Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The World's Easiest Hot Chocolate

This also happens to be the best hot chocolate I've ever made!

Hot chocolate is another topic subject to wildly different opinions.  Most of us reach for the stuff in the packets from the grocery store when we want a cup.  What could be easier?  Tear off top of packet, pour in mug of hot water, and stir.

I have never liked packet hot chocolate made with water.  It is always missing something.  Before today, I would improve on the packets slightly by making it with hot milk instead of water.  I've tried it with regular milk and almond milk- both are pretty good.

But today I tried an idea I saw on Pinterest.  It was insanely easy, and I'll never make hot chocolate a different way again!

Most people I know keep a bag of chocolate chips hidden somewhere in their kitchens.  I keep my stash in the freezer.  My brand of choice is Ghirardelli.  Hershey chocolate chips are no longer good enough.  I know there are people who swear by Hershey's- for chocolate chips and cocoa powder.  But honestly, I've done a lot of baking, and I prefer Ghirardelli.  Its flavor is much more complex and deep.  

So are you ready to make the easiest hot chocolate ever?  

Grab a mug.  Throw a handful of chocolate chips in the bottom.  Fill the mug with milk (whatever kind on which you groove).  Nuke for 1 minute, 20 seconds.  Stir. If your chips aren't all the way melted yet, nuke about 15 seconds more.  Drink.  

Optional (but delicious) embellishments:  Nuke it the last 30 seconds or so with a marshmallow on the top.  After nuking it, add a shot or two of your favorite "adult beverage."   After topping it with a marshmallow, use your husband's acetylene torch to toast the marshmallow. I may nor may not have done all of these things to the same mug of hot chocolate.  :)



Breakfast- again!


Breakfast today was fairly simple.  I had my normal cup of tea (Earl Grey), scrambled eggs, cinnamon raisin toast, and a piece of bacon.

Scrambled eggs can be a surprisingly complicated affair.  There are wildly different ways of making them- from very simple to extremely complex (using double boilers and such).  I find that people are usually in one of two camps.  Some people are dry scrambled egg people.  I think these people don't particularly love eggs, but they feel obligated by breakfast culture to eat them.  Then there are moist scrambled egg people.  I am one of these.  I love eggs.  Apart from raw, I can't think of any preparation of eggs I won't eat.  I tend to like my eggs custardy and moist, with soft curds.

Then there's the whole other argument about salting the eggs before or after cooking.  I season mine before I cook them.  I usually add a dash of salt and sriracha.  Some people swear that you shouldn't salt the eggs until after they cook because it impacts their texture.  I've tried it both ways but I don't see a huge difference.

Lastly, people like to argue about whether or not you should add any additional liquid to the eggs before you scramble them.  I've been all over the map on this one.  I used to add a splash of milk or cream as I beat the eggs.  Then I forewent the milk in favor of a splash of water.  Again, I didn't see much of a difference between the two.  Now I don't add any extra liquid- I just whip the eggs with whatever seasoning I'm using.  For now, this works for me.  

If you can think of some other variation on the themes offered above, I would love to hear them!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Youtubers



This is one of my favorite youtube channels.  This guy is a principal at a school in Lexington, KY.  He makes these videos around his school, or in his car.  He brings to light many of the odd situations teachers find themselves in everyday.  And I think he jokingly pokes fun at the us against them attitude between teachers and administrators.

This video is particularly funny to me because we had to do a new battery of assessments right before we got out for Winter Break last week.  It's like he knows...

Winter Salsa Recipe


Can you tell I was in the mood to play with my iPhone camera today?

Homemade salsa is so much better than the stuff in the jar at the store.  I learned a long time ago that salsa is easy to make, and if you make it yourself, you can control what goes in it.  Not to mention you have complete control over the heat level.

In the spring and early fall, when I have fresh garden tomatoes and jalapenos, I like to make salsa with them.  It just tastes better.  But in the winter, I change up my recipe and use canned tomatoes and jarred chipotle peppers.  I love the smoky flavor and the heat!

Here's what I used today to put together a batch:

This isn't everything, but it's the things I switch out between seasons.  Here's the complete list...

1 can diced tomatoes
1 handful fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon of chipotle
one little hunk cut off a white onion
1 teaspoon of aleppo pepper
salt
pinch of sugar

Throw everything in the blender and blitz.  That's it.  Taste it and make sure it doesn't need more salt or lime.

