Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recent Eats & New Activity

I've continued trying some of the recipes I find/keep on Pinterest, and my stomach is quiet satisfied with the new dishes.

Some of my most recent things:

 This absolutely delicious (and easy!) pizza crust recipe.  All baking ingredients you're already likely to have in the kitchen plus your favorite pizza toppings.  I definitely need to make this again soon... maybe tomorrow!

Recipe here.

And this was my amazing breakfast over the weekend.  Eggs, bacon, cheese, and basil on an open Pillsbury crescent roll. I guess you could almost call this a breakfast pizza? The cheese is parmesan, which I would never think to pair with eggs (I'm more of a cheddar person for breakfast foods) but I'm glad  I followed the recipe, because it ended up tasting great!  I also reminded me a lot of one of my favorite Eugene restaurants, Off the Waffle.

Recipe here.

We're having a morning show Christmas party this weekend, and I plan to try out a cheesy bacon dip.  Pretty excited to try that one out.

And last but not least on today's blog agenda: my most recent skill/hobby/activity:
I taught myself how to crochet! In other words: I think I've reached the full potential of an old cat lady at just 22 years old.

  I've made four ear warmers already since it's the most basic thing you can make.  No, they aren't all for me -- easy extra Christmas presents! Now I'm working on making a hat, and it's definitely a challenge.  I'm always amazed by how useful YouTube is, because I would never have figured out any of this without tutorial videos.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It's Christmas time!

I think one of the things I was most excited for about having my own place (aside from decorating it for everyday life) was decorating it for Christmas!  I made myself hold off until after Thanksgiving, but then I had a blast decorating it.  Since my morning is at night, it helps start my day off right by turning on the Christmas tree and seeing it glow in the darkness.

I have a (fake) Christmas tree, a (fake) evergreen/lights/gold ornaments garland around my curtain rod, and then I made some little holiday themed bouquets to put in some hanging vases.  It's hard to capture the magic with a camera, it's never able to fully capture the way the lights sparkle off the ornaments.  

Part of the reason I was so excited to decorate... was to take a Christmas photo with Neville.  It of course took many many tries and some leftover Thanksgiving turkey to get that Santa hat on him, and a good image.  

And even though I don't have room for a real tree, I still got to go help my friends pick one out!  

We went to Northern Lights Christmas tree farm.  It was absolutely adorable, with little goats running around to pet, and a hay ride to get to the trees! I love the smell of Christmas trees.  

Another holiday activity I've checked off my list? Decorating a gingerbread house, and wrapping my family's presents. I'm hoping that when my family visits we can make some cookies -- I'm very excited to be able to spend the holidays with them!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Past Few Weeks

I feel like I'm always posting about food... and here's another food heavy post!  Although I feel like I should get a pass this week, because it was Thanksgiving.  I haven't posted in a few weeks, so here's a quick recap of what I did, and what I ate.

 It was a busy week last week, because I dog sat for a few days to help my friend out.  It was nice for me, I got to snuggle with Moose, watch tv on a big HD screen, and do some laundry.  I even was brave and took Moose for a walk,  my first walk with a dog where I was actually holding the leash. It was quite an experience for me, a cat person.  Dogs are easily excited, pretty much have ADD, and everyone seems to think they can just talk to you because you have a dog with you.  There's a reason I'm a cat person, I prefer to curl up in corners alone haha. But it was fun playing dog owner for a few days.

That weekend, I cooked what is probably my most favorite lasagna dish: caprese lasagna roll-ups. The photo above isn't my cooking, it's from the original recipe I used, but it would be hard to describe them otherwise.  It's based off of a caprese salad, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil.  Basil is basically my favorite spice, so I loved having a good amount of that flavor. And even though I don't generally like tomatoes, it was a nice texture change from the usual lasagna with just sauce and cheese. Most of all, I was proud of myself for cooking the noodles without breaking any in the pot, so that I was actually able to roll them up.

Continuing on in chronological order: last Sunday I had my first cat mom scare, after Neville fell off the fridge.  He slipped on a bag of magnets I had up there, and sprained his hind leg in the fall.  He was limping really badly, and so we spent two hours at the emergency vet getting him checked.  Luckily he just needed some pain meds and was confined to my room for a few days while he healed, and he's not limping anymore.  Let me tell you, it's not pleasant sleeping in the same room as a litter box!

Now, I don't even think he remembers he was injured earlier in the week.

Thanksgiving was also this week.  I stayed up "late" (4 p.m. compared to my usual 2 p.m.) to have dinner at my friends' house, the ones with the dog.  They cooked the turkey, and the rest of us attending -- most from work -- brought side dishes. It was the first time they'd ever cooked a turkey, and it turned out really well! Neville approved too, he gobbled up the leftovers I brought him right away.  My favorite part has always been the mashed potatoes, so I was pretty excited to find that there were two different versions available.  If you're wondering what my contribution was: I was boring and bought basic steamed green beans.

