Clouds and Leaves

As I drove home from work today, the clouds were pretty thick, but every once in a while a ray of sunlight would peak through and illuminate the sky.  When I turned into my neighborhood, one little sunbeam hit a tree full of yellow leaves bringing out glorious oranges and mustardy yellows.  Wishing I had my camera with me, I drove the rest of the way home to grab my little picture-taker, intending to run down the street to take a few photos, but was surprised to find the same type of tree sat peacefully in my own front yard covered with the yellow, orange and green leaves.

Forgetting the mountains of baked goods gifted to me by loving colleagues and students, I ran inside to grab my camera and had about five minutes of sunset left and got some shots of the tree in my front yard and some roses in the back.  What a beautiful sunset to close out the last day before winter break.

My tree I didn’t realize I had until today:

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And, some close-ups of the leaves:

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The neighbor’s roses sliding over the fence:

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New House Photos

Well, school started in August and I feel like I have only  had my head in lesson planning, grading and teaching.  Oh yeah, and I looked up for a moment when Peter and I bought a house in October.  It happened so fast, and I still can’t believe we are homeowners. We moved in on October 25 and have spent the last month getting unpacked and getting everything set up on evenings and weekends.

We are so grateful for this great house God provided for us and look forward to many years of memories in it.

Here are some photos.  It’s been rainy and/or overcast for the last few days, so we don’t have any exterior photos yet.  I’ll be on it!

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My Famous Ranch Dressing

It really is famous! Ranch

Maybe the above statement is somewhat hyperbolic, but if you have had my ranch dressing, you know what’s up.  About five people have asked me for the recipe in the last week, so I thought I’d post it here…since I have a blog and all.

My love for homemade dressings started when I saw Rachael Ray whisk a vinaigrette together in less than a minute with only olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil and salt and pepper.  I decided to try it with my cute little hot cocoa whisk (which subsequently became my dressing whisk) and have been making homemade dressing ever since.   This dressing is great to make if, like me, you want to get rid of MSG from your diet which has been linked to migraines.  It’s not exactly paleo because it has buttermilk and sour cream.  Perhaps someday I’ll experiment with a paleo version.

This dressing is easy to make for a crowd and is great on salads (obviously), but we’ve also enjoyed it in with shredded BBQ chicken, in pasta salad, on eggs, pizza and most frequently as the mayo and seasoning for chicken salad.

I use the food processor to mince up the garlic, onion and cilantro, but using a knife is just as effective.

Here’s the recipe:

Garlic Ranch Dressing

Ingredients (for 2 ½ cups)

  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 3 green onions, finely minced
  • 1 bunch cilantro,  finely minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground pepper

Directions

Whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream and buttermilk until smooth.  Add in everything else and stir to combine.

The School Year is About to Begin!

August has really gotten away from me.  I spent the last three weeks attending training and meetings for my new job.  Before that, I had intended to write about visiting Rockport with Lauren, The Alamo and Riverwalk in San Antonio, Austin again, the Planetarium at Los Brazos State Park, and a boat tour of Fulton Beach.  I’ll try to get to those soon!

Peter and I really enjoyed having my sister Lauren visit in early July and one of my BFFs Steph visit later that month.  I loved having them to myself!  I showed them around Victoria (That didn’t take very long.) and we took a few day trips.  That was fun, but I enjoyed the long lazy afternoons and car rides where we could connect be our zany selves.  I hope they come back next summer!  If anyone else is thinking about coming to visit me, please do!  I’ll show you around and cook lots of yummy food for you.

So, now the school year is beginning for Peter and I tomorrow.  Hmm…

We’re feeling excited to meet our students but sad to see the end of summer.  I did teach a developmental English course at Victoria College last semester as well as substitute for the Victoria school district, but because I wasn’t teaching full time, it really felt like break for me.  If anyone asked me before we moved to Victoria if I needed a break from teaching, I would have quickly dismissed it as a silly question.  I had a plan: I was going to teach until we could have a baby.  There was no plan for a break.  But God knew I needed a break, and I’m so glad He gave me that break.  Even after three weeks of training, meetings and lots of confusion, I feel more refreshed than I ever have.   I need to do a follow-up to the finding peace post from earlier this year because there is lots more to this story.

Anyway, I signed a paper that says I will not post any information about what happens at the school on the internet, so I probably will not be blogging about my job too much.

I appreciate all of you, family and friends, who have been praying for and supporting Peter and I through our transition to our new home in Victoria, Texas.  Tomorrow is another milestone for us and we are praying that God would be moving in and through our lives as we embrace a new set of students and colleagues this school year.

Lauren’s Visit Part I: Austin

So many of my new friends in Victoria have told me that I would love Austin because it is so different from any other city in Texas. Boy, were they right! Though it is still very hot and humid, Austin has a refreshing hipster vibe reminiscent of downtown Fullerton or Whittier in California. I really did like Austin and can’t wait to go find a reason to come back.

When my awesome sister Lauren came to visit me in mid July, Austin was definitely on our list of places to explore. Our adventure took us to Zilker Park in where we toured the Botanical Gardens, swam in the Barton Springs Pool and had dinner at Buenos Aires Café.

The botanical gardens were beautiful and lush, a refreshing blend of foliage, softly flowing water and naturally placed wood and stone walkways. The gardens also housed historical reproductions of building originally built by a group of Swedish settlers. It surprises me how diverse and long the history of Texas is, stretching back four hundred years.

