Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Study Snacks: Remix

Flashback: 2002. Pi Beta Phi house.
The week before finals in December, you would find me, Reams, TRog, TheLoj, Braids, L-Merc, April, and all the rest of my Pi Phi sorority sisters sitting in the dining room of the Pi Phi house in our flannel pj bottoms, long sleeve Songfest t-shirts, and slippers. We'd be surrounded by stacks of books and we'd be studying. Maybe. Or more likely, we'd be eating study snacks. Study snacks was a time-honored sorority tradition where our house mom made us a bunch of junk food and set it all out on the counter to eat while studying. I think the real reason why they did it was because it drew boys from all over the neighborhood. They came to "study" too.

Flashforward: 2011. Norwood house.
This last Sunday, we hosted dinner for Brent's study group here at Duke. Every MBA student is put in a study group of six people. This is the group the study with, work with, and do all assignments with. Let's just say they are going to get to know each other really well! Brent has really liked his group, and he wanted to have them over for dinner. I did the calculations in my head: six people, two wives, that makes 8 people total including two vegetarians. Issue: our dining room table only seats 6, and what could I make that would satisfy both meat eaters and vegetarians? I pondered it for a few days, and then it hit me: Tapas. Kind of an all-grown-up version of study snacks!

Now if you know me, you know I'm a little crazy. I tend to take things to the extreme. So what began as a harmless tapas party turned into a full blown, all day Sunday prep, eight dish meal. Somehow, we pulled it off.

Now this study snacks session did not have "puppy chow", slice & bake cookies, pretzels, giant bags of potato chips, or ranch dressing. It did, however, have mushroom Gruyere tarts, bacon wrapped jalapeno shrimp, bite size caprese salads, summer fruit salad, Greek quinoa, crab cakes, apple & pancetta pizza, and turkey meatball sliders.

My, how times have changed...

Mushroom Gruyere Tarts (vegetarian) - Recipe found from "Everyday Food" here.

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Shrimp: Peel & de-vein shrimp and season with salt & pepper. Place a sliver of jalapeno against the back of the shrimp, wrap with bacon, and cook in a skillet.
Bite Sized Caprese Salads (vegetarian): Thread a cherry tomato, marinated mini mozzarella ball, and basil leaf on a toothpick. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.

Summer Fruit Salad (vegetarian): Watermelon, blueberry, strawberry, & pineapple

Greek Quinoa (vegetarian): Cook 2 cups of quinoa according to box directions. Add chopped feta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sun dried tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Dress with olive oil & white wine vinegar.
Crab Cakes: Purchase from Whole Foods. Cook in a skillet :-)
Apple Pancetta Pizza - so good! A Sandra Lee recipe. Pre-bake a thin pizza crust until lightly browned. Top with apple butter (found on the jam aisle), mozzarella, thinly sliced apple, sliced pancetta, and thinly sliced sweet onion. Yep, you read that correctly. Bake at 400 until cheese is melted and toppings are browned and crispy.
Turkey Meatball Sliders: Make my turkey meatball recipe found here. Simmer meatballs in store bought marinara for 10-15 minutes. Place each meatball in a mini potato roll.
Here's the spread! It was quite a lot of prep work, but the last dish went on the counter as the first guest arrived, so it was nice that I didn't have to do ANY cooking while people were here. People just ate in the living room and at our breakfast table - very casual. Fun times!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

So-Good Soba

Rachel Ray has a bunch of recipes called "MYOTO" (Make Your Own Take-Out). I've tried a few, but I think I just made one that would give her a run for her money. I find myself making up a lot of recipes lately, and believe me... they do not always turn out good. In fact, sometimes I take pictures of the process with the intention of posting it for you, only to decide it's not good at ALL. However, yesterday I had an Asian food craving, and I made this soba noodle bowl. Whoa, mamacita!! It was good!! I'd say that this is one of the most tasty dishes I've made in a long while.

Katie's Shrimp & Veggie Noodle Bowl

You'll need the following ingredients. I just eyeballed enough for one portion. I didn't measure. I use terms like "splash" and "pinch". Sorry 'bout that. Consider it creative licence - you can put in however much you want!

