Expanding Thoughts

A lot has happened in my life this week, both personally and educationally. Some of it was AWESOME (i.e., the Green Bay Packers making it into the SUPER BOWL against the Pittsburgh Steelers!)…

…and some of it was not so awesome. In fact, facing the reality of my declining health and continued medical problems was downright depressing. However, while I continue to be concerned about what’s going on and look forward to a full diagnosis from a great team of doctors, I think that right now I’d prefer to focus on the good stuff that’s happening in my life, thank you very much.

Good stuff like the incredible cinnamon blueberry cake that I made over the weekend…The cake that helped to expand my waist line. Incidentally, I’d like to publicly thank the genius who designed the elastic that is sewn into my stretchy pants. I you. I loved the aroma in the house while the cake was baking! Oh, while I’m thinking of it, please forgive my poor photography. Until the day comes when I can afford to buy myself a nice digital SLR camera, I’ll have to make do with pictures like this:

Another great expansion this week came dressed and ready to be placed into my bank account…I applied for another scholarship. Thus far, I’ve been the fortunate and grateful recipient of three scholarships to help me fund my way through college. I am humbled by the gracious nature of so many businesses, organizations, and individuals. Without the help of scholarships, I would likely have been unable to fund my way through this higher educational experience. What they’ve done for my life has been UBER cool. Thousands of dollars in funding is available and it’s saddening to think that much of it goes un-awarded due to lack of applicants. There are monies available to all students, and they are not all based on financial need, so you truly have nothing to lose by spending 5 minutes to complete the application. If you’re interested in applying for some funding, click HERE and fill out an application before the February 11th deadline. NOTE: You will need a recommendation letter from two Fox Valley Tech instructors. Common courtesy is to ask for their permission before using their name on your application.

Back to the topic at hand: I’ve spent a few too many hours this week expanding my recipe database. The Internet is a plethora of drool worthy food sites. One of my favorite finds of the week came from Michelle, who gave me a great new Super Bowl snack idea. Because these yumsters have bacon in them, I plan to make a few batches, since it’s likely that I’ll eat 2 dozen a few before they come off of the baking pan.

As many recipes as I’ve collected, I now have enough to keep me busy cookin’ 24 hours a day until 2021, when I will likely suffer a nasty fate. I can almost hear the headline now: “Local woman dies in freak accident when the elastic in her stretchy pants gave way and snapped her to an untimely death.”

At least I’ll die a happy woman.

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Inspiration in Abundance

Classes for the spring 2011 term at Fox Valley Technical College started this past Monday. I can’t recall ever being excited about sitting in a chair for 9-10 hours per day when I was in high school, but I guess that’s part of what makes this mid-life college experience different for me than for some other college students. I have a passion for improving my life, and simply put, I LOVE learning. If sitting in a lecture for 2-3 hours at a time is what is required, I’m all for it!

The majority of my instructors have an abundance of inspiration and motivation, both of which are incredibly infectious. The minute I step into a class room with one of those awesome people, my mind becomes a magnet to all of the energy that is being emitted from the podium. Despite physical exhaustion (and sometimes a bit of brain fry), it is amazing how fulfilled I feel at the end of each school day, and I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with the people around me. There are times when I secretly wish that I could become a professional student so that I could start getting paid for having so much fun!

Another inspiring topic is food. Food inspires me to become a better person. OK, maybe not the food itself, but the act of cooking or baking it. When I make and serve food to a hungry person, I feel that I’m making a positive difference in that person’s life. When I take it a step further and cook for someone I care about, I feel fulfilled. I wish I could explain it, but I’m having difficulty putting words to it. It’s simply the way I feel, and as my stepfather (and former high school guidance counselor) has stated many times, “Feelings are an undisputable fact.”

Want to grab a little bit of inspiration for yourself? Then link up to this fabulous recipe for APPLE GRANOLA CRISP from my wonderful friend at KITCHEN CONFIDANTE and start your weekend off right.

What’s awesome about this recipe is that it’s delicious AND healthy. With wholesome ingredients like apples and whole grain granola, I may not even need to put on my stretchy pants this weekend…unless I decide to spend the weekend in bed, eating it topped with a pint of vanilla bean ice cream. Hey, the wind chills are below zero today. I MUST do whatever is necessary to stay warm, and my bed has a heated mattress pad. Besides, I could do worse than granola and ice cream to my hips. If I get inspired about baking Jessica’s gooey butter cake, only the good Lord can help save me from my gluttonous self.

My last source of inspiration and final thought for today can be summed up with two beautiful colors… green and gold. I am more excited about watching this weekend’s match between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears than a child on Christmas Eve. Yes, I realize that some of you wonderful readers are not quite as fond of the Packers as I am, but until my days on this earth are finished, I will continue to publically profess my adoration for those gorgeous, muscle laden boys of the frozen tundra. Oh, and the fact that they have an awesome defensive team and play some amazing football is also note worthy J

New Year’s Bliss

HAPPY 2011 to all of my readers!  I hope and pray that you had safe and joyous holidays. 

I can hardly believe how quickly the end of the year flew by.  I dealt with some pretty serious health issues from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, so it’s wonderful to be here back in my blogging chair in decent health again. 

Classes for the spring 2011 term begin next Monday.  I cannot WAIT for the new term to start!  I’m super excited to be finished with all of my culinary rotation classes.  I’ve got another pretty heavy credit load this term (19 credits), but I’ll be sitting down through all of my classes this time around.  That should make it much easier for this old body to stay in good health.  I’m taking some tough courses…hospitality/business law and business math…UGH, but at least I’ll have some extra time to do homework, and the courses I’m taking this term are all geared toward my Associate’s degree in hotel and restaurant management.  I’m on schedule to graduate from the Culinary Arts program as well as the Hotel/Restaurant Management program in December of this year. 

For those volunteer taste testers of mine who may be concerned that my love of food and cooking has dwindled, FEAR NOT.  I may have moments of insanity in my life, but I’m not certifiably crazy!  I’ll still be cooking up a storm at home and bringing you in great treats to force down your throat give me your opinion of. J

Speaking of food, I pulled out my Internet surf board over the holidays (thank GOODNESS I had Internet access during my hospitalization or there could have been some serious net withdrawal going on!) and found that there are some incredibly creative foodies and bloggers out there.  Here are a few of my favorites:

                   

                  

     

             

     

My absolute favorite is this one.  I would LOVE to have the hand/eye coordination and artistic talent to pull off a batch or two of these!

 

I also recently entered a couple of recipe contests online.  With the Green Bay Packers headed to Atlanta for a little Falcon pigskin action tomorrow, I submitted a recipe for one of my favorite football party foods, so I thought I would share it with you here.  This buffalo chicken dip is a huge hit at my house and I hope it will become one of your favorites, too!

BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP

INGREDIENTS:
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup blue cheese or ranch salad dressing
1/2 cup any flavor hot sauce
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese or shredded mozzarella
2 cans (9.75 oz. each) Chunk Chicken Breast in Water, drained

DIRECTIONS:

1. HEAT oven to 350°F. Place cream cheese into deep baking dish. Stir until smooth.
2. MIX in salad dressing, hot sauce, and cheese. Stir in chicken.
3. BAKE 20 min. or until mixture is heated through; stir. Garnish as desired. Serve with crackers or vegetables.

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