Happy Birthday Robert!

January 20, 2011

 

As usual, I’m a little behind on my posting but please bear with me. Yesterday, January 19, my beloved husband turned 28 years of age. Yes, he is now officially in his late-twenties and one year closer to 30, although I’m sure he’d rather not be reminded of that little fact just yet.

There are so many things I love about Robert. I thought I’d take a minute and highlight a few of them.

He’s smart, maybe even smarter than me but you’ll never hear me admit it!

He loves the outdoors including fishing and hiking and I’m sure one day hunting.

He loves to ski and not only can hang in with my dad and me but keeps us on our toes on the slopes!

He’s always willing to lend a hand in the kitchen when I look like I’ve got too many irons in the fire.

He’s not afraid to let loose and be a bit silly from time to time.

He’s my partner in crime.

But most of all, I love the way he shows me his love day in and day out through word and in action.

Happy birthday Robert! Here’s to one more year of life together!

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Living In Community

January 13, 2011

I’ve heard it said many times in church and in Christian circles that we humans were created to live in community with one another. Inherent in the very fabric of our souls is a need to share our life with others. That’s why God created Eve for Adam, because He saw that it was not good for man to live alone.

Living in community is a great and glorious thing, yet it can also be messy. Living life with other people means that you are exposed to their faults, sins and trials just as you are also exposed to their successes, joys and strengths. In times of abundance, it’s fun spending time with your community, delighting in one another’s experiences. And it’s in the seasons of trials and despair that the strength of one’s community is tested.

Seeing a member of your community, someone you love, grapple with loss and pain is hard. It’s different from watching a coworker or acquaintance or casual friend go through it. This person is living life with you, and in a sense they are very much apart of who you are and who you will become. As they hurt, you hurt. As the weep and mourn, so do you. If you’re not used to living in such community, such emotions can be jarring. How can the pain of another person feel so real to you? How is it that you find yourself on the verge of tears when you are not the one who lost or is in pain?

The more I think about this occurrence in human interaction, the more beautiful I think it is. It’s a big world out there and I like knowing that when trials come my way I have a community to fall back on.

Right now a member of my community is hurting. I’ve wept and prayed for my dear friend so many times in the past week that I am amazed. You see, I’m not a big crier especially not when it comes to other people’s hurts and pains. But this, I am learning, is different. This isn’t just anybody who’s hurting, this is a member of my community, my sister and brother who are hurting and that cuts deeper in my soul than I ever imagined.

And you know what, I’m not the only one. The other members of our community are experiencing the same emotions I am as we try to stand together in support of our friends. Together we are stronger and our prayers are louder. As a community we will weather this storm.

And so here we are, learning what living lives together in community is all about. And even though right now it’s messy, it hurts and causes me to mess up my make up due to tears, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gorgonzola Dates

April 13, 2010

There are many dates in a year that stick out for one reason or another.  Birthdays, anniversaries, days that mark a momentous occasion just to name a few.  One of the most recent of these dates to remember would be Super Bowl Sunday 2010, the day I tasted my first Gorgonzola Date.

Until that fateful day I had not even tasted a date before, let alone consider it crave-worthy.  That all changed with just one bite.  We were at the house of a close friend’s father to watch the big game when he pulled these beauties out of the oven, placed them on a bed of lemon butter sauce and asked me if I wanted one.  They smelled wonderful, and who can resist anything with gourmet cheese and bacon?  Certainly not I!  The minute I placed that date in my mouth I was hooked.  Even more so when I was encouraged to pair this new delectable with a glass of bold red wine.  I think I controlled myself at consuming no more than 3 that night, but the memory would not leave.

I’ve secretly been looking for an occasion, any occasion really, to try my hand at this recipe.  That occasion came Saturday night as we hosted some friends for dinner.  This group was perfect to test my recipe on: they love good cheese, fine wine and adventure.  And it did not disappoint.  It was good to have my new friend back on my plate as I enjoyed good conversation and a glass of bold, red wine. 

