Monthly Archives: August 2009

Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Ziti, & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Skillet Chicken with Broccoli, Ziti, & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Matt and I are still going strong on our cooking adventure.  I have lots of great recipes to share, so here goes nothing with the first one!

This recipe is a pasta dish and whoever is responsible for washing the dishes in your house will love it because it only dirties one skillet!

Ingredients
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch squares
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or olive oil)
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces ziti or penne
2 3/4 cups water
1 2/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces broccoli florets (i used frozen)
1/4 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed & chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Instructions

1.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken in a single layer and cook for 1 minute without stirring. Stir the chicken and continue to cook until most, but not all, of the pink color has disappeared and the chicken is lightly browned around the edges, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.

2.  Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet. Return the skillet to medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Add the ziti or penne, 2 cups of the water, and the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is very thick and syrupy and almost completely absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.

4.  Add the broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and the remaining 3/4 cup water. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the broccoli turns bright green and is almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

5.  Uncover and return the heat to high. Stir in the cream, Asiago, and reserved chicken with any accumulated juices and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is cooked and heated through.  Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more Asiago cheese if desired.

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I didn’t add as much broccoli as the recipe calls for because Matt doesn’t like it, but this made probably 3-4 servings.  It was delish!

***Recipe courtesy of www.cooksillustrated.com***

1st Week of School

1st Week of School

Well school is officially back in session.  The first week back wasn’t too bad, just very exhausting.  Its hard to get back in the habit of waking up at 5 AM, working all day, cooking dinner, and staying on top of all of my “chores”.  So far, it seems like a pretty good group of kids.  My classes are huge and I’m hoping some leveling takes place next week, but I’m not holding my breath on that.  I don’t have enough desks in my room, so I have kids sitting at a table and in one class, I even have one sitting at my desk!  Last year was rough because I basically had all special ed classes, which isn’t bad, its just ALOT of work.  This year, I have one class of seniors, one honors class, and three regular/on-level classes and only a few kids in those classes have modifications.  It seems like the hardest thing for me to get used to this year is the fact that a health teacher floats into my room during my conference period, so I have to leave and go to the work room for that period.  It just makes it really hard for me to jump back into class the next period ready to go when I haven’t been in my classroom.  Hopefully that will get easier as the year goes on.  Thankfully the class I come back to is my honors class, so they are pretty “go with the flow”, even if I am off my game for a few minutes.

After getting up so early all week long, it was definitely nice for Saturday to finally get here.  I got to sleep late and I finally feel like I’m all caught up on sleep and now I can have a productive weekend to catch up on all of my chores.

Here are some pictures of my classroom this year:

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So there’s the cave that I will spend the next 9 months of my life in!

I’m Not Ready…

I’m Not Ready…

Well…my last weekend of freedom is officially over :(.  I go back to work tomorrow with a full week of inservice and the kids will come next Monday…and no…I’m not ready.  After looking at the schedule for the week it doesn’t look like it will be overly horrible…with the exception of Thursday…district-wide curriculum day is never good.  A few positives about the week – casual dress!, lunch on your own (I don’t like having to eat at the school), & a decent amount of “work in your room time”.

For my last weekend of summer, Matt and I got the yard all cleaned up Saturday morning and then took off to do some clothes shopping.  We both needed some new work clothes, but unfortunately Matt did better than I did.  We ended up finding him a few new dress shirts, a tie, and a new pair of slacks.  I got a black dress that will be good for work with a jacket or sweater over it and then I got a couple of new tops.  I also found some new jeans, but need to order them in a shorter length that can only be found online.  I also got a new pair of Nine West shoes on sale for about $30!  I didn’t do great on our shopping adventure, but as much as I like to shop I’m sure I will be able to find plenty of clothes for school this year.  After our big shopping adventure we joined some of my cousins for a night out with dinner at the always delicious Chuy’s and then a movie.  It was a great Saturday, but it made for a tired Sunday.  After church and lunch we took afternoon naps and then made our menu for the week and went grocery shopping.  It is so much easier to shop with a detailed list and a menu in mind.

I’m starting a Ladies’ Bible Study tomorrow night and I’m really excited about it.  We are doing the new Beth Moore study on Esther…I picked up the book at church this morning and it looks like it will be really good.  It will make my Mondays seem really long since its in the evenings, but thats ok.  I’m ready to really get to know more of the ladies in our class at church and I’ve always heard good things about the Beth Moore studies.

We did really good last week with our quest to eat at home more.  We really enjoy cooking and we enjoy cooking together…its much more fulfilling than just eating out together.  I will let you know how this week’s menu turns out.  But tonight I’ll leave you with one of our favorite new recipes, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with an orange, sage, & garlic wet rub.