- Cut up veggies: I used asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, and snow peas.
- Protein: I used small fresh shrimp.
- Soba noodles (buckwheat noodles - found on the international aisle at the grocery store)
- Olive oil
- Low sodium soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Crushed red pepper

1. Heat up a bit of olive oil in a small skillet on medium high heat. Add asparagus and a dash of crushed red pepper. Saute 3-4 minutes.

2. Add in mushrooms. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add in snow peas. Add a pinch of salt. Saute for 3-5 minutes until all veggies are tender. About this time, boil the water for your soba noodles. When water boils, add soba noodles and cook for 4-5 minutes. Check package directions, and do not overcook.
4. Remove veggies to a bowl. Peel & devein shrimp. Season with salt & pepper. Throw in the same pan in which you cooked the veggies with a bit of olive oil.
5. In the last 30 seconds of cooking the shrimp, add a few splashes of soy sauce. This was a great addition that made the shrimp sizzle and taste like Benihana. Add cooked shrimp to reserved veggie bowl.
6. Drain soba noodles thoroughly and add to bowl. Add a splash of sesame oil (a little goes a long way) and a few splashes of soy sauce. Toss to combine.
7. Top with sliced green onions. Enjoy. Take my word for it - you will.


Monday, August 15, 2011

August Obsessions

Top ten things I currently can't live without:

1. NYC Eyeshadow in "Chelsea Chic"
I am loving this eyeshadow I picked up at Target. It's perfect for summer since all the shades are light and shimmery. I'm usually not a fan of colored eyeshadow, but the light green in this set is lovely! It's not 80s at all and looks good with brown eyes. At less than $3, it's a deal.
2. Pantry Door Organization
I attached some thin cork boards to the inside of our pantry door to serve as an organization station. The door contains: exercise calendars, restaurant list, business cards, receipts, calendars, notes, and instructions for dog CPR (duh).
3. Cleaning Schedule
Also included in the pantry organization system is my daily cleaning schedule. Up until now, I have been pretty spoiled since we've had a bi-weekly maid help us clean our house when we were both working like crazy. However, now I'm home all day and Brent is in school full time, so I don't really have a good excuse (or really any excuse) to have a maid. Maid out. Katie in. I truly hate wasting all day Saturday cleaning the entire house. So I decided to break my cleaning into small daily chunks. I'm happy to say that I've been sticking to the schedule so far, and it's not bad at all. My daily chores take 30 minutes or less usually, and it's easy to motivate myself when I can say, "I just have to do this ONE task, then I'm done!" If I do this every week, we'll have a clean house year-round. Notice that there is no task at all for Saturday. :-)
4. Sea Island Cotton
This is an oldie but a goodie at Bath & Body works. I've been having my nightly bath with a little Sea Island bubbles, and it is fantastic! The smell is crisp, clean, light, and perfect for summer.
5. Chobani Black Cherry Yogurt
About this time last year, I discovered Greek yogurt, and I never looked back. I had a Fage obsession for a really long time. Then, in NYC, I tried Chobani. Love. I kind of like it better than Fage (sorry, Fage). I like how the fruit is already mixed in for you. The black cherry kind is to die for. If you use your imagination, it almost tastes like dessert. I sprinkle a little granola on top and call it breakfast. Fat free, double protein... yes, please.
6. Cute Containers for Everyday Items
Do I really NEED a cute glass container for my Tide laundry detergent? Well, no... not exactly, but I sure do WANT one! I picked up this glass canister from Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and I made the simple label using Microsoft Word. I'm not going to lie that it really, truly makes my laundry room look cuter, and it makes laundry kind of fun. I love it sitting here on my washer instead of the big orange box. The possibilities are endless for other things you could do this with........ It's the little things, people.
I have a problem. An obsession. An addiction. I need help. I LOVE NOTEBOOKS. Like, LOVE. But not just any notebooks. They have to be cute, colorful, and modern. Now is the best time of year when all the stores pull out all the stops on their school supplies. I may or may not have purchased five notebooks from Target. How can you pass them up at $2 a pop??? My desire to do work just increased by about 250%. Seriously. TELL ME that this notebook isn't completely adorable. It's from the "Green Room" line at Target. Of course I had to make a label for it in coordinating colors. Isn't that font the best? It's called "Chantel" and it's free from!
For full disclosure, here are the five notebooks I really did buy. Now to fill them...
8. Pinterest
I did not understand Pinterest at first, but suddenly, I GOT IT. This is the coolest website ever. It's also addicting. Anytime I'm on my phone now, Brent rolls his eyes and says "What's new on Pinterest?" haha. It's a little crazy. I love this quote about Pinterest I found, well, on Pinterest! It's hilarious because it's true. You can see my Pinterest page here.

