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April 2011

Long catch-up post

Okay, I promised I would post, so here it is :) Just a not so quick catch-up of what I've been working on.

So last week was crazy. We had the final project from our last 12-week class due last Tuesday (Strategic Implementation and the GM's Role). We had to do a 7S analysis for a company and it included a lot of research, compiling stuff, analysis and writing and the six of us spent many an hour on conference calls or working in tiny study rooms to finish this off. It was hard and a total pain but we finished it, that class ended last week, and it was the last assignment with our assigned core teams - kind of bittersweet, really. But we were so ready to be done! Anyway, we got our projects back in class last night and had a very pleasant surprise.

7S Project Grade

Mindy is showing off the grade sheet we got back. What's hard to see is that the circle at the top is around "A" and the arrow just goes all the way down. We ROCKED that sucker. I think there might have been only one other team that did as well so we were psyched.

So after that class ended last Tuesday, my group for Brand Management stayed late to *start* working on our final project / presentation. The presentation was due in class on Thursday. We got a decent start and then quit for the night. The next night, I cooked for the team and they came to my house for dinner and then we were there until 1am working on the project and deciding how to get it all finished before class the next day.

First up, food. I got to braise something! I was dying to do this... I made braised short ribs in my dutch oven. The recipe is way too complicated to post (sorry Melissa!) but it was from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table" and it was delicious.

Brand Night - Short Ribs

Because you can't have beef without a good starch, I whipped up a batch of potato gnocchi. I've been hit and miss with these - it's hard to get them perfect. But this time I tried the instructions from Cooks Illustrated and then made a brown butter gorgonzola sauce to go with them and they were pretty fabulous.

Brand Night - Gnocchi

Basically, you bake 2 pounds of potatoes for about an hour and then peel them while they're still hot (a silicon holder helps a lot). Put them through a ricer into a bowl and let them sit about 15 minutes to cool down. Throw in a teaspoon of kosher salt and about 1 1/4C of flour and knead it together. You want to keep adding flour a little at a time until the dough isn't sticky. Then you just roll it out in about 3/4" ropes and chop them into pieces about 1" long (I just use a pastry scraper to chop mine.) Cook them in *near* boiling water until they float (a rolling boil can make them float before they're ready - good tip!) and then scoop them out with a slotted spoon and finish them in the sauce. The sauce... melt about 2 tbsp of butter in your pan and let it brown - make sure you don't burn it. Then crumble in about 5 oz of a good gorgonzola. I used an Oregonzola that had nice flavor. Stir until the cheese is melted and mixed with the butter. Then I just added enough milk to give it the right consistency. Yum.

I also did one of my favorite things - I usually do some variation of this a few times a week. Just slice up some veggies (parsnips, carrots and asparagus here) and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray it w/ 0 calorie olive oil spray and spread the veggies in a single layer (try to get them about the same thickness). Then spray again with the oil and add a very light sprinkling of kosher salt. Cook on 425 about 25 minutes or so.

Brand Night - Roasted Veggies

And for dessert, I was in the mood for eclairs so I whipped up a batch. This time I used the recipe from the "Flour" bakery cookbook and they were yummy. Again - the recipe is too long to post, but it's a great book if you like baking.

Brand Night - Flour Eclairs

Whew! So that was the food. Then later that night, Brent grabbed my camera off of the counter and caught this very lovely photo of me. I was talking and glanced up and he took the picture. Nice. I think it was around midnight and we were all about to crash. Chad is on the couch and you can see the back of Laura's head. lol.

Brand Night Study Group

We managed to get everything pulled together just before class on Thursday and gave a great presentation. The final paper was due yesterday and we finished it up in the morning and then turned it in after class last night. Whew! Two more classes down! We started Global Management last night (which is a tie-in class with our trip) and some of us are starting a Business Judgment elective tomorrow. Laura, Chad and I are all in that one together - should be fun! I'm looking forward to Global Management - last night we formed up teams with people going on our trips and signed up for a country to do a report both before and then after the trip. I'm on a great team with fun people - Chad and three other friends I haven't had a chance to work with yet - Jen, Scott, & Dave. We're doing Greece :)

And that leads me to...

