Friday, August 31, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: August

Okay guys. I have some confessions to make:

There is a huge pile of dishes in the sink.
There is a basket of laundry on our bed.
The dog just tried to eat a propel packet off the living room floor.
Trevor is going to be eating reheated pizza for dinner.
And I’m exhausted.

As you’re getting used to hearing, sorry I’ve been a bit absent lately! I seem to fall off the blogging bandwagon some weeks but you’ll have to bear with me. I had a job interview first thing Monday morning, a last-minute surprise trip to Missoula on Tuesday, six hours of errands (including more job paperwork and grocery shopping) on Wednesday and yesterday, I began a new job (!!) as a teller for EdTech Federal Credit Union.

And then you have today.
I cooked breakfast. I went to work. I did laundry. I made dinner (or picked up pizza, however you want to look at it). Turned in my first homework assignment of the year. And now here I am, trying to squeeze in a foodie pen pal reveal post before my Montana clock strike’s 10 - meaning the start of a new day for the east coast.

But boy was this package a great surprise in the middle of a busy week.
(And with a little luck and priority mailing, it even managed to get here the whole way from New York!)

If you’re not familiar with foodie pen pals, the premise is simple - each month, bloggers (or readers) are matched with one person to send a package to and one person to receive a package from (all thanks to Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean). Then, you pack $15 worth of yummy things into a package with a handwritten note and send it on its way. Plus, you receive a package in return! And really.. who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail? Especially ones filled with food?

As I said last month, my food allergies made me apprehensive to participate but once again, I was paired with someone who eats gluten-free! Imagine my surprise (and luck!).

My pen pal, Adam (owner of Need To Know Tutoring), went above and beyond.
When the first package failed to arrive thanks to the deficient Montana mail? He sent another one.
He makes things like insalata caprese with homegrown tomatoes and basil for dinner? Peach tarts for dessert?
My kind of pen pal.. and just wait until you see what was in this package!

From the moment I opened the box, I knew it was going to be good - I could smell the chai. Within minutes of opening, I e-mailed Adam begging to know if he had researched my favorite foods or if by some culinary coincidence, he just chose our favorites - it was the second. As Adam put it, "I just sent you some of my 'faves', and hoped that you would enjoy them.” Enjoy them, I will. 

I’ve been tempted to drink this Masala Chocolate Truffle chai tea from Mighty Leaf since it arrived but I’m trying to hold off for a cold Montana morning. Perhaps to celebrate the first day of fall?

The package also included a can of Hatch green chiles from Trader Joes. As you likely know, Trevor’s obsessed, seriously obsessed, with Hatch green chile. (As evidenced by a thirty-four hour drive to obtain several containers full.) Often times, you can find green chile at the grocery store but I promise you, these are different. Seeing as though we ran out of green chile sauce yesterday, I think these will come in handy for heuvos rancheros or shrimp tacos before the end of summer.

Adam also included two packets of honey ginger crystals. From the packaging, it seems that these are typical used to prepare a beverage that can even be used to help with motion sickness. Adam’s suggestion was to use them for gingerbread or ginger almond cookies, instead. I’m thinking that the fall’s first ginger baked goods would be a good compliment to that chai tea, don’t you think?

We also received dried mushrooms which are perfect for making soup, anchovies that are an essential ingredient for our classic caesar dressing, and creamed coconut, which I plan to utilize in a thai style sauce for dinner this week. Look forward to recipes with these fun ingredients over the next few weeks! (All of which was be in thanks to Adam - for the delicious choices, for sending a second package, and for the great cooking suggestions).

Trevor and I will both be working early, full, days this week and thankfully, that means dinner together every night - though that doesn’t mean I’m thankful for our 4:45 a.m. alarm. That being said, things may continue to be a bit quiet here over the next week as I train full-time in our busy Butte branch. I hope to stop by later this weekend to tell you about the season-opening University of Montana Griz football game we are going to tomorrow! I’m hoping to also make it back for Ten on Tuesday - besides, there are also lots of home remodeling projects and fall plans to catch you up on.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Snapshots: Summer Lovin'

It’s been quiet here this week. No Ten on Tuesday. No What I Ate Wednesday. Quiet.
You’ll have to forgive me, we’ve been too busy soaking up the last of our Montana summer.
(And the first real break from school-work for me in over a year, but don’t worry, classes start Monday.)

To celebrate, we spent last Friday night having dinner at the Montana Club (complete with huckleberry iced tea, yum!).
And a double date to the Silver Bow Drive In for a funny movie.
(Plans we will repeat tonight - only with a different restaurant, a different couple and a different movie.)

I also enjoyed a blistering hot afternoon and a chilly evening on the banks of Silver Lake last weekend.
And here in Montana, lake nights mean bonfires with friends and “family", peanut butter cup s’mores and play dates with my three-year-old, Kaleb.

Of course the rest of our week hasn’t been as fun-filled or exciting - though it has thankfully been perfectly warm and sunny. 
We’ve kept busy working on the house in anticipation of Trevor’s family visiting - planting succulents, cleaning out the garage, fun things like that.
And I’ve spent hours each day filling out employment applications, printing resumes, answering phone calls and picking out the right outfit for the seemingly endless list of job interviews. (Keep your fingers crossed for me? I’m putting all my hopes into being hired as a preschool teacher.)

But today, after one last interview for the week, I decided to treat myself.
I spent the morning at Goodwill (which somehow carries a large selection of Target items, new with tags, at less than half price).
Ate frozen yogurt for lunch, and brought Starbucks home to my boys.. though it’s not like Buddy cared.

For now though, we’re headed to enjoy a Friday date night before Trevor heads back to work tomorrow and I’m left with a list of chores, piles of homework and more job interviews to complete.

We hope you’re able to soak up some of the last of summer this weekend, too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Autumn Mini Sessions

Are you located in the southwestern Montana area and looking to have photos taken of yourself and your significant other? of your family? of your children? A mini-session is a great way to get update photos for a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost! With the holidays coming up, and a new school just starting, it is a great time to commemorate.

