Friday, August 30, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Gathering of the clans

Good morning, Crushers,

Sorry that I've been away for a while, but this week was crazy! Between teaching, regular work and "extracurricular activities", we're swamped. I'm really looking forward to a quiet weekend!

A quiet weekend? Wait. That never happens. Fortunately, this is at least an easier weekend with maybe filming a high school football game, our niece's 4th birthday party, and a trip to the Wisconsin Highland Games.

My maiden name is a very ethnic sounding name that people think is usually Irish, but really it's Scottish. We do have some Irish mixed in there somewhere, but that's not where the name came from. Anyway, my Dad's side of the family REALLY likes being Scottish. As in, my Dad owns a kilt and tried learning the bagpipes once. We almost had a piper play at our wedding. It's the one thing that I'd go back and change.

The Highland Games is a small "gathering of the clans" where people of Scottish and Irish descent get together to play games, dance, enjoy music and food and each others' company. For all the famed ferocity of the Scottish land and the Irish tempers, generally they're a good bunch (although a bit frugal). Whenever I think of "the clans" it always makes me think of the 12 Tribes of Israel in the Old Testament. Each group had their strengths and weaknesses. They probably didn't all get along all the time, but the tribes were rarely mentioned as anything other than the whole group.

"All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.' Genesis 49:28
 I'm sure many families of other ethnic groups have huge gatherings. Hopefully, the all have the joy of food and family as well as prayer and devotion together.

Can't wait for some good family time this weekend!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 22: She made it!

If we were on a virtual running date today, I would have to brag about 3 ladies today.

First, is my cousin Caitlin. She turned the big 3-0 yesterday. She is just about 5 months older than I am, so I'm always glad when she hits milestones before I do. It's kind of nice to see someone moving intrepidly ahead. Plus, she's throws epic (her words) parties. This year was no exception. However, I couldn't go to her party this year due to babysitting my two-year-old nephew. He's the cutest schedule conflict ever. Since his mommy and daddy went to the Packer Game, we were happy to watch him (and the game). Plus, we taught him a number of football-related things while babysitting. For instance, he can now do the Clay Matthew's move:

Anyway, Happy 30th Birthday Caitlin! I hope you have a spectacular year!

The second lady I'd like to mention in today's virtual running date is my friend Nicole and her brand new daughter, Lilliana. What a doll! As per usual, Steve and I went over and dropped off dinner and had a nice little visit with the new family. Rich, the proud papa, can be heard chatting with Miss Lilliana about hunting and fishing. Nicole just laughs, but knows that this little girl will probably be sporting some pink camo in the not too distant future.

What did we bring them for dinner? BBQ baked chicken, baked mac n' cheese and zucchini tots. It was delicious, but made our house really hot since it's August and I was crazy enough to use the oven! (Recipe at the bottom of this post.)

Last, but certainly not least, a HUGE virtual running date CONGRATULATIONS goes to Hannah for completing her first 5K. She beat her goal time by 2 whole minutes and she ran the whole way! While we were running, I had to laugh when she told me, "I can't believe I'm doing this. If you told me I'd be running a 5K back in January, I would have laughed in your face!" Laugh it up now, sister! You did such a great job!

All smiles before the race.
Bigger smiles after the race!
I hope you all had an equally wonderful weekend! Now, to enjoy some delicious mac n' cheese, here's my favorite baked mac:

The Lady's Cheesy Mac (variation)
1/2 cup light sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (plus 1/2 cup for topping)
4 cups cooked elbow noodles (ziti noodles work in a pinch)
4 Tbsp butter cut into pieces
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp garlic salt (optional)
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Gear you'll need: Pot for boiling noodles, small bowl, 13 x 9 pan (or two smaller ones), spoon or whisk

Directions: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Boil the noodles according to the directions on the box (about 8 minutes in a rolling boil). In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, eggs and milk. When the noodles are done and drained, pour them back into the pot (why get another bowl dirty?) and add the butter. Stir it up so that the noodles don't get stuck to the pot. Add the shredded cheese and stir until it's all melty. Add the egg mixture and stir until everything is well-coated. If you like, add some garlic salt. I know you don't need any more salt in your diet, but it gives it a little zing. You could also use fresh crushed garlic if you have it on hand. I did not. Sigh...

