Sunday, February 24, 2013

Challenge Accepted! (Part 2)

Since I've already written this once, I'll keep it brief.



Pinterest Challenge, as hosted by Sherry and Katie:





Earlier today I wrote about my pin-tastic lunch, complete with homemade tomato soup and bacon-guacamole grilled cheese. 



Yum! 



The second part of my Pinterest Challenge for myself was to actually craft. I like crafting, but I'm better equipped in my kitchen, and so I channel most of my creativity and experimentation into that arena. I wanted to make myself actually do something I pinned, which really, is the whole point of the Pinterest Challenge!



Ahem. 



After checking the weather and realizing that the Greater Philadelphia area was/is in for a slew of rainy days, I decided any project that required sanding, painting, curing, etc (all of which would need to take place outdoors), would best be saved for drier weather. 



Also, I was busy. 



So I picked an easy craft. 





This was my inspiration. 


Here's the link to the website


Here's the link to the pin



And here's my take on this project: 



First I grabbed an empty frame (I have this tendency to buy frames with no particular purpose in mind, so I have a few). I liked the idea of a dramatic print on a shiny frame. 



I laid the glass over the image I chose. Dan vetoed the calla lily print I liked, but he liked this poppy print. Unfortunately, I snagged this image a long time ago and I don't have the link to the image I used. 





(It's not mine. I borrowed it, and I'm not making any money from it.) 



Anyway, I took my white paint pen, 





and started dotting away. 



My friend did a number of projects over Christmas breaks by making dot designs on coffee mugs, platters, etc, so I liked the idea. 





Once all my dots were in place, I let it dry for a couple hours and then, voila! 



Oh, please note: I flipped the glass over so the paint is on the inside. I tried flipping the image on my computer because I printed the picture, but I decided I liked it better that way. My paint pens don't stand up to Windex or scrubbing, so this way my picture is safely inside the frame and I can dust/Windex to my heart's content without damaging my work. 





We picked a red background from my scrapbook box, which pleased me because a) poppies are red and b) our living room is red, black-brown, and sand so it ties in well with our existing decor. 





It's hard to see because it's dark and this is a bad picture, but there is a string of little red stars strung around our window, and the two look really nice together. Plus it's exactly opposite our deep red accent wall, so it's some nice symmetry going on. 





Huzzah for small victories! 



So, that's my Pinterest project. Thanks, Sherry, for kicking my butt into gear and getting me crafting! 

Challenge Accepted! (Part 1)


On Friday I linked you up to the Pinterest Challenge, as hosted by Sherry and Katie.



Happy Pinning!


I rose to the challenge, and I had a totally pin-tastic Sunday. 



If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love to cook. Mostly I like to cook things are deceptively simple, things that taste like a million bucks but aren't really all that complicated. Things like my crockpot roasted chicken, garlic lemon chicken, pesto salmon, henrich-style alfredo, etc. 



But every once in a while, it's fun to do something that requires a little more effort. 



Enter these beauties: 

Bacon Guacamole Grilled Cheese


And some of this goodness:

Creamy Tomato Soup

I've been craving grilled cheese and tomato soup all week, so I was really excited about this meal and got started right away when we got home from church. It was actually nice--usually we go to the in-laws for Sunday lunch/dinner, and as much as I love that tradition, every once in a while it's good to have a break and have a Sunday of rest at home. 



Anyway, I made both of these in about 40 minutes! I was super busy the whole time, and I could have taken my time and been more relaxed (or if I wasn't as confident of my skills, I would have taken more time), but we're always starving after church. 



You can find the original recipes linked above, below each picture, but since the Pinterest Challenge is about putting your own spin on things, I wanted to give you a quick recap of what I did. 



First thing was to chop up my onion, celery, and basil (I used fresh, since it's growing on my windowsill anyway). 





The recipe called for diced tomatoes in puree, but since neither Giant nor Trader Joe's carried such a thing, I just made sure I had a can of tomato paste on hand for thickening and adding an extra kick of tomatoey goodness. 


