July 13 – Open house, cooking, and course selection

Today was another super productive day for me – here are a few of the things I got done:

  1. J and I went to an open house in a neighborhood that we don’t know all that well, but that would be more convenient for both of our commutes. The house was amazing – very big for the price, recently remodeled, with lots of light and open space. But unfortunately, the neighborhood isn’t quite what we’re looking for right now.
  2. I made dinner by modifying this recipe for Grilled Sweet Potato Salad. I added chickpeas to make it a little heartier, substituted dried thyme for fresh, and added a little extra feta and vinaigrette to balance out the chickpeas. And since we don’t have a grill, I cubed the sweet potatoes, tossed them with vinaigrette, and roasted them at 400° for about 25 minutes, stirring them halfway through. We haven’t eaten it quite yet, but the couple of sweet potato cubes I sampled were delicious.
  3. I looked through the University of Phoenix’s summer course catalog for teachers. I’m thinking about taking Reading Diagnosis and Remediation, which I think would be really helpful for my efforts to reach some of the struggling readers at my school. We’ll see – I’m still mulling it over, and I may not take anything at all, but I’m reaching the part of my summer where I feel like I should probably be doing more with my time than just sitting on my couch with my computer.

July 9 – Cleaning, cooking, and RPGs

I did get up and do yoga again this morning, but it’s not one of my three things today. Here’s what I did:

  1. I finished cleaning the bathroom. Yay!
  2. I cooked one of my favorite grain salads for dinner – a sort of Tex-Mex quinoa with black beans. The recipe’s at the end of the post for anyone who’s interested.
  3. I found myself a new game to play – and I’m super excited about it. It’s called Avadon, and it’s a single-player RPG that’s very story-focused – it’s almost like a choose your own adventure book, where your decisions as a player shape the way the game unfolds. I played through the free demo today, and I’m about to buy it so that I can play the rest of the game.

Here’s my black bean quinoa salad recipe – it’s super flexible, so you can mix and match whatever veggies, beans, and cheese sound good to you:

  • 1.5 c quinoa
  • 2.25 c water
  • 1-2 cans black beans (or chickpeas, or pinto beans)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (or whatever color you want)
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, quartered (or a chopped tomato, or whatever)
  • 1 c frozen corn (thawed, obviously)
  • 2-3 jalapeños, diced (or use chili powder, or chipotle powder, or chipotles in adobo)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced
  • juice from 1-2 limes
  • 8 oz. cotija cheese, crumbled (or feta, or shredded pepper jack, or whatever)
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine the quinoa and water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, chop veggies and combine everything else. Stir in quinoa, and let sit for 1-2 hours so flavors can combine. (Or don’t – it’s almost as good freshly made).

I like to eat this straight up as a room-temperature salad, but J prefers it as a burrito filling in flour tortillas.

July 8 – Yoga, scrubbing, and guacamole

Today was another very uneventful day for me, but I did get a few things done:

  1. I started my day off with yoga again. My hope is that eventually, this becomes routine – like starting my day off with brushing my teeth – and I won’t be posting about it any more. (Collective wisdom says it takes about three weeks to form a habit, although that might be bogus.) But right now, every day that I actually do it feels like a triumph – one more step along the road of forming that new habit.
  2. I seem to be cleaning our bathroom in stages right now. Today, I tackled our shower. Tomorrow, maybe the sink and the mirror?
  3. I made delicious (and simple) guacamole for myself for lunch today to use up an avocado, and mixed in some black beans to add a little protein.

Here’s what I tossed together:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • Black beans (about 1/2 cup?)
  • Salt and chipotle pepper to taste (maybe around 1/2 tsp salt and a few dashes of chipotle)

I mushed all of this together with a fork, then added 5-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters, and ate it with tortilla chips.