9. Sparkling Water
It's been years since I drank soft drinks. I finally discovered that I love the carbonation, so a sparking water does the same thing for me. I'm obsessed with sparking water. My drink of choice is usually LaCroix, but I also love Ozarka, San Pellegrino, or even club soda. I've had a LaCroix for lunch just about every day for a year. You can buy it at the regular grocery store, and it has no calories, no sugar, and no sodium. It comes in unflavored, lime, lemon, grapefruit, berry, and orange. My favorite is the lime shown below. In NYC, I craved sparkling water like crazy. I would stop at shops on the street to buy a bottle because I couldn't go one more step in the heat without it. It's that good.
10. Light Blue Perfume
I've never really been a perfume person. I mean, I wore GAP's "Heaven" in 7th grade like everyone else, but not much beyond that. This last Christmas, my mother-in-law bought me my first big girl perfume... Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana. I'm loving it! It's perfect for summer too, because it's really light and fresh.
Those are my current obsessions. What are you loving right now?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Farmer's Feast

Reason #237 why I love Durham: The Farmers Market!

Working from home has been a new adventure this week... more on that later. To avoid becoming a hermit, I try to have at least one outing per day. Today I ventured to the Durham Farmers Market with the Duke "partners" club. (Basically, the wives club) Now, I've been to some places that called themselves "farmers markets", but this was the real deal. Every stall must have an actual farmer present selling the products. Every farm must be 40 miles or less from the market. I went with the intention of not buying anything, but (who are we kidding) I saw about 25 things that caught my eye right away. The market only takes cash, and I only had a $20 bill. No worries - I got EVERYTHING you see here for $15. That's right - a giant package of homemade mozzarella, 1/2 pound okra, 5 heirloom tomatoes, 1 pound of baby "fairy" eggplant, and a big bunch of basil - all for $15, and I still had $3 left for a homemade blueberry lemonade at the market. Yes, please.

Here is the delightful lady who sold me my cheese.

I wasn't in the market for flowers today, but if I was...

Who knew there were 10 different kinds of potatoes?

This was the bounty I came home with. I decided to make a meal with only the things I bought at the market and what I already had in the kitchen .

Dish #1: Oven Fried Okra
Soak okra briefly in mixture of milk (or buttermilk), hot sauce, and an egg.

Toss okra in a mixture of cornmeal and Cajun seasoning. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Cook at 410 until browned, tossing a few times.
Dish #2: Caprese Salad
Side note: Believe it or not, I found these heirloom tomatoes in a bin labeled "freak tomatoes". I was a little wary, so I asked the lady, "Why are these freak tomatoes?" She said, "Oh, because they are ugly." Wha??? They were a little mis-shapen, maybe a little lopsided - a spot here and there. But they looked A-OK delicious to me. I picked out five "freak" tomatoes (poor little guys), and guess what - all 5 cost $1. TOTAL! They were some of the best tomatoes I've ever had. I see more freaks in my future.

Anyway... slice up your freak tomatoes and arrange them on a plate. Make 'em look nice.

Top with sliced fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a liberal sprinkle of kosher salt.

Dish #3: Chicken & Eggplant Parmesan
Slice eggplant into thin sections (mine were baby and so cute, so I just cut them in half). Drizzle with olive oil, salt, & pepper. Roast until tender at 410.