This recipe is perfect for any social occasion when you want an impressive hors d’oeuvre that takes minimal effort for maximum results.

 Gorgonzola Dates

Ingredients
Medjool Dates
Applewood Smoked Bacon (1 slice per 3 dates)
Wedge of firm aged gorgonzola cheese
2 medium lemons
White Pepper
Kosher salt
1 stick of butter chilled, cut into 8 pieces
Balsamic Vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

Cut slices of bacon into three even pieces and set aside.  With a small paring knife cut a slit length wise in each date and remove seed within.  Cut a small piece of gorgonzola from the cheese wedge and fill date with gorgonzola so that date is fully stuffed.    Take a piece of bacon and wrap around the stuffed date, securing with a toothpick.  Place date seam side down on a greased rimmed baking sheet.  Once you have all your dates stuffed and wrapped, bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until bacon is browned and slightly crispy.

While the dates are cooking in the oven squeeze the juice of 2 medium lemons into a small medium-bottomed saucepan.  Add a pinch of salt and 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper to the juice and boil until reduced to 1 tablespoon.  Remove from heat and immediately whisk in 2 pieces of butter until melted.  Place pan over very low heat and whisk in butter one piece at a time until all pieces are incorporated into a creamy sauce.  Remove from heat and set aside until dates are done cooking.

When dates are ready, remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.  Cover the bottom of your serving plate with lemon butter sauce, it should have thickened some as it cooled and drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top of the sauce.  Place the dates on the sauce and serve.

Adapted from: family friend recipe; Mastering the Art of French Cooking

It’s Easter Sunday, 2010, Robert and  I have just arrived back in town from visiting my grandparents in Texarkana.  We head to Central Market to purchase our groceries for the week only to find that our beloved store is closed for the holiday.  Where can we go?  We remember that a new Whole Foods just opened up just up Greenville Ave, so we head that direction, hoping it is not also closed.

We pull into the parking lot and are excited, it’s new and shiny.  Ooh, they have all sorts of flowers and planting items for sale, how fun!  We are confident this will be a fun and exciting new place.  We walk into the produce section and it’s chaos.  I pick up a tomato, see the organic sticker on it, put it down and can’t find a normal tomato.  Surely they have the organics in one location and the normal in another right?  WRONG!  Everything is mixed up, hodge podge.  It’s ok, we can do this.  I pick up a lemon, see the organic label again, put it down.  Hunt for a new lemon…3 minutes later I find the normal lemons.  They’re HUGE!  Is Whole Foods is intentionally buying GMO lemons to force me to buy organic?  The nerve!  I send Robert on the hunt for fresh basil and I go look for normal, non-organic leafy green vegetables.  I walk up and down the aisle, they only have organic leafy greens!  Are you kidding me??  I give up and bag my organic cilantro and lettuce, defeated.  Robert walks up empty bag in hand, there’s no basil.  What kind of grocery store doesn’t have fresh basil?!?  Even the tiny Tom Thumb by our condo always has fresh basil! Frustration has clearly set in, we finish up in the produce section and move on.

We make our way to the butcher section.  We only have two items on our list in this section, should be in and out in no time, right?  Ha!  First, I go to select my package of chicken breasts only to discover there is not an option for chicken breast halves, only whole breasts.  This really isn’t a problem, but given all the change that’s been foisted upon me, I’m annoyed anyways.  I walk up to the butcher counter looking for the “Take a Number” dispenser.  There is none.  I wonder how they manage crowds at the counter on busy days.  I wait for a while before I’m helped; I get my pork tenderloin and move on.

Time for the dry goods and miscellaneous sections on the list.  We’re encouraged to be almost done, until we realize we have no idea where anything is.  Confusion begins to set in again as we think about our game plan.  We take a break for a wine sample and a deep breath.  We can do this.  We can conquer the beast.  We’re on the hunt for some spices, we finally find the right aisle, only to find four salesman restocking the spices completely in the way.  I stand there for a minute, looking the spices over, thinking that surely they will notice me and step aside.  They do not.  I find the cumin seeds and move on.  Where is the commitment to customer service that I’ve come to expect??