July 7 – Yoga, cleaning, and cooking

I spent most of today being a bum – reading things on the Internet, playing various games on my computer, and avoiding getting dressed. But I did manage to squeeze in a few actual accomplishments, too:

  1. I got up and did yoga again this morning! (I skipped yesterday morning, but I went for a long walk which kind of makes up for it.)
  2. I cleaned the toilet! And I plan to clean the rest of the bathroom in the next day or two – Internet, hold me accountable for this please. If I havent posted that it’s done by Wednesday, give me a hard time about it.
  3. I made a real dinner – Athenian Pasta Primavera. Which was pretty tasty, and relatively easy – definitely something I can add to our summer dinner rotation. I did have to substitute fresh basil for the mint, though, because the guy who mows our lawn mowed down our mint plant. (To be fair, though, I planted it in a patch of our yard that’s mostly weeds, so it probably wasn’t particularly clear that I actually wanted it to be growing there – especially since mint grows like a weed around here. We’ll see if it bounces back or not.)

June 24 – 3: Easy summer cocktails

J and I are mostly beer and wine people. Well, really, J is mostly a beer person, and I am not much of a drinker, but when I do drink I’m more likely to drink beer or wine, or occasionally a gin and tonic. Partially that’s out of preference – I like beer and wine – but it’s also partially out of laziness, since I don’t really know how to make many cocktails, and since we haven’t bothered to stock ourselves with much of a bar. (Who am I kidding – we don’t have a bar at all. Just a few bottles of wine and the dregs of a bottle of tequila that we haven’t touched in probably five years).

But these cocktails look tasty and relatively easy, so maybe I’ll give them a try this summer at some point.

(Also, yes, I still read a wedding blog, even though J and I got married almost two years ago. But it’s a blog that’s evolving to be not just about weddings, but about marriage and relationships too. And it has pretty pictures! And the occasional how-to that extends beyond weddings – like this one).

June 19 – 1: Stuffed peppers with black beans, rice, and corn

I’ve been in a cooking slump lately. I used to cook something from scratch almost every night when I was working in an office job, with J cooking something or us ordering something one or two nights a week. Lately, it’s been the opposite – I’ve been cooking something from scratch one or two nights a week, and most nights we order something or I cook something “easy” – like frozen ravioli with pre-made pesto.

I’m not sure how I used to have the energy to cook so much. I guess my office job was just less draining than my days now. I also think it helped that J was home earlier  in the evening – right now, his commute is almost two hours each way, so he leaves at 6:30 in the morning and gets home at 6:30 at night, and that’s if the trains all run on time and he catches the express train between Baltimore and D.C.

But last night I came home and wanted to make a real dinner, and I also knew we had a bunch of bell peppers left over that needed to be used up (from meals I’d planned to make but then put aside in favor of something that required less effort.) So I did some Internet scouring for options, and came up with a few recipes that looked promising, but we didn’t have exactly the right ingredients for any of them. So I improvised a bit, and this is what I came up with:

Stuffed peppers with black beans, rice, and corn

Ingredients

  • 6-10 colored bell peppers, depending on size (I used 5 medium ones last night, and had about half of the filling left over)
  • 1 c  uncooked brown rice
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 10-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 T brown sugar
  • red pepper flakes
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1.5 c frozen corn
  • grated cheddar cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In the meantime, cut the tops off of the peppers, then carefully cut away the membranes inside the peppers and remove any seeds.
  2. Parboil the peppers by placing them in the boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove them (use tongs!) and set them upright in a baking dish. It’s helpful if the baking dish is sized such that the peppers can help hold each other up.
  3. Use the same boiling water to cook the brown rice – just dump it in, let it simmer for 40 minutes or so, then drain it like pasta.
  4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes (I used about 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, but I was kind of winging it with my spices) and cook for 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown. Add tomato sauce, brown sugar, cumin (maybe 1 T?) and chili powder (2 T?), and stir to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes before adding the black beans and corn, then stir again until all is coated with the sauce. Finally, stir in the rice until sauce is distributed evenly. Remove from heat. (Maybe stir in some grated cheese? I didn’t do this, but will probably try it next time)
  5. Fill peppers with stuffing. At this point, they can be set aside for a while until you’re ready to cook them (possibly even a day or two, if you covered and refrigerated them).
  6. When you’re ready to cook the peppers, heat the oven to 350°. Top peppers with grated cheese, then cook 25-30 minutes, until cheese is thoroughly melted.

They turned out really well, and I can’t wait to eat the leftover beans and rice for lunch today. Enjoy!