Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Three Passions

I'm done!!!!  Grad. school is over!  These past 2 years have dragged by and flown by at the same time, if that's possible.  The two years I have spent in grad school to become a reading specialist have heightened the three passions in my life:  Family, Cooking, and Teaching.

Without my family, I would not have been able to accomplish graduating on time.  Family was the reason I joined this cohort:  my mother-in-law, grandmother, and grandfather.  My husband has taken care of my daughter and then my son on the weekends we had class.  My mom and dad have been there rooting me on the whole way, including letting us live with them when the washing machine flooded our house over one of the weekends I had class.

My mom has also taught me the love of cooking.  Just like a good meal brings people together, so does a good book.  The ingredients you put into a meal can be tweaked, added to, or removed based on what you want the end product to be and the interests of the people you are cooking for. 
During the past two years, I have seen so many connections between cooking a meal and teaching a child to read.  There is no 'right' recipe for teaching a child to read.  You have to take a little of this, a pinch of that, a heaping tablespoon of something else to teach a child to read.  But, the recipe you use for that child may not work for another.  You are constantly looking for the perfect 'recipe.'

Things I have learned from the two years I have spent with Longwood University:
Comprehension skills and strategies are not the same.   
I just might be able to teach kindergarten, but with weekly e-mails to Dr. W.
Students use metacognition and schema when reading, and CAN use these two words in their language.
If you give students choice when reading, they LOVE it!
Students get annoyed when you tell them they are helping you with your homework for class.
You can actually look forward to the weekends of class because you can't wait to catch up with your friends who you used to consider just classmates.
Mentor texts are now your go to instead of worksheets to practice grammar and writing skills.
Basals are NOT the only way to teach reading and you can convince others to believe this as well.
Being a role model and showing young ones that you love to read, DOES make an impact.

Tessa does quote Fancy Nancy, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and Love You Forever.  And she would much rather read books than take a nap.

What am I going to do now that I'm done???  Let's see...clean the house, catch up on laundry, organize closets that I have stuffed with odds and ends, and most of all, spend time with my family and COOK!

Like always, here's a recipe to make sometime this week.  This recipe was given to me by my Aunt Cathy, my mom's sister.  It's an awesome salad to have anytime of the year, but very enjoyable on a warm Spring or Summer day.  Wait to add the dressing right before you serve it.  Happy Eating Y'all!

Cashew and Craisin Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 bag spinach, chopped
2 large apples, skinned and chopped (granny smith)
12 oz. Swiss cheese, grated
1 can cashew pieces
1 small bag Craisins

1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 T poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar

Mix dressing in jar and shake well.  Assemble salad fixings and toss well.  Toss with dressing before serving.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Back at it

I felt like I was my old self again last week!  I got 4 cooked meals to the table and once again had lots of leftovers in the refrigerator.  With warmer temperatures, I definitely have the itch to cook out at some point.

Dempsey is doing a great job with his schedule.  He continues to be indecisive as to what he wants, but that's got to be a typical guy trait, right???  He is such a smiley boy and loves it when people talk to him.

Some of the recipes I will be making this week were found on Pinterest.  This site is so addicting and so fun!

***Ok, I love lasagna, but it can be so time consuming to make.  Here's a version I found that can be made on the stovetop.  I found it at this site here.  Have fun exploring this site!  It has amazing freezer meals.  I think I may double this recipe to have some in the freezer for the week I go back to work.
Skillet Lasagna
recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound fresh italian sausage, crumbled
10 dry curly edged lasagna noodles, broken into 2 inch pieces
1 (8oz) tomato sauce
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese + more for serving
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Pour diced tomatoes with their juices into 1-quart liquid measuring cup. Add water until mixture measures 1 quart; set aside.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add italian sausage and cook, breaking apart meat, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta, cover, and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.

* To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare recipe above as directed up until you scatter the pasta. Scatter pasta over meat but do not stir. Pour diced tomatoes with juices and tomato sauce over pasta. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is barely al dente, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer dish into oven- and freezer safe container. Allow dish to cool and then freeze. When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Defrost completely and place container on a baking sheet. Dot with heaping tablespoons ricotta and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Serve.

***Stuffed peppers are also a favorite of mine and I love this variation I found on this site.  This recipe calls for ground turkey which is a healthy alternative to ground beef.
Southwestern Stuffed Peppers
  • Olive Oil ( I used Tahitian lime olive oil)
  • 1/2 lb lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 heaping tbsp of homemade taco seasoning (or you can use the packaged type if you like)
  • 2 cups of cooked rice (any type you like – I like brown)
  • 3-4 organic bell peppers, halved and seeds removed
  • 1 can of black beans, drained & rinsed
  • ½ cup of organic frozen corn
  • 1 (15 -16 ounce) jar of salsa (my favorite is mango peach)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Toppings:
  • fresh cilantro
  • sour cream
  • sliced avocado
Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat the peppers with olive oil and roast in a baking dish about 20-25 minutes just until cooked thru. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them.
*****Note – make sure you cook your turkey ahead of time that way you do not have to worry about it later. Also, I sauteed the onions until cooked thru, I then added in my cooked rice, black beans and corn.
In a bowl add the taco seasoning, cooked ground turkey, chopped onions, black beans, corn and rice. Add in the jar of salsa and mix well.
Carefully spoon the turkey mixture into each half of the bell peppers and place back into the baking dish. Cook the peppers for another 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are cooked all the way thru. Before removing from the oven sprinkle the tops of each pepper with shredded cheddar cheese. Place back into the oven just until the cheese has melted.
Remove from the oven and top with fresh cilantro, avocado slices and/or sour cream just before serving.

***I also got my Southern Living magazine this week.  It had some great kid-friendly, healthy simple recipes.  Chicken breasts are on sale this week at our local grocery store.  I'm going to try this simple meal this week and I will also include some of the other simple meals they included for kids.

Two-Ingredient Chicken Strips
Chicken breasts cut into strips.
Marinate the chicken strips in ranch dressing for a few hours.

How simple is that?!

I also want to try these for lunch this week:
Hazelnut-Strawberry Sandwiches
Smear hazelnut spread and strawberry jam on white bread.

What a nice change from the old standby peanut butter and jelly!