Saute those veggies in butter, then toss in the tomatoes. 


I was puzzled as to why the recipe called for flour on top of the veggies, because you need straight up butter to make a true roux, but add the vegetable broth and baking soda and hold tight...



I let it simmer away while I worked on prepping ingredients for bacon guac grilled cheeses. 





I always cook my bacon in the oven...super easy, the splatters don't cause a ton of smoke, and all the pieces achieve the same consistency. Plus cleanup is a breeze.

And please be insane like me and make sure all your sandwich ingredients are neatly lined up for easy assembly: 



I used jalepeno jack cheese, and mild cheddar. 
Normally I'm a sharp cheddar girl, but I thought the mild creaminess would be nice against the spicy jack. 


Back to the tomato soup. Again, this is just my experience talking, but I figured once the soup was complete it could just hang out on the back of my stove and stay warm, while the grilled cheeses cooked. That way both things would be done and hot at the same time. 


Anyways, I tossed about 3/4 of the soup into my blender because I'm a nut about texture and I don't like baby-food-puree. Then I added 1/2 cup of half-and-half, and 1/2 cup of milk, because calories don't exist this weekend. Lastly, I mixed in a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste and stirred until smooth. 




Can you hear the angels singing? 




This was beyond heavenly. I didn't always like tomato soup, and I still don't really like it out of a can (or even those fancy boxes). But between the fresh basil, fire-roasted tomatoes, and the incredible creaminess, this was just amazing. So.much.flavor and texture. 


As stated above, I stuck this dude on the back burner (as low as my hot-burning gas stove would go) and attended to those bad boy sandwiches. 

This is my little trick for getting the cheese to melt before the bottom of the sandwich burns. Hold your biggest pot lid over it to catch some of the heat. 


More angels. 



In its plated gloriousness. 






Now...here's the thing. 



Both of these food items were totally awesome. Tons of flavor, and suuuuper rich and filling. But honestly, the two together was a little much! Dan ate all of his sandwich, but I only ate half, and neither of us could finish the soup. I absolutely loved both of them, but there will a little too much going on in one meal. I think the soup with a plain old-fashioned grilled cheese would probably be a little less overwhelming, and I really think these sandwiches can stand alone. Plus, all the cheese-and-guac-and-cream was pretty rich. 





Still totally worth it. 



Part 2: Craft Edition coming soon!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pinterest Challenge

One of my favorite blogs to read, Young House Love, is hosting their semi-annual Pinterest Challenge! It's basically just a challenge to actually do some of the things that I'm constantly pinning. You know, a less sitting-on-the-computer and more actually-crafting sort of challenge.


I will never be able to explain as cutely as these two do:




Isn't that great?! That would be Miss Clara of Young House Love, and Sir Will from Bower Power.



Anyways, so I know I only have a regular two-day weekend and my usual list of cleaning, errands and chores to do. But I'm still going to try.



Challengees are allowed to do any craft, food, etc that they find on Pinterest, and to give the project their own spin. I cook from Pinterest all the time, so I'm challenging myself to do something new and craft.



Here are my two ideas:


Doors to Shelf

I already have a set of shutters that I trash-picked ages ago, and this is the perfect project for them. (Especially since they're currently living behind the bedroom door and have a tendency to fall on Dan's head...) I want to chop them down to half-size, though, and use them to flank our entertainment center.



Botanical Prints

Botanical print in white, over a dark background. I love this idea for a number of reasons, one of which is I already have all the supplies. I have paint pens, frames, and scrapbook paper. Score! I'm thinking it would be great to do a print like this one: 

Calla Lily Print

Calla lilies were the main flowers at our wedding, and I love the slightly modern feel of this print. I think it makes it classy or something. 



...or something. 



Anyway, check back on Monday to see if I pull through! If I do, I get to submit my work to YHL and they might even feature it in their list of participating bloggers. Woohoo! 











Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Most Delicious Waffles You Will Ever Eat

So...I failed. Massively.