Since I have just relocated to the area, I am looking to build a clientele in the Butte and Anaconda area. For that reason, I am offering three months of discounted portraits - plus a special giveaway at the bottom of this post! For just $75, I will meet you at any location of your choice and provide a thirty minute session! Perhaps we will even be able to take advantage of some early snow.

With each session, you will receive a disk with 8 - 10 medium resolution images - images that you will be able to share online and print in sizes up to 8x10! In addition, each session will include a custom designed e-card for the holiday or occasion of your choice. This is a great way to share your newest family photo via e-mail or Facebook. In addition, I will be offering print services for holiday cards. Since you have to send them anyway, why not include a great new portrait and a fun design? They will surely be cherished by grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, no matter how near or far.

For those who would like prints made, a password protected gallery will be online for one week to allow you to select your favorites. Print packages, gallery wrapped canvases, and other photo gifts are also available.

If you would like more information about these sessions or would like to book one today, please contact me as soon as possible. After receiving your session fee in full, you will receive printed information about my prints and packages, ideas of what to wear, or suggestions for unique themes to incorporate in your session.

For those of you who book by September 15th, I will include a free professional 8x10 with any print order! And, for those that book a session and refer a friend, I will be thanking you with a special gift.

Giveaway Information

This giveaway is open to those who are willing to travel to the Butte/Anaconda area between now and November 10th. A winner will be chosen and announced on this blog on September 15th.

To enter, tell me, what is your favorite place in Montana?
You can also earn more entries by liking Jennifer Lake Images on Facebook, following me on Twitter, or sharing this giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For my friends, family and followers on the East Coast, I am hoping to have one day of mini-sessions in the York area. If you are interested, please e-mail me so that I can gauge interest and so that I will be able to notify you as soon as a date and location have been set. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Together We Rise

While I always like to share great causes and motivation messages here, this one is especially important - this Fall, I will be interning with an organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth in foster care, Together We Rise. Since you will likely hear much about them - and maybe a few calls for help - over the next few months, I thought I’d give you some information about the organization and what we do.

Who is Together We Rise?

Together We Rise is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of foster children, and those transferring out of foster care, throughout America. Based in Chino and Chino Hills California, the organization is comprised entirely of passionate young adults ranging from office interns from local universities to high school and college interns located across the country.

Who do we help? 

Together We Rise helps children in the foster care system that may be dealing with confusing and unstable environments. TWR seeks to provide a sense of normalcy and belonging amongst these circumstances. TWR’s Aging Out program also provides help and resources to older children who are leaving the foster care system.

How do we help?

Together We Rise seeks to help children of all age groups through programs such as sports camp, music and art.  The organization currently hosts six different projects, including:

Build-A-Bike Tour… is an annual summer tour that helps fight childhood obesity by providing brand-new bikes to group care facilities across the country.

Sweet Cases…  is a program that provides basic necessities to foster children who often move through three different placements with little to no warning.

REACH… stands for “Realizing Every Action Creates Hope” and is an initiative designed to help create equal educational opportunities for children in foster care with the hope that this effort will break the cycle of homelessness while increasing graduation rates.

Symphony of Hope… is a program that enables foster youth to play instruments at no cost to their agency or foster family. This is important because research has shown that kids who become involved with art and music programs graduate at higher rates than those who do not participate. With half of high school foster youth dropping out before senior year, this type of involvement is even more important.

Field of Dreams… helps to fight childhood obesity by creating sports camps with complete equipment, professional athletes, and DJs.

I’m Aging Out… is a program geared toward older foster youth who will be leaving the foster care system. 2 of 3 foster children will become homeless or incarcerated within 2 years of turning 18. I’m Aging Out provides a website of information to help prevent this. Some resources offered include how to build a resume, how to find transitional housing, how to obtain medical records, and more.

Perhaps the best question to ask though is, why is this important?

Even with it’s tiny population (of just over one million residents), Montana has 1,639 children in foster care, with only 192 adopted per year. In addition, nearly 6,700 children are being raised by their grandparents.

A quick look at the statistics will tell you what is wrong with this picture:
  • Youth in foster care are 44% less likely to graduate from high school. 
  • After reaching the age of 18, 40 – 50% of foster youth fail to graduate. 
  •  Less than 50% of former foster youth are employed. 
  •  80% of the U.S. Prison Population was once in foster care. 
  •  2/3rds of children who age out of the foster care system will die, become homeless, or go to jail within a year of turning 18. 27% of the homeless population was once in foster care. 
  • Girls in foster care are six times more likely to have children by age 21. 
  •  60% of women who age out of foster care become mothers within 2.5 – 4 years after leaving care. 

When a child is removed from their home, the foster care system becomes responsible for reuniting the child with family or finding a new permanent home by means of adoption. When children age out of the foster system at 18, this important goal has not been met - and in Montana, 84 children aged out of the system last year. Unfortunately, while in the foster care system, children are not taught or prepared on how to be adults after reaching the age of emancipation. Often, these children pass through the system without making lasting connections with the adults in their lives. Then, these youth are expected to finish their education, find employment and maintain housing on their own after reaching the age of 18. While I face the prospect of moving out on my own, finding a full time job and buying a professional wardrobe and new car, I do it with the love and support of my boyfriend, my friends, my siblings, my extended family and perhaps most importantly, both of my parts. Even with this encouragement, this isn’t an easy prospect - the thought of facing it without help is overwhelming, and that is why I’ve stepped up to help.

Over the next few months, I’m going to ask for your help too.

