Day 11 – Teaching computer classes and really good suppers

Tonight I volunteered for the second time as an instructor for a computer skills for adult english language learners class at the local library. However, thanks to a missing instructor I got a last minute bump from assistent to teacher!  While not my ideal way to start teaching, the evening still went quite smoothly, although I missed having someone else there to help monitor how the students are progressing. Due to the set-up of the lap you can either instruct from the front, where you only see the backs of student’s monitors, or you can stand in the back and help out from there. Thankfully it was a pretty small class, with only 4 people in attendance, which let me balance helping individuals with leading the class.

I am enjoying this chance to both flex my instructor muscles and get to do more direct service, however seeing as I haven’t had the work to evening class transition in well over a year, these types of days tend to leave me pretty exhausted. But seeing as David just pulled this out of the oven, the evening just started looking up!

Sausage, sweet potato, apple, onion and garlic roast

Day 8 – Weekend!!!!*

While this has been a pretty great weekend, I am not a fan of tomorrow being Monday. Sigh, I think I need to switch over to David’s current model of four days of work, three days of not work. Anyways let’s see, Friday night was a lovely chance to catch up with Alex’s aunt and uncle over dinner. Then Saturday started off nice and early with yoga with Katie, then I came home made these very delicious pancakes (the wheat germ ones out of the More with Less cookbook).

the finished product

Then I sat down and made myself an ambitious to do list include all sorts of cleaning. I started with the kitchen, scrubbed the floor, cleaned the counters/stove-top/etc. After which, pleased with my progress I sat down to watch an episode of the United States of Tara.  Four hours later I discovered that the day was almost over and my to do list would have to wait. What can I say, that show (especially the third season!) is highly engrossing! Saturday evening Alex came over for some supper and a quick game of 7 Wonders. Unfortunately after that he had to head back to work on homework, but David and I walked over to a bar in northeast Ballard to hear an old friend from college play fiddle in an Irish band.
Red Flannel Hash from Hattie Hat's in Ballard Sunday brought about a lazy morning and a delicious brunch with Alex at Hattie Hat, where I tried the Red Flannel Hash.  Who knew corned beef, potatoes and red beets, topped by two poached eggs could be so good? Then Alex headed off to play the epic (and very long) Twilight Emporium, and on his way dropped me off at Katie’s where Dominion was played, truffles were made, headshots were taken and part of Midnight in Paris was watched. It was a stellar day!

*For which, apparently, the theme was really good food 🙂

Day 6 – Nothing much to report

Dinner is served!
Today at work, I had a bad headache and was very tired of looking a computer screen by the time I made it home. But making a delicious spaghetti dinner (with meatballs!) and a side dish of roasted brussel sprouts for Alex and David helped turn the day around. Then David baked more of his incredible sourdough bread (with his very own homemade starter) and Alex and I watched the 3 most recent episodes of Community.  Of which, I have to say, every time I think it just can’t get better than this, that show manages to top itself. It truly is the funniest thing on television right now.

But now it is 10:30pm, so it is off to bed for me!

Day 4 – Weekend re-cap

While I didn’t intend to take my two days off this past weekend, that is what happened, so here’s to blogging every weeknight this week!

Saturday

Just a plain #nofilter picture of the sky in SEATTLE right now!

Other than being one of the bluest sky days I have seen in Seattle, Saturday wasn’t super memorable. Highlights included making IKEA meatballs with Alex, buying stamps from the post office and getting to play an indulgent 4 hours of Civilization 5.

Sunday

Anna and I chillin' during the Superbowl party

On the other hand Sunday was lovely, an a cappella service full of good hymns, making this overly complicated (and ultimately somewhat disappointing – it needed more cheese!) recipe for cheddar, beer and mustard pull-a-part bread, and of course the Superbowl hosted by the lovely Katie and Bryan.  Where I got to hang out with the cutie above and actually kind of paid attention to the game or at least the last quarter or so (butt-touchdown for the win!), spend a fun afternoon with friends and generally have a blast.

Monday

Early evening light on the Douglas-Truth branch library

Today I found myself overly tired and so the only highlight was realizing that it is now this light when I leave work!

Day 25 – Random Thought

As Thanksgiving usually is, yesterday and today have been full of food, friends, games and even a bit of shopping (but just to the more budget friendly local thrift store). I arrived midday yesterday into Chicago and have been enjoying the chance to catch up with a plethora of friends, many of whom are back in town for the holidays and my friend Kate’s wedding tomorrow! This weekend is making me thankful for the following things:
-sleeping in
-Becca’s crazy good pies!
-homemade stuffing
-blue skies
-playtime with 6 gorgeous kittens
-conversation after conversation with my much missed girlfriends
-the 5th Game of Thrones book to make plane rides go quickly
-the way walking up the steps of my old house makes me feel like I never left
-finding ridiculous faux fur coats in thrift stores
-getting hugs from and trading head rubs with Becca and Jess
-not being at work
-knowing that instead of heading home to Seattle, I get to head on to Goshen to see my wonderful family!