Anyway, pour all those noodles in your greased baking dish and spread it out. Sprinkle a little more cheese and bread crumbs on top. Bake, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot or bundle it up and take it to your friends' house to enjoy! Makes great leftovers.

Disclaimer: I know that Paula Deen, who is "the lady" of this recipe, has made some poor choices recently. However, mac n' cheese is not one of them.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Trying new things

Good morning Crushers!

I am so excited for this weekend! Tonight, my brother, sister-in-law, sister and brother-in-law are going to the Packer pre-season game. That means I get to watch the game on a big(er than our TV) screen from the comfort of my parents' couch while playing with my nephew, Patrick. I know that all babies/children are cute and that I'm beyond biased, but Patrick is the CUTEST kid ever! You know, until our next niece and/or nephew arrives (I have a sister-in-law on both sides due to have a new kiddo due this fall). Can't wait for fun playground times and teaching him to raise his arms and yell, "Touchdown!"

Another fun thing this weekend, is my friend, Hannah's, first race! We are going to do a 5K together. She has trained for it, so I fully expect her to rock this race and have a great time. Plus, we're going out to brunch afterward, so there's always good food to share!

Besides being very excited about football season and new races, this fall has a whole new set of opportunities for me. I was asked to be an adjunct professor to teach a public relations class at my alma mater. Go Warriors! I'm thrilled to be asked, and even happier to get this chance to teach. As I may have mentioned in the past, I taught Sunday School, so I have some experience being in front of a classroom. Granted, the college students are much more likely to have their fine motor skills down, but at least I'm hoping for eager learners.

You may think that teaching preschoolers in Sunday School to be much easier than college students, and it might be, but you try wrangling 15 4-year-olds and get projects done with crayons and stickers and finger plays and songs in an hour and see how you feel. You are lucky to get out of there with only one random sticker on your pants! HA!

Anyway, all of these new opportunities made me think of a picture that I got as a graduation present from my fellow student senators. It's a beautiful picture of a path in the woods with the light barely filtering through the trees. Underneath this photo are the words:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD; And He delights in his way
- Ps. 37:23
I will admit that when an out-of-the-blue opportunity or a new life situation hits me, I do a momentary freak out. Then I remember that God's got this. He does. I may not have it together, but He does. He knows what path He's sending me on and if I'm going to hit a pothole or smoothly continue on my way. I'm going to try and exude confidence in that passage from Psalms as I stand in front of 28-or-so students this fall and try to teach them everything they need to know. Which I won't be able to because there are some things they're just going to have to figure out for themselves.

I should probably remember that for someday when I become a parent.

Anyway, I hope you all get to take a moment today and think about your path and how it all led to just where you're supposed to be. If you're confused as to how you got where you are or if you're in a tough spot, just remember that the road doesn't stop. Maybe there's a U-turn or a detour ahead?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back from camping: good grillin'

Hey Crushers!
I'm back from camping, and I'm glad. Don't get me wrong, I love to camp out under the stars and we had perfect weather for it. However, I am not a fan of all the mosquito bites I got. Ew! I feel like the mosquitoes were out to get me.

While we were enjoying our trip, I learned some new recipes from others as well as enjoying cooking over a fire. Of course we did potato packs, and we also grilled pork chops, corn, brats, and even grilled cheese sandwiches! So good.

Here are a few photos of where we stayed before I get to the grillin'!

Ottawa Lake nature trail

A gorgeous sunset over Ottawa Lake
Our campsite was very nice and open. We could see the stars, but had enough trees to give us some privacy from the campsite next to us. I don't have any pictures of our time in Cassville where we started, because I was busy hanging out with people. One person, Janel, taught me a new recipe for "M&M Salad". It's ridiculous - both good and easy. All you do is buy a big bag of all different kinds of M&M candies and then dump them in a big bowl or zip lock bag. Then you stir or shake until you have a mish-mash of candy. Then make sure that you share them with a big group of people otherwise you'll get sick!