In the meantime, you can get involved by sharing this post with friends, promoting the mission of Together We Rise or liking us on Facebook, today. Plus, you can keep your fingers crossed for our founder, Danny Mendoza, who is a finalist for VH1’s Do Something! Awards which will air this Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT. You can also click here to vote over the next two days. While chilling with Beyonce is a pretty great reward in and of itself, imagine the work that can be done with a $100,000 grant!

photo courtesy of VH1

If you are a fellow blogger who would like to join in on advertising my fundraising efforts,
or a shop owner who would like to donate an item to be auctioned off, please get in touch.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WIAW: Southwestern Stuffed Zucchini

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I told you that we had eaten chili with every meal since Trevor returned home from New Mexico. This has meant heuvos rancheros, green chili chicken enchiladas, homemade salsa, vegan and gluten-free green chile cornbread, and green chili chicken corn chowder. (I know, I know. I should’ve photographed the southwestern food feast but I was too busy drinking Gruet to cool my overly spicy mouth). While I love all things involving chile, avocados, and corn tortillas, even I have reached my breaking point on the chile... though I suppose you could say that those three things have become summer staples around here.

I even snuck away from the house today to buy a Snickers bar and eat it in peace.

But, back to the point of this story. In Montana, zucchinis are in season and after an evening sitting on the new deck of our good friends’ house, Michelle sent us home with one grown from her dads garden (That sounds familiar, huh?). Today, while out sneaking in a Snickers bar, I figured I should buy something at the store other than Diet Dr. Pepper and candy so I grabbed some sausage and tomatoes thinking that I would finally conquer stuffed zucchini. After all, we had brown rice cous cous, tomato sauce, italian blend cheese, parmesan, oregano, fresh garlic, and white onions at the house already.

Well. That was the plan before Trevor hijacked dinner.

Instead of my cheesy italian style dinner, we ended up with another meal thoroughly soaked in homemade red chili sauce. It was delicious so I’m trying not to complain but even this obsessive eater is ready for a little variety.

But, since it was both delicious and beautiful, I thought I would switch it up for this week’s What I Ate Wednesday and share with you the recipe that we had for dinner tonight (and the recipe for the homemade salsa we used).

Salsa Ingredients:
2 avocados, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 1/2 cups of corn (you can use canned, frozen or off the cob)
1 can of black beans (freshly prepared or canned)
1/3 cup of Hatch green chile (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Lime
Fresh Cilantro

Mix the above ingredients and toss in the juice of one lime until everything is evenly coated. Then, you’ll want to add salt, pepper, cilantro and cumin to taste. We love ours with a lot of kick from the cumin but that’s up to you! The longer this salsa sits, the better it tastes - but make sure to cover it tightly with plastic wrap because of the avocado browning. We’ve used this with our enchiladas, in breakfast burritos, with tortilla chips and finally, in the stuffed zucchini. It’s versatile and chunky with a bit of sweetness and cool flavor from the corn.

Needless to say, the salsa is mostly allergy friendly (feel free to drop the corn) and vegan!

As for that zucchini...

You’ll need:
1 large or 2 small zucchini
2 cups of cooked cous cous, rice or quinoa (like I said, we used a gluten free brown rice cous cous)
1/2 pound of sausage (feel free to substitute chicken, steak or leave it out for a vegetarian dish)
1/4 of a white onion, diced
1 tomato, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups of salsa
1 cup of red chili sauce (we made ours homemade but feel free to use enchilada sauce if red chili isn’t available)
Shredded cheese
Olive Oil

To make:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the zucchini down the center and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. (See top photo.)
Coat the zucchini with olive oil and aggressively season it with salt and pepper.
Wrap the zucchini tightly in foil and place in the oven on a baking sheet.

The zucchini should be ready to stuff in approximately forty minutes so while it bakes:

Prepare the cous cous or rice if you haven’t already.
Sautee the sausage, onions, garlic and tomato.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sausage mixture with the cous cous, salsa and sauce.

When the zucchini is tender, take it out of the oven and fill it with this mixture. Top with shredded cheese of your choice and bake until the cheese is melted and browned on the top. Sprinkle with black pepper, allow to cool and slice into sections to serve. 

How was it?
Despite my frustration at my dinner plans being thrown out in favor of a spicier version, this turned out to be a really great filling summer recipe plus, it’s very healthy! If you use a gluten-free grain, the recipe is wheat free. Without meat or cheese, it’s also vegan (but check your enchilada sauce!) and I’m sure it would be just as delicious! Our friend Michele can no longer eat eggs, wheat or milk and so making allergy friendly recipes has become even more important. As you can see, this recipe is obviously an easy way to please those with and without food restrictions and still remains robust and zesty. Plus, it’s pretty healthy. Overall, we were really happy with the way it turned out and thankful that we have more than half of our prepared zucchini left.. plus a cup or two of filling. We’re thinking stuffed peppers are in order.

So while it might not be much, that’s what we ate this Wednesday.
How about you? Are you a fan of spicy food or southwestern cuisine?

Monday, August 13, 2012

We're surrounded by a billion galaxies.

First the earth was flat,
but it fattened up when we didn't fall off,
now we spin laps round the sun.

All the gods lost 2-1,
and holes to heaven pointed out to us from light years away,
we're surrounded by a billion galaxies.

Things are not always how they seem.

In the early hours of morning, we loaded up the still new camping chairs and a pile of blankets into the back of the big red truck. I charged camera batteries, dug out a shutter remote and still managed to forget to set the camera settings in the bright light of our living room. We grabbed a pillow for good measure, and for myself, a cup of chai tea, and headed out Frontage Road.

The thing about Montana is, there’s not much ambient light. We hadn’t driven far when we realized that you could see the entire Milky Way like a creamy streak through the center of the sky. Until this moment, I don’t know that I even understood how many stars were in the sky, that you could really see a galaxy, or that falling pieces of debris could bring wishes.

So there we sat, in a dusty pull off, just off the highway, in red camping chairs, watching the sky. Every now and then a car would pass and the blinding lights would be a reminder of how ridiculous we must look, just camped out, shivering, on a dusty fishing-spot pull off. 

