Sunday, September 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals: September

As much as I loved my July and August packages, this one was probably my favorite. As you can see, the exotic vegetable chips and chocolate bar didn't even last long enough for a proper photograph!

If you haven't heard about the problem.. Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean organizes a pen pal program where you receive a package of fun foods from one person and send a package of goodies to another! The idea is simple and fun. After all, who doesn't loving getting mail? Especially delicious mail.

This month, I sent a package off to an interior design major at the University of Arkansas and received a package from Heather at What Does She Do All Day? - and how great of a blog name is that? Her blog features stories about her family, home decorating inspiration, crafts, recipes.. the list goes on. Apparently what she does all day is think of great blog posts to write.. or something like that.

As a lover of all things bicycle related, I died over this cute little card! It's from Thirty-One, too and I'm already a sucker for their lunch bags. Also included in my package was the great little photography print shown in the upper right. As a photographer, foodie and francophile, I was smitten with this image that shows a food stand in Provence. It's already found a home on our kitchen wall. According to Heather's sweet card, she picked it up at a local festival - along with the local honey.

Heather knew that I was soon leaving for a weeklong trip to Pennsylvania and she included some great travel snacks in my package. I had seen the dessert flavor gums at the grocery store but honestly, I haven't found myself chewing much gum since I'm not attending college classes. Strange but true. Fortunately, I had this pack for my flight home! As much as I love flying, my ears hate it and of course gum seems to help. I also snacked on two great Fiberful fruit and fiber bars from Trader Joe's - Heather included Apple Blueberry and Fruit & Veggie.

A few other items in the package we haven't quite gotten to yet. Heather also included some chocolate rice milk, her favorite. Unfortunately, the high altitude caused it to explode before arriving to our door so, while it smelled fabulous, I wasn't able to enjoy it but it's on my next grocery list! We're big fans of any type of chocolate beverage. Heather also included some dinner staples. She put a box of Lundberg Risotto (my favorite) in the package and while that alone is great, what's even better is that we haven't yet tried this Garlic Primavera flavor. Heather also included a curry simmer sauce from Trader Joes. Lately we've been on a real curry kick and so this is a great shortcut for the next time we're craving some indian flavor.

Honestly, I was so impressed by this package - it made my own feel inadequate. Heather included such a great mix of foods - good snacks (UGH those vegetable chips! even Trevor loved them), perfect travel treats, some dinner necessities, and that print? So. In. Love. Thanks for the incredible package and early delivery, Heather! I especially loved getting some Trader Joe's treats that we can't find in Montana.

Unfortunately, I'm terribly under the weather from all my travel and now, I'm fighting with the altitude difference. Don't worry though, I'll be back soon to tell you about my wonderful birthday, to share photos of my beautiful best friend and her family and to brag about all the great people I got to spend my week with.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Photography Wishes

When my boyfriend not-so-subtly hinted that I create a photography wish list for my upcoming birthday, I thought it would be a fun exercise. While I struggled to find 10 birthday wish list items, I found that my photography wants were already decided. If you're interested in photography, perhaps you will find a new item to add to your own wish list.

1// After falling in love with VSCO Cam for the iPhone, I starting wishing for the same effects for the photos coming from my DSLR. Luckily, Visual Supply Company has created two film packs for use with various photo editing software. A copy of Film 01 for Adobe Lightroom 3 is at the top of my photography must-haves.

2// Though I prefer to photograph with natural light, I'm beginning to realize that learning to correctly use flash might be a good investment in my skills. I'm hoping to buy an external flash with ETTL and this Canon Speedlite Flash seems like a good choice.

3// Even though a Lightroom update doesn't top my list, I do like some of the new features included in Lightroom 4.

4// After buying my 60D, I never got around to purchasing a fun new camera strap. My great ruffled strap still remains on my Rebel XT and this time around, I'm looking for something more classic. I love all of the geometric and bohemian designs from iMo Camera Shop but this one is my favorite.

5// This Bamboo tablet from Wacom could likely tie for my top, reasonable, photography wish. Though I haven't used a tablet for my photography, I'd love to learn how to edit this way - plus, I'd love to use my own sketches, doodles, and handwriting in my blog designs and images!