My favorite thing to make on the grill besides good ol' beer brats is marinated pork chops. I like using pre-made marinades because they're easy to bring along camping. However, there are lots of wonderful marinades that you can make. My favorites to make are mostly Greek seasoning with lemon, olive oil and oregano; BBQ sauce with an extra helping of garlic; and Italian dressing. Easy and useful! However, on pork chops, my favorite is the Wildtree Wicked Good Slow Cooker Sauce. That stuff is amazing as a marinade. Just pour about a 1/4 cup-1/2 cup (depending on how many pork chops) in a zip lock bag with the chops and let them sit all day. Pop them on the grill for 4-5 minutes on each side. Cook until the juices run clear and enjoy! So good...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 21: Tips

Hello Crushers!

I am back in town near a computer for just a day before I head out to go camping for another long weekend. Have to get in the vacation time before school starts, right? FYI - Up North was amazing as ever, but my camera never made it out of my backpack. I was too busy having fun!

I'm going to use today's virtual running date to answer some newbie 5K running questions. My friend Hannah, previously mentioned here and here, is going to be running her first 5K on August 24, and I'm running with her. She recently asked me a few questions about running, and I probably overloaded her with answers. Whoops!

Here is a recap of a recent e-mail exchange:

Please note that I am not a professional trainer, medical professional or exercise guru. These are just things that I have found helpful over the course of my running experience. If you would like to start running, please consult your doctor or health professional to make sure you are in a healthy place to start a new exercise regimen.
Hannah: How much running or resting should I do the week prior to the race?  Obviously I want to be ready, but not push myself too much right?

Me: It all depends on how much you're currently running. For instance, if you run 3-4 times a week and you go about 2-3 miles each, then you're fine. You can "rest" on Friday if you'd like or do a shorter run (no more than 2 miles). Since this isn't a marathon or anything, there is no reason to eat a carb-loaded meal the night before. It won't do you any extra good.

Hannah: Also, any good recommendations of what to eat / not eat for breakfast prior to the race?

Me: It all depends on what you normally eat for breakfast and if it makes you have to go to the bathroom or not. I know that's kind of a gross answer, but there is nothing worse than having to go #2 in the middle of a run when you're far from a bathroom. Running faster only makes it worse! My go-to breakfast on race days are protein and a banana. A scrambled egg and a half (one whole egg and one egg white) and a banana or a banana and a big scoop of peanut butter usually works well for me. Bananas are a great source of energy because they have a lot of fruit sugars and fiber.

Here's another pre-race tip:
Unless you KNOW FOR SURE that they have bathrooms near the start line, DO NOT drink too much water pre-race. You want to drink enough water with breakfast to feel that your thirst is quenched, but don't over do it because the combo of a lot of water and nerves = pre-race sprint to the bathroom. That always freaks me out because then I feel like I wasted pre-race time waiting for my turn to use it than warming up and just hanging out at the start.

RACE tips:
There will be water stops. Depending on what you usually drink while running and how hot it is that day, feel free to skip a water stop or walk through it and chug one down.

Unless you are going to finish the race in a blaze of glory, there is NO REASON to start at the front. Seriously, I usually just look around me at 5Ks and think, "hey, that person looks like my fitness level" and then I stand BEHIND that person. I could have just under estimated that woman, and I don't want to get plowed over. You can always move up, but it pisses off really fast runners if you start too far up. If I ever get you to run a half marathon, you line up with your pace time.

I am going to run with you, so no worries on pace. If you are running to finish, that's great. If you're running to set a fast time, that's great. If you feel like mile 2 sucks and you need to walk a little because you ran mile 1 too fast, that's a learning moment and it's great to walk too (just walk on the side of the route so you're not in anyone's way).

