Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Friday!

1. I've been cleaning and the house (part of it, that is) feels nice and clean. This is traumatizing to the dog. The vacuum cleaner is scary. So is the mop.

2. I've also been cooking- I made my mother-in-law's grits and sausage breakfast casserole, and the house smells amazing. Cheese grits are the best. The dog was feeling insecure and thus getting underfoot the entire time I was cooking.

3. As if he wasn't already having a bad day, we also encountered a dog off leash on our walk (a dog on leash too, but that's Biscuit's problem, not the other dog's). This is scary, especially when said dog follows us. I know he's completely harmless, but Biscuit apparently doesn't and feels insecure because he's on a leash and can't defend himself. I can't really blame him, considering he's been "attacked" by 2 different dogs (off leash) in the neighborhood who had very questionable intentions. Word to the wise- a townhouse neighborhood is not the place to let your dog run off leash.

4. I just went to the grocery store to forget...I mean pick up...a couple of things. I'm have a few ladies over for brunch tomorrow. It should be a nice time.

5. Tax season is so close to being done I can almost taste it. Unfortunately, it always seems as if the closer it gets to the end the slower it goes.

6. My students are on spring break this week, which means a bit of a break for me as well. It feels good.

7. Two of my students also placed in an essay contest for John Stossel's educational program, Stossel in the Classroom. In case I haven't mentioned this before, my students are all wonderful.

8. This song is awesome. The down side is I'm never going to be able to listen to the original version with a straight face again. But I can live with that.

9. Our grass was finally mowed! It's covered by our homeowners' association dues and the back yard was beginning to look like a jungle...

10. My oldest niece turned 4 this week. I need to post this and go wrap a present!

So how is your Friday going?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Meal Plan - week of 3/26

- Warm lentil salad with fried eggs
Edit: This was fantastic. We had scrambled eggs with mushrooms and cheese with it instead, but it would make a great one dish meal.
- leftover chipotle black bean and pork soup (this is the first time I've used chipotle peppers in adobo, and they are spicier than I expected)
- Popcorn shrimp from a box with "Outback blooming onion" dipping sauce, sauteed spinach and mushrooms
Edit: this hasn't happened yet.
- Ladies' brunch: Sausage and Grits Casserole + quick bread (below) + "potluck"

Baking: Caramelized Onion & Spinach Olive Oil Quick Break- A savory quick bread that includes spinach, onions and feta? I knew as soon as I saw this I was going to be making it soon.
Edit: I thought the olive oil flavor was a little strong at first, but it mellowed over a couple days in the fridge and I ended up really liking it.

Given that it's still tax season and I'm on my own a couple of nights (meaning scrounging/leftovers/random salads) this should probably do the trick. Best case scenario, later in the week I will come up with some ideas for the following week, instead of waiting until Monday (or never, as the case may be). However that week is also Easter break, so that gives me a bit of a break as well!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Brief encounters with Mormons

Several years ago-
Me: "Actually, I'm a Christian"
Them: "Oh, that's ok!"

Me: "I'm a Christian"
Them: "Oh, so are we! I think you'll really like this website."


And yes, I used the "I'm in the middle of something" excuse. Catching up on Pinterest counts, right?

Saturday, March 17, 2012


"You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
~Is. 26:3

"He's not asking me to change in my joy for martyrdom
He's asking to take my place
To stand in the gap that I have formed
With His real amazing grace."
~Sara Groves, Awakening

Friday, March 16, 2012

October Baby

N and I were blessed to see a pre-screening of a new movie coming out on March 23, October Baby. We were part of a group of bloggers chosen specially for this honor. Just kidding. I won the tickets through 95.1 Shine FM. The DJs were handing out tissues as we entered the theater, and they were right. It isn't all tears. There are many funny and beautiful moments. It was a wonderful, moving, emotional story of forgiveness and love, of the miracle of life, and adoption. I think I will try to go again when it opens next weekend.