You guys, I totally meant to take awesome pictures of this meal being made, with all the steps, like some Pioneer Woman wannabe...



And all I managed to get was this.






But, if you can find it in your heart to forgive my negligence and try your hand at these waffles, you may just want to be my friend again.



These waffles are a Henrich family recipe, and actually a kind of finnicky one. It took me a couple tries to get this recipe right--you need just the right blend of fluffy waffle, crispy outside, and delicate sweetness with a crunch of pecan here and there.






I found two tricks, which I will reveal....below! In the recipe.



Oh, and in my personal opinion...these are best served with a heap of crispy bacon and a nice cold glass of fresh orange juice.






Williamsburg Waffles

2 3/4 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 eggs (separated)
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp butter
2 2/3 cups milk
1/3 cup pecans


Sift the dry ingredients together (I usually toss them together in a bowl and whisk them until fine). In a smaller bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick, then add milk and butter.

Here is my first trick--you need the butter to be melted in order to whisk it into the other wet ingredients. However, hot melty butter will cook the eggs, and not-quite-melted butter will get chunky and lumpy and look so gross you want to throw the whole thing out. Thus, I mix 2 cups of the milk in with the egg yolks, and pour the other 2/3 into the melted butter, whisking the whole time (after I'd done this a few times, I learned that this technique is called tempering). The mix the butter-milk mixture into the milk-egg mixture.

Beat the wet and dry ingredients together until just blended, then add the pecans.

This is the other really important part--whip the egg whites until stiff. This does not mean that you halfheartedly beat the egg whites until the top layer is fluffy. Beat those suckers within an inch of their lives. If you have one of those awesome crank whisk thingies, this won't be too hard. If you're like me, beg your studly husband to help you out.

Then, right before cooking, fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter. The batter will be pretty runny, but that's ok.

Pour into your waffle iron. In my mid-sized iron, this usually makes 12-14 waffles, which easily feeds 4 people (especially if you serve it with that heap of bacon).




Bon-waffle-it!
please please please pronounce that "bone-waffle-eat"





Wink.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Promised Food Post...Sort Of.

As promised, I am posting about food, complete with pictures and a recipe at the bottom.



However...it's not as exciting as I had hoped.



Let me explain.



I am on my second complete year in a public school. I have also been in and out of half a dozen Philly schools, Temple University, and one very memorable year at a pre-school. I'm no stranger to germs and bugs and colds and infections. In fact, my immune system is getting stronger and I haven't gotten a real flu in I-don't-know-how-long.



For all of this, every.single.time I have a long weekend, I get sick.



Most of the time it's just a cold, as it was this lovely four-day weekend. But that doesn't mean I'm not a baby about it, and that I sit around for two days drinking OJ and watching endless reruns of How I Met Your Mother.



It does, however, mean that I didn't do all of the fun cooking projects I intended to do this weekend.



Pout.



Instead, I took a container of chicken pot pie filling from my freezer and turned it into soup, since I didn't have the ingredients or wherewithal to make myself a real pot of soup.





It was actually quite delicious.



My chicken pot pie recipe is adapted from *cringe* Family Favorites from the Homeschool Kitchen. This little gem of a cookbook was given to us as a wedding gift from a sweet family at Dan's old church. For all its cringe-inducing title and sappy blurbs about the value of homeschooling, I've found a couple of recipes that are really worthwhile.





Including the chicken pot pie.



It's a rich, creamy filling full of veggies and goodness and not a "cream-of" soup to be found. There are a couple steps involved, especially if you need to cook the chicken just for this meal, but it's totally worth it. This is one meal that has gotten the "better than my mom's" stamp of approval from my husband, and let me tell you, my MIL is a great cook.





To make this into soup, I just added a can of chicken broth and about a cup of water to HALF of the filling. (This recipe makes two 9-inch pies, so I usually freeze half for later use. The frozen half became my soup.) The soup was just brothy enough without losing that creamy texture, and none of the flavor was lost.



Here's the adapted recipe for the original chicken pot pie. Beware, this is comfort food. It'll do wonders for your soul, but little for your waistline.