And as for yesterday -- it was a great day. Our Black Friday live coverage went really well, and although there was little local news aside from that,  I still managed to put together a show I was really proud of, and it was off with no problems.  I cleaned my whole apartment, decorated for Christmas (pictures to come soon) and finished the day off watching movies while eating my favorite alfredo sauce recipe over tortellini, and some chocolate cake.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite things to make because it's easy, makes a good amount of leftovers for easy meals, and helps me get more vegetables in my diet. I was a little scared of it the first time I tried it, because while I love broccoli, peas, and carrots, I'm not someone who's really into "trendy" healthy food (kale? Why is that a thing?) but since I heard it tasted a lot like actual spaghetti, the pasta lover in me decided to give it a whorl.

Now, it's on the top of my list of things I like to cook.  Since it can make a lot of servings, especially depending on the size of the squash, it can get kind of boring to eat as an average spaghetti dish, like with tomato sauce and meatballs, so I decided to get creative with it.  I'd seen some cheesy spaghetti squash recipes online before, so I decided to try mixing it with my favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, and it was delicious.  So I decided to share it with the internet.

Spaghetti squash:

I always use the recipe from A Beautiful Mess, and I've always had great results, so here it is, with some lovely pictures to illustrate the steps.

1. Cut open the squash.  This is actually the hardest part of the entire recipe, but I had the genius, if I do say so myself, idea to use one of those pumpkin cutters from the kid kits sold in grocery stores ... and my life has now completely changed for the better.  It's so easy.

2. Scoop out the seeds and loose innards, add a light layer of olive oil.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  The edges will usually be slightly browned.

4. Using a fork, start scraping at the squash.  It comes apart in thin strands, just like spaghetti!  The first time I did this, I thrilled that it worked, even though I'd already seen pictures of it.

Like I said before, this can be eaten like traditional spaghetti with some warm sauce.  It's also easily thrown in the fridge and heated up, so it can be done early if need be, since the cooking time is rather long.

Cheese sauce:

Recipe adapted from my old Betty Crocker cookbook.  It makes enough cheese sauce for a little more than half of a large squash.

You'll need:
-2 tbsp butter
-1/8 cup chopped onion (or as little or much as you like, depending on how much you like onions, I usually use less)
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-2 tbsp flour
-3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
-4 oz cubed cheddar (or whatever cheese you prefer)

This time around, I forgot to take nice pictures for the steps... whoops! But it's pretty self explanatory.

1. In a medium skillet, cook and stir butter, onions, salt, and pepper on medium heat, until onion is tender.
2. Stir in flour over low heat, until smooth and slightly bubbly.
3. Remove pan from heat, and add the milk.
4. Return pan to heat, then heat to boiling.
5. Let boil for one minute, stirring constantly -- the sauce should be thickening.
6. Remove from heat, and stir in cheese cubes until they melt.  My cheddar was that orange/yellow color, hence the slightly fake-cheese look in the picture above.  If you use white cheddar, it looks a little more homemade and classic.

7. Put spaghetti squash in a small casserole dish.  I tried to figure out what size mine is for comparison, but it doesn't have a size on it anywhere.
8. Pour cheese mixture over squash.  I recommend adding about half, stirring it in, then add the rest, and stir once again.  It also might be helpful to stir with a fork, because that will help break up the thin squash strands, and give a more even coating of cheese.
9. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned.
10. Serve warm!

I made some green beans to make it even more of a veggie meal, and some tasty baguette toast that I bought at a Eugene bakery.  This makes at least two servings, or more depending on what you pair it with.  Last time I made it, I mixed steamed peas into the cheesy squash when I reheated it, and that was really good.

I think there are a variety of ways to mix it up: add cubed ham, bits of bacon, chicken, etc. Spaghetti squash is also a great pasta alternative for people who are gluten free, and although I haven't tried it, I think that gluten free flour could easily be substituted to make this a gluten free dish.  Note: the flour is used as a thickener in this recipe, and if gluten free flour doesn't have those capabilities, it might not work.  Though Brian is gluten free, he doesn't like baked goods, so I'm not too well versed in how gluten free flour actually works.

Hope you give my recipe a try! If you like cheese, you'll definitely like it. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Playing Adult

Sometimes I feel like I'm just pretending to be an adult.  Does it always feel like this? I'm thinking that it does.  Luckily I live by myself and don't have to be accountable for anyone (besides my cat) because sometimes I really don't feel being a proper adult.

"Sure, my bathroom sink is a little gross... but who's going to see it besides me? Is it ok that I'm having macaroni and cheese again this week because I'm too lazy to cook anything else? Should I really waste these pans to make vegetables?"

Sometimes I give in to the adult voice in my head... lately I've been kind of ignoring it.  Which means I'm really in for some big cleaning this weekend, and making some good dinners.  I am getting better at one thing.  I was more active and more into working on things after work during the summer ... but since my mom and Brian visited, and I decided to stop working out for the winter, I accidentally fell into a rut of just watching Netflix/on demand until it was time to go to bed.  To try and keep myself from turning into some kind of weird couch potato and/or getting my face sucked into a TV (Doctor Who, anyone?) I bought some flannel to work on a scarf, and some stuff to make more jewelry.

