Loving. Learning. Engineering. Life.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Quick Tuesday Cures

Are you suffering from a cold right now?  Or, do you just have a case of the Mondays that's SO bad, it has turned into a case of the Tuesdays?  Well I've been battling congestion all week and let me just tell you, I did not want to get out of bed this morning.  Alas, I'm a grown up now, which means going into the office, even when you have the sneezy, stuffy head, don't-wanna-do-anything kind of morning.  So here's some recommendations that may work for you, that worked to motivate me today:  1) wore a very comfy t-shirt to work, 2) consumed massive amounts of Breath Easy tea….which is amazing by the way, and 3) put on some awesome red lipstick.  If anything can make you feel better on those no good, very stuffed up days, it's the lipstick.  I guess Sarah Palin had something right.

Have a great day!

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter Warmer & Garlicky Marinara Sauce

Halfway through the first month of 2014, and me and my hunnie have been enjoying some Spring-like weather.  Not many places can boast 75+ degrees in mid-January, but here in the desert the temps have been in the seventies pretty much every day since Christmas!  My hunnie, the dogs and I have been taking advantage of this Winter warmer by getting outside as much as possible on our days off.  A few weeks ago we spent the afternoon working in the garden and building our very own compost box (more on that to come soon), and I've been trying to get out on weekends, as well as after work, to train for my upcoming half marathon.  Even Georgia snuck out one afternoon for some "play time" with the neighborhood cats...oh boy, that little dog is an adventurer.  Alas, when that sun disappears each night behind our cactus-covered mountains and the temperature drops to the low 40s, there's nothing better than a comfy fleece sweatshirt and a warm meal.  After bringing home around 20 pounds of grape tomatoes yesterday, I decided now was the time to learn to make large-batch homemade marinara sauce.  I usually make my own pasta sauce by combining a can of tomato sauce, meat and fresh veggies and herbs, but today was the first time I truly made the sauce from scratch.  It is a long process, especially if you don't have an extra set of hands to help you out, but the end product is incredibly warming and delicious.  After I finished cooking up the sauce, I packaged it in tupperware containers, leaving about 1/2 inch of room at the top, and preserved it in the freezer.   This way I can have time after work to get out and enjoy a jog with the dogs, and still be able to come home and put together a home-cooked meal with this classic marinara sauce. 


Garlicky Marinara Sauce
*adapted from Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

~ 10 lbs tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes but you could use Romas instead)
2 bulbs garlic
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 yellow bell peppers
2 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1 cup chopped herbs, fresh

Start by peeling the tomatoes (follow the instructions here).  Once all tomatoes are peel, finely chop ~2/3 of tomatoes in food processor.  Pour processed tomatoes into a large sauce pan, along with remaining peeled tomatoes.  Use a potato-masher to roughly mash up remaining tomatoes. 
Set oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Halve and remove seeds from bell peppers, and brush with ~1 tablespoon olive oil. Place peppers on a cookie sheet.  Peel off some of the papery layers of the garlic bulb, cut the pointed top portion off, and place in an oven-safe dish.  Drizzle remaining olive oil over garlic and cover with a lid.  Roast garlic and peppers for approximately 30 minutes, until skin of peppers is blistered and garlic is soft.  Let garlic and peppers cool for 15-20 minutes. 
Once peppers are cooled, remove skins and chop.  Squeeze cooled garlic out of the skins, and chop in food processor.  Add chopped garlic to tomato sauce.  Then add the brown sugar, salt, vinegar and freshly ground pepper.  Stir and bring sauce to a boil.  Boil on low-medium heat for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.  After 50 minutes, add chopped yellow pepper, stir, and continue to boil sauce for another 10 minutes. 
By this time, the marinara sauce will be cooked down to a nice thick consistency.  Remove sauce pan from heat, add fresh herbs and stir.  Let sauce cool for 30 minutes, then package in freezer-safe containers.  Enjoy within 2-3 months.  Makes about 10 cups.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving & Ancho Chile Pumpkin Pie

This year has been interesting, as I've transitioned from student to professional, twenty-something to adult......girlfriend to future wife.  I am so thankful for the people in my life who have made me the person I am today.  I just re-watched the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special, and you know what...Peppermint Patty had it all wrong.  Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey or the mashed potatoes.  It's about enjoying the bounty in your life--whether that bounty is family, friends, your successes...etc.  Things may not always be the way you want them, but if you've worked hard, then there is every reason the be happy for what you have.  Now if only I could get Holmesy-dog to whip up a roasted turkey the way Snoopy does.  I really do have so much to be thankful for!
I predict a win by My Raiders over the Cowboys tomorrow afternoon, and you can bet I'll be showing up at my hunnie's parents' wearing my silver and black.  I wont, however be showing up with this pie, which I made last weekend.  It was promptly eaten at me and my hunnie's pre-Thanksgiving dinner party, and it was a big hit.  Don't be scared by the idea of chile pepper in a pumpkin pie--the pepper adds a smokiness (not a spiciness) and actually enhances the flavor of the cinnamon and nutmeg. 
Happy Thanksgiving and Go Raiders!