I hope that you find these tips helpful on a virtual running date or a regular one!

Note: When I get back from camping, I'll have some fun over-the-fire recipes to share.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Faith-Filled Friday: Up North

Good morning Crushers!

I am about 8 hours away from hopping in a van and heading to my favorite place: Up North. I don't know if this is true for other states, but in Wisconsin many people have an "Up North". If you're from the southern part of the state, you might just head up to Lake Geneva or The Dells. You may head to Eau Claire, Wausau, Hurley, Antigo, Door County, Minocqua or Bayfield. Whatever your "Up North" is, I hope you enjoy it!

Earlier this week, I shared a few photos of our Up North. Isn't it gorgeous? Although I'm an extrovert and I "recharge" by being around other people, I love being a bit unreachable Up North. You can only use a cell phone if you lean against the southwest bedroom's wall by the window. There is no Internet unless you go into town and your cell phone really starts to kick in. There is no cable TV, and if there is a thunderstorm you can bet that the power will go out. I don't mind sitting at the end of the dock doing nothing.

To me, these are the quiet waters that King David wrote about in Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

I hope that everyone can find your own version of quiet waters, especially when you are busy or stressed out. It's the quiet times that can recharge even the most outgoing extrovert with prayer and peace.

Have a great weekend! You know I will be enjoying the dining experiences of supper clubs, fish fries and maybe even some really great BBQ ribs! Come back to see next week.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Recipe sharing

Good morning Crushers!

Last night I did one of my favorite things: I had a fun conversation on the phone with my sister. The only thing that's better is hanging out with her in person. We weren't always the best of friends as kids, but as adults, we're pretty close. I think getting married in the same year and planning weddings side-by-side helped, but growing up and getting to appreciate each other as unique adults helps too.

Since Steve and I are going to meet our friends' new baby boy tonight (yes, we know a million people with new babies), and I like to bring new moms a dinner that they don't have to cook, I was telling my sister all about these easy enchiladas I made. She was telling me that she's having Grandpa over on Wednesday night and has no idea what to make and needed a seafood suggestion. I promised to e-mail her a few recipes this morning.

Here is what I sent her:

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
4-6 Tilapia filets (it's OK if they're frozen, but you need to thaw them completely)
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
(toss in a little oregano or basil if you've got it)
1 egg, beaten
1/3-1/2 cup flour

Gear you'll need:
Three shallow dishes or dinner plates, 13X9 baking dish, measuring cups and spoons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the first shallow dish (Dish 1), spread the flour out. In the second dish (Dish 2), beat an egg. In the third shallow dish (Dish 3), mix all of the remaining dry ingredients. Lightly coat your baking dish with cooking spray. First, you take the fish fillet and place it gently in the flour in Dish 1 until it has a light coating. Then take a fish fillet and coat each side in egg in Dish 2. Don't worry, it won't wash off your flour. Last, take the fillet and place it in Dish 3 pressing down slightly to get it coated on each side. Place the fillet in the baking dish. Repeat the three steps until you have all of your fish coated. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the fish flakes when you insert a fork. (Delicious with roasted veggies or steamed broccoli or mashed potatoes).

EASY Enchiladas
6 Tortilla Shells (8-10 inch rounds)
1 lb ground beef or turkey
taco seasoning
1 cup-ish salsa, divided (you can totally use more if you like)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 diced green pepper
1/2 medium diced onion
1 can refried beans (which aren't actually fried!)
sour cream, guac or other dips if you'd like

