Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Reviewed

Every year I like to look back at the goals I set from last year (from this post) and review the years highlights. Best part of 2012? spending the summer with the family in Montana

Worst part? Probably getting robbed, twice. Which is why I don't have any pictures from before April... Anyway, here is the list of goals from last year and my evaluation of them.
  • Read 25 books (8 of which are fiction)
    • I read 45, 10 of which 17 of which were fiction but not necessarily written as personal advice, which is what I meant. 
  • Work out most days a week for 1 hour each day, do yoga once a week
    • Mostly accomplished. Yoga has been more consistent since being in Seattle, thanks to an abundance of Living Socials and Groupons. 
  • Evaluate purchases before I make them
    • Eh, not so much. Moving put a damper on this situation.
  • Successfully grow an herb
    • Nope. Need to work on this
  • Watch less than an hour of TV a day; spend more time outside
    • Definitely spent more time outside, especially over the summer in Montana and it was glorious. TV watching was probably more than an hour a day on days I watched to my obsession with How I Met Your Mother in Netflicx
  • Volunteer
    • Again, moving made this challenging. 
  • Devote myself to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
    • Better than before but need to work on it
  • Figure out what it means to invest in relationships
    • Not measurable but I did work on this
  • National Chemo Certification course
    • DONE
  • Apply for grad school by 2012
    • Modified, I'll be taking classes that will apply to grad school this year but not officially in a program yet. 
Some of my secret goals included spending the summer in Montana with my family and moving to Seattle! Both of which I did. Hooray
Visit to Seattle back in April to interview and scope out the city

From our road trip from TX to Montana.

My niece was born and I was in Montana when it happened. So amazing.

First annual TEAS reunion trip: Sparkle Motion!

Seth's younger brother got married in August in Lubbock, TX
So fun to add another girl to the Knox clan and celebrate with the family

We moved to Seattle! Our first hike to Snow Lake.

Christmas in Montana 2012!
We got to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family,
Such a blessing

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snapshot Sunday: December 30

For the last week I've sort of felt like I have no idea what day it is. Today we went to church and my mind finally said, "Oh, okay, we're oriented now." It's a good feeling. And can you believe Christmas is over? And so is 2012? My mind is blown so I'm just going to get to my pictures from this past week:

In an amazing stroke of luck I was cancelled on Christmas eve.
I went to yoga and on the way saw this amazing window display.

We even got to leave for the cabin early.
Some blue skies on our drive.

The strangest icicles at my parents' cabin growing horizontally.
I knocked them all down after I took the pictures

My favorite husband and I snowshoeing on Christmas!
We were literally walking in a Winter Wonderland

A plethora of homemade hot chocolate mixes from my sister!
She's amazing.

We had to come back to Seattle for work and since it was nice I spent the afternoon in Discovery Park
I'm glad I live in a place where views like this are possible

On to the new year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

I'm experiencing a case of the post-Christmas blues. You know that feeling, the day is over, decorations are still up but you know they have to come down soon, no more countdown emails in your inbox. Thankfully I'm still with my family or I'd really be depressed.

This is that time when comfort food is needed. Comfort food with a twist. It's the goodness of mac and cheese, creamy, warm, filling but with an added bonus. A little bit of the sweet healthy goodness that is butternut squash.

And the breadcrumbs really add an extra crunch to the top. I think you'll really like this. My one recommendation with this is to make sure you have your ingredients prepped (i.e. peel, de-seed and chop your butternut squash) before starting. It just makes the actual cooking it part much smoother. 

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

  • 3 cups uncooked pasta shells
  • 4 cups 1/2 inch cubed butternut squash (uncooked)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 6 oz grated fontina cheese 
  • 2 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp brown butter
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
To Make:

1) Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta shells until al dente. Preheat oven to 375.

2) While the water is boiling, heat olive oil in an oven proof skillet or pan. I used my dutch oven because it's what I had. Once pan is hot add the butternut squash, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Next, add the chicken stock and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until squash is fork-tender. 