Ancho Chile Pumpkin Pie
1 homemade pie crust
1 1/2 cup pumpkin
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon New Mexico (or similar) chile powder
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake homemade pie crust for 8-10 minutes.  In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, yogurt, and cream.  Mix in eggs, on at a time until well combined.  Then whisk in brown sugar, granulated sugar, chile powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until smooth.  Remove pie crust from oven and pour in pie filling.  Return to oven and bake approximately 45 minutes, until a knife poked in the center comes out clean.  Serve cold or at room temperature. Pin It

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dutch Oven Pear Cake

I'm back in the desert, back at my the office, and my hunnie and I are falling back into our normal routine.  It feels great to come home after a long days work and cook a nice, mostly Paleo dinner.  It feels even better to have spare time on the weekends again to just catch up and enjoy the company of my hunnie and our two silly, smiley dogs.  Last weekend, I dragged my hunnie to Market on the Move and the local grocery store to stock up the kitchen with fresh veggies and fruit galore.  (I'll admit we also stocked up the liquor cabinet, but hey, that's just us getting ready for the holidays!)  We came home with, among other things, a big basket of pears, which I proceeded to drop on the tile in our kitchen only two days later.  This in turn left us with a kitchen full of fresh veggies, fruit, and bruised pears!  I instantly went into Betty Crocker-mode, and starting skimming through my cookbooks and favorite food blogs to try and figure out what to do with all those bruised pears.  While I could have done Pear Sauce (Applesauce w/ pears) or a Pear Cobbler, I wanted to really challenge myself to get creative, and make something potentially serve-able for the pre-Thanksgiving dinner me and my hunnie are hosting this weekend.  I decided to take an Apple Cider Cake recipe I found, and alter it a bit for the pears.  Did I mention that I don't own a cake pan?  So...I altered the recipe even more by baking the cake in my dutch oven.  While I'm not much for taking risks, boy do I love accomplishing unfathomable feats in the kitchen! 

While this cake is made with wheat flour, the pear puree keeps it moist and light.  This Dutch Oven Pear Cake was great, not only because it was rustic, sweet, and seasonal, but also because it made me feel like the REAL Betty, aceing a new recipe in the kitchen, impressing the friends with a beautiful cake, and winning a kiss from a very impressed hunnie.

Dutch Oven Pear Cake
for the Pears...
4-5 bruised (or perfect) Bartlett Pears, sliced (seeds and stems removed)
1 cup Apple Cider
1/4 cup honey
for the Cake...
1 1/2 cups wheat flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground clove  
7 tablespoons butter + more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Use butter to grease the sides and bottom of the dutch oven (or cake pan).  In a metal pot (no cast iron), bring cider and honey to a simmer.  Add sliced pears and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  Once pears are cool, scoop out about 8-10 pear slices, and using a fork or potato masher, mash the fruit until it is half chunky/half pureed (think chunky applesauce). 

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and clove.  In another bowl, cream the softened butter and brown sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.  Then add the chunky pear puree, and mix thoroughly.  Add 1 cup of dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir.  Repeat until all dry ingredients are combined with wet ingredients.  Mixture should be somewhat thick (similar to a quick bread).

Scoop mixture into the center of the dutch oven and use the spoon to spread the batter evenly.  Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the remaining sliced pears, one at a time and distribute over the top of the cake in any pattern you wish.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick pushed in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cake cool before removing from dutch oven.

*It's likely you will have cider left in the pan after using all the pears in the cake.  You can certainly enjoy it as is, or do like we did and warm it up to make an Apple Hot Toddy.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Your Thursday Space Update

Colorado, New York, Colorado, California, Colorado...this is basically what my last month has looked like.  I'm happy to say the travel and long work days have been totally worth while, as my team successfully completed our Engineering Peer Review yesterday.  This is an exciting time for OSIRIS-REx, as we kick off our Critical Design Review season, and in a few weeks, start the 1000 day countdown to launch.  This is also an exciting time for space exploration.  Our sister project, MAVEN, is set to launch next week and begin its journey to Mars, while India's Mars Orbiter Mission is already completing orbit maneuvers around the Earth to build up enough momentum to "launch" itself toward the red planet.  To many people, these space missions seem like a "waste" of taxpayer money, but these missions increase our knowledge about the inner workings of the universe and tell us the story of the creation of our very own solar system.  Not to mention these missions can tell us a lot about our own life on Earth.
 The image you see above was released by NASA back in July.  You are looking at a real image of Saturn, taken by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.  This image was created by sewing together thousands of tiny "thumbnail" size pictures taken over a period of 4 hours.  At the point this image was taken, Saturn was positioned right in front of the Sun, while the spacecraft was on the opposite side of the planet.  It's like a lunar eclipse, where the moon is positioned in between the Earth and the Sun, but instead Saturn is positioned in between the Sun and the spacecraft.  The importance of having Saturn backlit by the Sun means that less solar light reached Cassini's cameras and Cassini was able to capture brighter images of Saturn's rings (and otherwise faint stars and planets).  The image on the below right is a scaled-in (zoomed-in) version of the same image you see above.  You see that arrow pointing to a tiny white dot?  That tiny white dot is the Earth & Moon.  Yep, Cassini captured an image of the Earth from a distance of 100 million miles away.  The image on the right is the raw thumbnail image take by Cassini that captured the Earth and the Moon.  Pretty amazing to think what human knowledge can accomplish thanks to the Space industry.  Somewhere on that little gleam of white light you were probably busy cooking dinner, filling your gas tank, or enjoying a glass of wine.  Ever hear the saying a picture tells a thousand words??? 