Gear you'll need:
Frying pan, spoon, can opener, measuring cup, 13x9 baking dish

Brown the meat and cook it according to the directions on the taco seasoning. Spread about 1/2 cup of the salsa over the bottom of the baking dish. Dice up the green pepper and onion and then toss that in with the meat. Once the meat is done, take it off the heat and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread a thin layer of beans in a line across the middle of a tortilla, spoon some of the meat mixture on top of the beans. Roll up the tortilla and place seam-side-down in the pan. Go ahead and squish it up to the side since you'll need to fit 6 of these roll-ups across the pan like this: [IIIIII]. Repeat the tortilla-bean-meat-roll-up process until all 6 tortillas are filled and placed in the pan. Spread the remaining salsa over the top of the tortillas so they're kind of coated. Sprinkle a healthy handful (about a cup) of shredded cheese over the top. Bake in the oven until the cheese is all melty. Since you already had heated up the meat, it'll reheat in the oven while the cheese melts. Enjoy with a corn salad (below), Spanish rice or other fun side dish.
Since I was making the enchiladas at the same time as the corn salad,
I use the juice from the tomatoes to give a kick to the ground meat.
Corn and Black Bean Salad (Modified from Rachel Ray's recipe):
1 package of frozen corn (about 2 cups)
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can of diced tomatoes with chillies, drained OR 2-3 diced Roma tomatoes
1 tsp taco seasoning (cumin, pepper, chili powder and garlic salt)
1/2 large or 1 medium onion diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (lime works too!)

Gear you'll need:
Can opener, big bowl with a lid, spoon, knife

Directions: Mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (for the corn to thaw) or overnight. Enjoy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 20: life-size puzzles

Hello Crushers!

I am SO excited for this weekend because, if we were on a running date, I would tell you that we're going up north! This is my favorite place in the whole world (at least, so far). My grandparents bought a house on a lake in northern Wisconsin right before my big brother, who was the first grandbaby, was born. For over 30 years, our family has spent time fishing, swimming, hiking and enjoying everything that this part of our state has to offer.

Gorgeous clear lake!
How peaceful is that?
I'm so excited to go up there, disconnect and just enjoy some relaxation. Yes, I realize that biking, running, fishing, and doing projects isn't exactly relaxing in some people's minds, but it is for me! There are also nice restaurants to enjoy, fish to fry or broil and delicious cheese to snack on!

All we have to do is figure out how to get a patio set, a couch, a walker, two bikes, and four suitcases up there with us. My parents are taking my grandpa up and then Steve and I will be driving a rented UHaul van up to help haul all of this stuff. Fortunately, I love puzzles and stuffing a van full of furniture, boxes and other do-dads is like life-size Tetris (R)! 

When I used to work for a foundation that did charity run/walk events, we would have to load up a box truck full of t-shirt boxes, team stuff, registration bins, huge pallets of water and all sorts of things! Who was in charge of directing the packing? Me. Yup. I can also drive a 17-foot box truck and parallel park it. Impressed? Yeah, me neither... Ha!

If we were on a running date, I would tell you that this past weekend was full of moving furniture around and mentally placing all the pieces around so that it would fit. Thankfully, it all fit where it was supposed to go (eventually).

If we were on a running date, I would also tell you that I got to spend last Friday night at State Fair with Steve and my good friend, Ashley! Talk about a gigantic puzzle! I'm always impressed with the staff and how they fit every vendor, every cow, horse, pig, goat, and lamb and cream puff on a chunk of land in the middle of a city plus nearly a 100,000 people EVERY. DAY. for 11 days. We shared Real Wisconsin cheese curds, a bison sandwich with rosemary gravy (thanks Bison Producers of Wisconsin), a gyro (thanks Lamb Producers of Wisconsin) and an ice cream sundae (thanks FFA kids). So much food to enjoy and a Clydesdale hitch class show in the coliseum! What more could you want out of the Fair?

In addition to the moving and the Fair, I would tell you how my friend Katie got married as we jogged along on our virtual running date. She had perfect weather, a wonderful day, and a new last name. I don't think she could have smiled more! I think she'd also get a kick out of this crazy bunch who attended her wedding:
Photo booth shenanigans!

Hope you all had a great weekend! No recipes today, but I've got some enchiladas planned for later this week. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Faith-Filled Friday: Fair time!

Good morning, Crushers and Happy Friday!

