Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Homecoming Looks Like+ Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops & Zucchini Bread & Baked Eggs with Bacon and Spinach Recipes

Last week was Homecoming at my school. I thought it might be fun to show you a glimpse of what it looks like on Homecoming Friday and at the Homecoming dance. (I'm sorry the photos are not very good. I used my cheap camera and it was on the wrong setting. Bummer!)

This year my school went from a grades 9-12 school to a grades 7-12 school, and so the 7th and 8th graders experienced their first pep rally.

Here are my young kiddos, my 7th and 8th graders.
I have them first hour and they are a great way to start my day.

The band played, the cheerleaders cheered and tried to teach the kids how to respond. At first they were a bit unsure as they were still using their best we-are-in-an-assembly behavior since they did not know that they could be silly in pep rallies. We taught them how to do "the wave." The 7th & 8th grade StuCo kids did their best to run a couple of activities. Some of it was a bit clunky. One girl got lost in the script and cried. Her best friend bounded out of the stands to the gym floor, hugging her and offering reassurance. The kids cheered. They are such good kids. The girl dried her eyes, took que from another girl, and then picked up where they left off. By the end of the hour, they were thrilled and exclaimed with joy and happiness upon leaving to go to class.

At the end of the day we had the high school pep rally. It was fun, too, but much more rowdy. I need to remember to bring earplugs next time. Once again the band played, the flags did a routine, the cheerleaders did a fun routine that included having some of the boys dance with them. There were silly, rigged contests where the seniors won (of course, they always win, that is why it is rigged.) And the kids were so good.

That afternoon there was a BBQ, a Powder Puff (Junior Girls vs Senior Girls Football game), a soccer match, face painting, car decorating, etc. and the Homecoming game. We won 44 to 0. This is the second year that we won, after a 12 year loosing homecoming game streak. It was exciting!

Saturday night we had the Homecoming dance. The kids were lovely, fun and pretty well behaved. They loved doing the line dances. The music as a mix of popular dance music and Mexican line dance music. Many of our Mexican kids going dancing every week, and so most of those kids know the moves to the dances. It was pretty cool to watch. Even the principal danced along. I tried to take a few photos, but it was too dark to see much.
via: Gimme Some Oven
Thick, juicy pork chops are topped with a creamy, sweet, cinnamon-y apple and onion topping. It's comfort food at its best!


4 Ribeye (rib) pork chops, bone-in, about 3/4-inch thick
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 apples, peeled (optional), cored and thinly sliced
1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
2/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup heavy cream

Generously season the chops with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Immediately add the pork chops and cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Let chops rest for 3 minutes.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Immediately add the apples and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and cayenne. Stir in the apple cider and cream. Add the pork chops, nestling them into the liquid, and cook until the internal temperature of the pork reaches between 145 degrees F. (medium rare), with a 3-minute rest, and 160 degrees F. (medium), 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Serve the chops with the apple mixture spooned on top.

The author of this recipe submitted it to Cooking Comfort - E-cookbook, put out by the Pork Counsel.


via: Epicuruous (from Bon Appetit Mag.)

6 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 5-ounce bag baby spinach
2 whole wheat or sourdough English muffins, split horizontally, well toasted
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Special equipment: 4 1-cup ramekins

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp; transfer to paper towels. Pour off drippings from skillet; reserve drippings. Add spinach to pan, sprinkle with pepper, and toss over medium heat, 1 minute. Transfer to strainer set over bowl to drain. Brush four 1-cup ramekins with drippings. Crumble bacon.

Place 1 toasted English muffin half, split side up, in each ramekin. Divide spinach among ramekins, then sprinkle bacon over, dividing equally. With back of spoon, shape well in center of each ramekin. Gently crack 1 egg into well in each ramekin, keeping yolk intact. Drizzle 1 tablespoon cream over each egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake eggs until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 14 to 16 minutes.


Zucchini Bread


3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil (or 12/ cup Veg. Oil & 1/2 cup Applesauce)
2 1/4 cups white sugar ( i used 1/2 cup Brown Sugar and 1/2 cup White Sugar as we like our muffins less sweet than the recipes calls for)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy First Day of Fall

I find creative inspiration in many places; most recently I was inspired by the new fall cup at Starbucks. I went in to get coffee for my husband and came away with the coffee, a box of Pumpkin Spice Latte instant beverage packets, a clean, unused fall Starbucks cup and a head full of excitement.

The arrival of fall is exciting for Ellie, and so I have marked the occasion with small surprises for many years. When the kids were younger I would set out fun fall things like crazy socks, fall scented lotions, etc. This year it was a bit more decorative and a low key. I spent some of my lunch times drawing, painting and cutting out the assorted leaves, pumpkins and branches that I made. I scattered them on the table with mini pumpkins and the packets of Pumpkin Spice Latte. I was very pleased with the way it turned out. I went to bed, excited and hopeful that it would make today a tad bit more special for the kids (or young adults, really).