Images courtesy of:  http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov  

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Whole 30 {Week 2 & 3 Recap}

Week 3 of the Whole 30 is over and I'm sure you're wondering if the hunnie and I have given Paleo the boot yet.  We ARE still hangin' on to the Paleo plan...but we are finding out that the American lifestyle is really not built for a complete Whole 30 life. Life can be so busy, and the Whole 30 requires a level of planning that sometimes we just dont have time for.  Not to mention that often time shared with friends and family is around food and drinks...and unless everyone you know is paleo, it can be difficult to say no to non-paleo options even if you wanted to.  (Trust me, there is no way my hunnie and I could've refused Grandma Betty's green corn and cheese tamales and homemade refried beans...she would not have allowed for that). And try ordering a full paleo meal at a restaurant.  Seems like even the salads come with cheese, croutons, candied cranberries or pecans...etc!  It's a little tiring always having to ask to have these food "additives" removed (or replaced with healthier options like steamed greens or tomato slices).  But we've been navigating our way through this challenge and have found a few good/fast options for our busy weekdays.  If you don't mind being THAT pain-in-the-butt customer, most deli's will sell you a sandwich with just the fillings (no bread or rolls), and we found a place in town that will plate up the ingredients of a burrito without the tortilla, cheese or sour cream.  One of my favs is the sugar free Almond milk latte I can pick up from our local coffee shop...its no pumpkin spice latte but its a tasty, healthy alternative.  All in all we are sticking it out as much as possible and trying our best not to sweat the small stuff once in a while if it means a chance to enjoy some laughs with friends or a night off from cooking after a full days work.

{Week 2/3} Breakfasts: Banana Mocha Smoothie, Paleo Cereal, Egg scramble w/ spinach & tomato
{Week 2/3} Lunches: Salad, Sweet potatoes w/ salsa, Salad w/ shredded chicken, Sausage and sauteed peppers and onions
{Week 2/3} Snacks: Raw almonds, Apple chips, unsalted sunflower seeds, olives, sun dried (sulfer-free) tomatoes, & celary w/ a smidgen of peanut butter
{Week 2/3} Dinners: Spaghetti squash w/ itialian sausage marinara, Pulled Pork w/ salsa and guac, Grilled Chicken w/ grilled yellow squash, Steak and zucchini spears, & Spinach & arugula salad w/ chicken
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Friday, October 11, 2013

Paleo Cereal

Twelve days into the Whole 30, and I'm feeling pretty darn good.  When I was eating gluten and processed sugars, I never noticed feeling bloaty...but now that I've cleansed my body of all that, I am noticing a huge difference.  Not only do I feel like I'm carrying less water weight, I also notice that my skin is just less puffy overall.  And yet, as positive as this experience has been, can I just say, I've missed my complex carbs SO much!  One of the hardest things about this has been saying goodbye to my favorite breakfasts...cereal, oatmeal, toast.  The Paleo diet encourages doing high protein breakfasts, such as egg scrambles or even eating leftover steak and veggies.  But seriously, who wants to eat leftover sauteed okra and turkey sausage for breakfast?!  And hello, who has time to cook up a scramble at 6 AM on a Tuesday?  This is why I sought out a Paleo-approved breakfast that was not only quick, but also satisfied my craving for crunchy, fruity sweetness in the morning.  Paleo Cereal is the best discovery of my Whole 30 experience thus far.  It's fast, flavorful, you can put it together using a variety of your favorite local ingredients, and it gives you that Paleo protein to get started in the morning and keep you moving until lunch.  When you head out to buy the ingredients for this delicious breakfast, head straight for the bulk isle...not only will you save a little money, but you'll probably end up finding local ingredients too.  As a side note, almond milk is pretty good, and I totally recommend it. 
Paleo Cereal
2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup slivered almonds + 1/4 cup
1/2 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 
ground ginger, pinch

Using a food processor, lightly pulse 1/4 cup of slivered almonds (just 2 to 4 pulses is good).  This step isn't really required but I think it gives the cereal a little more texture rather than a bunch of whole nuts.  Combine pulsed almonds with the rest of the nuts and dried fruit.  (Remember, you can use any combination of nuts and fruits you want).  Sprinkle cinnamon, allspice and ginger over nuts/fruits and stir thoroughly to combine.  Store in a quart size mason jar or Tupperware.  Serve 1/2 cup of Paleo Cereal with a heaping pile of your favorite fruits and milk*.  My Paleo milk of choice is Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze.

*To keep it truly Paleo, you should avoid using dairy, but heck, it's cereal...it'll work with just about any type of milk. Pin It