For weeks the meteors have made an appearance as Trevor took the same road home and last night, they didn’t dissapoint. We saw twenty, perhaps more. In open fields, the temperature falls fast and we huddled in the back of the truck beneath the now dusty blankets I had packed. I kicked my sandals off onto the dirt road and tucked my cold toes under me, in hopes of being more patient.  We pointed out constellations and wondered how the blinking lights of planes or satellites could possibly be so far away. We wondered at how fast and how big a meteor must really be to make such a bright impact on our skies. 

And then, finally, I caught one.
A tiny, faint, whisper in the center of the frame.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Eide Magazine

“The word ‘eide' is the plural form of the word ‘eidos,' literally meaning 'something that is seen.’
Plato used this word in his writings to mean ‘the essence of culture’."

It’s no secret that I love to read but since I’ve developed such a passion for photography, I’ve come to prefer reading blogs and magazines. I find myself frustrated and bored with large chunks of text - let’s blame college, shall we? My interest is kept more easily with beautiful photographs, illustrations and areas of color.

I’ve been working on compiling a blog roll to share with you but it seems that my collection grows each day. My three hour run at the gym is also time to read and it’s difficult to find enough material to consuming that much time each week. I’ve read every issue of Allure and O Magazine that my gym has - most dated in 2011 - and my magazine subscription to Glamour ended just before my trip to Montana. While I do get the Wall Street Journal each day, our Montana post office prefers to deliver them in groups of four or five at a time and by then, I’ve already caught up on the business news I need because really, let’s face it - I’m twenty, I live in Montana and I don’t have any stock investments.

While catching up on my favorite blogs last week, I came across this post, which talked about a new-to-me national independent magazine that’s based out of Atlanta. Like most of the blogs I read, Eide Magazine features art, music, design, and creative writing. As Tova Gelfond, the magazine’s founder, explained, “we don’t tell our readers what they should like. We look to them to have this interactive dialogue so we can figure out what is important to them and transform it into a story that is really meaningful to them.”

“I felt there was this void in the story telling and in the visuals that went with them."
Evidently, Tova Gelfond’s mission of having an open dialogue has succeeded since the magazine has grown to more than 60,000 Twitter followers in just seven months. Perhaps more interestingly, as the magazine explains, these readers range from old to young, corporate to creative, shallow to profound, selfish to philanthropic. This dynamic culture is one of the reasons why I was drawn to the magazine. Reading blogs, it becomes obvious that many fit into a “niche,” with the readers falling into the same category - DIYers, creatives, moms, photographers, fashionistas. And while I enjoy being able to read blogs across this wide spectrum of interest, I found it refreshing to see these unique passions joined into a single publication.

“People are not one dimensional. So, guess what? Neither is eide."

In order to provide these wide range of content, the magazine seeks out collaborators from all over the country - and unfortuantely, this effort is costly. They feature up-and-coming writers, unique artists, budding photographers, and innovative designers and soon they hope to feature these passionate individuals in a hard-cover Eide “Best Of” Print Edition.

But to make this happen, the magazine needs our help. I’m here to encourage you to not only spend the time to read the latest edition but to help support a publication that is working to distinguish itself as innovative, thought provoking and fresh - a much welcomed change from the over priced news stand publications concerning celebrity gossip or the latest trends that you and I can’t possibly afford to wear.

From now through August 20th, Eide will be participating in a kickstarter program to fund not only a hard-cover print edition but also bi-monthly editions of Eide brought straight to your iPad. The minimum goal for this effort is $25,000 but as donations grow, so does the magazines offerings. At $50,000, an iPhone app. At $100,000, a free monthly iPad subscription for all donors.

But, these goals cannot be met without the help of readers like you. The movers and shakers of the lifestyle world. The readers who aren’t content unless their thoughts are provoked and their thirst for culutre quenched. So, what do you say?

I was contacted by Eide Magazine to provide you with information about their Kickstarter program but as always, I would never promote a cause, product or organization that I did not believe in or personally enjoy. If you are interested in having a review of your product or cause featured here, please e-mail me

All photographs and video provided courtesy of Eide Magazine.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Change is good.

WIAW: Oatmeal Obsessions

It’s hard to believe that it’s Wednesday already. The last of summer seems to be slipping away, quicker and quicker, each week. But, on a more positive note - Wednesday means another day of eats thanks to Jenn at Peas and Crayons. This week is a bit different, though.. because.. well..

I have a confession to make.
When I fall for a food, I eat it again and again. For days. Maybe weeks. Perhaps a month. Or two.
For a while it was blueberries. Gluten free pancakes. Then guacamole. And now, baked oatmeal.

Between my own grocery shopping, helping a friend who can’t drive, running out of dog food and lacking pantry staples, I end up at our local Albertson’s nearly every day. If you’ve been following along, you know that I’ve already been made fun of once by one of the cashiers. Imagine my surprise when, the next day, more jokes were being made.

Let’s just say that a conversation about my love of watermelon and oatmeal escalated to a metaphor involving the British girl who only ate chicken nuggets.

But really people, I just can’t help it. I seem to cling onto things and then do them over, and over, and over, again. Having food allergies and intolerances seems to only exacerbate the problem as I find foods that I’m comfortable eating and then, well, I just keep eating them.

I chose a different format for WIAW this week - a showcase of my whole week of eats. Between our busy schedules, plumbing catastrophes and Trevor’s impromptu trip to New Mexico, I couldn’t seem to photograph one singular day of eats from beginning to end. Plus, most days, I ate baked oatmeal twice. The one picture above? Peach and cherry - and the second one this week.

In between the obsessive oatmeal consumption, I did manage to enjoy a few other treats. Come summer, breakfast burritos with leftover steak, cheddar, tomato and avocado are a must. And one morning, Trevor treated to breakfast at the Montana Club. My choice of breakfast: an omelette topped with avocado. (Are we noticed an unhealthy habit, here?)

During summer months, I can’t seem to get enough fruit either. This week, I finished off that bag of cherries, enjoyed a handful of juicy sweet plums, chopped up peaches to bake oatmeal, ate one half of a cantaloupe with a spoon, and finished two personal sized watermelons. Like I said, fruit’s a summer staple in our house.

