Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Last First Day of School!

Yesterday was the last first day of school I will ever have again! It wasn't anything special or exciting, just the same-old, same-old of orientation and reviewing the syllabus. That sort of thing. But what is exciting is that I'm 3 months and 11 days away from being done with nursing school and permanently back in Chester with my husband and baby Duke! I'm not counting or anything...

We will see what the semester brings with classes, clinicals and such. I have no idea of what to expect, but it should be challenging and interesting at the same time.

On Sunday I moved into my dorm and boy was it hot! Chester has had a temperature high of like 90 degrees once all summer which I have enjoyed a lot. So when I pulled into Billings on Sunday at 4 pm with a temperature of 96 degrees, you can imagine how steamy hot my dorm room was with it being on one of the top floors of the building. It was HOT! It's still hot.

I thought you would all be interested to see what my new kitchen looks like now....

I'm going through some serious cooking withdrawals. I made the mistake of going to Barnes and Noble yesterday so I could be in an air conditioned area (100 degrees out!) and started drooling and aching to cook when I was in the cookbook section. I especially want the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Everything looked absolutely amazing! I almost started to lick the pictures in the book....almost.

Hopefully I will have a bunch of time this semester to drive up north to visit my pup and my man. Dusty's casseroles will only last him so long!

Just kidding. Sometimes he can cook better than I can!

Here's to hoping for a fast semester so I can get back in the kitchen again! I've got some recipes saved up from over the summer, so I can share those with all of you in the mean time. Plus I'll be cooking up a storm on the weekends I get to visit too :)

In the meantime, I have a question for you all and need some help....

What are some things I can make in my dorm-sized kitchen???

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back-to-School Cookin'

This weekend Dusty and I are going to be doing some back-to-school cooking and stocking up. Not for the both of us....just him. I'm going back to Billings for the Fall semester to finish up my last semester of nursing school (yay!!!) on Sunday, which means that Dusty is going to have to fend for himself when it comes to breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Living in a small town, you lose the conveniences of take-out, fast-food and restaurants all together. It was a total culture shock the first month we lived here. Not to mention the closest movie theater is 40 miles away and only plays 1-2 movies that change every 2 weeks. It was a big adjustment for us since in Billings we probably rented 2-3 movies a week, out to the theater twice a month (if not more) and out to eat 3-4 times a week.

But over time I've come to love cooking 3 meals a day (plus dessert!) and watching movies on Netflix, Direct TV On Demand or the most recently Amazon Prime. I finally broke down and signed up for Amazon Prime. Not having to pay for shipping is amazing when you have to order everything! You can buy anything and everything on Amazon! In fact, I have a doggie door for Duke coming in today and a few cookbooks coming in the next few days. My family members should only get me Amazon Gift Cards for holidays, birthdays, etc. because it is so handy!

Anyways, back on topic.....

I was looking through my Recipe Index here on The Girly Girl Cooks trying to figure out what I want to prepare and freeze for Dusty so that he can just pop it in the oven and go after working 9-10 hours a day at the hospital. I hate the idea of him eating frozen pizza's every day (which he will do), so I want to make sure he is all set up before I head back to school.

The nice thing about nursing school this semester is that my classes are on Monday and Tuesday, and then my clinicals are self scheduled. I'm hoping that this allows me to come home frequently because I can't stand the thought of being without Dusty and Duke. I love those guys!

So here some things I'm thinking of making for Dusty for my Back-to-Nursing-School.....

 I see a lot of casserole dishes in my future!
Hopefully that would hold him over for a few weeks until I'm able to come home from school for a visit. What are some of your favorite freezer-friendly dishes????

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perfect Coleslaw

I've finally done it!
I have finally found my absolute favorite coleslaw recipe of all time. It's quick, simple, easy and has the perfect ratio of slaw to dressing. Plus it's getting-into-your-bikini-for-Maui friendly with just 2 WW points per serving. Boo-yah!

Coleslaw is one of my favorite side dishes of all time. It's tangy, sweet and crunchy. It keeps really well for a couple of days in the fridge and is perfect for BBQ's, picnics and any family/friend gathering.

