Monday, January 31, 2011

Una Fiesta Cubana!

This Sunday was our favorite day... Supper Club day! Our neighborhood Supper Club is still going strong over a year after we began. This time, it was our turn to host again, and we thought it would be appropriate to celebrate Brent's Cuban heritage with a Cuban themed party. It turned out to be really fun, and I truly felt like it was summer in the middle of winter. It was abnormally warm on Sunday, so it felt super festive to wear our tropical clothes, sip Mojitos, and listen to our awesome "Cuban" station on Pandora. We are so grateful to have such wonderful friends in our neighborhood. We enjoyed getting to know our newest supper club members, Carrie and KC, but we really missed Erin & JT who couldn't make it this time.

You can see the invitation to the right complete with the menu.

Brent worked hard on Sunday afternoon to master the making of a Mojito. He even watched a YouTube video. It was legit. He was the bartender for the night and made some REALLY excellent mojitos. Here he is hard at work:
Here is his final creation, handcrafted for each guest!

Diana & Cassie enjoying their drinks
Homemade olive salsa and avocado sour cream! Served with the best chips in the entire world, Tia Rosa MEGAthin chips!

Avocado Salad (I mixed together red onion, cherry tomatoes, shredded lettuce, diced avocado, and chopped cilantro and dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, lime juice, and salt.)
Homemade Cubanos. I was pretty impressed with how these turned out. I stuffed French bread with thinly sliced ham, roasted thinly sliced pork tenderloin, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard, and dill pickle slices. Then I buttered the sandwiches and griddled them under a cast iron skillet to press them.
Here's my Latin Chicken & Rice - a Rachael Ray recipe that can be found here. The toppings also double as dips as you can see above.
We ended the night with Brenda's delicious rum cake. I devoured it and did not take a picture. It was such a fun night, and we even had our first baby make an appearance at Supper Club - Carrie & KC's little Holden. Thanks, friends, for making it a real fiesta :-)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Katie Tested, Scientist Approved

After my last post on quinoa, my sister Julia informed me (in the comment section) that quinoa is a perfect protein with 9 amino acids your body can't make but needs. She's a scientist. For reals. She knows these things. So after learning that, I decided that maybe I was on to something with this quinoa kick. I had come across a recipe for a breakfast quinoa and was intrigued. I've got the savory quinoa down for lunch, but a sweet quinoa? Sounded interesting. I made it this morning and ate it at school... quite tasty! I liked the chewy texture and cinnamon smell. The blackberries were a nice touch.

This one calls for red quinoa, a different type from the one I use to make my Greek quinoa salad. I've found the red version under the same brand name as the regular:

Warm and Nutty Quinoa
Adapted from

1/2 c. skim milk
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. red quinoa (rinsed briefly)
1 t. honey or agave nectar
1/2 c. blackberries
1/4 c. chopped pecans

Bring milk, water, and quinoa to boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to medium low heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until grain is tender and almost all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Scoop in serving bowl(s) and add honey, blackberries, and pecans. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 2020!

On Friday, we took all 155 of our little seventh graders to A&M for a day trip! It was really fun even though it was FREEZING! According to my calculations, if our 7th graders attend Texas A&M, they will be proud members of the class of 2020! Crazy!!

We wanted our seventh graders to see what a college looks like and get an idea of what it might be like to attend college. We talk about college all the time, but sometimes I don't think it sinks in. When you're 12, it's hard to think that far ahead, especially if you've never seen a college campus in your life and/or no one in your family has ever gone to college. We want them to work hard in seventh grade in preparation for college, and we want them to desire to go to college, which is harder than it sounds. I hope that their trip yesterday impacted them in some way and that at least a few will go to A&M! We have several teachers on our team who, after visiting, actually said they WISHED they had gone to A&M. Brings a tear to my eye! Here were the cutest quotes of the day:

"Miss, do they have free dress day everyday?? Because they are not wearing uniforms, and someone was wearing pajamas."

"This dorm looks like a HOTEL!"

"You all are making it too hard for me. Now I want to go to Georgetown and UT and A&M!"

"Well, I would want to be an en-gi-a-neer. Because they get to fix cars. Or maybe a Marine. Because they get to use guns."

Here we are on our campus tour. Our school's mascot, Toby the Trailblazer, came along with us and got his picture taken with E. King Gill.
Me with some of my girls, Andrea, Brittney, and Alejandra in front of the Academic Building with old Sul Ross
Listening to our tour guide on the Military Walk
Having class in a real classroom with a real professor! It was so cute. This was the classroom where I took INFO 210!!! Weird to be back eight years later with my students!

Lots of them said that the class was their favorite part. I mean, whatever works!
Here is my little "bestie". This is Amanda, and I love her. She's hanging out with me in seventh grade for a second year, and she likes to act like she doesn't like me. But she secretly does, and she's one of my faves. She's doing much better this year!
Yay for brainwashing the young people early with Aggie traditions!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nordstrom Knock-Off

Back when we lived in Dallas, Brent & I discovered the Nordstrom Bistro. It's tucked away in Nordstrom's, and you might not even notice it if you didn't know it was there. The Nordstrom in Houston has a bistro, too. It is amazing! I love it for lunch and dinner. They have very fresh, flavorful, classic bistro food. I'm especially fond of their soups (crab bisque!), salads, and roast chicken with french fries and kalamata aioli. MMMmmmm....