3) Mash the butternut squash using fork, or mixer, or potato masher until smooth. Stir in the milk, 4 oz of the fontina cheese and the parmesan cheese until melted and well-combined. Finally add the brown butter.

4) Stir in the shells until mixed in. Top with bread crumbs and extra cheese. Bake in oven for 15 minutes, turn on broiler for the last few minutes until bread crumbs are browned and mixture is bubbly. Let sit for a few minutes then spoon into bowls. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

- Luke 2: 11-14

To you and yours today, Merry Christmas. I hope today is filled with good food, family and that you make memories today. Enjoy it. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

I'm having a serious case of day-off-itis today. All I want to do it sit around and watch How I Met Your Mother or go ice skating. Does anyone else want to go ice skating? Come with me! I don't particularly want vacuum or grocery shop or return my library books. This blog post is a compromise. It involves sitting down but also is on my to do list so I guess it's a win-win. Also, I get to share this delicious recipe with you guys.   
 You want some real talk today? Here it is:
 Back to the muffins, they're tasty. Light and fluffy and sweet. Perfect compliment to a class of milk on a blustery morning.
And no mixer involved, only a wooden spoon, a large measuring cup and a mixing bowl. And a muffin tin, but that's implied. 
 Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins 
from the Food Network
Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, but some for the tops
To Make:

1) Preheat oven to 400* F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

2) Stir together flour, powder, soda, cocoa and sugar. In separate bowl whisk milk, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla extract. Pour into flour-mixture and stir with wooden spoon just until combined. Then mix in chocolate chips.

3) Spoon batter into muffin tin and top each with a few chocolate chips. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Book reviews: Newlyweds, Health and Gold

I love it when I get into some really good books after mediocre ones and can really bust through them!

Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

Also the author of A Year of Living Biblically, Jacobs takes projects and makes them lifestyle changing experiments in the name of journalism. In this book he does lots of research on health fads and puts them to trial on his quest to become the healthiest man on the planet. Each month he focuses on a different body system, i.e. "stomach" or "skin" and tries various things. He does smell therapy and finds out he has a below-average nose (something I'm pretty sure I have too), he also tries accupuncture, excessive chewing, and safety proofing his house, among others. This book is humorous and well-written although its not quite as informative as I would have liked. Nevertheless I've added his other books to my reading list and am excited to check them out.

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger

Basic premise: Amina is from Bangladesh, George is from Rochester, they meet on and through some emails and one visit decide to get married. Amina moves to New York and there the story begins. There is family drama as Kim, George's cousin, enters the picture and as Amina tries to get her parents to America. I recommend you read this NPR review to get a better idea of where Fruedenberger comes from. You really feel for Amina and George as they face cultural differences and communication issues and you just want them to be honest! It's slightly painful to read as is any story that speaks truthfully about relationships. I don't want to give away too much of the story so I can't explain much more. Bottom line is that I definitely recommend it.

Gold by Chris Cleave

Kate and Zoe have been their own worst rivals and closest friends since they started training together for cycling in the Olympics since they were 19. They train through the Athens, Beijing and the Sydney London and face life along the way. Zoe has a troubled past that makes her a fierce competitor with a lousy personal life. Kate married Jack, another Olympic cyclist, and they have a daughter, Sophie, going through treatment for leukemia. As you can imagine the personal struggles and highly competitive careers make for a challenging friendship between the two. Cleave tells this story in a way that makes you want to sit down and ignore life for most of the time you're reading it. His other book is definitely on my to read list now and I think you should read this book if you haven't yet.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Observation Tuesday: Volume 35

I love this.

I'm always sort of disappointed when I actually finish my Christmas shopping for the year. Having no one else to buy for sort of bums me out.

