Thursday, May 28, 2009

World's best meatballs

Our dinner last night was so good that I just have to share it with you. Both recipes are from my new favorite cookbook Food to Live By by Myra Goodman, owner and founder of Earthbound Farm. The meatballs were absolutely divine. They would be delicious sliced and made into a sandwich with marinara sauce. We also added some thin slices of fresh mozzarella on the side, as suggested in the cookbook. Mmmmmm. I had this for lunch again today!

Farm Stand Meatballs

This recipe makes about 20 two inch meatballs. I halved it for us.

Olive oil for greasing the foil
3 large eggs
1/2 c. whole milk
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (It is so wonderfully worth it to use fresh basil! This is my new favorite thing!!!) or 2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese (I used the shredded kind that comes in a jar by Kraft. It's my best kept cooking secret:)
1 c. unseasoned dry bread crumbs (I crushed those Flips pretzel/crackers because it's what I had on hand, and it turned out great.)
1 pound lean ground beef (Because I halved the recipe, I just used 1 lb. beef)
1 pound ground pork

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup. Lightly oil the foil or paper liner. Set the baking sheet aside.

2. Place the eggs, milk, garlic, oregano, basil, thyme, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the cheese and bread crumbs and stir to mix.

3. Using your hands, break the beef and pork into small chunks and add them to the bowl. Blend the mixture with your hands until just combined, working the mixture as little as possible.

4. Gently form the meat mixture into 2-inch mematballs and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet so they do not touch each other.

5. Bake the meatballs until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the center of each one reads 160 degrees F, 25 to 30 minutes.

6. If you are not planning on serving the meatballs at this time, let them cool to room temperature. They can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze the cooked meatballs, place them on a tray in a single layer in the freezer. Once they are frozen solid, transfer the meatballs to an airtight container or freezer bag. Because they are individually frozen, you can take out just the number you need. Let the meatballs thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Basil

I also halved this recipe for us, and also added a chopped yellow squash. I could not find truffle oil, but I'm curious how it would enhance the flavor.

Serves 8 as a first course or 4 as a main course.

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes (about 2 c. cut into 1/2-inch dice) or 2 c. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. truffle oil, or 1 additional Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
1 pound dried spaghetti
2 medium-sized zucchini (about 8 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 1/2 c.)
1 large clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, the truffle oil, basil, parsley, and pepper flakes in a medium-size bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Let the tomato mixture sit at room temperature until the flavor develops, about 1 hour.*

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-low heat. Add the zucchini and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Season the zucchini with black pepper to taste.

4. Drain the spaghetti into a colander and transfer it to a large bowl. Add the tomato and zucchini mixtures to the spaghetti and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper, if needed. Serve the spaghetti warm or at room temperature.

*Note: If you're making these two dishes together, I recommend doing step one of the spaghetti recipe first so it can begin to marinate.

Lake murray, oklahoma

We ventured to Lake Murray, Oklahoma last weekend despite the rainy Memorial weekend forecast. Even with all the drama that ensued, I'm really glad we went! It feels like we were on vacation for days, rather than just two days and one night.

We left last Saturday morning. We met Erin, Paris, and Adeline Hollis - or the Toads as we lovingly refer to them- in the ENJJPT parking lot to combine or two cars' worth of camping gear into the jeep and boat. The drive to Lake Murray was under two hours and very pretty. Oklahoma is much greener and more pleasant overall than Texas, at least to me.

When we arrived at the campground, we looked around for a good (i.e. open) campsite. It was of course crowded with visitors, but we managed to find a site after all and even a parking place. We set up camp, put on swimsuits, launched the boat, and floated away in paradise.

The water was actually blue!! Okay, I know this is not as unique to many of you. Now that we are living in Texas though, a blue lake is like a diamond in the rough! This is Erin and little Adeline, also known as Buggy, out on the tube.

Several hours later, when our need for food had won over our need for watery sunshine, we headed back to land for brats on the grill. No sooner had we changed clothes and put charcoal in the grill, did the park host come over to inform us we had to move. (What?! Are you serious? Now? It's like 7:30. We've been here since noon!) Actually, some words might have been much more R rated than that.