Today is not only one of my best friend's birthday, but it is also the first Friday of the Wisconsin State Fair! For all the joking about what kind of people you see at the Fair, it is still the premier attraction in Wisconsin to highlight all of the amazing plants, creatures and creativeness that our state has to offer. I'm not talking about the deep fried peanut butter bacon or mullets either. I'm talking about all those 4-H kids who work so hard on their projects. I'm talking about the ladies and gentlemen who painstakingly garden the most beautiful flowers and produce possible. I'm talking about the amazing animals that family farms raise.
Side commentary: Dear people who think that the animals shown at the farm are abused or in some way mistreated, Are you nuts? The kids who raise these animals voluntarily sleep in a barn to make sure that their animal's every need is taken care of. They also depend on showing their animals to make a living or pay for college. If you take offense at a teenager giving their cow a swat on the butt to get it moving, it isn't hurting the animal. Have you seen how big a cow is? Please take some time to learn and talk to the kids who show these animals. Then you would understand how much they care!
OK, now that I'm down from my soapbox, let's back up a bit. The best friend who I mentioned above? Her name is Ashley and she has been showing Belgian Draft Horses with her sisters for as long as I have known her. She was the first person to teach me about the Fair and how it's not all cheese curds and cream puffs. Thanks to her tip, a former Fairest of the Fair for Washington County, I applied for and got two internships at the Wisconsin State Fair teaching me so much about tourism, agriculture and public affairs. Although we had some crazy times chasing around the state with a car full of cream puffs for interviews, early morning interviews, getting stepped on by a cow, and all sorts of stuff, it was amazing.

Sometimes, when I see everything the Fair has to offer in competitions, I wonder if God ever looks at it and says, "Hey, I made that." When you think of the account of creation in the book of Genesis, and how he simply said, "Let there be" and there it was, it was good. Knowing how hard all these kids work at the Fair and then having an example of how big our God is gives you pause. Why wouldn't you hand your problems to God in prayer if he can fill the whole universe in six days? Think He can't handle it? Ha!

As 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." Why not take a look at your surroundings today and let yourself be amazed at the world and think about your creator. That's one of the many things I plan to do at the Fair tonight. Along with finding a bunch of food on a stick!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Coleslaw: Leftover edition

Hello Crushers!

Back in this post, I mentioned that I had received a co-worker's crop share since she was out of town. We received lots of fun veggies including a cabbage. Since we made slow cooker SoCo Pulled Pork last night, I decided to make some coleslaw. Since I couldn't remember what I had used for the dressing the last time I made slaw and my phone was dead so I couldn't look it up, I made one up using some leftover dill dip. (And a run-on sentence.) The slaw was surprisingly good!

Dill and Dijon Coleslaw
1 small or medium head of cabbage
4 carrots
2 small onions or one bigger onion
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dill dip (dill to taste and equal parts mayo and sour cream)
Milk to thin out the dill dip (about 2 Tbsp)
Pepper to taste

Gear you'll need: Something to slice up the veggies like a food processor (that's what I used), a mandolin or a really sharp knife; a big bowl with a lid, a small bowl to mix the dressing and a spoon or fork.

Directions: Slice up all the veggies in thin strips and place in a big bowl. In a separate small bowl, put in the dill dip, mustard and just enough milk to make it runny. Go ahead and give it a few dashes of pepper, too. Whip that up with a fork or spoon until it's smooth. Pour the dressing over the veggies. Now you can either carefully stir that up until the veggies or well-coated or put a tightly-fitting lid on the bowl and shake it up! Shake, shake, shake... Shake, shake, shake...
Tip: Oddly enough, if you shake whatever item you need to to the refrain of "Shake your booty"  by KC and the Sunshine Band, that's almost the perfect amount of time to mix something up. Go ahead and try it with a dressing or when you need to coat something with flour or powdered sugar. Kind of like doing CPR to the beat of "Stayin' Alive" but not really. 
Anyway, once you've got the veggies all coated, they are ready to be served and enjoyed. This would be good on a sandwich or as a side dish.

Enjoy your coleslaw and a dill dip-free fridge!