6// Though I own a remote shutter release, I've quickly learned that a wireless version would be much easier to use. As you know, I'm not one for having my picture taken but perhaps with this cheap investment, I would find myself on the other side of the camera more often.

7// This is the second time in a week that the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens has appeared in my wishes. I've been lusting after this little lens for quite some time but after buying myself a plane ticket to Pennsylvania, it probably won't make my purchase list anytime soon.

8// After reading rave reviews from some of my favorite bloggers, Totally Rad Actions' RadLab showed up on my radar and has stayed ever since. I love the effects of these fun, colorful, vibrant actions. I also love the idea of simplifying my workflow.

9// To the same effect as the camera strap wish, I'm hoping to invest in a more professional and stylish camera bag soon. Though I love my colorful striped bag from Photojojo, this bag from JoTotes has room for my camera bodies, lenses, my laptop and other much needed photography accessories.. like snacks, lipgloss and my iPhone.

So tell me, what items are on your photography wish list? Do you have any recommendations of "must have" items to keep in my camera bag? Favorite lenses or flashes? I'm always looking for other photographers' opinions and recommendations! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WIAW: Falling into Good Habits

Perhaps it’s that two Jen(n)’s think alike, but I’m loving this month’s theme for What I Ate Wednesday: Fall into Good Habits. Unlike the rest of the blogging world, I haven’t fallen into the habit of pumpkin spice lattes. As you know, I’m not a coffee girl (though I do have an interview at Starbucks on Monday). That being said, in addition to my morning chai latte, I have taken up drinking hot chocolate, though. While the weather channel claims “51 degrees” for Anaconda, the air outside says differently. The wind is crisp and cold; we’ve already had to turn on the heat in our bedroom.

The change in seasons has also brought about a change in our schedules. Thankfully this change has meant the addition of one good fall habit - eating healthy dinners together. While I typically show you a day of eats, I’ve missed a few WIAW’s and so I want to share a few of our great dinners instead.

The cooler weather has us making heartier foods - especially now that it feels good to turn the oven/stove on. This summer we lived on salads and fresh fruit but we've found ourselves reaching for brown rice, grits and corn bread over the past week or two. (Don’t worry, I still have an entire watermelon to eat.)

After a long work week, I put in an extra few hours in Butte to get fresh meat and our groceries. The result was this dinner: filet and grilled asparagus in a bearnaise sauce. All the thanks go to the chef on this one. 

This coconout curry shrimp dish with grilled pineapple was meant to end up on the blog as a recipe last week but with my busy schedule, it never happened. After receiving a box of creamed coconut in my foodie pen pal package, my wheels were turning. Not only did we have this for a healthy dinner together but I had it for a few lunches, as well.

And, the best for last: Gambas made with Prawns. When Trevor described this dish, I was appalled. He wanted me to eat kalamata olives? and sundried tomatoes? Ugh. Worst yet, he sent me on a grocery search to find them. Since I was out of luck with both, we settled for black olives and bought sundried tomatoes at Safeway the next day. As Trevor prepared the tapenade, I wrinkled my nose but as soon as I took a bite? Oh. my. gosh. Really, that’s what I said. Followed by “you were right” and “babe, this is incredible”. And the prawns themselves? Ugh! Meaty and flavorful.

I’m really looking forward to more dinners at home. So tell me, what are your favorite fall meals?
Though it’s no longer the season, we have shrimp tacos on our menu for the week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ten on Tuesday: Birthday Wish List

If you didn’t know, I’m turning twenty-one in fifteen days. For my typical gift-to-self, I bought a plane ticket to travel to Pennsylvania for a week from September 22nd through the 29th! So, if you want any fall photos done, now’s the time to let me know! In the mean time, I thought I’d let you know about the things on my birthday wishlist. Last year, I got scolded for posting the list too late (yes, I’m talking about you, Steph). Rather than alcohol or a night I can’t remember, I’m hoping for...

1// If you hadn’t already realized it (and trust me, you will when I make some big blog branding changes this week.. hint hint), I love that we live in Montana. When I saw this print, it was love at first sight - much like it was with our new home state. I’d love to hang this on the big open wall in our bathroom. 

2// With autumn fast approaching, I’m sure we will be spending a lot more in the house. So far, we’ve spent most of our Montana adventure outside exploring, off-roading and enjoying the weather. The crisp fall air already has my creative gears turning and in addition to putting new paint on our walls, I’d love to get some new oil paints to create some other decorations for our space. 

