Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Crush on a co-worker

I have a confession.  I have a crush on a co-worker.  I know office romances are not usually a good idea, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  This is new, it is a new crush and I don't think I can fight it anymore.  Ever since I've been working from home, the guy who works right next to the employee kitchen has caught my eye and I'm smitten!
So, I decided to take a snack to work, one that I could share, and see if my new co-worker would like some and maybe we could sit down together and visit, this grain free granola is perfect for that.  They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  This is the perfect little snack to share.  I think he likes me too because he brought me a cup of tea when I was in a zoom meeting.  Who knows where this office romance might take us!

I will say my three other new co-workers are kind of jerks.  If they aren't whining to get into my office, they are wrestling, yelling at anyone who walks by the windows, and threatening the mailman.  I would complain, but I don't want to be THAT co-worker.

All in all, week three working from home is going o.k.  We are healthy and safe and have a lot to be grateful for, so I won't complain about those three rowdy co-workers, but I'm not sharing my granola with them.

Blueberry, Maple Granola

1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup shelled pumpkin seeds, pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sugar-free dried blueberries
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup granular monk fruit sweetener, or sweetener of choice
2 tsp. maple extract
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, add 1 cup of the pecans, pulse about 5 times.  Add almonds and pulse 5 times, add walnuts and pulse about 5 times, add remaining pecans and pulse about 5 times.  Remove blade from food processor bowl, or pour nut mixture into large mixing bowl. Add pepitas and sunflower seeds.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan mix butter, salt and sweetener.  Heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted and granulated sweetener is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat  and stir in maple extract.  Stir butter mixture into nut mixture, add egg white and mix thoroughly. 

Pour granola onto prepared pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Sprinkle dried blueberries over the top and gently mix, breaking up big clumps but leaving small clumps intact.  

Store in air tight containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

March 31, 2020  Sunrise 7:08 am  Sunset 8:43 pm  Temp. H 24/ L 0°F

Friday, March 27, 2020

The New Life as We Know It and Raspberry Vodka Fizz

I've been working from home for about two weeks now.  I've gotten into a nice routine, with the exception of needing to move more.  When I went in to the office, I would walk.  At 10:00 and 2:00 I would walk for about 10 minutes, outside when it is warm and inside when it is cold.  I don't do that at home, so my goal for next week it to get on my bike for 10 minutes at 10:00 and at 2:00.  What I have been doing is cleaning.  I've taken my 10 and 2 break and spent 10 minutes cleaning something.  My house has never been more organized and clean....ever!  I have even started a big garage sale pile, if we ever get to do something like that again.

A couple things I've been doing on the daily, to help keep my sanity;
1)getting up and going to bed at my regular times
2) Making meditation a priority in the morning
3) turning off the news after a specified time
4)getting dressed and "going" to work like normal (even though "going' to work is in my home office now
5)eating breakfast and lunch away from my desk while visiting with Dave, that way we don't interrupt each other constantly during the day
6) I have a checklist I copied off a friend's facebook post and that has really seemed to help

Can you tell I like checklist?

Here it is, in case it will be helpful for you:
1) Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?
2) What expectations for normal am I letting go of today?
3) How am I getting outside today?
4) How am I moving my body today?
5) How am I expressing my creativity today?
6) What type of self care am I practicing today?
7) What am I grateful for today?

There are a couple things I still need to work on, but it does help to run down that list.

Another thing I'm doing is "leaving" work, but turning the office light off, and having a drink at 5:00.  I have relaxed the only-one-adult-beverage-a-week rule, but most nights it really is all about the pretty glass and a fun drink in a pretty glass helps my mood.

This week I made a Raspberry Vodka fizz.  The raspberry simple syrup is delicious and a great addition to an adult beverage or some sparkling water to give it a little somethin', somethin'.  I'm glad I relaxed the one drink rule because this is so good!

Raspberry Vodka Fizz
for raspberry simple syrup:

2 cups water
2 cups raspberries
1 cup Swerve, or sweetener of choice

In a medium saucepan stir water, raspberries and sweetener together.  Bring to a boil, mash the berries and remove from heat.  Place in a container and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds.  Place simple syrup in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze. (I divided mine into three containers and froze two and have one in the fridge).

for each drink:

1 shot vodka
2 shots raspberry simple syrup
juice from 1/2 lemon
sparkling water

In a shaker filled with ice, add vodka, simple syrup and lemon juice.  Shake until very cold.  Strain into glass and top with sparkling water.  Enjoy

1 year ago:    Rum Chata Black Russians
7 years ago:  Tequila Sorbet

March 27, 2020  Sunrise 7:23 am  Sunset 8:30 pm  Temp. H 12/L -5°F

Friday, March 20, 2020

Working from Home and Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberry Jam Swirl

We have been encouraged to work from home, if possible.  Well, I have been encouraged and Dave's office closed and they were told to work from home.  So, Dave and I are both working from home.  This is totally new to us and a challenge.  I have never had a job that you can do from home, until now, and with all my spring travel cancelled, all my work can be done from my laptop.  Because I have a couple of conditions that put me in a higher risk group for complications from COVID-19, I am trying to be careful and Dave is really trying to be careful with me, and really wanting to limit my trips outside the house.