This recipe calls for the pork to brine in a mixture of cold water, sugar, and salt.  This will ensure that your pork remains moist throughout the grilling process.  After cooking pork without brining and now with brining…I HIGHLY recommend taking the time to let the pork brine…it makes a HUGE difference.

Ingredients:
For the brine:
1 1/2 tablespoons table salt
3/4 cup sugar
4 cups cold water
1 pork tenderloin
For the wet rub:
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon grated zest from 1 orange
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon orange marmalade (substitute honey if you don’t have orange marmalade)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Dissolve the salt and sugar in 4 cups of cold water in a medium bowl.  Add the tenderloin, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, & refrigerate about 1 hour.  Remove the tenderloin from the brine, rinse well, & dry thoroughly with paper towels.  Set aside.
  2. Mix all ingredients for the wet rub together in a small bowl.  Coat the tenderloin with the rub (I used a plastic basting brush which worked well).
  3. Cook the tenderloin uncovered  (if using a charcoal grill, lid down if using a gas grill) until brown on all 4 sides, about 2 1/2 – 3 minutes per side.  Move tenderloin to cooler part of grill cover, turning once, until meat reads 145 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
  4. Transfer tenderloin to carving board, cover with foil, & let rest about 5 minutes.  Slice into 1 inch thick pieces and serve.

I served this pork tenderloin with roasted red potatoes.  Cut red potatoes into quarters, toss with olive oil, salt, & pepper.  Spray a roasting pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking.  Arrange potatoes flesh side down on the pan and roast in a 325 degree oven for 20 minutes, covered with foil.  After 20 minutes remove foil, flip potatoes to roast the other side and continue cooking 10 minutes more, or until tender.  Enjoy!

Have a good week, ya’ll!

Crunchy Oven Fried Fish

Crunchy Oven Fried Fish

Matt and I have been on a quest to start eating at home more regularly.  We had gotten into a horrible habit of eating out or grabbing fast food almost every single night of the week and not only was it getting expensive, we knew that it was very unhealthy.  We joined an online cookbook and have access to thousands of different recipes from every cuisine imaginable.  We have cooked at home every night since Sunday and five of those recipes were brand new…and quite tasty I might add!

Tonight’s recipe was for a crunchy oven fried fish with homemade bread crumbs.

Ingredients:
4 slices white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
table salt & ground pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 small shallot minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup plus 5 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (optional)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/4 pounds skinless cod fillet (or other thick white fillet of fish) cut into 4 four pieces
Lemon Wedges

Instructions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread, melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in food processor until bread is coarsely ground, eight 1-second pulses (you should have about 3 1/2 cups crumbs). Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and bake until deep golden brown and dry, about 15 minutes, stirring twice during baking time. Cool crumbs to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Transfer crumbs to pie plate; toss with parsley and shallot. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.
  2. Place 1/4 cup flour in second pie plate. In third pie plate, whisk eggs, horseradish (if using), mayonnaise, paprika, cayenne pepper (if using), and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper until combined; whisk in remaining 5 tablespoons flour until smooth.
  3. Spray wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and place in rimmed baking sheet. Dry fish thoroughly with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Dredge 1 fillet in flour; shake off excess. Using hands, coat with egg mixture. Coat all sides of fillet with bread crumb mixture, pressing gently so that thick layer of crumbs adheres to fish. Transfer breaded fish to wire rack. Repeat with remaining 3 fillets.
  4. Bake fish until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of fillets registers 140 degrees, 18 to 25 minutes. Using thin spatula, transfer fillets to individual plates and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

***Recipe courtesy of www.cooksillustrated.com***

We really enjoyed this dish.  I served it with a long grain wild rice and green beans.  After trying several new recipes this week Matt and I have decided to become recipe testers for Cooks Illustrated.  Basically what happens is they email a recipe to us, we cook it, then let them know what we think and what should be changed.  If it turns out good, it has a chance to be featured in one of their cookbooks.  We’re excited!  I’ll share more of our recipes from this week over the next few days.

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3 Years Ago…

3 Years Ago…

Three years ago, Matt and I took one last weekend trip before school started.  We packed up and headed to San Antonio for the night and enjoyed walking along the Riverwalk, eating tons of great food, and seeing lots of historic Texas sights.  This was a really special weekend to us because Matt had returned from a 6 week trip to Australia just a few weeks before and it was nice to be together again, just the two of us.  It was a very quick trip, but I was starting school on Monday and had to get ready for my first year as a teacher.