Finally, 15 Obscure Christmas Songs That You Need to Hear. Haven't listend to all of them, but I like the ones I've heard. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Vegan Date Bars

My general philosophy is that if something is vegan it's healthy. Therefore it's okay if I eat one of the vegan date bars as a dessert after breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cool, right?
One of the most fantastic parts about this is that there is NO oven involved. No turning on the oven. woo hoo. 
 Also there are only 6 ingredients. The original recipe had 5 but I didn't have enough almonds so it's a whole 6 ingredients. This recipe is shaping up to be amazing. How could it get better?
 But really, the best best part about bar this is the crust. You wouldn't even know it's vegan. It tastes so delicious and is salty which perfectly balances the the sweetness of the dates.
Vegan Date Bars
(adapted from Oh She Glows)

Ingredients for crust:
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw pecans
  • 1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 10 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

for filling:
  • 30-35 Medjool dates (about 2.5 cups)
  • 3/4 cup water

To Make:

  1. Roughly chop the dates. In a food processor combine the oats, almonds, pecans and salt until it turns into a fine crumble. Add the 10 dates until combined. Melt the oil in microwave and put that in the food processor too. This mixture should be sticky. Save about one cup of this mixture until the end.
  2. Spray an 8x8 pan with non-stick spray. Dump the crust mixture and spread into the bottom of a pan. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom.
  3. Clean out the food processor. Bring the 3/4 cup water to a boil in the microwave and put the rest of the dates into the boiling water. Let soak for a 5-10 minutes. 
  4. Dump water and dates into food processor and pulse until a paste forms. Scrape down the sides as often as you need to. Now, spread paste over the crust evenly. Finally, sprinkle the part of the crust mixture you saved over the top.
  5. Refrigerate for 1 hour up to overnight. Serve with a big glass of almond or soy milk or regular milk. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Snapshot Sunday: December 16th

Today I'm in Phoenix celebrating my friends' engagement. That's the snapshot of my week. My heart is full.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Observation Tuesday: Volume 34

I absolutely love this Michael Buble Christmas SNL video. watch it.

You know what I would love? A giant box of Ferrero Roche candies. I sort of feel like they were all the rage at one point and have sort of died off now. But man, they are GOOD.

This list of Tiny and Adorable Stocking Stuffers is just so cute!

Have a happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cocoa Almond Granola

So, I'm not totally into the idea of giving people baked goods for the holidays. This make come as a shock since I feel like everyone in the internet-world really is. But honestly, I think because other people do like to most people are going to end up with tons of cookies and Ferrere Rocher Christmas trees. I don't necessarily feel like contributing to that. 

This recipe may have changed that for me. I immediately started coming up with ways I could package this delicious cocoa almond granola to make it look festive and the cute cards I would write to people. 

It's a delicious crunchy, slightly sweet combination that is perfect as breakfast, midmorning snack or late at night while watching too many Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube. 

Cocoa Almond Granola
from the Joy the Baker cookbook
  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (I prefer unsweetened, but either would work)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To Make:

1) Preheat your oven to 350* F. Line one large baking sheet with parchment paper (or two smaller sheets).

2) Toss together all of the dry ingredients, including oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, cocoa powder and salt. 

3) In a small saucepan combine brown sugar, honey, vegetable oil, butter. Stir to combine until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to bubble. This takes about 5 minutes over medium heat. Once mixture is ready, take off heat and stir in vanilla.

4) Pour warm mixture into oat mixture and combine well with wooden spoon. 

5) Dump mixture onto baking sheet(s), smooth until even and put into oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring several times while baking. Make sure you bring the goodness on the edges into the center or it'll get too crispy. It's done when fragrant and toasted on the edges.

6) Let it cool completely. Store in air tight container for up to a week (if it lasts!)


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Snapshot Sunday: December 9

Highlight of these week is my in-laws visiting! I love having out of town guests because a) it's fun, b) I love my in-laws, c) gives me a chance to be a tourist in my own city.

We went to Dick's Drive In
It's on Esquires "most life changing burger" list, the burgers are $1.25 and you pay .05 cents for ketchup....

Went to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) for free on their First Thursdays.

My favorite sculpture.


I learned tons about chocolate on the Theo Factory tour. 

View of Downtown from West Seattle. Love this city!

Pasteries (aka butter and sugar) from Bakery Nouveau

Tree at Pike Place

Finally, our tree at home! Its officially Christmastime.

I'm quite happy with the real tree. Thanks for the input! Have a great week everyone!