Warm and Fuzzy Feelings

It’s been a week of warm and fuzzy feelings for me. Upon hearing that, you may be thinking that I had a tremendously successful week, right? Well, for the most part, I did…and I’ll give you those details shortly. However, part of the “warm and fuzzy” feelings I had this week involved having a head cold, which was a big bummer for this chef in training. Let me tell you, when you lose your senses of smell and taste, it makes properly seasoning a dish that you’re making quite challenging! Out of fear of losing at least 10 customers from the Fox Valley Grille lunch line respect for you, I will resist sharing the disgusting details of my symptoms, but Mr. Wonderful would likely attest to the fact that I have purchased and used enough Kleenex over the past three days to warrant a few shares of their company stock being tossed my way.

Speaking of Mr. Wonderful (a/k/a my fiancé, Brian)…He is one of the reasons behind my positive warm and fuzzy feelings this week. Brian is a Customer Advocate for iContact email marketing services, and he did so well at his job this week that he was awarded the highest commission bracket possible for his September sales! I’m sorry, but I simply had to brag. I am beyond proud of him and the job he does in providing for us.

Another warm and fuzzy feeling came when I received a perfect 100% “A” grade for the Professionalism, Ethics, and Etiquette class that I just completed. I nearly burst into tears of joy when I received my final assignment back and realized how well I had done. Our final project was to write a personal mission statement. As part of the assignment, we were to read and include at least 5 quotes from the book 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education by Charles J. Sykes.

 

What an amazing book! I would highly recommend it for anyone who feels that they have a good idea on what it’s truly like to live in the “real world”. I suspect that, like me, you may find a couple of extra gems to help you along the game of life. For example, Rule #8 in the book states, “Your navel is not that interesting. Don’t spend your life gazing at it.” I assimilated that to my 6th statement: I will hold my head up high and be proud of who I am, where I’ve come from, and what I believe in.

It’s likely that I will never earn a Nobel Peace Prize for making the world a better place, but I will always be proud of myself for caring enough to try. Would you like to join me? Let’s MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

I hope that you’re as hungry to receive this week’s recipe as I am to provide it to you! I think I’ll stick to the topic of the week. When you think of “warm and fuzzy” food, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? For me, it’s “fuzzy” peaches. Warm up a few and you’ve got yourself an awesome dessert waiting to happen. This recipe comes from a favorite food blogger of mine, Michelle, author of Brown Eyed Baker

Have a super week and I hope you come back to visit again soon. In the meantime, may your heart, soul, mind, and stomach all be well fed and happy!

BECCA


Peach Crumb Bars

Yield: 24 bars

For the Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
5 cups diced or sliced peaches (about 7 peaches, peeled)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the Dough: In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter, and then the egg. The dough will be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan. Place the pan and the remainder of the dough in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

3. For the Filling: Place the diced (or sliced) peaches in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix gently. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour over the peaches and mix gently.

4. Spread the peach mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining dough over the peach layer.

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Helping Others To Help Myself

It’s been said that acceptance is the key to overcoming any problem. *Sigh* I guess it’s time to openly and humbly admit that I am hooked on participating in activities that make a difference in the world…even if the differences are only small ones. Why? Because when I help others, my heart skips a beat and I am able to self-affirm that I truly was placed on this Earth for more than being the person who keeps the Tootsie Roll Corporation fluid.

Since this is “true confessions” day, I suppose I should also admit that I am a Tootsie Rollaholic. What’s not to love about those chewy, fudgy bits of yumalicious?

Besides, when they’re as cute as THESE Tootsies are, how can I possibly be expected to resist gobbling them up?

Where am I going with this? Well, it seems that I have piled so many fun activities onto my plate lately that I simply don’t have time to take bathroom breaks during the school day anymore. Oops…my apologies! That was TMI (too much information!) What I MEANT to say is that I no longer have enough time to cook or bake at home as often as I would like to. Think about a dentist who doesn’t have time to brush his own teeth, or a seamstress who walks outside with the hem in her dress hanging. That’s just downright SINFUL in my book. Am I right?!

But wait a sec…BACK UP THE TRAIN! Nobody ever explained what I’m supposed to do if I have a problem that SHOULDN’T be overcome. Making a difference in the world is a GOOD thing, isn’t it?! Hmm…I guess it’s time for improvement of my time management skills so that I can squeeze everything in.

Here are some “helping you to help me” events on my agenda:

On September 27th, I will complete the required training for my new position as an FVTC student ambassador. As an ambassador, I am a representative of the school, assisting prospective students who visit FVTC to inquire about programs of study, courses, financial aid, extra-curricular activities, or anything else related to life on campus.

On October 5th from 3-7pm, I will be assisting at the FVTC open house. I encourage every one of you who is even REMOTELY considering attendance at FVTC to attend this event. If you have kids, grandkids, siblings, extended family members, friends, or anyone else who is at least a senior in high school, you’ll want to be sure to bring them as well. Once there, you’ll find lots of information on everything that FVTC has to offer AND if decide you’d like to enroll for classes, the $30 application fee will be waived…but ONLY during the open house hours!

Incidentally, I’ll be there, too. I’ll be working at the social media table, helping people to connect with FVTC’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. (I wonder how many of you reading this already knew that we are linked to those social media sites.) Oh, by the way, I’ll be handing out FREE GIFTS at my table… AND anyone who uses Foursquare and checks in to FVTC during the open house hours and then stops by to see me will get a free gift, too. What’s not to love about freebies?! I hope to see many of you there!

