it was 68 cents a picket) and dug through the pile for the pickets that had the most “character”. I also wanted them to all look a bit different.

1 box of 1-inch roofing nails, which cost $2.40

Supplies I had on hand:

white primer

paintbrushes in varying sizes

2-inch wood nails

Here’s what I did:

1. Lay out boards. Once I had all my supplies home and unloaded in the garage, I laid out all my fence pickets in the configuration that I would assemble them. I stacked the pickets on top of each other and lined up my extra pickets on the ends. I also used pliers to pull out all the staples and tags that were in the boards.

2. Trim the end boards. In order to keep my sign together, all the pickets had to be attached to the end boards. I simply measured the end boards so that they were the same width as all my fence pickets combined, marked the end boards, then used a hand saw to cut them at the mark. I used two different fence pickets to create my end boards, but that wasn’t necessary; you can cut both end boards out of the same fence picket.

3. Nail end boards to the pickets. I used two different types of nails for this. First, for looks, I hammered one roofing nail into the board on each picket. What you see here is the front of the sign, which is where these nails were located. Then, I nailed a longer, 2-inch nail with a small head through the end boards and into each picket. My next step was to flip the entire sign over and bend the excess nail into the boards by hammering it in.

4. Painting time! I planned out what I would write beforehand, then simply used 2 different sizes of paintbrushes and white primer. For the small words at the top of the sign, I used a very narrow craft paintbrush that I’ve had for years. For the large “grocery”, I used a larger paintbrush that I usually use to paint trim in the house.

5. And then the sign was all painted and finished! Except, it looked new. Too new. Too-big, too-white sneakers on the first day of school new. So the distressing began. To distress the sign, I used a pair of pliers, which I just dug into the boards in various spots and pulled at the wood with. I used a sanding block (sand paper or even steel wool would also be good here) and scrubbed the paint with it to wear it off. I used a large stake to scrape along the board and just generally scratch up the board with. Jason used a hammer to bang on the corners of the board so they didn’t look so fresh and square. And the final steps? I rubbed a used charcoal briquette across various locations on the board to darken it up. I did the same thing with a few handfuls of dirt to get that used, rustic feel. (Don’t worry – I wiped it down with a rag before bringing it inside. It retained the discoloration, and I didn’t have to worry about bringing any dirt indoors.)

6. Once I’d beat up and dirtied the sign enough for my liking, I hammered in these picture hangers. They were super simple to attach; I placed one on the top right and one on the top left, both situated 6 inches from the outer edge of the board and 2 inches from the top of the board. (This measurement was also helpful for hanging the sign, later on.)

7. And then, Jason hung the sign up in its new home! Above the fridge it now lives, next to a red Texas star. The two combined make it feel just the tiniest bit country/rustic and give the kitchen a ton of character. They hang above the blackboard, which we created about a year ago.

I am ca-ray-zay about this sign! Jason said that it looks like I stole the sign off of a booth at the farmer’s market, which off course I love. And of course I’m going to pretend that I did.

Scenes from My Weekend

April 1, 2012 in The Daily Blog

Went to library and checked out new reading materials! Jason thinks I checked out too many books. I think he couldn’t be more wrong. From top to bottom, these are to: listen to on long runs, listen to in the car, read before bed, drool over/cook from (first pizza from this book is happening tonight), fall in love with the simplicity of fresh food done right.

Spent time with our dear friends Jamie and Marnie. This consisted of: buying lotto and powerball tickets (we lost), good eats at Hops and Pie, questionable drinks at a neighborhood bar, losing at Jenga, and making another batch of these in the morning.

Lots of good food. I can’t believe how much I have eaten in the last few days. It’s been terrific.

Said good-bye to my hairstylist Coco. She’s moving to London and I’m heartbroken. My hair is drying out and shrinking up just thinking about it.

Went for a long walk and a run. Marveled at the spring flowers. Sneezed my dang head off. They’re beautiful, but my allergy glands (or whatever it is) sure do hate them.

Now it’s time to get myself back into a school mindset. Ugh. I’m procrastinating by writing blog posts, can you tell? ;)

8 weeks ’til summer!

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