Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Or, as they are saying in the DC Metro Area...Happy Snow Patrick's Day! We had another storm drop about 7" of snow on us last night. No school and no work. AGAIN.
My head has been spinning with craziness the last two weeks but there was no way I could miss a post on Saint Patrick's Day!

I will be back with a post either tomorrow or Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Winner!

If you have any liking for "buffalo" dishes, I would strongly recommend that you try this one! After I posted the recipe yesterday morning, Caitlynne (!) asked me if she could make it for our dinner. The only modifications we made were 1) adjustments to increase the serving size from 4-6 to about 6-8. (She just increased the ingredients/measurements proportionately. She is a little better at math than her mom!) and 2) She added a sprinkle of grated cheddar and blue cheese on top of the casserole before topping with panko and the buffalo sauce.

Assembled and ready for the oven. 
 Salad ready to go.
Out of the oven and ready to serve.
 Yum. Yum. Yum.

Christopher had seconds so I know it was good.

My flowers for the week.
Today is snow day #10 for Fairfax County Public Schools. Fortunately (and I truly mean that!), my office is open so I will go in for my 4 hours. We did accomplish a lot yesterday - mostly the cleaning out and organizing of closets (Kevin's and Christopher's) but I need to get out of the house and use my brain for a few hours. Caitlynne and some of her friends are going to celebrate National Pancake Day at IHOP - how lucky for them that school was cancelled, today of all days!

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Up Too Early

March is definitely coming in like a lion and it is so hard to even think about Spring being on the way. I spotted these daffodils poking up in my front garden yesterday morning. These poor things do not know what they are in for over the next few days. Freezing rain, sleet, 8-12" of snow and bitter cold. The kids, Kevin and I are all home (yet again) today because of the weather. Today is the kids' 9th snow day this school year. Fairfax County Public Schools uses an online learning and educational tool and the kids were both told on Friday that their teachers will be posting work and study assignments for them to complete in the event of a snow day today. So, at least they will have something to do, even if just for a short while. 

Yesterday morning, after looking at the forecast for the next few days and not knowing when I would be able to run again, I went for a great 8 mile run. Although it was cloudy, it was not terribly cold and there was no wind. I still had to bundle up but, as I well know, it could have been so much worse. Kevin also got a long run in so we should be set for a couple of days. I just hope it warms up soon and that this snow doesn't stick around for too long.   

The recipe below is going to be our dinner this evening. I saw it posted on a blog (can't remember which one) and cut & pasted it into my "dinners to try" file. 

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Ingredients:
8 oz rotini pasta
2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups skim milk
1 small container plain Greek yogurt (between 5 and 6 oz)
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup light blue cheese
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons buffalo wing sauce, divided
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook rotini in a pot of boiling water until just under al dente (about 8 minutes). Drain then set aside.
2) Spray a large skillet over medium-high heat with nonstick spray then add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and then cook until no longer pink. Remove to a plate.
3) Turn heat down to medium then heat olive oil in the skillet, add garlic, and saute for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour then whisk until smooth and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk while whisking then cook until thickened, (this can take 2-5 minutes). Remove the skillet from heat, then add Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, and blue cheese. Stir until smooth then stir in 1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce.
4) Add cooked pasta and chicken to the skillet then stir to combine. Transfer mixture to an 8×8 baking dish then top with panko bread crumbs and drizzle remaining 2 Tablespoons buffalo wing sauce over the dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and bread crumbs are light golden brown. Serves 4-6.

We are all huge fans of "buffalo" anything - wings, dip, pizza, you name it - and I expect this dish will be a hit. (I need to get my approval rating back up after the last fiasco.) Surprisingly, I am not going to make any modifications this first go round. 

On a side note, my cousin and his wife made the Pan-Seared Scallops on Linguine with Tomato Cream Sauce using the original recipe and reported that it was delicious. Merrily's photo of their dish...
Yum! I wish they lived closer because I would have invited myself over for dinner.

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Somewhat Of A Fail

Happy March!!!

As I posted earlier in the week, Christopher had asked me to make some kind of a chicken/wine/cream dish for dinner on Wednesday night. My online searches had led me to this recipe which I planned to modify. In fact, I made so many modifications that there was very little of the original recipe left. And, while my intentions were good, I probably should not have messed with a good thing. 

It started off well.
I used halved grape tomatoes instead of chopped plum tomatoes. I also added chopped zucchini, sliced mushrooms and minced garlic. 
Browning the garlic, ginger and scallions in olive oil. 
In retrospect, at this point, I probably should have done things differently. I added the lime juice and the wine to the garlic/ginger mixture and reduced. Then I added the veggies and sauteed. Everything got too mushy for my liking and the tomatoes fell apart. 
 Then I added the chicken (which I had stir fried earlier) and the cream.
Topped with chopped fresh parsley and ready to serve.