Homeschool-Friendly Chicken Pot Pie

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots (or 5-6 baby carrots), chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 can chicken broth (about 2 cups)
1 3/4 cups milk
2 chicken breasts
2-3 small potatoes (or 1 large), chopped into bite-size pieces
peas, green beans, broccoli, or any other veggies you have on hand, totaling about 1 cup
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
2 pie crusts (9-inch)


If the chicken is not pre-cooked, poach in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Let cool, and shred or chop into bite-sized pieces. If you're daring like me, boil the potatoes right in with the chicken. If you're worried about bacteria, do it in a separate pot. The potatoes should be just barely fork-tender, as they'll continue cooking in the pie.

In a large skillet, saute the onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil. Remove, and melt butter in the same skillet. Add the flour and whisk together (we're making a roux). It'll be thick, but mix thoroughly and let cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the milk and broth. Continue whisking and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken, potatoes, veggies, thyme, salt and pepper.

If serving more than 3-4 people, put the whole thing into a 9x13 dish and cover with both pie crusts. If serving only 3-4 people, pour half of the mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and the other half a in freezer-safe container. Cover the pie dish with the crust. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the mixture is bubbly.

This also makes great leftovers, and as discovered this weekend, translates easily into pot pie soup! Enjoy!





Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentines Day and Such

Yeah, I know it's a "made up holiday."



But you know what? I still don't mind Valentines Day...yes, I tell my husband every day that I love him, and I occasionally try to make something special or do something out of the ordinary just for the heck of it...but at the same time, what's wrong with a day that reminds me to cherish and love those in my life? Dan and I don't bother going all out with tons of gifts or anything, but I enjoy a special dinner, maybe some flowers, and a little extra fun.



Besides, when you're in elementary school, it means lots of candy too!



So, whether you love it, hate it, or reside comfortably somewhere in the middle ground, here are a few shots of my V-Day Happies.



(Unfortunately due to legal stuff I can't post pics of my actual class in our heart-y glory, but I took a couple non-kid shots too.)



Cutest gift from a student. The best part? It's full of chocolate!


Our little mailboxes...thanks to the parents who sent in every cereal box they had, and are probably now living out of unboxed cereal bags. 


Aren't they cute? I don't even mind the three hours of my life I'll never get back that I spent wrapping the cereal boxes in red butcher paper. 


Glitter makes everything better. 



My gifts to the students...each kiddo got a homework pass, a funky eraser, and a homemade bookmark. Of course, one darling student (on the biggest sugar high you ever did see) decided to "eat" the bookmark and promptly threw it away. I refrained from drop-kicking him. 
Oh, also--this was for a girl. The boys got erasers like pizza and hotdogs, and bookmarks with army camo and plaid and stuff. 


Cause of aforementioned sugar rush. I was surprised to see that each additional parent who showed up brought us a treat, so this table was actually fuller by the end of the party. 


The sweetest gift of all, from my wonderful husband. I mean seriously, how cute is that?! He collected all the pieces and put it together and told me he got it for my classroom. He said he wanted something with flowers, but that would be easy to care for. 
(Now, I do know that orchids are notoriously difficult to care for, but they can also go long stints without being watered, and the hostess gift orchid that someone brought me is currently growing like mad and on its second glorious round of blooms. Knock on wood.) 



Little dog checking out said orchid. 



I have a wonderful four-day weekend ahead of me, so check back soon for some recipe-related posts...


...I feel the need to mention this since my Google Stats widget informs me that I have actual readers out there! Thanks for stopping by. 




Thursday, February 7, 2013

Regarding Womanhood

As you're probably aware, I regularly follow Rachel Held Evans' blog. I love reading a different perspective, and even when I disagree with what's being said, her emphasis on reasonable discourse and rational debate is wonderfully refreshing. And sometimes, I think she's right on the money.



Other times, however, I just can't get behind it.



Please consider this my somewhat coherent strain of consciousness regarding womanhood, manhood, and gender roles in society versus the church.