A colleague sent me a list of things to think about when you have to work from home that was very helpful:

Make work time work time; Work and home are not places but states of mind. Set a schedule for work and for when work is done. Maybe make a habit of shutting down the computer when you’re done with work to help make the separation actionable.

Routines: People respond to routines and routines help build structure. You can build the rules and structure to fit your life. For example, choose a starting time and be working at the same time every day. It helps give you a sense of control. Equally important is to set an end time and ‘clock out’, do something to signify the end of work. Shut down the computer, close a door, etc.

Rules, If you live with other people it's important to establish communication rules between you and the other folks in your home. Interruptions will break your focus, but if everyone understands the rules for working at home it will have everyone on the same page of when are and are not available. For example if the door is shut others know to text or email before entering. Obviously it’s important to explain these rules to others in your house. Communication about rules doesn't really work with little kids but it would be wonderful if it did. 

Ergonomics: Take the time to prepare a comfortable work environment. Proper ergonomics are important, and you’ll get uncomfortable quickly if your desk is at a bad height/angle.

Sound: I usually use headphones and listen to music without words to help focus on work. Movie soundtracks or the genre lo-fi hip-hop are especially helpful.

Workspace: If you can, have a workspace that is different than your usual living space, even if it’s a folding table set to a side of a room or moving your chair in a unique position, it helps to differentiate workspace from home space.

Virtual social interaction; use Samepage as watercooler to jump into and out of a quick conversation. Set up Zoom chats with your colleagues, etc 

Breaks: Take the occasional break, just as in the office it’s helpful to take a walk outside, and move around during the day. If you usually  walk around campus during lunch, keep that routine. Take a lunch break away from your desk.

But, Dave and I made it about 35 minutes yesterday before we had to sit down and have a work meeting to set up some ground rules.  I sure hope we make it through this work from home thing without any casualties!  All kidding aside, we are used to being apart for most of the spring, not working from the same room all day, every day so we are working on this. 

I made this cheesecake to use some of my strawberry jam.  It is a lemony, sweet and creamy treat.  If you don't like lemon as much as I do you can omit it and use vanilla extract instead of the lemon extract.  I'm really going to need lots of treats to get through this. 

So friends, stay safe, wash your hands and be flexible! 

Lemon Cheesecake with Strawberry Swirl

For Crust:
1 1/2 cups almond flour
4 Tbsp. butter, melter
2 Tbsp. granulated Swerve, or sweetener of choice

For Filling:
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated Swerve, or sweetener of choice
2 eggs,
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. lemon zest, optional
1/4-1/2 cup strawberry jam, I used my homemade jam

Spray a 7" springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. 

In a medium bowl, mix almond flour, butter and Swerve, mixture should resemble damp sand.  Press on bottom and 1/2 way up sides of prepared pan.  Set in freezer while you make the filling.

In a large bowl or stand mixer combine cream cheese and sweetener on medium speed until cream cheese is light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla, lemon extract and lemon zest (if using).  Mix well. 

Remove crust from freezer and pour in the filling.  Drop spoons-full of jam over the top and swirl with the blade of a butter knife or off-set spatula.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place it on the trivet.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of water into the instant pot and carefully place trivet and cheesecake into pot.  Close the top and seal the vent.  Cook on HIGH pressure for 45 minutes.  Let steam vent naturally for 5 minutes then quick release.

Remove trivet and cheesecake from pot, remove foil carefully and let cool on counter for about 30 minutes.  Center may be a little jiggly but will firm up as it cools.  Carefully run a sharp knife around edge to release from the pan, place in refrigerator for 6-8 hours.  To remove sides, run a sharp knife around edge again and remove ring.  Slice and serve with more jam for topping.
Makes 12 servings

1 year ago:     Keto Bacon Jam
7 years ago:    Parmesan Tilapia and Hippos

March 20, 2020  Sunrise 7:48 am  Sunset 8:09 pm  Temp. H 35/ L 23˚F

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Being Distracted

I know I am a very distracted person.  That leads to all kinds of problems for me and my lack of coordination because I'm not really paying attention to my surroundings.  It also leads to some embarrassing situations, like this one.

I was leaving work and thinking about all the things I had to get done before my next trip, things for work, things for home, groceries for Dave, all that kind of stuff.  I had started by car to warm up with my auto start but when I got to my car it wasn't running.  I figured I just was in my office finishing up longer than I thought and the auto start turned off.  Well, I opened the door and saw some papers and other things on the passenger seat where I was about to drop by purse and lunch bag before I unplugged my car.  My passenger seat doesn't have anything on it, my car is completely clean and only an extra reusable bag in the back in case I go to the grocery store on the way home.  I look at the rear view mirror where I have a little hanging decoration a friend made me a few years ago and it was gone.  I quickly realized I had opened the door to the wrong car.  Same make, model and color, but wrong car.  I laughed out loud, closed the door and turned to find my car.