I made slow-cooker Hawaiian pulled pork sandwiches this week (yum!) and topped them with some of this coleslaw and it was awesome! I also like to top my favorite salmon burgers with coleslaw instead of the old stand-by of lettuce and tomato. It added tons of flavor to both of those sandwiches with the bonus of the crispy crunch that I love. And....you won't believe how fast it is to whip up!

Fall is just around the corner (in fact, I think it's already arrived), but don't let go of summer just yet! Make this Perfect Coleslaw and bring it to your Labor Day BBQ. I promise it will be a hit and be the perfect side to your burgers and hot dogs!

Perfect Coleslaw
{Serves 6}

- 1 (14 ounce) bag of Dole Classic Coleslaw Mix
-1 tbsp finely minced White Onion
-1/4 cup Mayonnaise
-2 tbsp White Granulated Sugar
-1/4 cup Low Fat Milk
-1 tbsp Lemon Juice
-2-1/2 tsp White Vinegar
-1/4 tsp Salt
-Dash of Pepper

In a large bowl combine the Classic Coleslaw mix and the finely minced onions. Toss to combine and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sugar, milk, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk together until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the coleslaw mix and toss to combine and coat well. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours so the flavors soak into the coleslaw mix. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Greek Panzanella Salad

Panzanella has been a staple in our house this entire summer. I can not get enough of the bread soaked in dressing with the fresh summer produce. Is there anything better? There are so many ways to mix and match a panzanella...the possibilities are endless!

One of my all time favorite Panzanella salads is from Simply Scratch. She grills the veggies and the bread and it is to die for. It's what turned me on to Panzanella in the first place at the beginning of the summer and now I love this Greek version just as much!

I still can not get over the concept of crusty bread as the main star in a salad. Whoever created this, I want to kiss them and thank them. As a carb-aholic, I fully appreciate this concept.

The real reason I was itching to whip up this salad is because I had received a package from Star Fine Foods with their new line of Usage Pairing Extra Virgin Olive Oils. There are three types: Arbequina for Vegetables, Hojiblanca for Fish/Poultry and Picual for Beef/Lamb....and I was dying to try it out.

A few months ago I had purchased 2 liters of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Costco trying to save a some money living out in the middle of no where here on the hi-line of Montana. I was so excited about how much money I was saving, but what I didn't realize was that what I was saving in money, I was losing with quality. I made a salad dressing using it once and I was so disappointed how bitter it tasted. No thank you!

Thanks to Star Fine Foods, I don't have to use it any more! I seriously love how these new Usage Pairing Extra Virgin Olive Oils by Star Fine Foods enhance the food you are making. The Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Vegetables blended so smoothly with my vegetables in the dressing for this salad, it was absolutely wonderful! I love, love, LOVE this olive oil and have already used more than half of it up in the past month. I love it so much, I just had to tell ya!

If you have never tried a Panzanella salad before...you simply must! Go to your store and grab crusty bread, some veggies and whip this simple salad up immediately. You won't be disappointed!

Greek Panzanella Salad
{Serves 4}

-2 small loaves of Ciabatta (regular or herb flavored), cut into 1-inch cubes
-1 small Cucumber, seeded and diced
-1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
-1 cup halved Grape Tomatoes
-1/2 cup thinly sliced Red Onions
-1/3 cup Black Olives
-4 ounces crumbled Feta Cheese
-1/2 tsp minced Garlic
-1/2 tsp dried Oregano
-1/2 tsp Dijon Mustard
-2 tbsp Garlic Wine Vinegar
-1/2 tsp Salt
-1/4 tsp Pepper
-1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Star Fine Foods Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Vegetables

Heat 1 tbsp of EVOO in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and toast the bread in the pan for about 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.

To the large bowl, add the diced cucumber, red bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes, sliced red onions and olives.

For the dressing: In a mason jar with a lid, add the garlic, dried oregano, Dijon mustard, Garlic Wine Vinegar, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup EVOO. Place the lid on the jar and shake until emulsified and combined.

Pour the desired amount of dressing over the bread and vegetables in the large bowl. Sprinkle over the feta cheese and then gently mix to combine. Set aside for 30-60 minutes for the flavors to enhance and enjoy!