Here is Rachel's post.



She discusses how traditional gender roles, especially in the church, slide into the realm of legalism. She includes quotes from John Piper (whom I'm programmed to appreciate, just because I move in Reformed circles) and Jenny Rae Armstrong, another contemporary blogger.



My first and biggest problem with Rachel's post has to do with her lumping John Piper and Mark Driscoll into the same category. Excuse me, WHAAA?!? John Piper, while conservative, is holds orthodox reformed views, and is generally well thought of in evangelical circles. Of course, Rachel doesn't necessarily fit into (or even want to fit into) mainstream evangelical circles. On the other hand, Mark Driscoll is (excuse the shameless rant) a bigoted, polarizing, pigheaded pain the ass whose only purpose seems to be enough shock value to make himself famous.



Ahem.



Anyway, the bulk of the post dealt with the very real issue of how women are to find a place in the church for their gifts that don't fit into the traditional gender roles. This is something I struggle with, especially since both of my sisters-in-law are single and gifted in wonderful, amazing ways that aren't always accepted in their church.



I'm just not sure. I understand that society is changing, and that we as women need to adjust our lives and expectations accordingly. I'm also grateful to be living in a wave of true feminism where my gifts--which just so happen to be cooking and cleaning and taking care of children--can be just acceptable as a woman who chooses to work out of the home and provide for her family while her husband cares for their home.



I have no problem with these societal changes. In fact, I'm grateful for them.



However, my problem arises when I consider women in the church. I believe that men and women are created to be fundamentally different, and these differences should play into the roles we fill in our lives and our churches. And this is where my opinions dissolve into a wavering...well, lack of opinion.



I believe that men and women are different, and should be different.



I also believe that women should be allowed to pursue a path that utilizes their gifts. They shouldn't be limited by their gender! Women are be strong, capable, ambitious, and talented...nothing should stop them from pursuing their dreams and becoming their best selves. Right?



That being said, how does this play out in a church setting? I believe that women, while not inferior by nature, are created to function in roles of service and support. I believe the Bible is pretty clear that women are not intended to teach men. I do not believe that they are incapable of doing so; simply that it is not what we are designed for.



So what is a woman like my strong, intelligent, independent sister-in-law to do? She is a teacher with an incredible gift. She also has a logical, analytical mind and isn't afraid to voice her opinions. She's a wonderful person. But she doesn't know what to do with her gifts at church. She's single and wants so much to find a husband and be a mother, but her talents put men off. How is that right?



Please keep in mind as well, I think that marriage is a partnership, and our gifts can play out in a very different role in the home. I look at my personal gift...and I fill those roles. Marriage is a partnership, and while submission and humility have their places (for both partners!) I'm not attempting to teach or lead my husband. We travel side by side, and serve each other. And I think this is right.



So what's the right answer?



If you're reading, please weigh in. I really don't know how to conclude. There isn't really an easy answer, but I'm so curious to know what other people think and how they've come to their conclusions.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Student Sightings!

One of the hilarious/awkward/fun parts of being a teacher in a local school is that you unexpectedly run in your students out and about.



Initially, this excited me to no end, mostly because I'm constantly delighted to see people I know just in real life. Most of my childhood was spent involved in organizations that were not local to my home, so this didn't happen very often.



When I started working at Upper Dublin, I started counting how often I saw my students or their families in local stores, at events, etc.



(Not surprisingly) I lost count pretty quickly.



The most awkward situation was a dinner out with friends to celebrate my long-term sub assignment. We went to a hibachi restaurant--you know, the kind with the big table where you sit around with people that you don't necessarily know?



Yeah. A student and her mom sat right across from us.



Over the long weekend I ran some errands and ran into two students at two stores, one right after another, in one day.



It's still kind of fun, as long as the interactions can be fleeting and casual and I'm not picking my nose or doing anything else inherently embarrassing. Grocery shopping and/or returning books at the bookstore are pretty tame.


Let's hope it stays that way!