As a normally healthy eater, I’m a little embarrassed to throw a gluten-free pizza and soda into the mix but it made for two lunches this week. Somehow, Gallicano’s tops any gluten-free choices back east and when topped with sausage, canadian bacon, roasted red peppers and mushrooms.. I just can’t resist. I’m also a little embarrassed about all the strange snacking that took place over the past seven days. With hours each day spent running to the hardware store or running down the cellar stops to shut off water that was flooding the house, we had no time to cook lunches. Instead, we had slices of corn bread, those too-good-to-be-true chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, handfuls of M&M’s and a few cups of Chobani.

All that being said, we did manage to have dinner together each night. Even though it may have been at one or even two o’clock in the morning. On the nights that Trevor ate at work, I enjoyed a heaping pile of Jovial pasta with Trevor’s broccoli puree (I swear, it was alfredo without the fat!), grated parmesan and topped with sauteed tomatoes, garlic, onions and just a bit of bacon. Other dinners included left over steak with sweet potato fries and pork chops braised in apple cider with corn on the cob.

Hopefully the next week will feature some more normal eating habits. And, rumor has it, that my boyfriend will be bringing a cooler full of green chile with him when he returns home. Until then, I have two more days to survive on oatmeal and yogurt (I’m out of watermelon). Unfortunately though, they will be filled with towel rods to hang, DIY projects to finish and a paper to write.

Though, I was thinking of making granola...

Tell me, do you have a food that you just can’t stop eating? Has a cashier ever picked on your grocery choices?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ten on Tuesday: Office Inspiration

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10
This little Montana home has a lot of nooks and crannies that I have taken over as work space over the past few weeks - our secondary kitchen table, the steps at our backdoor, the actual office. Unfortunately, the “actual office” also consists of construction materials storage, and currently serves as my closet thanks to the help of a garment rack and some storage bins. This makes it the least ideal place to get anything done. Plus, we’ve currently got a wooden kitchen table as a desk and it is littered with paperwork, strange knick-knacks and piles upon piles of unorganized supplies. If you know me, you know how this simply doesn’t work.

In addition to our little house, the property features a two room cabin that we affectionately call “the mother-in-law”, and a garage as well. Over the past week or so, Trevor has taken on the garage as his man cave, with plans for dart boards, outdoor carpeting and a heavy boxing bag. I’ve since decided that I want my own office for school work, photography work and crafting. I’m a visual person who needs plenty of wall space to hang photographs, lists and calendars - but at the same time, I need a clean, clutter-free and organized space. It’s all about balance.

As soon as our bathroom project is complete, we plan to repaint the “mother-in-law” and put in a finished floor. While one room will serve as guest sleeping quarters, I’m hoping to turn the other half into an office space at one end and a sitting area with couches and a coffee table at the other. With Trevor’s mom planning to make a visit in October, we’re starting to feel the time crunch of getting things in order.

If you know me, this is needless to say, but back-to-school is my favorite time of year. It’s not that I enjoy going back-to-school (and with five summer classes, I really haven’t taken a break) but I love picking out new notebooks, buying new pens, organizing my binders, and finding the perfect planner. My boyfriend doesn’t see the fun in any of this and refuses to wander the back-to-school aisles of Wal-mart with me, so instead, I’ve been doing some online office planning.

So tell me, do you prefer an organized office or a messy desk?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Recipe: Gluten-free Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yes, gluten-free peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. How’s that for a mouth full?

And trust me, if you had a plate of these cookies, your mouth would be full, for days, because they’re so good, I can’t put them down and I’m allergic to peanut butter! (talk about a bad combination..)

I’m not sure what it is, I suppose the free time that comes with the lack of employment, but I haven’t stopped baking this weekend. First there was oatmeal. Then, cornbread. A failed attempt at gluten-free focaccia. And finally? These cookies. (.. and a peaches and cream baked oatmeal in the oven, as I type)

In fact, between the boredom, the baking and Trevor’s voracious appetite, I’ve been at the grocery store a lot. Yesterday, my favorite cashier mentioned that I might want to join in on their sweepstakes game since my daily trips would warrant a lot of game pieces. Today, I was teased for shopping every day and only leaving with five things in my cart. Apparently it’s not normal to survive on a diet of oatmeal, watermelon and the occasional cup of Chobani. (I finally got bit by that greek yogurt bug. Why did I hold out this long?)

With the stress of installing a new vanity and doing the plumbing ourselves, I thought that Trevor could use a treat, though. My first attempt at a reward was the focaccia but when that plan fell flat (literally), I scrounged up all the pantry items I could find and looking for a recipe that would combine them all into something sweet but free of flour.

Unfortunately for me, Trevor loves peanut butter. When there is gluten-free bread in the pantry, I can’t seem to make a jar last more than four days but with the bread-baking disaster, there was plenty of crunchy peanut butter left for these cookies. (Of course there was no baking soda, so a trip to the store was needed anyway - like I said, Albertson’s sees a lot of me.)

After doing a lot of recipe searching - I’m so particular about cookies - I stumbled upon this one from Averie Cooks. If you haven’t been introduced to this blog yet, I advise you to set aside hours because once you catch a glimpse at her light, airy photography and to-die-for recipes, you’ll never get anything done.

So with some high altitude modifications and some ingredient substitutions, this is how it turned out..


1/2 cup of butter
1/3 cup of peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup stevia (you can use sugar, if you wish)
1 egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups of gluten-free Bisquick
1 cup of gluten-free old fashioned oats
3/8 tsp of baking soda
1 1/4 cup of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

In her original preparation, Averie chose white chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. I was looking to use ingredients already in my pantry (and to minimize the peanut butter content) so I chose to just use milk chocolate chips. You could easily substitute white chocolate, dark chocolate, dried cherries or nut pieces, instead. Also, I chose to use Bisquick but for those of you who aren’t restricted - all purpose flour will do just fine. And finally - if you’re at sea level, round your baking soda off to an even 1/2 tsp.