It’s time to find the deli.  We wander aimlessly, pass several salesmen, none of which ask us if we need help.  We finally find the deli, again no take a number option.  We wait and are helped by a rather grumpy lady.  I miss the jovial deli counter employees at Central Market.  They’re always entertaining; this lady makes her work look like laborious work.  We get all we need and are finally ready to check out and get out.

We make our way to the check out area only to find that there are only 2 non express lanes open.  Are you kidding me?? It’s a Sunday for crying out loud, the busiest day for grocery stores!  Why wouldn’t you have at least 5 lanes open.  We finally get to the head of the line and the process takes forever.  It’s amazing how Central Market’s expectation on the customer to weigh and label produce with PLU codes really saves time.  We have a perky teenager as our checkout girl; it’s obvious she’s still learning the process.  She asks about our experience, we try to explain some frustrations only to be met with an empty gaze.  We’re finally done, exhausted and ready to be home.  We think our Whole Foods frustrations are over, that is until I open my bags and find the eggs haphazardly tossed into the bag and no separation between the chicken and fresh produce.

At this point it is clear to us that we will no longer shop at Whole Foods for any reason.  And so I make this my solemn vow: I, Staci Thetford, promise on this leafy green vegetable, never to allow impatience or inconvenience deter me from my grocery store home, Central Market, ever again.  Furthermore, I swear to remain loyal to Central Market and all that it stands for, shunning competing so-called grocery stores and other “pretenders” to the CM throne.  Finally and specifically, I solemnly swear to evangelize and proselytize to those poor, wretched souls who have come under the misguided belief that Whole Foods provides them an experience better than or equal to that of Kroger.

Central Market, I’m sorry.  Will you take me back?

Best. Birthday. EVER.

February 12, 2010

Last Friday was my 27th birthday.  As February 5th approached this year I mentioned to Robert that I had never been given a surprise party for my birthday, or for any occasion for that matter.  I later realized that wasn’t exactly true.  In highschool my mom picked me up from a theatre trip, told my friends all to head to my house while she took me to Baskin Robins to pick up a cake.  She told me that she just felt like getting me a cake, but seeing as my mom has never been good at lying or at keeping secrets I knew something was up.  When we got home 5 of my friends were hiding behind our kitchen island yelling happy birthday.  So Mom, I’m sorry I didn’t immediately give you credit for throwing me my first surprise party.

Anyways, in college, my birthday either included an exam, or later Impact counselor selections which, naturally, overshadowed my big day.  I’ve never been a big self-promoter so if someone didn’t offer to organize a party or dinner for my birthday, I didn’t initiate one.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of good birthday events, but this year Robert really went over the top.

Despite the fact that he was laid up on the couch all week with a nasty cold, Robert managed to arrange a day of birthday surprises to occur on Saturday, the day after my birthday.  The surprises began at 11 on Friday night when our friend Jim showed up at our front door to spend the weekend.  Although Robert did manage to let it slip that Jim was our surprise guest, it still was a great surpise.

Before heading to bed Robert told me that I was to be ready to leave the house by 11:00am on Saturday.  He knows how much I cherish being able to sleep in on the weekend and took that into consideration as he set the schedule of events.  Isn’t he a sweetie?  So at 11:30 we pulled out of our driveway and headed west.  I was pretty sure I knew where we were headed until we pulled into the parking lot of the Irving Mall.  The surprise there was that our friend John was joining us for the days festivities, John pulled in behind us on the road and we continued our trek westward.

Surprise #2 of the day was lunch at Joe T. Garcia’s in Ft. Worth where the four of us were joined by my best friend Jalah and her fiance Chad.  Lunch was delicious and the conversation was lively, which should not be a surprise if you’ve ever been to lunch with Robert.  We touched on missions, the death penalty and future career paths seamlessly all in under 2 hours.  So pretty much your typical lunch convo.