So that's what I've been up to lately.  Now the next step is to work on the whole cleaning and eating thing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Willamette National Forest

After a difficult few days at work, it was great to get out and enjoy the Oregon fall over the the weekend.  My friend Carrie said the drive from Springfield to Oakridge was supposed to be very pretty in the fall, so we explored the drive with her other friend who also likes to take pictures.

The route was very pretty, with plenty of colorful leaves, but the best part was when we pulled over to check out a campground in the Willamette National Forest.

It's too late in the season I guess, so there weren't any campers for us to disturb while we walked around.  It was so incredibly green and mossy, exactly what I expected out of pacific northwest forest (thank you, Twilight). Half the campground was right on the Willamette River, which made it even prettier.  I wouldn't mind camping there, and I definitely need to check out some of the hiking trails next spring/summer -- there were so many trailheads stemming out from the road we were driving down.

To finish off our expedition, we stopped by what Carrie said was supposed to be the longest covered bridge in Oregon ... but it didn't seem like anything out of the ordinary.  Then again, that could just be the New Englander coming out, because I'm pretty sure the covered bridge in Contoocook is longer (and in my opinion, much cooler).

Still, it was fun to check out on such a nice day.  It was surrounded by some beautiful mountains, too.

Getting out and exploring the area is definitely something I should do more of, but I probably will be reluctant now that it's cold.  Although at least then I wouldn't be in my freezing apartment. It's currently a battle of wills between me and my thermostat ... or at least it feels that way.  I guess it's really more of a battle between my comfort levels and my wallet. It was in the low 30s/high 20s this morning though, and I still have yet to turn it on.

Annnd because always, here are some cute pictures of Neville in his favorite hang out spot.

What a creeper.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Last week was a week of food.  I made lots of delicious fall treats, because what else do you do when you're done with work at 8 am? Ok, I wouldn't done it no matter what time I work, because I love food.  I also took some other random pictures around my apartment for some added fun (aka so my family can see some of my fall decorations).

My squash collection has also grown after I got a fall package from my parents.  Neville loves to get up there and knock my new mini pumpkin down.

Tree near my apartment in full fall colors.

 I didn't want to cut up my decorative pumpkin so I bought one just to roast into seeds. Yum.

Mini apple pies, pie filling in the process, homemade hash browns, spaghetti squash pizza crust.  Not pictures: left over spaghetti squash in homemade mac and cheese sauce.  Accidentally added double the amount of butter I needed, and it was awesome.  Next on the list: chocolate chip cookies.  I've got all the ingredients, just need to stop being lazy.

Hint to my sister's Christmas present.

And as always, Neville.  Love when I hit the shutter button at the right time, he moves around so much.

And now back to listening to Taylor Swift's new cd. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Straight 800

I came out of racing retirement... in a very painful way.

I ran in the Nick Symmonds Springfield Straight 800 last Friday.  Because when else will you get to meet a US champion/Olympian, and run the only USATF sanctioned straight 800? Only in Tracktown, USA.  It was a painful experience, having only run once in the week leading up the race, but fun nonetheless. I definitely had no idea what I was doing and took it out way too fast, but I'd say my finishing time of 2:45 was fairly respectable for not being a frequent runner since I finished my track career.  And obviously I ran fully outfitted in my BU gear.

The race was right in downtown Springfield, super close to my apartment.  People from work were covering the event, and some also participated, so it was fun to get to see people I knew!  Makes me feel less like the old cat lady that I secretly am.

Bought a pretty cool shirt with my race fee, and KEZI sponsored it, so when I move it will be an extra cool keepsake from my life here.

And because I'm sure everyone is missing Neville:

What a cute, snuggly guy (except for right now, attacking the window and futon for no reason...).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fall Festivities

Here I am in Townshed's Tea on Saturday again.  This time, to bring you part two of last weekend's adventures.

Last Saturday I went to do my favorite fall activity, apple picking.  It was not as nice as the orchard at home in New Hampshire, but I also think that the apples ripened early this year because of the hot summer, so some were already too old and had weird brown spots on them. The orchard was also missing some of my favorite varieties, but that's probably a location thing.  And I still managed to come out with way more apples than I probably needed -- a full bucket!  I'm might try and make some kind of apple treat with some of them.

I went with my friend Carrie, who had never picked apples straight from the tree, or pumpkins out of a pumpkin patch! She's from Texas, so I guess these New England fall activities aren't as common/ able to happen.  I was glad I invited here so she was finally able to experience it!

She was thrilled to see pumpkins actually growing on a vine.  It was fun to see someone who was new to it all since even though it's fun to do every year for me, it's not new.

Back at the farm stand, I finished out my fall haul with some cute mini gourds (I made a little display on my bookshelf with them and my pumpkin) and a half gallon of apple cider.  Yum.

I think I might carve my pumpkin soon, so I can get the seeds out to toast.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are most definitely one of my favorite fall foods.

Stay tuned over here.  Soon to come: a short road race and meeting an Olympian!