Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chewy Fruit Smoothie

Now that the hottest days of summer are setting in, cold breakfasts taste even better than they have the rest of the year. As soon as spring hit, I started making these smoothies in my new Ninja, and if I go more than a day or two without one, I find myself craving it. They're perfect to throw together and bring to work and I can drink/eat it without rushing. I like them best with a straw, but you can eat them with a spoon like ice cream, too! The "chewy" part of the title comes from the addition of oats. I think it gives it an almost dough-like consistency that I just love. You can play with the flavors of your yogurt and fruit (or even your milk!) to get your best results. My favorite combo is Yoplait triple berry torte yogurt, Great Value frozen mixed fruit (pineapple, mango, strawberries, peaches), and skim milk. Use frozen fruit so you don't have to use ice--between not using ice and adding the oats, I don't think the smoothie is icy at all, which I appreciate. My smallest Ninja bowl filled to the top makes exactly enough for my insulated cups!

Chewy Fruit Smoothie

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup frozen fruit
6 oz yogurt
~1/4-1/3 cup milk

Put oats in bottom of Ninja, then add yogurt, then fruit, then milk. Process until well blended.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy 30th Anniversary to my parents (and buttercream icing recipe)

My parents celebrated 30 years of marriage on June 5, so we celebrated them with a family dinner. Norris smoked chicken breast, which was the best chicken I've ever eaten in my whole life (no was that good), my grandma brought a blueberry spinach salad with an excellent blueberry vinaigrette (will get the recipe from her!), my aunt brought macaroni and corn, and we rounded it out with garlic bread, soy glazed green beans, and wedding cake. I saw the idea for the cake decorating on Pinterest when searching for yellow cakes, and had to run with it. I think I got pretty close! (used Wilton #104 tip) We all loved the cake. We did the whole bit--the champagne toast and the cake feeding. Happy Anniversary to my lovely parents!

For the cake, I did three 8-inch layers with buttercream in between. I froze the layers, then leveled them, did a crumb coat, then a final coat, then used the tip and two slightly different shades of yellow for the decorating on the outside. It was my first time working with the #104 tip and it was fun to use!

Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter, room temperature
~4.5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (clear if you are making white icing)
1/2 tsp almond extract
~2-3 tbsp milk or cream

Mix butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Add flavoring and cream until you reach your desired consistency (I use a little thinner for the icing of the cake, then a little thicker when using decorating tips).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Cookies

Swimsuit season doesn't seem like the ideal time of year to make cookies, but the way I look at it, it's like portion controlled dessert since they're packaged into portions already!! :)
These were great--both the guys and the girls loved them. Perfect combination of sweet and salty, especially when you add in the chocolate chips. As with most other cookies, underbake these just a touch, then let them cool about a minute on the baking sheet to set up, then cool on a wire rack and you'll not only have the perfect taste combination, but you'll also have the perfect texture combination--chewy on the inside with the crunchy pretzel on the outside!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips
~8 cups mini pretzels, chopped

Cream butter, sugar, and peanut butter for about five minutes, until smooth and fluffy.
Add in eggs and stir until combined. Add in flour mixture and stir until combined.
Stir in peanuts and chocolate chips.
Place dough in refrigerator to chill for at least thirty minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Place chopped pretzels in a small bowl.
Make dough ball using small ice cream scoop. Place dough ball in pretzels and roll around, sticking the pretzels to the outside of the cookie. Place on lined/sprayed cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for about one minute, then finish cooling on cooling rack.

adapted from Rachael Ray

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Barley Salad

We kicked off summer with a trip to the lake. It was too windy to be out on the boat much, but it was fun and relaxing. We floated around in the lake since we couldn't be out on the boat, so it gave me my water fix for the weekend. My friend Allyson made a pasta salad with a little extra pesto she had around and chopped zucchini, and I was craving it when I got home. I had barley in the cabinet, which is a great grain, so decided to use her idea and make my own spin. This made a great light, refreshing summer lunch with a piece of fruit.

Barley Salad

1 cup pearled barley
2 cups water or chicken stock
grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
feta cheese, to taste
zucchini, quartered and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp prepared pesto
salt, pepper, and dried basil, to taste

Bring water/stock to a boil, add barley, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. Remove from heat (still covered) and let stand for about five minutes. Remove lid, fluff with fork, and set aside to cool.
Combine oil, vinegar, pesto, and seasonings. Pour over cooled barley. Mix in veggies and cheese. Chill before serving.

The "dog spot" at the lake. Bruno and Bear love this spot, and Norris and Deb tell me that their dogs growing up loved the same spot. In the shade, but with a view of the action!

Dear friends and college roommates at Stacy's wedding in Hays in May!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chocolate Class

Another soccer season and school year is over and summer has begun! I ate a lot of cheese quesadillas and sunflower seeds for dinner. With Norris coaching track at the same time, there were weeks where one of us was gone every night, so on Sundays it was pretty much a "see you Friday!" planning of our week.
The end of this school year was bittersweet. I am moving on to a new district next year. I have been teaching in 259 since I started, but am excited to move on to my new school. It's the same district Norris teaches in and I have a great department waiting for me there. I'll miss having my sister at the same school. It was fun having two of my closest friends in the building with me with her and another friend. I'll miss my department, also. I'll really miss a lot of my kids, especially my advocacy class. I've had them since they were freshmen and they just finished their junior year. I've watched them grow up a lot and have really enjoyed them. The day they left was the day the tears started flowing! However, I am certain I'm making the right move and am anxious to start the new journey.
Enough sap, on to the fun stuff. We had ProStart teacher training two days this week and one afternoon was spent at a local chocolate shop. The owner is a master chocolatier and was really knowledgeable about her stuff. It also helped that she's pretty funny and easy to be around! They had things set out for us to create our own chocolates and we had fun doing that. We made champagne truffles with sparkle sugar and chocolate truffles covered in ganache with colorful transfers on top. I definitely didn't perfect the process, but it was fun and I got a few good ones!
We also got to try the rarest chocolate in the world, Fortunado (top center...the only one that doesn't look like a piece of candy). It was so, soooooo good. I have no idea how much it costs and know that we can't get it from anywhere, so I'll just enjoy it while I have it. She told us that this is "what chocolate is supposed to taste like" and everybody else is just trying to get theirs to taste like this. It was awesome!