Little to our knowledge (since there were tents all around us) we were in an RV only section of the campground. They pointed out a small sign behind the leaves of a tree indicating this fact. The RVers next to us had complained that we were on their turf. Apparently the tents around us were with the RVs, which was allowed. Angry and annoyed, but trying to make the best of it, we searched for a new site. We literally lifted up our tents from the ground and carried them around looking for a new site. About an hour later we found a site and transferred our gear there.

Oklahoma does camping a little bit differently than everywhere else. There are no boundaries to the campsites or designated number of them. You simply pay a fee and pop a squat wherever in the campground. You can take up as much or as little space as you choose. It looks like 500 people sitting around with campers and tents in a big field next to a lake.

In the middle of resetting our tents, a downpour began. We managed to get everything covered, the baby out of the rain, and begin cooking our dinner in the rain. By the time we were ready to eat, the rain had stopped. We ended up with a nice night, under a very starry and beautiful sky.

The next day was another beautiful one, and we headed out on the lake early. The water was glassy and smooth. Matt, Toad, and myself all skiied. It was so much fun! I had forgotten how much I enjoy water skiing. (I'm indebited to Mike and Matt's patience in teaching me how!) I'm glad we got out early, too, because the water was really rough the rest of the day because of the number of boats out on the lake. That did make for perfect tubing though. We each took a turn at that, including little Adeline. We were so sore the next day from holding on tightly through all those big waves and choppy water.

Here is Erin, Gunner, Adeline, and Toad (Paris) in the water.

Not too long after this, we spotted a storm coming in quickly, and decided it was time to head back. The only problem was we had to drive through the storm to get to the boat launch. It was exhilarating and a bit like those painful camp showers when we were kids (the ones that felt like pins and needles on your back). Thankfully there was no lightning, and we made it back safely. Even Adeline was fine; what an easy-going baby! Soaking wet again, we took down camp, packed up, and headed home. Another memorable Memorial weekend, and what a great time!

P.S. Just in case you wanted to know, Matt pins on Captain next week! There's no hoop-lah or anything that comes with this promotion. It is the last of his automatic promotions though. The next ones he'll have to seriously earn, which means we might even have some hoop-lah! :)

If you'll recall, Matt was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant after he graduated college. Two years later he automatically became a First Lieutenant. Now, another two years later, he is promoted to Captain. Apparently, people are usually Captains for quite a while (like 6 or 7 years I think), after which you have the opportunity to become a Major and move on up the chain of command. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Licensed to teach

My teaching certificate came in the mail last Friday!!! I'm officially a teacher (!!!!!!), and though still unemployed, the entire state of Texas authorizes me to manage and instruct a classroom of twenty-some students!!

I'm really glad I decided to get certified. A year ago I wasn't sure if all of this was going to work out. I had just tried my hand at Western Governors University, which didn't work out for several reasons. I had also just applied to the Region 4 program and been rejected. They required some core classes and werent't going to accept my honors version of them because the classes didn't look how they wanted on my transcript. I thought maybe I wasn't supposed to do this after all. I tried again though, and got the Honors Program at CSU to write a letter about why my classes should cover the prerequisites, and I got in!

Thanks for your support everybody! I especially thank Matt though. He's the one that basically said, "Sure, quit your perfectly good job so you can work 40 hours a week unpaid, and then try your hand at finding a new job all while not bringing in any income." He didn't say that though. He just said, if this is what you want and need to do, then I want you to do it, too. But do it right and put all you've got into it.

Field day

I was invited back to Sheppard AFB Elementary to help chaperon Field Day last week. It was a lot of fun for me, but especially for the kids. There were events set up all over the front schoolyard. They dribbled a basketball down a lane and back to the start. They did a hula hoop relay race. They ran kindergartner-sized hurdles even! There was a lot going on and tons of ribbons given out at each event. Each child got a place ribbon for every event they completed. The kids even had matching camouflage bucket hats and lanyards to hold their mini water bottles around their necks. I didn't have my camera with me during the events, but here are some photos afterwards in the classroom.