The first time we ate there, we both got the risotto with grilled shrimp & asparagus. It was such a neat dish, and I knew I could recreate it exactly at home. It is now an absolute staple dish in our house, and Brent will tell you that my version is even better than Nordstrom's. (Theirs is a little runny and not seasoned enough... sorry, Nordstrom.) I promise that making risotto is not hard at all despite what you may hear on TV.

So you should check out the Nordstrom Bistro, but in the meantime... make the knock-off (make that knock-OUT) version of Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto.

Katie's Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1 inch segments
1 pound peeled & deveined shrimp
juice of one lemon
1 t. red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. chopped flat leaf parsley
1 c. uncooked Arborio rice
3-4 c. chicken stock
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil

Combine shrimp, 2 T. olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, garlic, parsley, and shrimp in a small bowl. Toss to combine and let marinate in fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop onion and saute in a bit of olive oil over medium high heat.

Saute asparagus in a small pan with a bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes over medium high heat. Asparagus can cook while you get the risotto going, but it only needs to saute for 10 minutes or so. When it's crisp-tender, just turn off the heat and reserve for later.

Once the onions are sauteed, add the Arborio rice and stir. Toast the rice with the onions on medium high heat for 2 minutes or so.

Then begin adding one cup of chicken stock at a time - just enough to cover the risotto. Continue to cook the risotto and broth at medium high heat. Stir frequently.
When most of the broth has been absorbed and the rice is looking "dry", add more broth, one cup at a time. Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to babysit the risotto and stir it every second. You just need to stir it every once in a while. You'll be standing by the stove to cook the asparagus and shrimp anyway so you can stir it then.

Pull shrimp out of marinade and grill at high heat on a grill pan (or just a skillet would work as well). I like my shrimp crispy, so I let them cook a while and keep turning them to get brown bits.
After you've added all the broth and it's been absorbed by your Arborio rice, it should have a somewhat thick, creamy consistency. The rice should be soft but still with a chewy bite. Remove from heat and add your Parmesan. Yum, yum.
It's time to plate up your risotto! I like to serve mine in a pasta bowl. Mound the risotto in the bowl and top with asparagus and grilled shrimp. With this recipe, you won't even want to go out to dinner.


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Three Day's Rest

As we speak, I'm enjoying a lovely glass of Cabernet Sauvignon to cap off my three day's rest. Turns out, I needed it. As of Friday, I had worked twelve days in a row without a day off. I thought I was doing OK, though I was a bit tired. I was super productive all week long, but around 4:00 on Friday, I hit a wall. No.More.Work. I just could not do one more thing. Then I cried all the way home. Why? Not sure. I was tired, and I had become a menace to myself and others. Thankfully, this was one of those rare weekends where we had NOTHING planned. No obligations. Both Brent and I were free, AND we had Monday off. Praise God! It was like the best weekend ever. There are no pictures on this post because I'm pretty sure you can live without seeing me in my pajama pants, soft t-shirt, cozy socks, and questionably clean ponytail. Because that is what I wore all weekend. Nothing to see here. And, to top it all off, God made it rain all weekend in Houston. Yes, please. I didn't even feel guilty about not leaving the house.

Here's a rundown of what we did / did not do this weekend:
  • Made homemade pizza for Friday night dinner
  • Slept 10-12 hours each night
  • Drank coffee for at least one hour each morning
  • Finished my book, The Help
  • Did my Bible study each day
  • Had dinner at La Dolce Vita with church friends
  • Took naps
  • Took four baths
  • Went to night church
  • Ate Lupe Tortilla take out fajitas
  • Went for two walk/jogs
  • Watched DVR-ed Selling New York, Outrageous Yachts, and House Hunters International
  • Made homemade chicken noodle soup
  • Caught up on laundry
  • Made apple pie out of things I already had in the refrigerator (ready made pie crust left over from Christmas and apples that were reaching the end of their life span)

It was SUCH a good weekend! Hope yours was relaxing, too. Back to the real world tomorrow...


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lunchbox Boost

In education, you bring your lunch to work. There is no time to go out, and the only options by my school are Subway and Sonic. Ugh. I get bored pretty quickly and go through phases with my lunches. I'll have sandwiches for a week, leftovers for a week, salads for a week, and I'm always looking for something new. Last fall, I discovered quinoa. Have you tried it? It is awesome! I had heard of it before but thought it was probably something complicated that took hours to soak and cook. I first used it in a Cooking Light recipe, and it was so easy!