We paid our bill and got in the cars to head toward surprise #3, which I later discovered was a trip to the Kimball Art Museum to see the Texas Private Collections exhibit.  I had been wanting to see this exhibit for weeks and my anticipation was not disappointed.  I was amazed to see how many great works of European art both classic and modern are housed in homes in Texas.  There’s even a Monet Waterlillies painting in the Park Cities! Crazy.

After we finished drooling over the beautiful artwork, all but John headed back to Dallas to hang out and play Bananagrams at our house before moving on to surprise #4, dinner at Breadwinners where we were joined by Luke and Maci.  Breadwinners is one of my favorite non-Mexican eating establishments in Dallas and it did not disappoint.  Dinner was a blast and while I can’t remember exactly what we talked about, I certainly remember there being a lot of laughter and storytelling.

After dinner we said goodbye to Luke and Maci and the five of us headed to the destination of my 5th and final surprise of the night, birthday cake from Panini and champagne at Felix and Sandra’s house. 

Check out that cake!! Triple layer chocolate with cappucino filling. Oh my!

Panini was the bakery that did our wedding cakes and I can safely say that I have never tasted cake so delicious in my life.  After a little bit our friends Jon and Alyssa came by to share in the cake and fun.  All in all it was a great day with friends, good food and fun.  I think it’s safe to say that this was by far the best birthday ever.  Thanks Robert!!

Jalah and I before cake.

Celebrating the Advent

December 15, 2009

I don’t remember a whole lot about Advent growing up.

I remember that the weekend after Thanksgiving I would be responsible for putting out all three of our nativity scenes, a task I took much joy in and prided myself in making the figurines look authentic in their positioning on the table.

I remember having advent calendars where we would through some form or fashion tick off the days until Christmas, although in my childish mind it was less about the anticipation of Christ’s birth and more about one less day to wait until presents.

And I remember the Advent wreath ceremony at church where each Sunday of Advent one family would read a scripture verse and light a candle on the wreath.  I even got to read the verse for our family one year.

But other than that, I don’t remember paying too much attention to Advent as a child, and certainly not as a college student.  Advent always fell in the midst of exams and so, much like my childhood, the celebration of Advent was largely contained within the confines of Sunday morning worship.

That’s all changed this year.

Last year some friends of mine wrote a blog about the Christmas album by Andrew Peterson entitled Behold the Lamb of God that caught my attention.  I downloaded the album and listened to it a few times, enjoyed it and then tucked it away once Christmas had passed not to be touched for a year.  November 30 came along and I grabbed the CD, the only Christmas music I had with me in my car, and pressed play.  Immediately I was enthralled by the storytelling involved in the music and joyfully worshipped along with it during my commute to work.

To me, this CD is what Advent is all about!  Peterson starts in the Old Testament with the Israelites in Egypt during the Passover and moves from there to their whining to God for a King, to Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah and even through the captivity of Israel all before we even begin to touch on the New Testament.

I’m sure your thinking, what kind of Christmas music waits until halfway through the CD to even talk about Christmas??  An Advent CD that’s what.  Think about it.  At the advent candle lighting ceremony at church, the first one always begins with the prophecies of Christ’s coming.  So it’s only natural for Peterson to start in the Old Testament, in fact, I like that he starts with the Passover because it shows the build up in the history of the Israelites before the prophets fortold the coming of the Messiah.  Like any good story teller he’s merely setting the stage.

Once you get through the Old Testament songs, then we’re on to the Christmas story.  My favorite song in the whole album falls here, although I really do love the whole thing, it’s called “Labor of Love”.  It’s the telling of Christ’s birth like I’ve never heard it before.  It makes it real, raw, powerful.  Somehow, in all my 26 years when I’ve thought about the nativity, I’ve pictured Mary as this perfect, angelic woman who gladly gave birth in a manger.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying she was a complainer or anything, but it was a manger for crying out loud.  Animals live, eat and defecate there!  I know I would certainly be looking up at the sky and saying something along the lines of “Really God, you want me to birth YOUR SON, the Saviour of THE WHOLE WORLD here?? HERE!?!”  But then again that’s just me.