 The final result looked very good, it just wasn't flavorful. At all. Blah.
As I was finishing up with dinner preparations, Christopher came in to watch. 

Christopher: How is that chicken in a wine and cream sauce?

Me: Well, there is chicken and wine and cream and there is a sauce, so technically it is.

Christopher: That was not quite what I had in mind. (And proceeds to ask for leftover spaghetti and meatballs from the night before).

So, this was was definitely a fail for dinner as far as Christopher was concerned. And, Kevin and I weren't all that thrilled either. But, there is hope. Even as Kevin and I were eating, I was thinking about improvements and adjustments to make it a better recipe.

What I would do next time...
1. Saute the garlic, ginger and scallions until very golden. I might have rushed this step.
2. Grill the chicken and the zucchini for more flavor.
3. Use chopped sun-dried tomatoes for more flavor.
4. Figure out how to use some chicken broth in the sauce (maybe reduce the wine a little?)
5. Add a little more salt and pepper. I tend to use less than what the recipe calls for anyway.
6. Maybe use cream cheese instead of cream?
7. Top the finished dish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Unfortunately, we had spaghetti and meatballs the night before and finished all of the Parmesan cheese then. I always try to keep a container in the refrigerator because it adds so much flavor when added as a topping on pastas and veggies. 

Obviously lots of things to try next time - and there will be a next time as I see great potential in this recipe. 

Caitlynne has her first "on the water" crew practice today. They were supposed to be on the water as of this past Monday but we had some more snow and then it was just too cold to be out there so the teams continued with their indoor conditioning. Her coach said that, in the 15 years he has been rowing on the river, this is the worst weather he has seen for this time of year. And it doesn't look like it will improve anytime soon. We are watching the forecast (again!) as there is a winter storm watch issued for our area for Sunday night/Monday. It looks like another "freezing rain & sleet before turning to significant snow accumulation" kind of storm. 

Christopher did make the AAU basketball team and is gearing up for 6 months of practices, conditioning and weekend tournaments. He is also in the school play (Fame Jr.) which will be performed the first week in April so March will be a very busy month for him. And for his chauffeur. Fortunately, his school and basketball practices are not too far from our home and we are in a carpool for Caitlynne's crew so I only need to drive to & from the river (about 40 minutes away) twice a week. 

My first full week of work went well. I really like what I do and feel that I have gotten a good start on learning the requirements of the job. The woman who held my position took another job in December so there is a lot of work to catch up on and there are "to do" piles all over my desk. It is all a matter of prioritizing though and just working through the piles. By the end of the week, I was able to complete a few things without any guidance. I know I still have a lot to learn but at least I don't feel like a deer caught in the headlights anymore! 

For the first day of my 45th year, the kids and Kevin are taking me to dinner tonight at a restaurant called The Melting Pot. Since it is a fondue place and there won't be anything too healthy on the menu, I am going to try and get out for a run later this morning. It is supposed to warm up (relatively speaking) and the sun will be out so it might not be too bad.

Have a great Saturday. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

When Will It End?!?

6 amFriFeb 28

Clear
11°F
Clear
FEELS LIKE:
-2°






I have absolutely no desire to go out and run in this. I am so sick and tired of the cold. 
It takes me 10 minutes to get dressed - two layers of pants, three layers of shirts, two pairs of socks, my balaclava, a hat, fleece jacket and two pairs of gloves. Kevin also dresses like this for his runs, so just think about the huge pile of laundry from all of those layers. Yikes. 

Anyway, I hope I can run at least three miles this morning to bring my total mileage for February to 95 miles run. I sure hope that the end of February also means the end of winter. March has got to have better weather in store for us. How much cold can there be?!?

Have a great Friday.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Funny And Funnier


You decide which is which. Both made me giggle.

We are still adjusting to me going back to work. I say "we" but I guess I really mean "me" as it seems that I am the only one who had to make significant changes in how things get done around here now that I am working. Christopher might disagree with that statement as last week he and I had a little "come to Jesus" about him making his bed, picking up his room and putting his dirty laundry in the hamper. At age 14, I think it is time (beyond time, really) for him to consistently take on some responsibility. So far (knock on wood), he has completed all of his chores each day and, more importantly, he has not given me any attitude about it. I guess my "incentives" for NOT doing those chores were pretty spot on.