OK, with important business at hand discussed, it’s now time to get on to the FOOD! This week’s recipe is an awesome fall favorite of mine: Spaghetti Squash Casserole. I love cooking with all of the fall squashes, but I think spaghetti squash is the most delicious AND the most fun to eat! Because of its spaghetti-like appearance, it’s also a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. The recipe is from the Taste of Home website, and I honestly haven’t found a recipe there that I didn’t fall head over heels in love with. I could spend countless hours reading recipes…. OH MY GOSH….I think I may have just realized where some of my lost time has gone. Well, at least it was lost to a good cause, right?! J

Have a super week and I hope you come back to visit again soon. In the meantime, may your heart by happy!

BECCA

SPAGHETTI SQUASH CASSEROLE

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 8 inches)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place squash, cut side down, in a baking dish. Add water and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in skillet. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, herbs and seasonings; saute until onion is tender. Add the tomatoes; cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
  • Scoop out the squash, separating strands with a fork. Combine squash, tomato mixture and all remaining ingredients except Parmesan cheese.
  • Pour into a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 40 minutes or until heated through and top is golden brown. 

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (3/4 cup) equals 263 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 24 mg cholesterol, 528 mg sodium, 37 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 12 g protein.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole published in Country Woman July/August 1992, p31

Movin’ Right Along

Last Saturday night, I had the pleasure of attending FVTC’s drive-in movie night, which was hosted by the FVTC Student Life Center. My kids are grown and I have no grandchildren yet (thank you, Lord!), so what was a 46 year-old doing at a showing of Toy Story 3 and The Karate Kid? Having a great time, of course!! My fiancé and I arrived 2 hours before the movie began and we were thrilled to see that there was already a line of traffic extending out onto Bluemound Road. The admission was absolutely free for anyone with an FVTC student ID and only $5 per carload for the general public, so I don’t know why I was surprised to see such a great turnout. Concession stands were set up along the sidewalk, all hosted by various student organizations and clubs. There were plenty of eats to enjoy…and we certainly did enjoy them! Oh, before I forget…A HUGE thanks to all of the security staff who were on duty that night. They did a fantastic job of handling the traffic flow and helping everyone to find parking places with a great view of the temporary movie screen that had been erected in the north parking lot. That was no easy task!

So this week, I began a new cooking rotation: Soup and Stock Production. For people who don’t enjoy cooking, I suppose that may sound like a big yawner of a class, but I can attest to the fact that it’s anything but. It’s been simultaneously challenging and fun. The PERFECT learning combination for me! The class is taught by Chef Gary Lyons. For those of you who are like me and are into audio and visual stimulation, I’ve decided to try and incorporate more of that fun into my blog posts each week. So without further ado, here’s what “Chef G” looks like! (photo courtesy of FVTC)

It’s clear (to me, anyway) that Chef G loves to teach…and it’s also CRYSTAL clear that he has the patience of a saint. No matter how often his students make mistakes in the kitchen or repeat the same ones over and over (and the good Lord knows that we do that a LOT!), Chef G patiently explains ONE MORE TIME how it’s done. Incidentally, he manages to do that with huge amounts of enthusiasm, a smile on and his face, and with NO grumbling. Even during the 7:00am rotation. Oh my GOSH… I do believe I’ll put him up for teacher of the year!

This week, I’ve personally made the following soups: French onion, Midwest chicken and corn, and beer brat & cheese. Oh…and 50 gallons (no, that’s NOT a typo) of chicken stock. Hmm…maybe I shouldn’t have confessed about making those soups until AFTER the satisfaction surveys have been tabulated!

Since I don’t have much time to cook at home anymore, cooking at school has been serving double duty for me. For three hours, I get to combine my loves of food and learning, and make some wonderful meals to serve to the hundreds of people who walk the halls of this awesome school. Ahh…PURE BLISS!

This week, I will leave you with one a “tried and true” recipe: Cheddar Herb Biscuits. I never EVER thought I’d find a cheddar biscuit that tasted better than Red Lobster’s… then I came across THIS recipe during my vegetarian cuisine rotation class. I’m now in BUTTERY, CHEDDAR HERB HEAVEN! They’re so easy to make, a kindergartener could probably handle it (with the exception of running the food processor). They are a savory delight for my inner carb addict, and I hope that you’ll love them as much as I do.

YIELD: 12 BISCUITS (2.5 inches in diameter)

3 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) – COLD unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 each green onions (scallions), minced
2 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 Tbl dried parsley)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Flour for dusting
Egg wash (1 beaten egg, plus 1 Tbl water) for brushing tops of biscuits

1. Preheat conventional oven to 425 F (400 F if using convection oven)
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a food processor (or large bowl).
3. Add cubed COLD butter and pulse 7-8 times (or cut into flour with pastry blender)
4. Stir in cheese, green onions, and parsley. Add 1 cup of buttermilk slowly, adding remainder as necessary, until dough comes together into a nice ball. DON’T USE IT ALL IF YOU DON’T NEED IT!
5. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Form ball and roll out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with 2.5 inch biscuit or cookie cutter. Brush tops with egg wash and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until browned.

 

Well, that’s it for the week, Folks. I’m off to do some apple picking tomorrow so that I can make a country apple galette and some homemade cinnamon apple sauce. What’s that? You don’t know what a galette is? Hmm….then may you should consider coming right back here next week so that you can learn what it is, and see the results of my baking! Until then, may you always have a heart full of love and a stomach full of good eats!

 

Becca

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