This song starts with the following verses. “It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground.  You could here a woman cry in the alleyway that night on the streets of David’s town.  And the stable was not clean, and the cobblestones were cold, but little Mary full of grace, with the tears upon her face and no mother’s hand to hold”  Wow.  That is definately not the picture I think of when I sing “Silent Night” or assemble my Willow Tree Nativity scene!

Rather then simply typing out the words and why I think they are great, I’ve posted the video from the 2007 concert for you to enjoy yourself.

In addition to my continuous play of this amazing CD, Robert and I purchased an Advent devotional to read together at night during dinner.  It’s nothing fancy, and we’ve certainly missed a few nights due to exams, but it’s really been a sweet time that we’ve both enjoyed.  I think it’s safe to say, that we may have just begun our first Christmas tradition for our family.

I’ve really enjoyed celebrating and meditating on Advent this year and I’d encourage you to start now if you haven’t already, now’s as good a time as any!  And if I’ve peaked your interest on the Behold the Lamb of God album, go here and listen to this free player of the album with lyrics posted alongside.

My Husband, My Sous Chef

September 8, 2009

This Labor Day weekend, Robert and I decided to take advantage of the “free” day of no work and no class and cook two large meals and an order of salsa (recipe to come) to last us the rest of the week.  The idea here was that taking care of the cooking in one fell swoop would provide me with more time during the week to take care of some other chores around the house, to go to the gym and work out and simply to enjoy our evenings at home with limited dishes to clean.

I got started at around 5:45pm Monday evening beginning with my Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos (a double order) while Robert worked on cleaning some dishes that our dishwasher refused to clean.  When the tacos were done, we sat down and enjoyed the first fruits of our evening labor before getting back up to continue the cooking and cleaning parade.  The second recipe of the evening was Rachel Ray’s Ancho Chicken Tortilla Soup.  Everything started out smoothly, in the beginning, I had soaked my dried ancho chilis during dinner so they were ready for pureeing, the corn was cut off the cob and was ready for sauteeing, I was in business.

However, just as soon as I put the corn into the pot to saute, I realized that I still needed to chop the onion and jalapeno for the saute and the corn was not easily left alone while I accomplished this task.  It was then that I called upon my trusted sous chef husband.  Robert took over saute duty while I finished chopping and pureeing the upcoming ingredients to be added to the pot.  I was soon prepared to relieve Robert of his station when I realized that I still had not skinned and shredded the rotisserie chicken purchased at the store previously.  

No problem, I pulled the chicken from the fridge and grabbed a knife before realizing that I didn’t know a thing about pulling a whole chicken apart.  I’m sure some of you will be surprised to read that with all my fancy cooking, I do not know how to carve a chicken.  My family, I’m sure, is the least surprised knowing that I do not enjoy eating meat off the bone and always steer clear from cooking recipes that require me to deal with bones.  I guess today marks a new day, but I digress.  I now turn to Robert wielding a large Santoku knife and ask him how to go about dealing with the bird.

It was about this time that Robert, turning to address my question, realized the reason why I try to always wear an apron while cooking.  (The collateral damage to his clothes can be seen in the photo below.)  We determined that the soup was in a good place to be left alone to simmer and Robert came to my rescue to show me how dismembering a rotisserie chicken is done.

Sous Chef Robert hard at work

Sous Chef Robert hard at work

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Problem solved!  The chicken was shredded and added to the soup along with the final touches of honey and lime.  I can’t wait to try it for lunch today, it looks fantastic.  All in all, it was a successful cooking evening, so much so that we’ve decided to make “tag team cooking” a new addition to our Save Sunday activities.
Obviously I do not know what I'm doing..

