Sunday, October 14, 2012

sloppy joes, sloppy, sloppy joes...

A few weeks ago, I won three spice blends from a company called The Zesty Moose....a contest on another blog I follow.  It's such a rare occurrence that I win anything-- so getting this package in the mail one day was super exciting.
With school keeping me pretty busy, I kind of forgot about these in my pantry.  Until yesterday.

I came back from a shopping trip with a ton of was a chilly, rainy day and I was in the mood for making soup. 

After making the minestrone, I had a few leftover ingredients and started brainstorming what to do with them.  I decided on sloppy joes....because (a) I bought some ground meat on sale, (b) it gave me a reason to try one of my spice blends and (c) I just love sloppy joes.

As seems to be the requirement for blog recipe posts, here is the requisite photo of ingredients:
ground meat (my package was just over a pound)
orange bell pepper (you could use any color)
tomato paste
can of crushed tomatoes (about 15 oz.)
dry red wine
worcestershire sauce
broth or stock (beef or veggie)
seasonings (more about that later)
A few things I've used in the past but weren't in this recipe...
My first step was to chop the veggies.  This is always my favorite step.  I have a crazy love for chopping.  If I ever decide to take on a second job, it will probably be as a sous chef.  :)
First, I chopped the onions.  And took a break halfway to wipe the tears from my eyes (and take this picture).  If you have any suggestion for how to cut an onion without tearing up, do share!
Next was the garlic.  Which, if you read my last post, is another one of my loves.
I grated a few cloves.  Don't forget to scrape the back of the grater!
For the bell pepper, I learned a new method of chopping it to waste less.
First, you chop off the top and bottom.  Then you cut out the middle ribs/seeds.  That way you can chop all of it without throwing away any of it with the stem/ribs!
After chopping the top and bottom, slice the middle section into thin strips.  Turn these and dice to the desired size.  I chopped mine pretty small for this recipe, to match the size of the onions.
Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil in a pan, and add the ground meat. 
Brown up the meat, and depending on what kind of meat you use, you may need to drain the extra fat.
I learned this great trick on Pinterest for draining fat with an easy clean up.  Line a bowl with some foil, and pour the fat into the foil.  Once it hardens, all you need to do is take the foil out and throw it away! 
Add the chopped veggies to the meat, and saute up a little while (I added another drizzle of oil). 
I buy my tomato paste in a tube when I know I won't be using an entire can.  I just squirted about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste into the pan and stirred it up until it was fragrant.
Next, I poured about a half cup of dry red wine in the mixture and cooked it out for a minute.
Next, a little worcestershire sauce...
And then the spice mix.  I started with a heaping teaspoon of it. 
This mix has a ton of fantastic flavor:  garlic salt, onion granules, minced garlic, chili powder, jalapeno powder, cilantro, cumin, lime powder, and tomato powder.
(I added another half teaspoon-full of it needed an extra kick!)
Finally, to give it that "sloppy" consistency, I added a can of crushed tomatoes.
I also added about a cup of veggie broth I had leftover from last night's soup.  To make sure I had every last bit out of the can of tomatoes, I "rinsed" out the can with the broth.  No picture of this....sorry.  I did take a picture of how sloppy it looked after all the ingredients were added:
Leave this simmering on the stove for as long as you want-- basically, until the consistency is what you want it to be.  This is what mine looked like when I was ready to eat.
(Oh, and I did add a few squirts of mustard and ketchup at one point.  I just couldn't resist adding a couple more ingredients!)
After toasting up a couple hamburger buns, I topped my bun with some sloppy goodness.
And just couldn't help myself.....a little shredded mozzarella was necessary.
Okay, not necessary.  But a really, really good idea.
With a side of some lightly salted potato chips (love them more than the regular-salted ones!), my comfort-food fix for the day was complete. 
Thanks again to Mom Colored Glasses for the giveaway, and to The Zesty Moose for the freebie!
I'm looking forward to trying out more new recipes with these fun spice mixes!  :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

keeping the vampires away tonight...

I have a love obsession with....and a inability to go easy on....garlic. 
Among other things.

Tonight's recipe is exhibit A.

My breath is exhibit B.