For high altitudes, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
For everyone else, preheat to only 325.

Melt the butter over medium heat on the stove, once it has melted, add in the peanut butter and stir until evenly mixed.

While this mixture is still hot, stir in the brown sugar and stevia.

You will want this mixture to come to room temperature before adding your eggs - I let it rest in the freezer while I measured out the dry ingredients.

After the mixture cools, whisk in the vanilla, one egg and one additional egg yolk. Mix until smooth.

Then, add in the oats, the bisquick, and baking soda. After thoroughly mixed, fold in the chocolate chips.

I found this blend of ingredients to produce the right texture (not too wet or too dry) but you can always follow Averie’s suggestion of adding more flour or more peanut butter, to suit.

To bake, simply roll the dough into balls - you should get about two dozen cookies from the ingredients listed above, but the recipe could easily be doubled. Place the balls of dough evenly spaced out on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 12 minutes if you want a soft, chewy cookie. If you’re a fan of crispier cookies, I suggest leaving them in the oven for about 15, instead. For low altitudes, you may need to adjust these times by two to three minute.

(My very chewy cookies seemed to stay together better when left on the cookie sheet to cool.)

After they’ve had a chance to cool (or maybe before, if you’re inpatient like me), you will want to pour yourself a glass of cold milk and consume as many as possible before your significant other gets home. Okay, that might not be the best advice but really, they’re that good.

When Trevor bit into the first, I watched his face light up with surprise. Then he made a snarky comment like “well, maybe you don’t know how to bake gluten-free bread but you have this cookie thing down.” I was mad for a second before I realized that well, he was right, and then he proceeded to brag how the cookies could definitely win a recipe contest.

I guess you could say my baking served its purpose, he was delighted. Even if the cookies didn’t appease him later, as our bathroom pipes flooded our new floor. Twice.

So tell me, what do you like to add to your cookies? Walnuts? Peanut butter chips?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Oh Happy Days.

Even looking at these pictures makes my heart skip a bit. 
Somedays, I can’t get over how lucky I am.

The days have been long and busy this week but what happy days we’ve had. Okay.. maybe I began the day yesterday with a frustrated text to a best friend proclaiming my homesickness.. but my feelings changed quickly, much like Montana weather does.

Lately, the daylight sun is unbearable and sends even Buddy seeking out shade. The afternoons pass by with hail storms, and umbrella-breaking winds and the nights have fallen below forty all week. We wake up snuggled under a pile of blankets, our feet still cold.

Trevor has found himself busy with late nights at work, while I’ve found myself busy organizing and cleaning, baking cookies and doing laundry. No matter how many days pass here, I still find myself anxiously waiting for a text that Trevor’s on his way home. I frantically finish what I’m doing as soon as my phone vibrates with the “homeward.” text. Then, eventually, Buddy wakes from his snoring couch slumber to wait for his papa at the door.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I hate late nights, I don’t mind finishing them with home cooked dinners and hard cider. This week we’ve been busy revisiting our favorite television show (and regretting that we haven’t invested in cable as the second season is quickly approaching). Even more, I enjoy starting the next day with hot baked oatmeal and both of my happy boys in the kitchen.

Oh happy days.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bubbly in the Bathroom

Today’s a big day. 
The kind of day that’s going to end with me drinking a bottle of champagne in our bathtub, that is.

As you know, we’ve been working away in our bathroom since the first days that I arrived in Montana, and at that point, weeks of work had already been put in. Needless to say, it’s been a slow moving process spread over many days, many hours, many people (the majority? me).

While there are many things I believe in and enjoy doing myself, like party decorations or herb gardens (the next project on my list), I don’t know that bathrooms will ever make that list. Thankfully in the beginning weeks of the adventure, our landlord and his son - a contractor from California - made the seventeen hour drive to our tiny town to make sure that we had a working shower, solid glass windows and an idea of what to do next. (I may or may not have a crush on these two - we seem to always luck out with landlords.)

Thankfully, I grew up in a house where DIY wasn’t the preferred way, it was the only way. I helped mud drywall as we remodeled the living room; I schemed colors and shower curtains for the new bathroom; I painted walls after the house fire. Add to that experience two moves which included plenty of installed curtain rods and built furniture and you get one prepared girl (relatively speaking, that is).

While the boys of the project wouldn’t let me touch anything for a few days, they quickly realized I was capable of doing more than cooking their breakfast. Soon, I was measuring dimensions for drywall cuts better than they could do it themselves. Then, they let me cut sheet rock. And hang it. And mud it. And sand it. And prime it. And paint it. And paint it some more.

And the lesson I’ve learned from all this?
It’s no wonder girls act dumb sometimes - if not, you’ll end up remodeling a bathroom on your own.

But, there’s something rewarding in it all. And like I say, if Trevor and I can survive having no working shower, then no hot water, and two months of remodeling together? We’re set. Plus, this girl loves to choose paint colors - even if our choices weren’t exactly conventional. As Trevor would say, “a white ceiling is too Martha Stewart, this is my house and I don’t want things to match too much.” Yes, that’s what he said - he doesn’t want things to match too much. In case you were wondering, this doesn’t sit well with my obsessive tendencies.  But like they say, opposites attract and so we’ve got turquoise walls and yellow ceilings.

This week, we managed to install the medicine cabinet and vanity lighting. Meaning that I can mark “minor electricity” off of my list of DIY skills - but don’t worry, the electrician was just here to make sure that everything checked out. Though he did leave us with a heater to install but that’s a blog post for another day. That day, we also had the pleasure of hosting the floor installers to inspect our bathroom and then, the gas company repair man for the second time in a week.. not that I’ll complain since he brought us hot water after a week without. And in Montana? It’s a miracle that your cold water lines don’t freeze in the midst of summer so, that left Trevor and I with a lot of pots of water boiling on the stove.