Obviously I do not know what I'm doing..

Three and a half weeks ago on June 14, Robert and I celebrated our first anniversary.  Robert planned a fantastic romantic weekend staycation in Fort Worth to celebrate the occasion.  The weekend began on Saturday at 1 when we pulled away from our townhouse and headed West to the Kimball Art Museum in Ft Worth to view the Art & Love in Rennaisance Italy exhibit. 

Having studied art history in Italy in the summer of 2004, I found the content of this exhibit particularly interesitng as it contained a far broader scope of artwork than one typically sees when discussing Italian Renaissance Art.  The exhibit displayed common pieces of furniture, dishware and other elements that would have been given to a husbamd or wife for one reason or another.  It was really neat to gain a deeper insight to some of the practices and traditions that existed in Italy during this time.

From the Kimball we headed to downtown Fort Worth to check into the Worthington Hotel where Robert had arranged a delivery of chocolate truffles to be delivered from a local chocolate factory.  They were positively delectable and our room had a stunning view of downtown.  At about 6:30pm we walked two blocks to have dinner at the Riata Steakhouse.   We had an excellent, quiet table in the corner that allowed us to really enjoy our dinner and conversation.  Here a few photos taken at dinner.

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After dinner we walked a few more blocks to the Bass Performance Hall for the Metropolitan Classical Ballet’s Summer Repertory performance.  I had not been to a ballet since I went to see the Nutcrakcer with my mom and grandparents when I was a child and Robert had never been to a ballet so it was a real treat for us.  There were three different performances, each with their own personality and flare.  The first ballet was traditional in nature and told the narrative of a troubled musician and composer who struggled between his muse and darkness to acheive greatness.  The second was a modern peice performed by a husband and wife duo that was quite spectacular albeit different.  The final was also traditional in nature although it was more of an exhibition peice rather than a narrative ballet.

And that conclude our celebration weekend.  I’d like to end this post with a few pictures from the past year.  As you can see, we’ve had a fantastic first year!

RobertandStaci

Overlooking the island of Virgin Gorda, BVI

Overlooking the island of Virgin Gorda, BVI

At Bitters End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda, BVI

At Bitters End Yacht Club in Virgin Gorda, BVI

Dressed up as Cowboys for the 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Murder Mystery Dinner

Dressed up as Cowboys for the 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Murder Mystery Dinner

Robert get's his Aggie Ring!

Robert get's his Aggie Ring!

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!!

Skiing in Utah

Skiing in Utah

Well, it looks like that’s all the photos I have from this past year.  As you can tell, we’ve definately enjoyed ourselves!  And the years ahead are bound to provide even more great memories.

Today’s recipe is another jewel from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentis.  Before I begin, let me just say that I LOVE the food network.  How did people cook without being able to access fabulous recipes for FREE at the touch of a button??  I tell you, pretty soon kitchens will have a computer monitor with internet access mounted in the backslpash as a standard appliance for the kitchen.  Oh but I digress…

This recipe of Giada’s is called Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables.  Robert and I have been trying to incorporate more fresh vegetables into our meals.  And when you come from a meat and potato family like I do, it’s not always easy finding exciting ways to incorporate vegetables beyond just canned green beans or steamed asparagus!  Needless to say it was the large volume of veggies that attracted me to this delicious meal.  I’ve left Giada’s recipe pretty much in tact outside of changing the way some of the veggies are cut and reducing the amount of salt and pepper.  So without further adieu, let’s get started.