Recipe Inspired & Adapted By: Ina Garten
Star Fine Foods provided me with the Usage Pairing Extra Virgin Olive Oils. All opinions and thoughts in the blog post regarding the oils are my own.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

One Month as a Mrs...

Here are a few things that have been going on since Dusty and I got married...

1. It's been one month plus one day since Dusty and I got married! Our photographer, Kris at Meet My Camera, has been posting our wedding photos on Facebook slowly over the past few weeks giving us a peek of our photos. When I first saw them, my jaw dropped. They are beautiful and each photo she shows me gets more and more jaw dropping. I'm dying to see the entire disk of photographs from our wedding. It was such a perfect day and she has captured every special moment. Thank you Kris!

2. DUKE IS HUGE! My baby boy isn't a baby anymore. He is a Doberman. At only 4 months only (17 weeks exactly), he weighs 50 pounds! And he isn't fat or anything either. He is a healthy, muscular boy. Everyone teased me that when he got big I wouldn't be able to pick him up anymore and carry him around like when we first got him...at 50 pounds I still can! I probably won't when he reaches 90 pounds though. Wouldn't that be impressive if I could??? I need to go start lifting weights now...

3. Direct TV has been previewing DOGTV for the past couple weeks. It is a television channel devoted solely to dogs so that they are entertained while their humans are gone at work all day. I use this channel for entertainment for myself because Duke is hysterical when he watches DOGTV! (as seen in bottom right picture above) He gets so focused and really in to whatever is on the TV. It's entertaining in itself! I want to use it when I'm gone at school and Dusty is at work.

4. Speaking of school...I'm so bummed that I have to go back to Billings on August 25th. I only have 11 more days left with my boys before returning to my last semester of nursing school. Is it going to be the longest 4-1/2 hour drive to Billings that day? yes! Am I going to probably cry 99% of the way down to Billings? yes! It's totally going to suck. I love my life in Chester, my routine with Duke and being with Dusty everyday. Thank goodness it's for only one semester or I'd go insane. I love my boys so much.

5. Some of you might be wondering what my living situation might be for just being in Billings for one semester. It's a question I've been asked a lot this summer. When I'm finishing up my last semester of nursing school, I will be living in the dorms....again. Never did I think 3 years ago when I started my blog and learning to cook in my new apartment that I would return to the dorms and dorm life again. I've not overly thrilled about this predicament and sharing a bathroom with 40 women, but I would have had to found an apartment for less than $300 a month to make it cheaper than living in the dorms. I'm not willing to live in the scariest part of town in a basement apartment. I'll take the dorms over that any day! The good news is that I don't have a roommate in my dorm (for right now)! Please pray with me that it stays that way! I don't know any 18 year old freshman that would want to live with a 25 year old married nursing student. I'll be going to bed early and getting up early for clinicals...I'd be the lamest roommate ever. That's why I'm so happy it's just me!

6. Once nursing school is finished in December, you won't find me at the pinning ceremony or graduation ceremony at MSU. I'm going to be flying to Maui and enjoying my honeymoon instead! I can't wait! Is it December yet? Dusty and I booked our honeymoon last week to Maui and we are so stinkin' excited to spend 10 days just relaxing, exploring and being together after finishing all the stress of nursing school and work. It's going to be glorious! Only 3 months, 28 days, 17 hours and 47 minutes to go until paradise....I'm not counting or anything! ;)

7.  In preparation for Maui in December and the thought of wearing a bikini, I've joined Weight Watchers again. Remember when I did it 2 years ago for my trip to The Big Island and lost 27 pounds that I gained from my first bachelors degree at the UM? Well, I've gained most of it back again due to the stress of nursing school. Apparently, I deal with stress by putting delicious and bad-for-you things in my mouth. So I'm at it again and reprogramming my brain back into the healthy lifestyle I once loved about 2 years ago. So far I'm really enjoying it and seeing the hard work pay off! I just gotta keep after it and hope that living on campus and in the dorms won't ruin my hard work.

Wish me luck!

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