Thinly slice a chicken breast. I only had ONE small chicken breast, but it was plenty. I made three thin slices. Dredge in breadcrumbs with some Italian seasoning. Quickly brown in a skillet with olive oil. Mine only took like a minute or two.

Layer some store bought marinara on roasted eggplant.

Top with chicken, more marinara, and fresh mozzarella.

Broil on high until browned.

Here was the final product. All fresh, all local, and all under $8 per person.


Saturday, August 6, 2011


Hello blogger friends... I hope you still check my blog even though I've been MIA. Sorry about that. Let's just say this is the first time in about a month I've had ten minutes to do something "extra" like blog. I left NYC on July 29th after lots of late night paper writing and reading. I flew to Durham for 24 hours... just enough time to unpack, do laundry, and re-pack. Then I flew to Houston for my first week of work with teachers who came back August 1st. Although I was excited about seeing everyone, I was exhausted. I kind of wanted to curl up in bed and wish all of my responsibilities away. Alas, that was not an option. To Houston I went.

Let me just preface by saying that I have not really missed Houston. I mean, Houston is great and everything... but seeing North Carolina has given me a whole new perspective. Were you to ask me if I missed Texas, I would have said I miss our families and I miss Mexican food, but that's about it. Weather? No thanks. The city of Humble? Not so much. Traffic? I can do without it. You get the picture. So I was thinking I would go to Houston, put my nose to the grindstone, get it done, and think the whole time about coming back to my true love - NC. Well it didn't really happen that way.

On Monday morning, I got up super early, hopped in the 1995 white Mercury with blue leather interior (borrowed from my in-laws for the week), and headed up 59 to begin my week of work. Monday was going to be a work day for me to prepare for all the PD I was giving during the week, so I chose to work at the North Central campus... my home for the last 5 years. It was so strange because I had been gone for months, and my mind knew that I had completely moved across the country, but for all intents and purposes, it felt like a normal day. As I got off the Hardy Toll Road and went down Aldine Westfield, I saw the things I've seen every day for five years. I saw the Iglesia Cristiana, a random wild dog, the Taqueria Lupita, the billboard for "Planos y Permisos", the good old Aldine ISD "Compass" school, and my favorite longhorn steer across the street from YES Prep NC. Yep, definitely back in Texas, I thought. I pulled into the familiar parking lot feeling nothing was the same, yet everything was the same. I pulled into my normal parking spot when it happened.

As soon as I put the car in park, a wave of emotion passed over me. It was one of those feelings that began in the pit of my stomach, tightened my throat, and before you knew it, I was crying. Like many, many tears spilling down my face uncontrollably and unexpectedly. I really am not sure where the emotion came from or why I was crying - I wasn't necessarily sad or happy, but maybe weird combo of both. Or maybe I was just exhausted.

Instead of jumping out of the car, I sat for a few minutes and cried and thought. I was mourning my old job and my old life. I'm not really a teacher at any campus anymore. I'm not going to have a room full of seventh graders. My friendships won't be the same since I won't see people everyday. But then with the sadness, there was a sense of gratitude and awe and even joy that my life has changed so much, but I am still a "YES Prep person" and still have an amazing job. I sat there and remembered the first time I pulled up to the YES Prep warehouse seven years ago in the Fifth Ward. Since then, YES has been woven into the very fabric of who I am and what I do. And it feels good. Praise God for letting me stay connected even from afar. I know that Houston and YES will always be my home. I realize just how deep my roots are in Texas, swirling and twisting and encircling people and places and memories that make up "me". They anchor me.

When I finished crying, I took a deep breath and went inside. It felt great. It was a wonderful week. So good to see everyone. We welcomed a TON of new teachers to our ELA team - lots of Aggies - class of '11. I mean, are you kidding me?! So young! We have 70 teachers on the middle school ELA team this year, so there will be no shortage of work to do to support everyone. My team & I worked really hard over the summer, and that work paid off and resulted in a fantastic first week back.

Yes, North Carolina has (many) perks, but my roots are in Texas, and it will always be home.


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