And a hint for when you go see it (opening weekend!): be sure to stay for at least the beginning of the credits.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The little things lately

1. Fresh asparagus with its purple rubber bands
2. The cat chasing his tail and making me laugh.
3. Doggy yawns
4. Pandora internet radio
5. Good, hot, soup
6. A pure, deep, blue sky on a crisp morning
7. Take-out after class, just because
8. Purple and gold crocuses-sighted while walking the dog
9. Pinterest seems to be bringing my crafty side out of hibernation. Fun, yes. But a good thing? Not sure.
10. The Piano Guys
11. Monster cookies

Tortellini Soup

I mentioned this soup in my meal planning post for this week, and a commenter asked about it. I will include both the original recipe and how I changed it.

Betty Crocker's Money Saving Meals
Tortellini Soup
2 T butter
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
6 cups of water
2 extra large vegetable bouillon cubes
2 1/2 cups dried cheese-filled tortellini (10 oz)
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper
In a Dutch oven, saute the celery, carrot, onion and garlic in the butter, until crisp tender.
Stir in water and bouillon. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low and stir in tortellini. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until tortellini are tender.
Stir in parsley, nutmeg and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
(5 servings, 280 calories each)

What I did:
I realized I didn't have carrots, so I sauteed a bunch of celery (4-5 stalks), onion, garlic (more than it says, of course) in olive oil non-stick spray. I added the water and chicken bouillon (Herb Ox) flavoring. Since I didn't have carrots I also added a can of diced tomatoes and its liquid. Once it was boiling, I added an 8.8 oz package of Aldi's cheese filled tortelloni (is that the same thing as tortellini?) with Porcini mushroom filling. I am not very familiar with using nutmeg in a savory dish, and I wasn't sure how it would work since I added the tomatoes. Instead I used dried parsley and dried Italian seasoning, which I added when I was simmering the broth.
(Yield about 6 servings, about 188 calories each- leftovers were excellent)

This was very good and I will probably making it again. I would like to add cabbage another time and use carrots as well. I'll have to decide whether I want to stick with the recipe's seasonings or use the Italian flavors. The soup was filling, but since there were fewer tortellini per serving than the original recipe called for, it comes in at fewer calories per serving (about 185). The nutrition facts on the package of tortelloni listed 2 servings at 400 calories each. Putting it in soup, where we could certainly taste and enjoy it with the other flavors, cut down on the calories per serving (and the cost per serving) significantly.

Soup season is coming to a close (though that doesn't really stop me from making it on days that aren't too hot) and I have been enjoying making some new recipes and some favorites. Soups make it easy to cut the calories and still be filled up with vegetable and beans and other good things. There's something good, comforting and filling about a bowl of soup.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Meals this week

In more or less random order:
1. Taco soup
2. Mini spinach quiche (quiches? what is the plural of quiche?)- cooked and ready to pull out of the fridge and reheat for a quick breakfast.
3. Tortellini soup with spinach
4. Store-bought frozen fried shrimp with Blooming Onion dipping sauce(?), sweet potatoes in some form or another, and asparagus.
5. Leftovers from some or all of the above to fill out lunches and dinners.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Microwave Potato Chips

I heard this mentioned on the radio the other week, and I finally got the chance to try it out today.

Wash and slice an unpeeled potato or two. They need to be sliced very thinly, so I think a mandoline may be the best way to go. That's what I used (at the middle thickness setting). It would be interesting to hear how well it would work with a thicker slice. Toss the potatoes with a couple teaspoons olive oil and a little salt. Spray a microwavable plate with cooking spray and arrange the slices in one layer. Microwave for about 2-3 minutes, or until some of the slices start to turn brown. Turn them all over and microwave for another 2-4 minutes, until they're starting to crisp up and brown a little. Check often and watch to be sure they don't burn. I burned a few, and they didn't look burnt just well browned. Transfer to another plate to cool. They will cool quickly and crisp up even more. Repeat until all the potatoes are done. Store in an airtight container (if you don't eat them all right away).

These aren't quite the same as store-bought potato chips, but they're also not nearly as bad for you. They have a nice crisp crunch to them, and yes, it's hard to stop eating them like it is with regular potato chips. I like them better than the store-bought "baked" potato chips. The process is a little time-consuming, but it was a fun experiment to try. I might do it again sometime if I want something crispy/crunchy and salty. I want to try it with sweet potatoes, too.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow/Simple Gifts

These guys are great!