I hope you all are having great times with family and friends!

Day 22 – Cooking with Abby

Tonight I decided to disregard the two solid days of rain and the overwhelming sense that it was time to hibernate and made myself an elaborate dinner just for me.  Now to re-create this recipe, you will need to a long list of ingredients as demonstrated in this photo:

Assemble the ingredients

Then carefully prepare the ingredients, don’t worry about how many dishes and cutting boards this will take, it will totally be worth it in the end.

Carefully prepare the ingredients

Add a few finishing touches and then put your feet up and watch an episode of West Wing while you wait for the meal to cook in the oven.

Then watch some West Wing while you wait for the food in the oven!

Then after the perfect amount of time, savor the careful blend of flavors and craft a delicate dip for your dinner. [Fries and Edamame not pictured cause I ate them already]

Supper is served

Day 16 – Baking with Abby (and Becca!)

Next Tuesday we are having a pie bake-off at work and so I figured I should try out a recipe tonight to see if it will work for next week.  And as it would have it I was long overdue for a video chat with Becca so I combined them into one awesome evening!  I used this Alton Brown Classic Pumpkin Pie recipe, but instead of nutmeg I used pumpkin pie spice, I left out the spare egg yolk and generally ignored the whole “eat the filling” idea.  But I was most interested in the Gingersnap cookie crust anyways.  Here is what I did:

Gingersnap cookie crust ready to go into the oven

Gingersnap cookie crust ready to go into the oven

Pumpkin Pie filling!

Pumpkin Pie filling!

Best baking companion ever!

Best baking companion ever!

Me: Man, it is so nice to have someone doing dishes WHILE I am baking David: Man, it is annoying to keep having all these dirty dishes keep appearing!

Me: Man, it is so nice to have someone doing dishes WHILE I am baking David: Man, it is annoying to keep having all these dirty dishes keep appearing!

Pumpkin Pie - So it turns out that we don't own a pie pan!

Pumpkin Pie - So it turns out that we don't own a pie pan!

All-baked pumpkin pie!

All-baked pumpkin pie!

Day 10 – Guest Post (the return of my dad!)

Well this guest post couldn’t be better timed seeing as I am home sick from work today with my second cold of the season (although this one is less congestion more throat on fire, weee!).  But instead of getting to hear me whine about being sick, here is a super awesome guest post by my Dad.  Enjoy!

Hi everyone.

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed writing my first guest blog here about Abby as an infant and small child. This year when Abby asked me again I thought first of writing about our train trip to Seattle to see her in October but then settled on writing something I was more excited about right now.

I’ve been somewhat obsessed about taking care of my body for a long time. I figure I’m only going to get one body and I’m not going to have it quitting on me over something I have some control over. So I exercise regularly, read about health related stuff and try to eat right. When I learned about 6 or 7 years ago that dark chocolate has some health benefits (when consumed in moderation) I started keeping a stash of Hershey Special Dark Chocolate bars at my desk at work.  Most of the time I successfully limit myself to a square at morning break and a square after lunch.  This takes some discipline because for me eating chocolate is among the top carnal pleasures in life.

My children and sometimes my wife scold me about not buying Fair trade but so help me the stuff is expensive. If I buy Hershey’s bars on sale I can get it at about $.20/ ounce and Fair Trade usually runs about $1.00/ounce.  My daily two squares are about an ounce so I’m talking the difference between a $50.00 per year habit and a 250.00 per year when consumed every working day. Somewhere deep in my psyche there is this notion that times could get hard so I better be careful with my money.  I don’t know if that comes from being raised by depression era parents or if it’s something in my Germanic DNA or a combination.

However the idea that I might be enjoying my chocolate on the backs of poverty stricken oppressed workers continued to bother me.  A couple weeks ago we visited Abby in Seattle and she arranged a tour of Theo’s chocolate for my wife and me.

David, Dad and Mom all ready for the Theo Chocolate Factory tour!

David, Dad and Mom all ready for the Theo Chocolate Factory tour!

After a great tour by an expert in all things surrounding the harvesting, manufacturing and history of chocolate we were allowed unrestricted sampling of all kinds of exotic and delicious chocolates. I thought I was in heaven. I also learned that most chocolate is processed using alkali. It says so right on the ingredients on the Hershey bars. This supposedly (yes, it might be part of Theo’s sales pitch) removes some of the health benefits. I also learned since that Hershey dark chocolate is only 45% cocao.  You have to do some research to find that – they don’t advertise it.  I enjoy dark chocolate right up to about 85% cocao and feel the flavor peaks between 75 and 80%.