Ingredients:
2 red bell peppers
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
10 small cremini mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herb Mix
1 pound penne pasta
1 jar (about 3 cups) of marinara sauce (any kind from the store or homemade if you have it)
1 cup grated fontina cheese
1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Core red bell peppers and cut into 1-2inch rectangles, peel the yellow onion and cut to the same size.  Cut the squash and zucchini in quarters lengthwise and cut into 1 inch cubes.  Cut the stems off the mushrooms and cut into quarters.  If you have two 9×13 baking dishes, use one for roasting the veggies and one for the pasta.  If you only have one, a regular cookie sheet will work, it just makes it a little trickier getting the veggies in and out of the oven.  Toss the bell peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms and onions along with the olive oil, salt, black pepper and dried herbs together in the pan or on the baking sheet until well coated.  Put in theoven and roast for 15 minutes.

Veggies ready for roasting in the oven

Veggies ready for roasting in the oven

While the veggies are roasting boil the water and cook the penne for about 6 minutes.  This will cook the pasta just enough so that it’s not overcooked once it’s done baking in the oven.  Drain and put aside. When the veggies are done roasting, toss the veggies, pasta, marinara sauce, fontina, mozzarella and peas gently mixing until pasta is coated with the sauce and all other ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta mixture into a greased 9×13 inch pan and top with the 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.  Bake in the oven until top is golden and cheese is melted, about 25 minutes.  When you’re done, here’s what it should look like.

Baked pasta fresh out of the oven

Baked pasta fresh out of the oven

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That’s it! Real easy and so tasty. Robert thinks it smells and tastes like pizza.  I just think it tastes great!  I love the veggies.  (as if you couldn’t tell)  I’d like to take this moment to promote my new favorite marinara sauce company.  For years I’ve used Ragu for all my marinara needs, not any more.  I’d like to introduce to you Cucina Antica.  Their sauce is great, you look at the ingredient list and it only contains about 7 items!  All of them what you would include if you were making it yourself.  No preservatives, no bad stuff! And it tastes great!  My favorite so far is the Spinach Marinara.  As you can tell from this photo of the jar, last night I used their Tomato Basil Marinara. 

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Many of you who have cooked with me, or watched me cook, know that I can tend to be a cooking purist, preferring to make my sauces and such rather than buy it premade.  I think this sauce has changed my tune, at least where mariniara sauce is concerned.  I get mine at Central Market, and I’m not sure how wide their distribution is, but if you can get it try it!

Ok, that’s all from me for now.  Ciao!

Loving My Community

June 5, 2009

LMC Sm Color Logo - jpg

About eight months ago I became the project lead in my office for the creation and implementation for a new City program entitled “Loving My Community Neighborhood Improvement Grant”.  My coworker Pamè La and I have taken what was once a very general concept for a program handed to us from the City Manager’s Office and turned it into a viable and, dare I say it, impressive grant program.  We’ve been through highs and lows the past 8 months facing potential cuts to our funding and complaints from various critics all the while diligently fine tuning the details of the program.

On Monday, May 11 I presented our program to the Dallas City Council Quality of Life Committee meeting as our first official “roll out” of the details of the program.  Council then voted to authorize the LMC Grant as a program on May 27, and as of this week we have launched our website and are no longer “in progress”. To check it out and get an idea as to what I’ve been working go to www.dallascityhall.com/scs/community.html.  I’ve even been interviewed by the local press http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2009/06/how_much_do_you_love_your_comm.php to get my comment on the project.

A brief summary of the LMC program.  Loving My Community is designed to award financial assistance to neighborhood groups that present a vision, passion and a commitment to conduct a community operated project or program to address specific needs within their neighborhoods and help improve their quality of life.  We hope that this program will spark neighborhood creativity and involvement and ownership of local communities City-wide.  The LMC Grant will award selected projects up to $10,000 to implement their project idea.

I’m pretty excited about this program.  In my job I see tons of neighborhoods who have a need and desire to better their communities but either don’t know how to go about doing it, or don’t have the money to implement their idea.  I think this program has a chance to really make a difference in the City of Dallas.  And while we don’t know how long we can continue this program into the future with a tight and currently in the red City budget this year, we’re doing our best to do what we can with what we have now.  Hopefully we can get some outside sponsors for the program in the upcoming year to help keep it going.