Cheesy-Gritty Breakfast


I love cooking breakfast.  Actually, I love cooking breakfast on the weekends when time is not a factor.  I hate making breakfast during the week.  Cooking is one of those areas where I don't respond well to time pressure.

This particular breakfast was a shining example of what I like to eat- layers of yummy things all piled on top of each other, then mixed up and devoured.

Here's the rundown of the dish...

First I made a batch of garlic cheese grits.  I use chicken broth as the liquid, and I add a clove of whole garlic (which I fish out before adding the grits).  When the grits are creamy and smooth, I stir in as much cheddar as I feel like grating.  On this morning, I was energetic and added A LOT of cheese.  This is the bottom layer of the bowl.

I fried an over easy egg and perched it on top of the grits.

I diced and seasoned a Roma tomato and sliced half an avocado.  Lastly, I sprinkled a crumbled piece of bacon over the whole thing.  Oh- and I didn't douse it with sriracha until after I took the picture.

Voila!  Breakfast!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Nachos- a Perspective


My nacho-universe has been forever altered.  I'm not even kidding.

I love nachos.  I mean I REALLY love nachos.  When I am left alone at mealtime unsupervised, most of the time, I'm making nachos for whatever meal it is.  I have managed to make them for breakfast, dinner, and supper.

Under normal circumstances, I make my nachos in the microwave.  The idea behind nachos (at least for me) has always been quick deliciousness.  The least amount of time possible to go from hungry to salty, cheesy, crunchy nacho paradise.

But one night last week I had an epiphany.  I was craving nachos (not unusual).  I had plenty of time.  Then I thought about restaurant nachos.  Not Taco Bell nachos.  Even I don't particularly like those.  I was thinking about really good nachos from a Mexican restaurant.  I love the slightly browned exposed chips and the extra sear on the toppings.

So I did something I've never done before.  I made my nachos on a parchment-covered sheet pan in the oven.  I even found a cute small pan for just that purpose.  I think it's a quarter-sheet pan.

I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, then piled some chips on the pan, then covered them with a ton of sharp cheddar cheese.  For toppings this time out I went with sliced mushrooms, diced roma tomatoes, some chopped scallions, and enchilada sauce.  I put them in the oven for about 10 minutes.  While they were still piping hot, I added some sriracha aioli I made, some diced avocado, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

This was a revelation.  I don't think I'll ever use the microwave to make nachos again.  The difference is staggering!  The slightly browned chips have a deeper flavor.  The toppings are cooked through and warm.  The cheese is gooey.  I could go on forever.

This is a game-changer.  Go make yourself some nachos in the oven right now!

Christmas 2016


This is the one thing I know I won't be getting for Christmas- in spite of its obvious awesomeness.  I saw an ad for the Sushi Bazooka a couple of months back and was completely captivated.  Take a look for yourself!



How awesome is that!

But my husband has put his foot down and absolutely refused to buy one for me.  I know that I'm an independent woman and can go out and buy my own... but he is seriously anti-sushi bazooka!  His argument is that it's cheating.  With a little more practice we can make much better, more authentic sushi.

My argument in favor of it is that sometimes you don't want to work that hard, but you still want sushi.  It's cheaper to make at home, and you can use your creativity and make up new rolls (buffalo chicken, perhaps?).

Hopefully over the winter break I'll have time to make some sushi at home, even it is without the sushi bazooka.  :(

Gorgonzola Walnut Scones

These turned out to be amazing!  I pinned this recipe months ago, waiting for an opportunity to play with the ingredients.

A few months back, I posted about my efforts to eat down the contents of my pantry.  I pinned this recipe because I thought it might be a good candidate for some flour swapping.  Turns out I was right!

I used this recipe, with one major alteration.  It calls for 3 cups of all-purpose flour.  I substituted one cup of the AP flour for buckwheat flour.  As a result, while I was making the dough, I had to add a tad bit more milk to get it to come together.  The other detour I made from the original recipe was to slather the individual scones in melted butter before they hit the oven.  Very good call.

I felt like this recipe would benefit from the buckwheat flour because of the strong flavor of the gorgonzola cheese.  Buckwheat flour has a fairly assertive flavor profile that can overwhelm other ingredients in a recipe.  It would take quite a bit to overwhelm the flavor of bleu cheese, so I figured it would work well.

The resulting scones were crispy on the outside and soft and buttery on the inside.  The buckwheat flour plays very nicely with the walnuts and the bleu cheese.