Luckily for you, you can't smell my breath right now. 
Also luckily for you, I'm going to share my bruschetta recipe.   And when I say "my bruschetta recipe" I really mean my interpretation of a few different recipes I've looked up recently, along with my own little twists on them.

It all started when I realized I bought an extra pint of grape tomatoes, and my sister brought a baguette to my house when I invited her to have some of my leftovers last night.  I knew I didn't want either to go to waste....and what is more obvious with those two ingredients than bruschetta?

I don't have a recipe with measurements (what's new, right?), but I will take you on a step-by-step photo journey through this impromptu dinner.  And literally.....with as many of these as I ate tonight, it was dinner for me.  :)

I first assembled all of the ingredients:
2 pints of grape tomatoes (I used red and yellow-- just because, it's prettier that way)
crusty french baguette
fresh basil
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
I halved the tomatoes....but you could of course chop them in whatever size/shape you want.
I love the big, chunky style of bruschetta.
Next, I used one of my favorite "knife skills" that I've learned over the years....the chiffonade.   I love to say "chiffonade", I love the rolling of the basil, I love how it looks so pretty when it's done.
And....I love fresh basil.
For those who haven't been introduced to this's super easy.
First, make a nice healthy stack of basil leaves.
They're so pretty, aren't they?  Even on a messy cutting board!  :)
Roll them up tight:
Lay down the roll and cut across the roll, working your way down the length of the roll until you've cut it all into very thin strips.  I didn't take a picture of this step.....because, well....I'm not that talented.  I can't chiffonade and take a picture at the same time apparently. 
But here's what it looks like when you're done:
Next step....I peeled a good, healthy amount of garlic.
More than the average person would probably use.  But.....that's how I roll.  You can adjust this to your own taste.  You'll probably want to halve the amount that I used.  Unless you're a garlic freak like I am.  Which, if that's the case.....welcome to the club!
Two cloves for the garlic-infused butter, and four (yes, I said four) for the bruschetta.
Please don't judge. 
I cut a couple cloves in half and heated them up in a mixture of butter (a couple tablespoons) and oil (a few tablespoons) for the baguette slices.  I'll get to that step later.
The rest of the garlic was grated (yes, not's such a time saver) into a pan with some oil and garlic.  This was the base of the "glue" for the bruschetta.
I didn't think it was enough oil for the amount of garlic I used (shocker!), so I added a little butter to the pan to have a "saucier" feel to it.
Once the garlic was fragrant, but NOT burned, I poured the garlicky-butter-oil mixture into a bowl.
Added the chopped tomatoes and basil.

Along with some balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons), salt, and pepper to taste.
I saw a warning on a recipe to be careful to not oversalt this, so I just put a pinch of salt to start.
Definitely taste it at this point to see if your seasonings are right.
Then, cover the mixture and leave it in the fridge for as long as you can stand it.
Or at least for as long as it takes you to make the bread.
For the bread.....I first cut it at an angle to make large slices. 
Lay the slices out on a baking sheet.
Brush each slice with your garlic-infused butter/oil mixture.
And put the tray under your broiler set on high.
Make sure to watch them so they don't burn--- it won't take long!!
Here's what they'll look like when you first take them out.  Warning: it may be difficult to not eat the entire pan of toasted garlicky bread.  But don't forget about the delicious bowl of goodness you have waiting in the fridge!  That just sets it over the top.
Luckily, this is a pretty healthy snack....or in my case, meal.
I think it would be even better with a little parmesan cheese freshly grated on top.
But I was all out of that. 
I think that this made up for the lack of cheese:
Well, I'm off to brush my teeth a few times.  Maybe by tomorrow the garlic smell will be gone.
For the sake of my 28 fourth graders, I hope so!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

thirty days...

I'm a magazine hoarder. 

Okay, so not in the "I have piles stacked everywhere that date back to the 70's and I have to build a path to find my way through my house" sense of hoarding.

More like a "I don't really need to subscribe to another magazine because I don't read them all but it was such a fantastic bargain that I couldn't help myself" kind of hoarder.