Table 5: from the left, Kaden, Mariah, Ho-yeon, Trenton, and Anthony.

Ethan and more strange eye faces.

Table 4: from left, David, Charlie, and Gordy.

Table 3: from left, Alyssa, Ethan, Samantha, Jayden, and Miguel.

Table 1: majorly goofing off while I am taking pictures and Mrs. Cannaday is down the hall, from left, Antonia, David, and Tielique.

Table 2: from left, Matthew, Christopher, and Cherokee.

Mrs. Cannaday. No, she's not wearing a white t-shirt, but she had been out fishing the day before and has very fair skin. She got a bad sunburn, but caught several fish!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dinner and a smoothie

Tandoori turkey kebabs

I really liked this recipe, and -actually- so did Matt. Don't be scared away by the purple-ish rice. The sweet, fruity flavor of the rice is actually a perfect complement to the curry-like spice of the turkey. This recipe is from Women's Health magazine.

1 c. nonfat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. garam masala (an Indian spice mix found in the ethnic food aisle of "most" grocery stores*)
1 lb. turkey tenderloin, cut into 2 inch pieces
3/4 c. dry whole wheat couscous**
1/3 c. dried fruit mix, chopped (any variety)
2 tsp. chopped garlic (jarred)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1. Soak 8 wooden skewers in a bowl of water and set aside. Spray grill grates with cooking spray and preheat grill.***
2. In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, garam masala, garlic, ginger, and salt to taste. Add turkey and marinate at least 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare couscous according to package instructions, adding dried fruit during cooking.
4. Slide turkey onto skewers. Place kebabs on hot grill and cook, turning frequently, until turkey is cooked through (10 to 12 minutes).
5. Place 1/2 cup couscous onto each of four plates. Top each with 2 kebabs.

Makes 4 servings, per serving: 247 cal, 6 g fat (1.2 g sat), 34 g carbs, 259 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 17 g protein.
Prep time: 15 min / Cook time: 12 min

Notes: *The garam masala was not at my usual grocery store, which carries a lot of unique things. If you're looking to do this recipe in WF, by chance, stop by International Grocers located next to Little Caesars Pizza on Fairway and Southwest Pky.
**I used the same amount of instant brown rice.
***Our grill is out of order, so I cooked the turkey on the stove in a cast iron skillet. It came out really well, however, a lot of water comes out from the yogurt, so you have to drain the water from the pan a couple times to allow the turkey to "grill" instead of boil.

Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie!

This smoothie was very good and one of my favorite ingredient combinations!

1 6 oz. container vanilla yogurt
1 6 oz. container chocolate yogurt (I used Stonyfield Farm Chocolate Underground, which has a very rich chocolatey-cocoa flavor)
3-4 Tbsp. natural peanut butter
3-4 Tbsp. nutella
4 ripe bananas (for a less banana-y flavor, use less...I just needed to get rid of these bananas)
1 c. or so skim milk
2-3 c. ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix as desired! This makes about 5 c. of smoothie.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Natural movement 101

Yesterday I visited Kiwanis Park for an interval run. Since I hadn't run there before, I didn't know there weren't any trails. There was, however, a large open grassy field. I set about running through the field, ran all the way around, turned around and ran back in the direction I had come. I was getting kind of bored though, which reminded me of this statement from the Men's Health article about MovNat:

"'You never see your dog running nonstop around and around in a circle for an hour,' he points out. 'If he did, you'd think there was something wrong with him. Instead, he'll chase something, roll around, sprint, rest, mix things up. Animal play has a purpose and it's not hard to surmise that human play should as well.' 'Most people see exercise as punishment for being fat,' adds Saxby."

As I came up again to the edge of the park along the main road, I saw again all these large rocks, kinda like this and started climbing up on them.