Now…let me back track…  Matt and I had been talking about getting married for quite some time up to this point.  I had always told him that I wanted to be surprised…like totally and completely shocked…but I didn’t think he would be able to pull off a total surprise.  He kept telling me it was going to be a while because he had other stuff that needed to be done before he could buy a ring and such…I totally bought his lies.  He even used various excuses that were totally believable to travel to Houston to pick out the ring and travel to ask my dad for permission to marry me.  Little did I know, I was in for a huge surprise when we got home from our trip.

Ok…back to the trip.  For some reason, I was expecting him to propose in San Antonio…somewhere along the Riverwalk, all nice and romantic.  Well our trip came to an end and there was no ring in sight.  I’ll admit, I did a little bit of sulking on the way home.  I had also always told him to make sure I looked cute when he proposed.  I didn’t want to be wearing grungy shorts and a t-shirt or my pajamas.  I was sulking and uncomfortable in the car on the way and everytime I mentioned getting in the back to change shirts, he stopped me.  This turned my sulking into pure annoyance.

We finally made it back to College Station and to my apartment.  I got my stuff out of the back seat and was waiting for him behind the car and was annoyed that he was taking so long to get something out of the back seat.  “What could he possibly need?  I have all of my stuff…”  We finally start up the steps all the way to the 3rd floor and he unlocks the door.  When the door opens…all I could see were candles…everywhere…and rose petals…everywhere…  I froze outside the door.  I just knew we had opened the door to the wrong apartment and I wouldn’t walk inside.  He finally pushed me inside and I think at this point my mouth was hanging open and I was shaking all over.  I dropped my stuff in the stuff and turned around to see him down on one knee.  He said a whole bunch of really sweet stuff to me…but I was so shocked that I don’t even remember any of it…asked me to marry him…of course I said YES…and then he slipped the most beautiful ring on my finger.

Apparently he had made a copy of my apartment key and given it and very explicit instructions to some girls we went to church with on how to set everything up.  He even called them when we stopped for a bathroom break about 30 minutes from home.  He was so very sneaky!  The girls were even hiding in my bathroom when we got home and they finally came out to take pictures for us.  It was such a great night!

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First Family Fun!

First Family Fun!

I’m a  little late posting this, but whatever…I’ve been busy…doing nothing & enjoying my summer!  For our July First Family (small group) meeting, we got everybody together and went bowling and out to dinner.  A few of us…okay, most of us were pretty hesitant about going bowling because it had been so long since we last bowled and we all thought we would be really bad, but we went anyway and ended up having a blast!  Of course it turned into a guys vs. gals competition, and the guys beat us, but us gals really came out to play and gave them a run for their money!

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group watching

After the bowling adventure, we ventured out to Lupe Tortilla’s for some delicious fajitas and great company.  We sat just eating and chatting for couple of hours and really had a lot of fun!  Can’t wait until our next night out!

***Thanks again to our official First Family Photographer, Aja.  I “borrowed” these pictures from her blog!***

One Year Later…

One Year Later…

It has officially been one full year since Matt and I moved into our house in Katy!  It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here for a whole year.  We are still loving our house, but unfortunately the to-do list to make it perfect (if such a thing actually exists) hasn’t gotten much shorter.  Other than buying a few pieces of furniture and curtains here and there, we haven’t had to do much to the inside of the house.  We would love new living room furniture and a new kitchen table and of course a desk and bookshelves for the office and maybe a chair for our bedroom and maybe some stuff for the walls in our bedroom and maybe…I could go on and on…but I just keep reminding myself that none of that stuff really matters.  We have a happy, healthy little family with everything we need, plus some, who cares that my furniture isn’t perfect.

Probably the most work we have done on the house has been in the garage with a huge shelving unit and hooks on the walls for all of our junk, plus we planted trees in the backyard during the spring.  We have also spent lots of time and money trying to bring our yard and trees back to health since the people we bought the house from obviously didn’t even understand the basics…such as…operating a sprinkler!  The backyard still needs work and landscaping, but its too darn hot, so that will have to wait until the spring.

We still love being homeowners and living in a neighborhood.  We still make comments about much better life is in a house than it was when we were living in apartments…especially on days like today when we brought groceries home and it was absolutely pouring…so nice to pull into a garage and not get wet!

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Good ‘ol Bailey

Good ‘ol Bailey

This probably wasn’t quite as difficult as threading a camel through the eye of a needle, but it was likely in the neighborhood. I came home this evening to find Bailey loose in the laundry room instead of comfortably in her kennel. Either through an accident or Bailey’s sneaky skills, the small, food bowl sized door on her kennel was opened.

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Made it through this tiny door….ridiculous.  I just wonder how long it took. DSCN0945