Luckily, I am getting better.....I decided I'm only going to keep two subscriptions renewed.  That's progress.  I also spent some time this summer going through a portion of my magazines, ripping out articles that I may want to refer back to, a recipe that I wanted to try, or design ideas for my house.  I even created a filing system for these pages-- so I'm on the road to Operation Magazine Declutter entering its final stages.

If you can't tell, I'm pretty proud of myself.

So....during this process of ripping and recycling, I found an article on sleep issues.  You know, the usual.....Americans are sleep-deprived, our health is affected by this, etc.   I'll be the first to admit that I know I'm sleep-deprived, I know I stay up too late, and I know that it's all going to "catch up to me".
Which is why I ripped out this article and didn't file it away.....I read it.  

One of the things that stuck out to me is how technology is having a negative effect on our quality of sleep.  It makes sense, right?  Staring at a computer screen or at my iPhone right before bed.....probably not helping my brain and my body relax. 

And I was guilty-- of emailing, going on Facebook, Pinterest browsing, Instagram-checking, and playing games on my phone.....all up until the point I turned off my nightstand lamp and closed my eyes.    It is no wonder I had trouble falling asleep right away.....even though I was exhausted, it was late, and I knew my alarm was going to go off at 6.   

I decided to try something new-- stay off technology after 11.  For some of you, this may seem late.  For me, it's early.....but that's another challenge in the works.   I thought if I can do this for thirty days, it will be a habit.  And honestly, I have been really strict about it.  Yes, I "fell off the wagon" a couple times, mostly on the weekends or because I lost track of time-- but I got right back to it the next night.  It's actually been over thirty days, and I'm still sticking with it.  I'm a little more lenient on the weekends (hence the time I'm finishing up this post), but I also don't need to wake up so early.

So this leads into my next thirty day challenge-- to start going to bed five minutes earlier every night until I get to the point where I get at least seven hours of sleep a night.  That's going to require an adjustment in the technology rule.....I'll need to stop at 10:00 instead of 11:00.....gasp!   I can do this, I can do this......:)

A few benefits I've noticed since I've started this challenge:

**I started reading regularly again- right before bed, I have read a chapter or two. During the school year, I've never been a book-reader (for pleasure) because of how late I stayed up. With this added amount of time before bed, I've made it a habit to read......and I just finished a book last night!
**I'm not as tired in the morning.  It used to be that when I was driving to work, I would have a hard time keeping myself awake (okay, so not like falling-asleep-at-the-wheel tired, but definitely drowsy).   Now I'm much more alert during that morning drive.
**I am more alert and aware of things going on in my classroom.  Definitely a bonus for classroom management!  :)
**I've been able to fall asleep earlier-- which will help with my next challenge as well.
**I haven't had any issues with waking up in the middle of the night....well, except for the first day of school.  But that was just because I was afraid I wouldn't hear one of my three alarms and I'd be late for the first day! 

I'd encourage you to find something in your life that you need to change into a healthy habit......and try it for thirty days.  If you do, let me know how it goes! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

wake me up when september ends... I was pretty good at writing frequent posts since I began my blog this summer.

And then September happened.

School started.
I got busy.
End of story.

Now that September has come and gone (hence the nod-to-Green-Day title of this post), I realize how much I missed writing.  There are so many topics I could have written about, but I just didn't made the time to sit down and do it.

So I decided to brainstorm a list (because I just love lists) of some possible posts I could write.  I thought maybe I'll hold myself more accountable if I commit this list into print.....a promise to myself that I will dedicate some least once a writing.

Here's what I have so far...
*Pinterest projects in the classroom- update
*Starting off a school year- my new and old favorite ideas
*My first experience with a student teacher
*Organization in the classroom
*What I've learned from fourth graders

and just so you don't think I'm totally obsessed with my job....
*Finishing up my guest room
*Crafty/DIY projects I've done recently
*30 day challenges- I've completed one, and am starting a new one
*New recipe post
*These Are My Confessions....part 2

Please....if you do follow this blog, and I fail to follow through with this, hold me to it!   And feel free to let me know if there are any topics you'd be interested in me writing first.  It will give me even more motivation to get started!  :)

I can say this for certain.....I won't wait until November to write my next post.  Promise.