Today, we will be receiving a few other visitors.
Our flooring and trim is being installed.
The roofer is coming to evaluate our missing siding.

And you know what that means? All that remains on the list is the installation of our sink & vanity and the hanging of decorative trim. But then there’s the ongoing debate of where to put the toilet paper holder. For some reason, Trevor believes that the back of the bathroom door is a great location but then again, he does want a clear shower curtain so, I’m not surprised. Opposite attract, remember?

Little does he know, I plan to finish the bathroom while he’s away next week.
(I’m hoping this good girlfriend task, combined with dog sitting, will earn me a trip to the fair.)

But for now, I will celebrate a covered floor.

This just in, folks: 
(Just in, as in “just installed” - clever, right?)

We have a floor.

And, our local liquor store found us Gruet.
A bathroom champagne celebration is definitely happening.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Recipe: Baked Sweet Cherry Oatmeal

It’s hard to imagine that today marks the second day of August. Of all the seasons, summer seems to come and go the quickest - and with the beautiful weather of Montana that statement is all the more true. With a full course schedule and a possible return to Pennsylvania looming (and the internship I start next week!.. more about that later), I’ve started to feverishly scribble to-do lists and mini-vacation plans into the brown paper journal that never leaves my side. I’m aching for a summer fair and after watching this video, I’m sure you will be too. Nothing signifies the end of summer quite like sticky cotton candy fingers and the bright lights of spinning and twirling carnival rides. (Plus, a little bird told me that the fair is coming to Missoula next week and I’ve already sent approximately 54 text messages to Trevor begging that we go.) But, I digress. 

The point is - there are certain things that will always mean summer to me. And while country fairs and swimming holes are two of those, sweet cherries are another. Summer time is perhaps the only time when these delicious babies make their way into my budget and onto my grocery list. After spending a few hours coupon clipping, loading savings to my shoppers card, and scratching our weekly list into my notebook, Trevor and I headed to Safeway for our weekly argument over what to buy. While he was busy sneaking a party size bag of Peanut M&M’s (42oz. I kid you not.) into our cart, I was wavering on what greens to buy (I’m a spinach girl. He likes spring greens) and that’s when I saw them.

Sweet cherries - $1.99 per pound.

I dug through the bags to find the one with the crispest, brightest cherries and turned to Trevor with puppy eyes. After all, this girl has no job and that means begging for cherries. Thankfully, I’m spoiled and Trevor said of course as he tossed them in the cart. (Though I didn’t get the Dairy Queen I wanted.. )

We had barely gotten the groceries unloaded before I had filled a stainless steel mixing bowl with a pile of cherries. As, Trevor worked on his homemade balsamic dressing.. I ate. and ate. and ate. cherries until my lips and fingers were stained pink. Thankfully, someone in this house had enough sense to push a turkey and cheddar salad beneath my hands before I filled my stomach with fruit. (As for the greens? We got both - we’ve been eating a lot of salad around here.)

While I love cherries for their taste and texture and how perfectly cool and refreshing they can be, I think my real love is because they remind me of my grandmother. I don’t know that we ever had cherries in my house growing up. But every time I’d visit my grandma (which was often), there were cherries to be eaten. I feel the same way about fresh peeled potatoes (and eating them raw) and stale marshmallow peeps - I think that I could eat them until I’m 92 and still think of my grandmother.

Though it had been 92 degrees in the shade on our way to the grocery store, I had made a note-to-self to grab ingredients for baked oatmeal. Oatmeal seems to be my food of choice lately and I’d never had the baked variety - though the diner I worked in as a teenager always sold it. I’d also seen this new fad of overnight oats sweeping through the food blogosphere and thought that I could kill two birds with one stone.

Then, I woke up today with the best of ideas: Baked Sweet Cherry Oatmeal.
And now? After eating it? I still think it was the best of ideas.

If it’s too warm for you to be eating hot oatmeal for breakfast, I have to say that it’s a delicious snack served cold. And, topped with french vanilla ice cream? Then you’ve got dessert. Personally, I’ve eaten it all three ways today and it’s only mid-afternoon.

If you want to make some for yourself (and I know that you do), here’s what you’ll need:

3 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (if you’re gluten-free, make sure you buy oats that are certified GF)
1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs (or for allergies, 1/2 cup of applesauce)
1 cup almond milk (though you could make this recipe with cow’s milk or soy milk)
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/3 cup sweet cherries (or another type of fruit, if you prefer)
1/2 cup whipping cream (can also be replaced with the milk of your choice)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a container of your choice - I used a glass pie dish but an 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish will work, as well.

Remove the pits from your cherries and roughly chop them - saving a few halves for the top.
Melt your butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
In a large mixing bowl, while the butter melts, lightly wisk two eggs.
Add melted butter, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla to the bowl.
(At this point, I recommend tasting the mixture to see if you need more cinnamon or sugar for your tastes - I originally began with 1 cup of brown sugar and added the extra 1/4 cup because I like my oatmeal sweet.)
Add oats, almond milk and cream - mix thoroughly.
Then, fold in your chopped cherries.
Pour the mixture into your dish and neatly place the remaining cherry halves on the top.

After completing these steps, your oatmeal should look like this:

While this may look unappetizing, I wanted to include a “before” photo to comfort you after you mix all the above ingredients together and panic, for a moment, thinking that it is much too wet. It’s not. The oats soak up the moisture as it bakes (I was nervous too, especially since this is my first shot at baking from scratch at a high altitude.)

For low altitudes, I recommend baking for forty-minutes at 350 and checking to see how the oatmeal looks. I found that I baked my oatmeal for nearly an hour and fifteen minutes to get it to the texture that I wanted. Not to worry though, if you leave it in longer - it won’t burn. Simply check it at 45 minutes and then in 10 minute intervals until your oatmeal looks like the one pictured above the recipe. It should be thick and spongey with a glossy texture on the top.