Ellie decided to dye her brown. I like it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Gondola Ride and a Hike in Vail

Larr and I went to Vail for the weekend for a bit of relaxation and a chance to see the aspens as they begin to turn golden. On Saturday we took Gondola 1 up the mountain, then we walked along Upper Fireweed trail to the Bahn Gondola in Lionshead. We took our time, taking plenty of photos and stopping to enjoy the sun in a meadow near the top of the mountain.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ethan's & Brandon's Camping Trip Near Buena Vista + Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup Recipe

Ethan and Brandon went camping last weekend. Ethan needed to get out of town and into nature. I believe that he also wanted to try out the new tent that we gave him for his birthday. It is an excellent tent.

They headed out towards and camped near Buena Vista. On the way, they caught sight of a bear. It was kind of an exciting thing for the boys. I think it worried the bear. It kept looking back to see if they were following him. He could not know that all they wanted was a few photographs.

We went to Buena Vista every summer when the kids were racing bikes. We also went just as a get-away as some friends own a tiny house in town. Coming round the bend on the north side of South Park (the very same that the cartoon is based on) is always a treat. It has so many connections with fun times with the family. I think it might be the same for Ethan.

They explored the area just north of Buena Vista, which we have not done, and they came across this set of tunnels that Ethan loved. It is pretty cool.

On another day they went four wheeling and encountered an odd, troubling sight. They found that some folks from Kansas were trying to go over the trail in their minivan. We're talking about a 4-wheel drive trail. Other 4-wheelers simply waved at the family as they trundled past. The family had purchased a map from town that said it was a good road. Ethan's Delorme Atlas showed it as a trail, a 4 wheeling trail. It was clear that they were in trouble and scared so Ethan and Brandon helped them out, alternately giving them instructions on how to drive over the rock gardens and sand pits. Other time Ethan drove the van for them.

When the boys encountered the family, they were praying because they thought they were going to die.The parents both in their late 70's and overweight. Their adult son was about 35 and has mental challenges. What they thought would be a nice drive turned into much more than they had bargained for. They were also not prepared for the day as they did not have the right clothes or enough water. Before the boys rescued them, they had considered abandoning the van and walking down the mountain. There was a point where they all got out of the van to walk a part of the trail while Ethan drove through the rock garden. After the 15 minutes of walking, they were tired and done. At that point in the day, the family was about 30 miles out of town. There was no way that they could have walked out.

It took a while and the van suffered some damage. The woman, white knuckled, learned to not stop when driving in a sand pit. I would imagine that they also learned about the importance of being prepared when you go exploring in nature.

At the bottom of the mountain Ethan and Brandon intended to bid them farewell, but the family was insistent on taking them to dinner as a token of thanks. They said that they were sure God had sent Ethan and Brandon to save them. At dinner the husband leans over to Ethan and says, I want to show you something. I want you to know who you saved, and as he did that he pulled out a photograph of himself dressed as Santa. He smiled jovialy and chuckled a bit. " You see," he says with a twinkle in his eye, "you saved Santa Claus."

Later that night the boys relaxed around the camp fire. Ethan tried his hand at star photography.

By the time they returned home, I think the boys felt satisfied with their trip. I am sure that they would have been happy to have camped for a longer time, but at least they were able to get away for a short while and try out the new tent, which is a good one.


It is still hot here, but we have a bounty of vegetables from our friends, so I decided to make a lovely Italian Sausage and Tortellini soup and garlic bread for dinner. I will stop on my way home and pick up some freshly shaved Parmesan cheese to put on top of it.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup
via: The Kitchn

Serves 2 for dinner plus leftovers
Neutral cooking oil, such as canola
1 pound bulk hot or mild Italian sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine (or substitute chicken stock)
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Parmesan rind (or a small hunk of cheese), optional
1 (9- or 12-ounce package) fresh or frozen tortellini (see Recipe Notes)
2 cups roughly chopped spinach
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste
Shaved Parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Drizzle a tablespoon or two of oil into a large Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat until shimmery and sizzling hot. Add the Italian sausage (do not break it up yet) and sear until golden-brown on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and sear the other side, another 2 to 3 minutes. Once the sausage is lightly browned on both sides, start aggressively breaking it up with wooden spoon. (The goal is to get some delicious caramelization in the bottom of the pan as opposed to just steaming the ground meat in its own liquids.) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to another bowl, leaving the fat in the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and a big pinch of salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 15 to 20 seconds, just until you start to smell its aroma. Add the red wine and increase the temperature to high. Allow the liquid to cook out at a raucous boil, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to release any delicious brown bits as it bubbles.
Add the canned tomatoes and juices to the pot. Then use kitchen shears to cut the tomatoes into bite-sized chunks. Add the chicken stock, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and Parmesan rind. Season with kosher salt — start with about a 1/4 teaspoon — and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the tortellini. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tortellini is warmed through, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the spinach to the pot and stir until wilted. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Remove Parmesan rind if used.) Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil and a dusting of shaved Parmesan.

For an easy side, use any leftover spinach to make a salad with your favorite vinaigrette, and add some frozen garlic bread if desired. Leftovers keep getting better; reheat with additional chicken stock or water, as needed.