I am not too proud to admit that gave myself quite a few "passes" for the first week of starting my job. I didn't stress out about not running (not really, but I did try not to stress). I didn't cook. At all. Seriously. We had take away. Every. Single. Night. I also left the house a few mornings with dishes in the sink and a laundry basket full of dirty clothes. Now that I am in week 2 of working, I am figuring out how to fit it all in and slowly easing back into things. I am getting up at 4:45 a.m. so I can get out and run or walk with the dogs before work. In order to avoid getting up so early every day, I would like to try and run after work. Maybe after Sonder has recovered enough, I can take them out for a short run when I get home, even if it is just once or twice a week. I planned out a menu for this week and will attempt a new recipe tonight and another one on Friday night. My cleaning lady comes tomorrow so that is a bit of a cheat but I have been good about picking up at night before bed and before I leave in the mornings. I put the laundry in before I leave in the morning and Kevin has been drying and folding it in the evening. I know it will take another week or two before I really get into a routine but at least it seems to be coming together. This is great because I really love my job and don't want to second guess myself about whether me working is a good thing or not. 

Christopher has been asking me to make chicken with a wine & cream sauce. Fortunately for him, I started to search for a recipe on the internet and found the recipe below. Wow! How amazing does that look?!?

Pan-Seared Scallops on Linguine with Tomato Cream Sauce


INGREDIENTS
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup minced shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
2/3 cup chopped seeded plum tomato
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups hot cooked linguine
Cooking spray
3/4 pound large sea scallops
1/8 teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium skillet; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Drain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, reserving liquid; discard solids.
2. Return wine mixture to skillet. Add cream; cook over medium heat 1 minute. Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Stir in tomato, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Add linguine; toss well. Cover and keep warm.
3. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle scallops with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Arrange scallops in pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Add scallops to pasta mixture; toss gently to combine. Garnish with parsley.

I found the recipe on yummly.com which is a "new to me" website so it will be interesting to see how the dish comes together. I will, most likely, replace the scallops with chicken as that is what is preferred in our home. I also think that I will add another tomato as well as some chopped zucchini and sliced mushrooms to bulk it up a bit and add some more veggies to our meal. 

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Back To Work

I began my new job last Tuesday. I got everything ready Monday night so all I had to do was get up Tuesday morning, get ready, eat breakfast and go. We had about an inch of snow fall Monday night/early Tuesday morning so the kids were on a two hour delay which was really helpful as I only had to worry about getting myself out of the house at 7:30 am. At the height of rush hour and on a major highway, my morning commutes were not bad at all last week and I am hoping for the same this week. Since I only work until 12:30 pm, the drive home is speedy.

My job is very busy and I don't think I will have much downtime, which is a good thing. There are twelve of us (all women) on the School Board's staff and they seemed to be very nice and helpful. However, as Caitlynne pointed out, everyone was probably on their very best behavior for the new person and "cracks" will soon appear. I was completely overwhelmed learning about all of my responsibilities and I felt like my head was spinning each afternoon when I left the office. There is so much for me to learn and do but I feel like there is nothing that I can't handle. I just need to get used to the requirements and when & how to do what. At the end of the day, everything I do is done in order to make sure the School Board is in compliance with Virginia State (but we are really a Commonwealth!) code and laws - so, sort of a lot of responsibility! 

Other than all of the rules, regulations, processes and codes that I learned last week as related to my job, I also made the extremely important discovery that the world does not stop turning if I leave the house with dirty dishes in the sink. Or beds unmade. Or carpets not vacuumed. Since I can probably count on two hands the times that I have left the house with any of these items outstanding, this discovery was a huge deal. 

I also found some of this last week...
My running was almost non-existent the week before last. I ran once before the big snow (which The Washington Post named "Snowchi" - very cute!) and then again three days after the big snow. Although the roads were still covered that day, I went out very early and was able to run 5 miles around (and around and around) our neighborhood. Those neighborhood runs are the most boring. After that, because of the snow and other weather issues as well as time constraints, I was only able to get out for a couple of shorter runs around our neighborhood. There was still significant snow cover on the ground and the sidewalks and paths outside of our neighborhood were completely covered and impassable. In addition, although the roads were clear and dry, the snowbanks encroached on them quite a bit so, in some areas, the roads were quite narrow and unsafe to run on in the dark. We had somewhat of a warming trend last week and, finally, on Friday (one week after Snowchi), I was able to run on the paths and sidewalks outside of our neighborhood. I ran 27 miles last week (compared to 10 miles the week before) so you can tell how desperate I was to get back running and make up for all of those lost miles. It looks like we are having another blast of cold mid-week and then it should warm up again. Hopefully for good. 

Sonder is doing much better. He still tremors very slightly but I think the tremors are definitely decreasing day by day. Most of his quirky personality traits have returned and that, to us, is a true indication of how much better he is feeling. He has two more weeks left on the medication so there is time for continued recovery. 

Have a great Monday!