Just then the auto start turned on.  I'm sure the owner of that car was looking out her window and watched me open the door.  How embarrassing.

So, I needed a sweet treat.  I had a couple pints of strawberries and have been wanting some jam so I decided to try my hand at it.  I read a couple recipes on Pinterest, lots of recipes use chia seeds but I don't eat those so I needed something else to thicken it a bit.  I tried xanthan gum and it worked great.  This is my new go-to jam!

Sugar Free Strawberry Jam

2  dry pints of strawberries, washed and chopped
1/4 cup Swerve, Boca Sweet or Monk Fruit
1/4 cup water
1/2-1 tsp. xanthan gum, depending on desired consistency

Place strawberries, sweetener and water in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Let simmer 10-15 minutes stirring and crushing the fruit.  If desired use an immersion blender to make a smoother jam.  Remove from heat and whisk in 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum.  Let cool 15 minutes, stir to test consistency and add more xanthan gum if desired.  Pour into jars and refrigerate or freeze.  This made about 3 cups for me.

1 year ago:    Happy Anniversary!
7 years ago:   Changing the Clocks and Quinoa Blondies

March 18, 2020  Sunrise 7:55am  Sunset 8:03pm  Temp. H 33/ L 24˚F

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Garlic "Bread" Chaffles

So, I've jumped on the chaffle band wagon.  I've been saving Pinterest chaffle recipes for a while now and I finally bought a tiny waffle maker and have started experimenting with it.  Other than the fact that the waffles are tiny (but the perfect size for a bread replacement) and each take about 4 minutes to cook, it has been a fun thing to try.

I made these chaffles for cheesy bread to have with some beef tips I cooked in the Instant Pot.  In full disclosure, Dave thought they were a little eggy.  I didn't think so, but I haven't had real bread for a couple years now.

This recipe made 8 chaffles, I covered 4 in cheese and broiled them for dinner and we'll have the other 4 as little pizzas later this week.  I'm hoping the tomato sauce, pepperoni and cheese make them taste less eggy for Dave.

They do take a bit for cooking, I did see a 4 burner chaffle maker you can buy, but I just do other things around the kitchen while they cook so it wasn't a big deal for me. I've enjoyed the savory chaffles, now I'm looking for some sweet options.  Do you have a favorite?
Add a layer of cheese, I used a cheddar and jack mix,

top with batter,

cook until nicely browned.

The cheese side is crispy.

For garlic bread, I added cheese and garlic powder on top
and broiled until melty and browned

Garlic Bread Chaffles
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
4 Tbsp. almond flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
shredded cheese

Heat your mini waffle maker according to manufacture's directions.
Mix cream cheese, eggs, almond flour and garlic powder.
Sprinkle bottom of waffle iron with shredded cheese.  Pour about 3 Tbsp. of mix onto waffle iron and close top.  Cook until waffle is cooked through.
Makes 8 mini waffles

1 year ago:    Keto Pigs in a Blanket
7 years ago:  Melting Snow and Maple Mustard Chicken Thighs

March 5, 2020  Sunrise 7:43 am  Sunset 6:42 pm  Temp H -5/ L -25

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Chili Relleno Soup

It is still really cold in Fairbanks.  We have been eating dinner and sticking downstairs next to the fire for the evening.  I'm not getting anything done, but I have learned the joy of binging on Netflix!

One food item Dave really enjoys is chili rellenos.  He orders them every time we go out for Mexican food (about once a week).  I thought with all this cold weather, a warm bowl of chili relleno soup would be the perfect thing to eat while we catch up on Picard or Longmire (we missed a couple while we were on vacation).

And, I roasted the peppers under the broiler-a little extra heat in the kitchen is always a good thing this cold time of year!

Now, Dave doesn't believe that soup is a meal, so we had ours as a first course with our dinner. But if you like soup for lunch or dinner you can always add shredded chicken, ground beef or pork tinga to make this a filling meal.  Enjoy.
Roast the peppers under the broiler until the skins turn black
and start to blister.  Turn the peppers often.

Put the peppers in a bag and let them steam
for about 5 minutes before you peel them.

Peeling should be very easy.

I like to scrape the skins off with a spoon.

Cut off the top stem, open them up and scrape out the
seeds and the ribs.

To finish, top with some sharp cheddar cheese and enjoy.

Chili Relleno Soup
5 poblano peppers
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 onion, about 1/2 cup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
4 cups chicken bone broth or stock
8 oz. cream cheese, cut in cubes
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, plus some for topping

Roast peppers under broiler until skins begin to blister and turn black, turning often to char all sides.  Place in a paper bag and close for 5 minutes to let peppers steam.  Remove skin, seeds and ribs then chop finely.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and saute onion until translucent.  Add garlic, cumin and oregano stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Add chicken broth and peppers.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.  Add cream cheese and cheddar cheese, stir until melted.  To serve top with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese.
Makes 6-8 servings

1 year ago:    Florida Vacation
7 years ago:  Prime Rib

March 3, 2020  Sunrise 7:50 am  Sunset 6:15 pm  Temp. H -2/ L-23°F