Okay, just kidding, this was actually an attempt to climb a huge rock on a trail near Monument, Colorado when hiking with Beth a while back, but I did not succeed in getting to the top of this one!

The rocks were actually more like this.

Well, okay, they were about the size of the big ones in this picture, about 20 yards or so apart. Just take the mountains, trees, and water out of the picture and you'll have a fairly accurate perception of what it really looked like:)

So there I was jumping up on rocks, scurrying under the trees that left about a four foot ceiling above them, and bounding off. I kept running between these big rocks over and over back and forth across the edge of this park. It was glorious!! And so much fun!! I didn't do the run to the full length I had intended. I was supposed to be doing five minute long intervals, but two or three minutes of this was enough to leave you panting on the sideline.

I couldn't help but look at the cars driving along the side of the road and think they were wondering what the heck I was doing. Truly, they probably didn't even notice, but if they did, maybe they thought it looked like fun, too!

So this was my first official do-it-yourself MovNat course. The basic concept behind the MovNat philosophy is that our movement should involve: the combined training of walking, running, jumping, balancing, moving on all fours, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, swimming and defending.

Running, check. Jumping, check. I'm excited to see what I can try next. I'm thinking some of the trees by those rocks looked good for climbing. The only downside I could see is that if you fell, the landing surface would be that big rock...

All of this fun outside stuff makes me so excited that I'm going to Colorado in two weeks! I will be driving out with a friend (likewise, she's going to visit a friend of hers) to visit Beth for a week of fun in the mountains.

I can't wait to see you, Beth, and all the beauty of Colorado! I miss you both tremendously!

This picture is also from that hike near Monument/Palmer Lake. I can't remember which lake this is though.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It's not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Nelson Mandela

Friday, May 15, 2009

Back to nature

I want to tell you about two things that have taken up a lot of our time lately. One is the TRX, which we have been actually doing a lot of.

We got our first TRX in February as a birthday gift for Matt. He was frustrated with trying to get to the gym during their hours because his flying schedule is all over. And we had thought a lot about buying some gym equipment, but where would we put it? We seriously considered getting rid of the TV and replacing it with a squat rack. Then, in one of Matt's PTL (Physical Training Leader) trainings, they introduced him to the TRX Suspension Trainer from Fitness Anywhere.

The TRX is really cool because you really can use it anywhere, inside over a door or outside hooked to a tree, soccer goal, light pole, or even a tank. A tank if you're overseas in the military, which is who the TRX was originally designed for...makes sense, doesn't it? You don't generally have access to a fancy gym in the desert, but you still need to be in excellent battle-ready physical condition.

A month later we bought our second TRX, for me. The idea was so that we would both be able to workout with it at the same time, especially while Matt was away in San Antonio. When we're home, we'll give you all demos and you can try it for yourself. The TRX builds really functional strength. It's tough, but fun and can be used is tons of different ways. It even provides the best stretching excercises I've ever done (better than any yoga move I've tried, too). For the past seven weeks I have been following the twelve week strength/cardio program offered by TRX and it is kicking my butt! I'm loving it though. I have learned this is God's way of teaching me perseverance. He has a tough training ground for sure!

The other thing that is so intriguing to us is MovNat, which we have been thinking a lot about how we could do where we live.

It is all about getting back to our natural ways of movement. It looks like so much fun, and imagine exercise!!

I have been sitting at this computer all day doing applications, and looking at these pictures makes me want to get outside even more than I already do! I am so ready for swimming in the Michigan lakes!!!!

Oh, this makes me think of Hawaii! How much I want to go back there! Thank you, thank you Lisa and Brad for getting married in Hawaii! What a wonderful trip!

This guy's training ground is in the Amazon!

Check out more info about this on the website. It's a really cool philosophy. There is an organization called Wild Fitness that MovNat is partnering with. They do fitness vacations where you go to Africa and do all this natural movement stuff. It looks awesome!

Enjoy the glimpse of each. More to come when I can figure out how to properly save a youtube video in order to post it. Help anyone?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grilled flank steak with chimichurri

Mmmm, we loved this dish the night before last. It is another Men's Health magazine recipe. We put the sliced steak and green onions on the tortilla, but you wouldn't have to.