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Unfortunately, we only lasted about half an hour in the botanical gardens because we felt like we might melt if we stayed in the sun any longer. So, we headed across the street to Barton Springs Pool to cool off. Lauren lives in Chico, California where they have a great little dammed up river where people go swimming called “One Mile.” My dad began taking us there over twenty years ago when we visited our grandparents (who also live in Chico). So, Lauren and I thought Barton Springs Pool would be somewhat similar to One Mile, but when we arrived, we realized it was at least five times as big and much, much colder! We set down our stuff and eased into the chilly pool; it felt so good after the heat of standing outside in the afternoon.

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After sufficiently cooling off, we headed over to a paleo-friendly restaurant over on 6th street, Buenos Aires Café. We shared an arugula and artichoke appetizer, which contrasted nicely with a glass of their house Sangria, and a beautiful strip steak, medium, with an extra spicy chimichurri sauce. We ended with a leisurely walk down 6th Street noticing a the striking old and new aesthetic of construction- beautiful new retro buildings standing next to an old Victorian or craftsman- that I realized I really miss seeing.

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Overall, a great day spent with my sister 🙂

Crispy Chicken Thighs and Asian Long Beans

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I made this chicken about a week ago and, in a moment of carelessness, I grabbed the handle of the skillet with my bare hand right after it came out of the oven. NOT SMART! After about twenty minutes of my hand under running water, I was starting to see little blisters forming, so I called the nurse hotline and spoke to a nurse who advised me to go to the ER, so we left the chicken in the fridge and headed off to the hospital. Luckily, there was a very short wait and the doctor reassured me that I had mostly superficial burns (used to be called “first degree burns”) and a few small areas of partial thickness burns (formerly “second degree”) and only need to keep the burns clean and dry and apply polysporin several times a day. My hand hurt for a few more days, but it cleared up after about five days.

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Anyway, when we home after our ER and pharmacy run, we pulled the chicken out of the fridge and ate it with a carrot and cucumber ribbon salad. Even after the skin was no longer crispy, and the chicken was cold, it was delicious! I had to make it again to taste it hot, as it was meant to be! This is a great recipe for all my paleo, primal and real foodie friends or anyone else who loves delicious chicken 🙂

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To accompany the chicken this time, I made the Asian long beans that came in my CSA box this week. I had never had them before, but they are delicious. According to the little handout I got with my CSA box, the long beans can handle the humid Texas summer heat better than green beans.

Here’s the recipe:

Crispy Chicken Thighs (Serves Two)

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
  • 1-2 pinches chili flakes (or more if you are feeling adventurous!!)
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken into the skillet, skin-side down. Cook for about five minutes or until the skin browns.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.
  5. Flip the chicken and pour the whisked ingredients over the hot chicken and into the skillet. Place the skillet in the over for thirty minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 130 F.
  6. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven using oven mitts. Do not touch any part of the skillet with your bare hands (See above picture for possible ramifications of touching hot stainless steal pans that just came out of a 425 F oven!). Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pan to serve. Serve with a vegetable like buttered Asian long beans (recipe below).

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Buttered Asian Long Beans (adapted from the recipe that came with my CSA vegetable delivery from Fruitful Hill Farms)

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 pound Asian long beans, cut into two-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon (or more!) butter (I used homemade butter from raw, grassfed cream-mmmm!)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat the water in a steamer. When it is boiling, place the beans in the steamer basket and steam them until they turn a deeper shade of purple.
  2. Remove the steamer basket (be careful not to burn yourself!), draining the beans. Toss the beans with butter, salt and pepper and serve.

Coconut Flour Pancakes with Peach Syrup

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I’ve been giving up my dear friends, the delicious carbs from grain products because there is so little nutrition in the processed version and the little carby sugars mess with my blood sugar levels giving me headaches. My headaches have gotten so much better, and I’ve started to feel much more alert mentally, something I hadn’t anticipated, but it’s a great side-benefit. But, I still crave cakes, bread, pancakes and other wheat flour-filled goodies.

I tried my hand at making some dinner rolls with coconut flour. They were disgusting. Even with gobs of butter and even some honey, I couldn’t eat it. So bad that I’m not even willing to try making them again with another recipe. I just have an idea in my head about what dinner rolls should taste like and there is really no way I can accept anything less, so I think I’ll have to save the real thing for very special occasions.

I did, however, find some success with coconut flour pancakes. I made two large pancakes from this recipe. I hope all my paleo, primal and real foodie friends will enjoy this! If you make them, make sure not to flip too early or else this might happen:

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Coconut Pancakes Recipe (adapted from this recipe)

  • 4 pastured eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (from a can, not a box)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Coconut oil for frying

Directions

  1. Whisk the eggs and coconut milk until fluffy in a large bowl. Mix in the coconut flour, cinnamon and baking soda with a wooden spoon. Let rest for a few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a skillet to medium-high heat and add enough coconut oil to cover the bottom.
  3. When the oil is hot, add half the batter to the skillet. Cook for about five minutes. If you have a slightly uneven stove (like I do), make sure to swirl the oil around the pancake to make sure the pancake does not stick. You will know it is time to the flip when the edges get golden brown. Loosen the pancake with a spatula (it will stick more than a regular pancake would), and check the amount of oils left in the pan. Be ready to add more coconut oil if there is not enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Flip the pancake and cook another three to five minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
  4. Make your second pancake in the same way, making sure to add coconut oil to the pan as needed.
  5. Serve with peach syrup (recipe below) and bacon.

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Peach Syrup Recipe (I made it up myself…though I think anyone could have!)

  • two peaches, diced
  • 1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on medium. Let simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water if it gets to thick.