Quinoa is an ancient grain. I would describe it as a cross between pasta and cous-cous though I think it's actually some sort of seed. You can get it at the regular grocery store. At Kroger it's usually in the health food section, and at HEB it's on the rice/grain aisle. Here's the kind I buy:

It's very satisfying, low in calories, and high in protein. It also takes just ten or fifteen minutes to cook. It's pretty bland, so you'll want to add something to it, but it's like a blank canvas! After I started liking quinoa, I started experimenting with different salad options for lunch. I love Greek flavors, so I created this quinoa Greek salad that is my go-to lunch. You can keep a big batch of cooked quinoa in the fridge all week and just add your fresh veggies and protein each morning when making your lunch. You can put in anything you want under the sun, but here's what I recommend:

Katie's Greek Quinoa Salad

Toss the following together in a bowl with a dash of olive oil, white wine vinegar, and salt. Transfer to a sealed container, and you've got lunch ready to go!

1 c. cooked quinoa
1 roasted chicken breast, chopped (I roast mine with olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried oregano)
4 jarred sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 baby cucumber, chopped
a handful of low fat crumbled feta
10 kalamata olives, halved
A bit of chopped parsley

I seriously can't wait to eat this for lunch today!


Friday, January 7, 2011

Vegas! (for work!)

It's been a busy week back to school! I've already been challenged several times in my New Years resolution to trust God. This week alone, I've had to trust God with my work and my health.

Work has been crazy (per usual). To add to the craziness, I decided to accept a job with Teach for America as a part time literacy consultant. (I decided that three jobs is not enough, and I wanted to add one more to the mix.) Well, really, I'm excited to build my consulting client base and get more experience training teachers. (and I'm crazy.) Once a month, I'll be traveling to Las Vegas to train teachers. I'm flying out today for my first weekend there! I'm excited and nervous and ready to get going. No casinos, fancy meals, or shows though... just work :-) Maybe sometime I'll bring Brent with me and make it a weekend.

I've also had to trust God with my health this week as I woke up Wednesday with a black spot on my vision. It's not obscuring my vision, but it's definitely still there. I went to the eye doctor and he's not sure why it's there either. So next week I have to go to a specialist, get blood work done, etc. Hopefully it is nothing terrible, but I just have to trust God because I can't do a dang thing about it at the moment. So prayers would be appreciated for my eye (that sounds funny) and for my trip this weekend. I'll be back soon with some recipes and other fun stuff!


Saturday, January 1, 2011


It's New Years Day! The day of resolutions! The day we're supposed to make a long list of promises about what we'll do better this year. This is actually just the sort of thing I love to do. I'm always beating myself up about not being good enough at things. In fact, this year, I want to work out regularly, eat healthy, be a loving wife who attends to my husband's every need, be bold and intentional in ministry and service, love my family and friends well, get a 4.0 in grad school, read lots of books, be the best teacher in Houston, and, in general, save the world and be perfect while doing it.

The only problem with resolutions is that the world is not resolute. The world is irresolute and uncertain. I mean, let's be honest... I'll probably both succeed and fail at all of those resolutions I listed, depending on the day and the moment. This morning I realized that there is only one resolution that I need to have this year:

Trust God.

I need to trust God because instead of resolution, I have irresolution. Life is uncertain, and I'm a worrier. Bad combo. God is certain, and he is sovereign. Good combo.

This morning, Brent left at 6:30 am to go hunting with my dad and his dad at his ranch. So I was awake early this New Years, lying in bed with nothing but Blazer and my thoughts to keep me company. Did I leap out of bed with a sense of possibility, a positive attitude, and a zealous desire to get the new year started? Did I fling open the shutters, wrap the curtains around me Sound-of-Music-style, sing, and embrace the unknown?

Um... no.

I lay there, and I worried. Glamorous... I know. Y'all, my feet had not even hit the floor in 2011, and I was already fretting about the year to come. What was I worrying about, you ask? Oh... anything and everything. I'm an equal-opportunity worrier. I worried about things happening today like Brent's safety as he drove and hunted. I worried about things happening next week like going back to school, leading a new Bible study, and starting a new consulting gig with Teach for America. I worried about things happening months from now. Heck, I even worried about things that I don't even know are going to happen!

Anxiety loves company, so I called Brent who was on his way to pick up his dad, and I had worked myself into tears. I told him I was scared and he was like, "Why? I've only been gone for five minutes!" (haha... I always get scared by the slightest noise when he's gone, but it was a bit soon for that). I explained that I was just scared about everything... the whole idea of 2011. Ha! Crazy wife alert! Instead of (rightfully) calling me crazy, though, Brent calmly reminded me that we know God, we listen to God, we follow God, and we trust God. And God can be trusted. So whatever happens to us in 2011 will be God's will, and therefore it will be OK.

Well, when you put it that way.....
He's so logical sometimes it can be kind of annoying. :-)

As a result, my resolution is just to trust God. To trust God with family, job, school, appearance, marriage, money, health, church, time, friends, home... EVERYTHING. In a world that's decidedly irresolute, I resolve to trust in a certain God.

I don't want to box God in, but I'm relatively sure that I won't be running a marathon, climbing a mountain, losing thirty pounds, or gallivanting Europe this year. But I do know that God isn't finished with me yet, and 2011 will hold some adventures that will be scary. But I'm going to trust God and hold on tight. So as long as you don't mind reading about a normal gal, I'll see you back here soon and we'll take on 2011.


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