Valentine’s Day: Corporate, Cute, AND Crafty?

For the entire month of February, I have thought about Valentine’s day; debating the pros and cons of it, and trying not to be too cynical about it.  I decided that while Valentine’s Day was cute and fun back in kindergarten and elementary school, where everyone bought Valentine’s for the entire class and handed them out, but now its just another day just with the added pressure of doing something extravagant or special for your significant other.  In short, I am one of those people who thinks Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday, created to stimulate the economy of cards, chocolates, stuffed animals, and flowers.

I mean, its great and all to tell and show your significant other that you love them, but really, we need a day dedicated to it?  Just in case I forgot on the other 364 days of the year?  I would much rather surprise someone on a random day to confess my unending love for them, then on Valentine’s Day, just because the spontaneity of it makes it that much more memorable and special.

On Friday, while I was brainstorming for this post, I thought, “Sweet, I have $10 bucks in my pocket! I’m going to go by the flower shop on the way home from school and practice to buy my mommy some flowers, cause I love her so much and I know that would make her week.”  Now, before you immediately think “Suck up” or “I wish my kids did that”, I must say I have had some great training.  My dad has been know to send my mom flowers on random days, especially when he is gone fighting fires for weeks at a time, just to say “I love you” or “Have a great day”.  I learned from the best.  Anyway, my mom was so excited and touched she really didn’t know what to say except “Aww, Linds” and “Thank you” and give me a big hug.

Now imagine if I had done the same thing on Valentine’s Day.  Though my mom would still think it was special, it wouldn’t have the same effect.  Lesson learned: spontaneous surprises are awesome. (Guys, take note)

 

That being said, I can’t bear to be completely bah-humbug about Valentine’s Day, because it has some pretty amazing and cute decorations. And it is super cute, so in as much as I think it is a silly day, I like it.  I am hosting a Valentine’s Day outreach event, and have scoured Pinterest, Etsy, YouTube, Google, and many other realms of the internet to find the perfect decorations and centerpieces.  And I found them.  They would work really well as creative flower substitutes(guys, thinking outside the box = great idea) or valentine’s to give to friends and coworkers.  Heck, they could be flowers for Singles Awareness Day as well, basically whatever floats your boat.

 

 

These are super cute and guaranteed to win anyone’s heart over(or make an amazing centerpiece).  But honestly, flowers and chocolate are pretty much the awesomest thing ever to a girl, so what could be better than combine the two? Gentlemen, don’t worry, these are super easy to make and inexpensive.  $12 dollars, a little time, and TLC and you will have yourself a beautiful bouquet of rose kisses.

 

Supplies:

  • Green floral tape- any craft store will have some

  • Tape

  • Hershey’s Kisses

  • Red Cellophane- I found mine in the dollar section of Target in a 6 sheet pack, but it was also next to the tissue paper in the gift wrap section

  • 9 inch wooden skewers-any grocery store will have them

  • Scissors

 

Instructions

Step One:  Pair all kisses together, taping them together at the base of each kiss(flat part to flat part) to form the rose bud shape.

Step Two: Cut out 4.5 inch squares of cellophane to wrap the kisses in.  Cut as many pieces as you want roses.

Step Three: Place the taped kiss pair in the center of one of the cellophane squares, with one of the pointy end of the kisses in the center of the square.  Bring all four corners up to the center, gather the cellophane and twist it to start forming the stem of the rose.

Step Four(the hardest part):  Take a 5 inch (ish) long piece of the floral tape and start wrapping it where you twisted the cellophane to form the beginning of the stem.  Continue to wrap it around until you have secured the cellophane over the kisses.

photo-9
This is the goal of Step 4.

TIP: If you stretch the floral tape out as you are wrapping, it sticks a little better.  I have no idea why, it just does.

Step Five:  Insert the skewer, pointy side in, into the rose bud and partial stem.  Be careful not to stab the chocolate.

Step Six: Take your roll of floral tape and begin to wrap from the flower down the skewer to form the stem.  Once you are at the bottom, cut the tape, smooth the end down, and you’re done!


Cauli-Power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

cauliflower

I was filling out an interest survey today for a class, and one of the questions was, “Where is your favorite place and why?”.  Interestingly enough, one of my favorite places in the world is at our family’s dining room table.  Not just because my parents make amazing food, but because its my one hour in every day where I can relax and be with my family.  Sometimes our schedules are so jam-packed that the only topic that gets covered is the “family’s” schedule.  Other times I end up laughing so hard that I cry, because we are just that funny.  And then there are times where we just catch up with one another or have another family over for dinner, and those are both great too. I just love that precious hour (longer on the weekends), stenciled into my schedule every day, that I spend with them just sitting at the table.  I remember the moment in elementary school that I found out that other kids my age didn’t eat dinner with their families every night.  I was mind blown, completely and absolutely astounded.  It seemed so normal and comforting to me; this new revelation about them made them seem almost alien to elementary school me.  I felt bad for them and wanted to invite them over for dinner, so that they could eat dinner like I did and see how wonderful it was.  I still feel bad for those people who don’t eat dinner with their families on a regular basis; they don’t know what they are missing.  I encourage you to start small this week by trying to eat dinner with your family for just one night, if you don’t normally do so.  The memories and positives that come out of it will far outweigh any negatives.  Go ahead, you could even try it with the new recipe I am posting below.  I would suggest that you could cook it together too, but I don’t want to get too crazy.