12 oz. flank, skirt, or sirloin steak (we used sirloin)
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I couldn't find fresh at the store, so we used a tablespoon or two of dried parsley)
1 bunch scallions
3 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. coarsley ground black pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

4 white corn tortillas
1 can pinto beans
garlic salt and pepper to taste

1. To make the chimichurri sauce, mix the vinegar, water, garlic, salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper. Whisk in the oil. When everything's blended, whisk in the parsley. (Note: Let the chimichurri marinate itself at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the meal. I transferred the chimichurri to an old salad dressing bottle so I could shake it to mix the oil and water before serving.)

2. Preheat a grill or grill pan on high. Season the steak with salt and pepper and place it on the hot grill (I also added a little worcestershire sauce to the steak). For medium rare, cook it for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 140 degrees F. Trim the roots from the scallions and add the entire bunch to the grill just after you've flipped the steak. Cook the scallions until they're lightly charred, about 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Drizzle the steak with the chimichurri, and serve it with the grilled scallions. (Note: If you choose to eat yours in a tortilla, you may wish to slice the scallions first. In retrospect, this would prevent a mouthful of green onion.) Serves two.

Side dishes:
1. Heat the oven to warm (170 degrees F). Lay tortillas on baking sheet and heat in oven for about 5 minutes.

2. Drain and rinse pinto beans. While steak is cooking, heat beans in saucepan with garlic salt and pepper to taste. A smidge of olive oil and water keeps the beans from drying out before the rest of the meal is done.

Mmmm, yummy. Enjoy!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Home sweet home

We traveled to Dallas yesterday to enjoy a great sale at our favorite REI. We had been considering getting a new tent for quite a while (over a year), and finally got one! We've had our old tent for about six years, and it's had a good amount of use. It leaks, does not have a rainfly, and is very hot in the Texas summers though.

The tent we got, the REI Quarter Dome T2, should be a perfect solution for the hot weather. It is an ultralight two person three season backpacking tent with mesh walls and a vented rainfly. It has a lot of great features such as vertical side walls, two doors (which zip all the way around and can be tucked into pockets on the ceiling), two vestibules, and lots of fun, ingenuitive details.

I was going to take a picture of the tent when we set it up in the living room last night, but forgot. We are so excited and ready to camp! Now, if we could just find a free weekend to go try out our new home sweet home:)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Oh, etsy

That kinda makes me want to say, "Oh, etsy, you're so fine! You're so fine you blow my mind!" I think the last time I heard something to that tune was on Wayne's World! Wow...

Anyway, I have spent way more time than necessary on Etsy today. Try it and I bet you will be hooked, too. I think I got on the site with the intention of getting a little pouch to put purse things in, which is good because that's what I ended up getting. Along the way though, I found sooooo many cute things to share with you. Here are a few pics from artists' Etsy sites that I liked.

This cute clutch is from Downstairs Designs. It comes in so many great fabrics!

This sweet hemp wristlet is by Infusion.

This fun wristlet is from Lula Ballou. There are tons of fun designs on her shop's site.

This I almost bought, but measured and discovered it was a bit too big for my purse. It is basically a cute set of extra pockets that you just insert into your purse. How great is that?! JPatPurses even makes some that can sort of wrap around the interior perimeter of your purse. Oh, how I love organization! ;)

This is the pouch I ultimately purchased. It is by Coco + Milkweed. It is even made of organic cotton and bamboo!

Etsy is such a great site to look around. Everything is handmade by artists across the world. Many items are even eco-friendly in one way or another. Sometimes being a small entrepreneurship is better for our world than a whole house full of organics. It's encouraging to see so many small businesses thriving on Etsy. This is the first time I have bought anything from Etsy, but hope to look there more often for gifts and things that I would generally run out to some big-time store for. I have a slight Target addiction, and I would rather give my money to these artists. They have really amazing stuff!
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