When they came out of the oven, I added a bit more butter to the one I immediately ate.  Oh- and I also drizzled it with some honey.  So good!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Using Teacher Read Alouds with Middle School Kids

I teach a combined 5/6th-grade Literacy class for English Language Learners.  It's a small class (which is a blessing after many years of large classes)- so I kind of treat it like a lab.  I find it much easier to try new things with 10, than with 30.

Because all of my kids are language learners, we spend time every single day reading and writing.  They respond very well to mentor texts, so we use them all the time.  On the weekends, I usually read as many education blogs as I can, looking for ideas and strategies to use.

I use low-level picture books in my classroom almost every day.  If I can find books to match either a concept we're learning or a vocabulary word, it's a big bonus.  We've been talking about perspective quite a bit lately, so I found this book...


They All Saw A Cat, by Brendan Wenzel has beautiful illustrations, all showing what the cat looks like from the perspective of other animals and people.  The best part about using books like this is that language isn't a stumbling block because the text is minimal.  They infer most of the information based on pictures.

The first few times I used picture books in my classroom, I was concerned the kids might think the books were too babyish.  Luckily, that hasn't been the case.  They love being read to, and I love reading out loud.  Bonus!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Knitting Season

'Tis the time of year when all knitters and crocheters begin to panic about all the gifts they need to make between now and Christmas. 

I finally finished 3 gifts for friends who've had babies recently. Now- I'm ready to get serious with my holiday projects!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pantry Purge Series #2- potato salad

So after eating lunch from the new food truck in town (I know, I know- but it's new and I had to try it).  I had a leftover tea smoked egg.  Plus I knew I had some Sir Kensington's Avocado Mayo left in the ice box from this morning's egg sandwich.

What does one do with eggs and mayo?  One makes egg salad or potato salad.  I chose potato.  I tossed a cooked, chopped potato with the avocado mayo and some pickle relish.  Is it the best potato salad I've ever made? No.  Did it clean up an egg and some mayo from my pantry? Yes. 

This is possibly the worst food photo of all time.  If there are razzy awards for food photography, this photo should be nominated.  But it's all I have, so it will have to do.

Pantry Purge Series #1- Breakfast

After making the big announcement that I'd be eating out of my pantry and freezer yesterday, I think posted from the restaurant Will and I went to last night.  Oops.  I pointed out to my commenters that I had taken Will out for his birthday, so it shouldn't count.  :)
So I began the project in earnest this morning.  When contemplating the options for breakfast, I decided to fit in as many little bottles and jars of stuff as I could.

Breakfast was to be scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and cantaloupe.  Additionally, I always have a cup of hot tea.


So the granulated coconut nectar was the sweetener in my cup of English Breakfast Tea this morning. The Sir Kensington's Avocado Mayonnaise went on my fried egg sandwich (which gets bonus points because I also incorporated a hamburger bun from the freezer.

All in all, I feel it was a successful first venture.  Now I'm pondering lunch strategies...

The Great 2016 Pantry/Freezer Eat Down!

This idea actually began as a Facebook post on my page.  My steadfast and much-loved husband, William, is constantly "reminding" me what a wreck our pantry and freezer are.  So I decided to tackle this problem.

The following is the Facebook post that started it all...

My pantry is out of control.  Seriously, it's getting to be a problem.  The reason is not a mystery.  I love to try new things, therefore, I have subscribed to 2 different "Box of the Month" clubs.  One is called "Hatch."  It delivers, right to my door, every month, a fun little box of trial-sized condiments.  I love it when I come home and find the box on the doorstep.  But I don't love what my pantry and cabinets look like, filled with tiny little bottles and jars because I don't use the stuff fast enough.  The other is called "Try the World."  Every other month I receive a bigger box, full of yummy things from a selected country.  Last month was Brazil, not surprisingly.  And while I love this box as well, I have the same problem- zillions of little jars and boxes.  

So I have committed to eating out of my pantry until it is under control.  This is going to mean eating some rather exotic meal combinations, but I'm down with it.  The hubster- maybe not.

My next immediate problem... How to combine ramen-type noodles and quince paste into a palatable lunch... Hmmmm...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Summer 2016

It's hard to believe the school year is over!  I had a great year with my kids, but I'm thrilled to get some time for personal maintenance. 

Will ran the Vail Valor Half Marathon this morning in Vail, CO. Tomorrow our annual tech trainings begin. I will make an effort to be better at updating this space with our adventures this summer!

Guess I better go make some supper!
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