So I started to search on the internet for some reasonably priced Fair trade chocolate. Most Fair Trade seems to also be organic. That might add some to it’s cost and probably is a good idea as well.  I couldn’t find any significant volume discounts on any of the bars.  But I did find Fair trade 65% cocao chocolate chips at Amazon for $.62/ ounce but you had to buy 25 pounds! I capitulated to the pressure and bought a box.  That comes out to almost $250.00 but they should last me 400 work days.  Unfortunately in my dithering about it I missed them on sale at just under $200.00.

We’ve already had a discussion at our house about what these chocolate chips will get used for. They are not to be used in baking – these are medicinal. 🙂  I’m going to keep them in the cold cellar to preserve their freshness and make it less likely that I will be tempted to consume a half a pound every evening.

One last problem to solve was how to divvy out one ounce a day.  I found out on the internet that 1 ounce of chocolate chips is about 3 tablespoons.  Here’s what an ounce looks like. I’ll take one day’s serving at a time in my lunch. I’m going to try very hard to eat them mindfully one chip at a time.
1 ounce of chocolate chips

Day 1: Tuesday Cooking Show

Welcome to the NaBloPoMo madness my dears, lets dive right in.

So last night, I had this idea of something I wanted to make. Based in part on this recipe called Pasta with Butternut Parmesan Sauce, I decided I wanted to sub in Pumpkin, cause I had some on hand, add in some sausage, mushrooms and switch out the cream for the slightly lighter coconut milk.  So this is the recipe I ended up with

Pumpkin Mushroom Sausage Pasta, so good, I had two bowls!

Pumpkin Mushroom Sausage Pasta (it tastes so much better than it looks!)

1 pkg pasta (I used rigatoni, but vaguely round-shape of pasta would work)
1/2 to 3/4 lbs of mushrooms, roughly sliced (I used the cheapest kind I could find at the grocery store and they were yummy)
1/2 onion, diced
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 links of chicken sausage (I used Trader Joe’s Garlic & Herb, but feel free to use whatever, or skip if you are going meatless)
1 can of pumpkin puree (28oz or the big one)
1 can of coconut milk
1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated (with more for serving)
salt and pepper to taste
And SECRET INGREDIENT (1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice)
Cast of Characters

1. Chop the mushrooms, onion and garlic and saute.
2. Slice sausage and add to mixture and don’t forget to start your water for the pasta and once it boils add the pasta.
3. After the mushrooms and sausage are cooked, add the pumpkin and saute for 1 minute.
4. Add the coconut milk and stir well.
5. Add parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and SECRET INGREDIENT (pumpkin pie spice).
6. After pasta has cooked to al dente, drain it and then add to the pumpkin sauce. Stir well. Serve with parmesan cheese as garnish.

While my “cooking by the seat of my pants” aren’t always this successful, I have to say this one hit it out of the park.  I liked how the coconut milk and pumpkin play so nicely together.  The pumpkin pie spice adds just a bit of interesting flavor and seeing as I love mushrooms and sausage in almost any combination, I think they make this dish just smashing!

Also for those of you who love leftovers for lunch, be assured this tastes even better then next day, yum!

Birthday season!

Well if you throw in Alex’s birthday from last week and the two recent birthdays of friends Clayton and Bryan and David’s birthday today and my mom and I’s birthdays next week, there has been a lot of cake.  I made my traditional Chocolate Wacky Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting and Raspberries for David’s birthday.  While it was good, I think the combination of new cake recipe (I left my good one back in Evanston), using a mixer instead of the food processor and using fresh raspberries instead of raspberry sauce, meant that it tasted just a little bit different.  But by far the best part of the evening has been playing round after round of David’s birthday pressent from Alex and I – Dominion.  While I know I dragged my feet quite a bit on this game and have kind of refused several invitations from my brothers to play it, I ended up finding it really fun!  Maybe it helped that it was almost entirely a group of newbies to the game, or what exactly it was, but now I like it.

And the exciting part is that my parents left on their epic Empire Builder train trip from Chicago to Seattle today and are probably currently making their way through the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  They arrive on Sunday and will be here for 2 weeks, which I am super excited about.  Now all I have to do is clean my room, check about bus tickets, pump the tires on my mom’s loaner bike, go to the library and possibly go bike shopping.  But seeing as it has somehow advanced past midnight, I should probably get to bed.

Have a good weekend, ya’ll.