With my enjoyment of the dinner table and all it brings, it only seems natural for me to like cooking and baking new things for us to eat.  And I do.  Cooking and baking are therapeutic for me.  So, consequently, I like to try new recipes and experiment with old recipes.  This recipe was an adventure for me.  It was vegan, soy free, and sugar-free.  And it required nutritional yeast.  I had no idea what in the world nutritional yeast even was.  As far as I was concerned there was only one kind of yeast-the kind you put in breads to make them rise.  Boy, was I wrong.

Anyway, I actually found this recipe on Buzzfeed (which lead me to Oh She Glows-link at bottom) , but it appealed to me because it was dairy free.  When I started my freshman year, my immune system fell apart.  I was sick almost every month with colds that wouldn’t completely go away for around two weeks.  It wasn’t until last year that my dad and I discovered that running cross-country put so much stress on my body that it couldn’t defend itself against the common cold AND eating dairy made me more susceptible to colds and intensified them.  After that discovery, I limited my running, giving my body time to fully recover from the colds, and I began to transition off of dairy products.  The result was I got sick less often and felt way better because I wasn’t congested all the time!  Now, after reducing my dairy intake to little to none, when I cheat and eat it, I get a nice stomach-ache.  A long story to say, I am trying to find healthy dairy free foods so that I can avoid the stomach-ache.

My first attempt at photographing my own food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.
My first attempt at photographing my food! Please excuse the lighting, our kitchen suffers from bad lighting.

Wow, I have taken so long to just get to the review of the recipe.  Overall, this was really good.  I over sautéed the garlic once, Facetimed my dad to double-check that it was burnt, and started over.  TIP: Only sauté the garlic until just golden brown, on medium low heat.  DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF IT!  The nutritional yeast is surprisingly good and has a nice flavor-make sure to get the powder/flake form and not the pill form(seems like common sense but they sell both).  I added an extra garlic clove, and used the larger amount of pepper and garlic  powder- the result was a pretty spicy sauce.  Next time, I am going to tone down the garlic, both clove and powder, and pepper.  I can always add more after the sauce is blended if it needs it.  I threw in some mushrooms on top to garnish with the parsley. NOTE: I wasn’t a big fan of the parsley garnish at all- it looked pretty though! I suggest saute-ing the mushrooms and then putting them on top at the end.  One could also add bacon to this if they were looking for extra flavor, but it certainly doesn’t need it.

 

Cauli-power Fettuccine “Alfredo”

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 heaping cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (from 2 med/lg cloves)

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or nondairy milk of choice)

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste

  • Fettuccine pasta of choice (I used whole wheat)

  • Fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Add cauliflower florets in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a low boil. Once boiling, cook for another 3-7 minutes until fork tender. Drain.

  2. Meanwhile, add the oil into a skillet and sauté the minced garlic over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.

  3. In a high-speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sautéed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until a super smooth sauce forms. If using a Vitamix use the tamper stick as needed. The key here is to get a really smooth sauce so don’t be afraid to let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.

  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.

  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the pot (you can use the same pot!) and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste (the pasta dilutes the flavour).

  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Feel free to add in your favourite sautéed or roasted vegetables. I think peas, spinach, or broccoli would work very nicely! I added mushrooms, but I wasn’t overly crazy about them in this dish.

Read more: http://ohsheglows.com/2014/01/20/cauli-power-fettuccine-alfredo-vegan/#ixzz2s8gs81Q3

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos

I haven’t written about my passion for food before on this blog, but if you didn’t know; I love food.  Homemade meals are my favorite thing ever, and goodness knows what I am going to do when I have to leave for college.  I hope this post will be the beginning of many posts about my food adventures as I try new recipes and dishes.  My english teacher encourages us to always “try the peanut butter pie” meaning if you are given the choice between trying/eating/doing/etc. something you know you like and something unknown, to try the unknown because that is how you develop new favorite things.  Thus, this new section of Life as a Fish out of Water will be called “Trying the Peanut Butter Pie” and it will represent the adventurous foodie side of me.

I have hated sweet potatoes for as long as I can remember.  Every year on Thanksgiving, I would eat a mandatory tablespoon size bite of them, just to avoid “the look” from my mother and to respect my grandma, who lovingly made them every year, much to my dismay.  My grandma loved them, to her they were the best thing about Thanksgiving(food wise anyway, family was always her favorite aspect of the holidays).  I never understood why she liked this mushy, orange, gloppy, mashed potato-impostor thing, called sweet potatoes.