When you take this out of the oven, it can be served right away! Like I said, it’s also great cold.. In fact, I’ve got the entire pie dish sitting next to me as I munch and type, at the same time. The best part of baked oatmeal is that it can be easily cut apart and reheated for breakfast throughout the week - I like mine with a splash of almond milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar. 30 minutes of prep time on a Sunday will yield you a healthy, yummy, sweet breakfast for busy mornings before work, school, the gym - whatever you might be doing. Plus, it also makes a great late night snack to satisfy your sweet tooth!

I’m planning to make this a weekly habit. Next time with fresh peaches and cream, perhaps!
What are your favorite mix-ins for oatmeal? Have you ever tried overnight oats? 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

WIAW: Summer Staples

While this may be the first time I’ve participated in WIAW here at Live Beautifully, I did have a chance to join in last week’s fun when filling in for my friend Marisa. If you don’t know the premise - WIAW, or What I Ate Wednesday, is a link up to share a full day of eats hosted by Jenn at Peas and Crayons! Really, that’s all there is to it. (But if you want to know more, and perhaps you want to join in on the fun, too.. then jump over here and take a look.)

Each month, there is a new theme. Last month’s? Exercise.. August’s? Summer staples. While my boyfriend may drag me to the gym each and every morning, I don’t think my measly three miles are worth bragging about and so, I’m glad to be starting off with a theme I know all too much about. 

But let’s get down to it, huh? Here’s what we ate on Monday:


Scrambled Eggs with Shredded Cheddar
& Cheesy Grits with Crumbled Bacon
An Organic Chai Latte with Almond Milk
[a summer (and fall.. and winter.. and spring..) staple]

Truth be told, we love grits. Last week, I thought I was struggling with corn as a potential new food allergy. I mourned for a few hours over losing the ability to eat Mexican food and grits. Then, I decided to give it one more shot with tacos. (Hey, I had already bought the ingredients earlier that week! And I was dying to try out a new roasted corn, avocado & tomato salsa recipe!) Apparently, the problem isn’t corn so for this morning, grits were back on the menu.


Turkey Burger with Stone Ground Mustard, Mayo, Lettuce, Tomato & Onion
Roasted Red Potatoes
[and lots of ice water - a definite summer staple in our dry climate!]

Each week, we make a trip to Butte. Though it isn’t much, I anxiously await it every week as a chance to get out of our little town, a chance to go out to eat and a chance to spend some time in the car with nothing but pretty scenery, some good music & Trevor. This week we went back to the Hummingbird Cafe and, I remembered my camera. While we love their outdoor seating, I begged for an inside table - lately, I’ve had no luck. Montana has been full of hail-bearing thunderstorms for the past two weeks and I wasn’t about to me caught in one for the third time in a week. While I think the Hummingbird wins for cutest decor in the area, I was disappointed with my lunch (and their chai) and I don’t know that we’ll be back.

Afternoon Snack

Watermelon will always be my favorite summer treat - always. Thankfully, Trevor isn’t a fan so that means enjoying an entire small watermelon every two days by myself (okay.. I share some with Buddy.. he loves it!). I had spent the entire day begging for a sweet and cold treat - but the only ice cream option in town is Dairy Queen (not my favorite.) I truly wanted frozen yogurt but in rural Montana? I don’t think so. Thankfully Albertson’s has featured small watermelons for $1.99 all week! This was my second in four days. I might have a problem.. but at least two watermelons is healthier than two containers of ice cream.... right?


Grilled Sirloin with Seared Diver Scallops
Served over a Broccoli Puree
and Sweet Tea
[another summer staple.. and one that you can make yourself]

Our main reason for visiting Butte yesterday was to choose bathroom flooring (finally), but luckily for us - the flooring store is located right next to one of the best butcher shops in the area, The Meat Block. Our friends had been raving about their prices and quality and when we saw the location, we couldn’t believe the odds. After deciding on a neutral stone textured flooring and talking over the next steps of installation, we stopped at the Meat Block before heading home. To our surprise, we found scallops! Yes, they were frozen but they were fresh frozen rather than processed and produced by a large corporation. We also picked up two huge sirloins and decided on Surf & Turf for dinner. Though Trevor insists I can’t tell the secrets of the broccoli puree, he told me to point out that we soaked our scallops in almond milk.

Speaking of that boyfriend of mine.. he’s making me out as a liar since just last week, I claimed that I don’t eat red meat often and now, steak, two weeks in a row? I’ll blame it on my newest stomach problems. After ending up at the emergency room this weekend, and getting terribly sick from most everything I try to eat, it seems that meat, fresh vegetables and lots of fruit are it for me. (And well, Trevor just loves steak.) Plus, we had company as our friend Pat and his dad, who is in town from upstate New York, came to join us. 


Unfortunately, I was still sick from lunch and so we didn’t enjoy any real dessert. (This girl needed a nap before company arrived.) I had been eyeing up this recipe for Honey Roasted Peaches and a little dinner party seemed like the perfect occasion. Perhaps they’ll make an appearance next week?

Instead, we treated ourselves to an off-roading adventure through our favorite paths. (Sadly those paths including driving through the local cemetary. I always feel awkward but last night, we saw a gentleman taking a jog through the aisles of graves, so I guess being in a truck is somewhat better..?) When I say we treated ourselves, I really mean a more literal translation of "Trevor treated himself". I ended up covered in mud, as did the Tahoe.

Fortunately, I did get to have my own treat for the night - a 97% on a finance exam and even more luckily, I made Trevor promise me ice cream if I aced it... but of course, Dairy Queen was closed. Instead, he treated me to a back yard camp fire and the way I saw it, I figured if I aced that exam, the world must be ending and so I wanted to do it right, so I snuggled into a blanket and sat outside with my boys and a Crisp Apple Hornsby’s Cider (yum). But, two days have passed and we’re still here, so I’m hoping that means the ice cream I was promised is on the agenda for tonight! Even if it is from Dairy Queen....