3// The bathroom is nearly complete - all that is missing is the trim for around the shower, the doorway and the window. Well, that and matching bath towels. Unfortunately, the really great towels that Trevor’s mom bought him for Christmas are bright red and don’t quite match our turquoise, yellow and brown bathroom. Maybe I can find out where they’re from and find a new set in brown

4// I’ve been craving a new pair of covered shoes as the weather has turned too chilly for sandals, quickly. While I love this pair of TOMS, I’d love just about any color, any material or any pattern! (so long as they keep my toes warm)

5// Autumn’s signature for me is hot tea (and the hot cocoa I’m drinking as I type... I’m so spoiled). After receiving a delicious loose leaf tea in my foodie pen pal package this month, I’ve fallen in love. David’s Tea offers some really neat flavors - I happen to think the birthday cake and fall flavors are most fitting but really, I’d love to try any! I’m really lusting over this mug with an infuser, too.

6// When I visited Parris Island in the Spring, I managed to leave my favorite fleece behind. While I’ve got sweatshirts or pea coats, it’s nice to have a fleece for the autumn and spring months. While I love all of the color selections available through the North Face website, after choosing a turquoise winter coat, I’m eyeing up a classic black fleece

7// This book, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, has been on my “must read” list for months. Lately I’ve been reading while I run at the gym and I’m in need of a few good books. Any other suggestions? 

8// My birthday wish list wouldn’t be complete with some new photography gear. Last year, it was a D60 and I managed to check that off as my gift-to-self a few months later. While I have a 50mm 1.8 lens, I’m hoping to upgrade to the 1.4 soon. 

9// Once again, I have to add sweaters to my list - the pains of having an autumn birthday, I suppose. I love this one from GAP - it’s a different color than the ones I already own and it has elbow patches! What more could a girl want? 

10// The last few items on my list include a hat, a scarf, and gloves. I invested in a coat but none of my my existing accessories match. With as cold as my fingers felt this morning, I don’t think it will be long before all of these go from accessories to necessities. 

This is just a glimpse into things I’m loving and wanting for the upcoming season! That being said, I’m just thankful to have a chance to visit and celebrate with friends and family. I can’t wait to grab a glass of wine with my mom, to have dinner with my best friends, and to spend a few evenings squeezing baby cheeks. If you’re free while I’m back to visit, I’d love to see you! 

So tell me, what are you craving for the autumn season? A new coat? Hot chocolate?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Recipe: Back to School Breakfast

I spent the first fifteen years of my school career at schools which began their fall classes prior to labor day. But here, in Anaconda, school starts tomorrow. Furthermore, this week marks four long (and early) days of work for Trevor and I, both.

This time of year is always recharging for me - especially when the temperature begins to change. I find myself organizing, cleaning and preparing myself for the busy season that fall seems to be. Today, I spent the day cooking ahead for the week, reorganizing pantry shelves and dishes, and with Trevor’s help, cleaning the house from top to bottom. Unfortunately, our list of “to-do’s” still isn’t finished but I’m feeling ready to take on the next few days.

I find that one of the biggest struggles with the busyness of this season (with its piles of school work and necessary packed lunches) is eating healthy. With early mornings and late nights, it’s easy to fall into the habit of eating out, grabbing fast food, or snacking all day - especially for those of you who don’t have to eat gluten free.

Throughout my public school career, I rarely ate breakfast. I didn’t eat eggs until well into my teenage years. Pancakes? Only with chocolate chips. Cereal? Occasionally. I didn’t find a morning meal necessary until late in high school, particularly after adopting an allergy-friendly diet. Being on a gluten free diet means consuming less carbs and for me, that means eating more often.

While cereal is a quick and easy breakfast, I find that it typically makes me not feel well - and within an hour or two, I’m hungry. With access to gluten-free bread and a microwave, my usual breakfast was an egg, sausage and cheese sandwich. Then there was the baked oatmeal. And now? Mini quiche and cornbread muffins - gluten free, healthy, pre-portioned, and easy to reheat in the oven.

Mini Crustless Quiches
This recipes makes 1 dozen servings.

Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 Cup of Corn Starch
3 Large Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
1 1/2 Cups of Milk
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, minced
1/4 Large Red Onion, minced
4 Slices of Bacon, diced (uncooked)
Baking Spray
Black Pepper

You will also need foil cupcake liners. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium pan, saute diced bacon over medium heat.
While the bacon fries, mince the red onion and pepper - when finished, add to the pan. 
Sautee until the bacon is finished cooking.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, additional yolks and corn starch.
Add in milk and continue whisking.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place foil cupcake liners on a cookie sheet or in a muffin pan.
Spray thoroughly with baking spray.
In the bottom of each liner, sprinkle a generous helping of cheddar cheese.
Then place a spoonful of bacon/pepper/onion mixture in each cup.
Pour egg mixture over the top until the liners are 3/4 or more full.

Bake until the quiches are firm and start to brown on the top. (20 minutes or more)

This is a basic recipe that can be altered with different fillings and cheeses. Try ham or sausage. Add mushrooms or fresh basil. I simply used pantry items that we needed to use up in our fridge. After baking, leave the quiche in the foil liners for easy reheating in the oven. For microwave use, this is not required - feel free to bake straight in a muffin pan. 

Gluten-free Cornbread Muffins
This recipes makes 1 dozen muffins.

1 Cup of Corn Meal
1 Cup of Gluten-free Bisquick (or another gluten-free baking flour with xanthum gum or regular wheat flour)
4 Tsp of Baking Powder
1/4 Cup of Sugar
1 Tsp of Salt
2 Eggs
1 Cup of Milk
1/4 Cup of Melted Butter

Preheat oven to 425.

Sift bisquick with sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add in the corn meal and stir until evenly distributed.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs.
Add the milk and melted butter, whisk until combined.
Add in the dry ingredients - stirring just until moist.

Once again, you want to use 12 foil cupcake liners and spray them with baking spray.
Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the muffins.

Once again, if planning to reheat in the oven, I suggest leaving the muffins in their foil wrappers. For microwave heating, this is not necessary - feel free to bake straight in a muffin pan or using paper liners.

These recipes do not create large serving sizes which makes them great for children headed back to school or when you’re eating an early lunch like me (11? really?). To make for a more substantial and well rounded breakfast, we chose to add a slice or two of bacon and some fresh pineapple but I know you’re creative people.

Overall, this took less than an hour and a half - with plenty of time for cleaning the kitchen and cutting pineapple - and provided us with hot breakfast for the entire week. Even if you’re not headed back to school, this is a great way to eat healthier while working full time. Truth be told, I simply couldn’t take another morning of watching Trevor eat generic-brand fruity pebbles.

What are your favorite make ahead or quick breakfast recipes? 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Griz Football

This afternoon, the Montana Grizzlies opened their fall football season against the Coyotes from the University of South Dakota. And, thanks to our good friends Scott and Michelle, we were there to see it. Though I missed the Blue Band and cowbell from the school I once called home, I was impressed by the school spirit shown by the 25,000 people who entered the stands. 

Since we weren’t able to enjoy hot dogs or huckleberry ice cream at the game, we started the day off with breakfast at Food for Thought in downtown Missoula, home of the Griz. As tradition for home football games in any state, we stopped by the bookstore to view t-shirt options, lines of students getting “new colors” for the game and plenty of maroon and gray. With the sunny mid-80’s weather forecasted for the afternoon, I left with a new hat. (That being said.. we’re still red from head to toe, regardless of SPF 30.) 

After a walk through the spirited tailgates, we rented our seat cushions and found our section. Quickly enough, the stands were filled with Griz spirit, football players took to the field to stretch and the countdown to kickoff ticked by. We started the game with Griz Water, but like they say, don’t drink the kool-aid, so we finished the second half with cold sodas form the concessions. 

Despite a few poor calls, the Montana Grizzlies set a school record for the number of first downs in a single game - 34. And with each? A chant of “MONTANA!” following every “and that’s another first down for..” that came from the announcer. In the end, we got to see a double pass to a touchdown, a surprising interception with a score, and a winning season opener.

While I have and will always love football of any kind, this afternoon (despite it’s sunny, smoky weather and consequential sunburns) was a warm welcome to Montana and to the Griz family. If you didn’t know,  football's a big thing around here.