These were my thoughts up until two weeks ago, when I had my first baked sweet potato.  I was instantly addicted and wondered, “Why did I hate this amazing veggie so much?” It was simple, baked in the oven, cut open and served with a light sprinkling of butter and brown sugar.  All of the objections I have to regular baked(and streamed) potatoes were gone.  It was moist, flavorful, and nutritious. Since that eye-opening day, I embarked on a sweet potato craze.  I have tried them in many forms(even pancake form), but my favorite so far has been Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos.

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/

My sister found the recipe in the Sunset Magazine, and decided that we HAD to try it.   We didn’t have chorizo on hand, so we substituted in a spicy sausage(not in link form, more like ground beef consistency) that we had in the freezer from a friend in Wyoming.  Like I said before, they are amazing, and certainly have become a staple in our household.

Here is the recipe(from Sunset Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 medium orange-fleshed sweet potato (often labeled “yam”)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo*, such as Silva brand, removed from casing
  • 12 corn tortillas (6-in. diameter)
  • 6 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 lime, halved
  • 2 ounces cotija (crumbly white Mexican cheese)* or feta
  • 2 firm-ripe avocados

Preparation

1. Peel onion and sweet potato and dice into 1/2-in. cubes. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, potato, and salt and cook until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is just tender, 8 to 9 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add chorizo. Cook, breaking up sausage with the back of a spoon, until cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat tortillas in an oven or a microwave, or char over an open flame until warmed and softened. Wrap in foil or a clean kitchen towel to keep warm.

4. Stack and thinly slice lettuce; combine in a bowl with juice of a lime half and cotija. Halve, peel, pit, and thinly slice avocados; put in another bowl and toss with juice from remaining lime half.

5. Spoon about 3 tbsp. chorizo-sweet potato mixture into each warm tortilla. Divide lettuce and avocado among tacos.

*Find Mexican chorizo and cotija at well-stocked grocery stores and Latino markets. Avoid the very soft, bright orange chorizo–it’s too oily.

*Find the original recipe at  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sweet-potato-chorizo-tacos-50400000133216/

Breakfast with Champions

In a previous post, I wrote about the twenty percent projects that my teacher has implemented in his classroom for the past couple of years.  This past Friday, my project began.

Let me tell you a little about it and what I have learned so far.

old car+mr h
Photo from OC Register Article by Mackenzie Reiss

This is Demetrius Harakas.  He owns the Fantastic Cafe in Santa Ana and is opening a new restaurant in Seal Beach in a couple of weeks.  He loves the 50’s and his diner is decorated in just that fashion.  He had searched for a car like the one above, for almost all his life.

His relatives in Massachusetts found one for him, he bought it, and then had it shipped to California.  He had it restored and now, for the past eight months he has picked up WWII veterans from their homes and taking them to the restaurant for a free breakfast and an eager ear to talk to.  As of now, he estimates that he has taken 70 WWII vets and their spouses to breakfast.

charlie
Photo from OC Register Article by Mackenzie Reiss.

When he first brought his car home, and told my family and I his idea; I was amazed.  I thought, “What a cool experience for both him and the veteran”, but never thought anything more of it.  It wasn’t until we were given the assignment to “Find a need in the community, and feed it” that I came up with the idea of producing videos of Demetrius’ time with the veterans.  I knew that he wasn’t documenting them, except by personal journal, and I thought, “Man, that would be so cool to film.”  Especially, because in school we learn the factual history.  Though teachers try to use videos of firsthand accounts, we mainly have to learn facts: dates, names, and places.  How awesome would it be to have first hand filmed conversations with the veterans, available to everyone around the world?

So, I found a friend, brainstormed, pitched our idea to the film production class at our school and found someone to teach us to film.  Friday was our first day of filming, and it was such a great experience.  My two partners and I were able to sit down with a navy corpsman named Jim, who served in WWII, Vietnam, and Korea.  He was in the service for 24 years and had at least 30 medals on his lapel.  He was at the rank of master chief, with his official title being, master chief petty officer.

We learned so many interesting things from him, and his stories made history come alive for us.  That is exactly what we hope to accomplish in our project; to make history come alive for generations to come, when there are no more WWII vets to tell about it.  Did you know that WWII veterans are dying currently at a rate of 600 a day?  We want to preserve their accounts and stories before they are all gone, and become mere reenactment and guesswork.

If you are interested in seeing our progress, check out our blog:

www.breakfastwithchampions.wordpress.com

And take a look at our introductory video!

There you can nominate a veteran for a breakfast, providing the veteran lives in Orange County, California!  Thanks!

Bad Idea Factory

bad idea meme

This week we came up with bad ideas.  Lots of them. We discovered that in the process of innovation, one naturally has to come up with a few bad ideas before they get a great one.  Using this discovery, we decided to convert the classroom into a bad idea factory.  We spent an entire class period coming up with “bad ideas” in hopes of finding a few good ones.  Coming up with bad ideas is so much easier and people are more inclined to speak up about their ideas if there is no pressure for them to be good, as we are looking for bad ideas.

bad idea factory

If I had a dollar for every bad idea I had, I would be a millionaire.