I realized that I never mentioned what had happened with the scheduling on our trip. We were going to Morocco and Egypt before heading to the UAE, but obviously that's out. So instead, we're going to Spain and Greece. I know. Such poor substitutes. lol. I'm super excited! We'll be visiting Madrid and Athens. (And Mel - I promise to have as little fun in possible in Spain without you. I wish you could come!)

So as I mentioned the other day, I signed up for Ali Edwards' Scrapbook on the Road online class. I just finished up assembling the album I'll take with me along with a small tool kit. I'm also going to be taking my Fuji Instax camera and film to get some little instant photos to stick in the book (but my big camera is coming too, of course! I already ordered extra memory cards and another battery. I plan to take a LOT of photos.) So here's an overview of the album. I made mine a lot more colorful and it has a lot of pages in it. Because I'm going for more than 2 weeks and we're visiting 5 countries (and because I know myself... lol), I put in a lot of space for me to write and for photos and memorabilia. I figure I can always take out anything I don't use.

Some pictures of the outside of the book. I made the covers from book board and then painted them. I added the decorations and then sealed the outsides with gel medium for a little protection.

SBOR Cover

SBOR Cover 2

And the inside - part one. I made all of the country dividers from cut down tabbed manilla folders. There are some extra pages and elements between the sections. I can use those for travel details between countries or just move them where I need them. I also did quite a bit of stamping considering how much of this is going to be covered up. But hey. It was fun and I was excited to be doing it!

SBOR Inside Before 1

And part 2... lots and lots of journaling space. I cut down a bunch of plain notebook paper to fit in the book - I did this for my travel journal in China and filled every page and then some and I loved having it. I figure I can also grab hotel stationary on the road and mix it in if I need it. Or even if I don't!

SBOR Inside Before 2

You can see where I just added a bunch of blank pages at the back that I can intersperse or just remove depending on what I need. I also tried all of the different techniques from the class videos and had a blast with this - I'm really glad I decided to take it because I think it helped me make a better album and do it pretty quickly too.

For most of the elements that I stuck in, I adhered them lightly so I can pull them off or move them. I anticipate that this will look nothing like what I'm starting with by the time I come back. But that's the point, I guess! Plus, the trip is 6 credits and we have to do an individual report plus a trip journal for the entire group (we'll take turns writing it) so I figure I'll have a leg up by doing this :)

It was super fun to put this together... now I'm all ready to go! Too bad it's still a month away. Maybe I got working on this too soon? lol. I'm glad to have it done and ready, though. When I get ready I'll pull my little tool kit together and just stick it in my carry-on.  Plus, it just feels good to do some scrapbooking again. :)

Yay for new cookbooks!

Especially really cool ones that you win on your very most favoritest foodie site! (I *heart* Tastespotting... I've been a follower for years. Melissa can attest to this, given that I got her totally addicted as well while we were working together.)

Silver Spoon Pasta Cookbook So yeah. I just saw on today's blog post that I won this cookbook! Given my adoration for all things pasta (especially lately), this is incredibly a propos. You can guarantee that you'll see something from this soon. Although maybe not all that soon given that I'm crazy busy (as you no doubt noticed by my neglectful blogging of late) and the fact that I leave on my school trip a month from today (double fist pump!!!)

Whew. So I'm psyched. And I promise to post more soon... I have one picture from a late night study session at my house last week where Brent caught me totally unaware. It's my best deer-in-the-headlights expression. Plus, naturally, more food. I braised some short ribs in my new le Creuset dutch oven (I'm totally in love with that thing) and made some fabulous gnocchi and even a batch of eclairs. It was all yum. AND... (don't fall over or anything), I've been scrapbooking! First I made a gift album for Melissa as a farewell gift from a few of us at work. No pictures of that one - it's all photos of co-workers with personal messages so I figured I shouldn't post it. I've also been working on my Scrapbook on the Road for my trip. It's coming along quite nicely. I'll post pictures soon.

Okay... back to work.

Time is flying by!

I can't believe how quickly time is moving. I'm still shocked that we're almost half-way through March! Things have been busy as usual... school, work, cooking, watching Colorado lose a lot of hockey games... keeping up with kickboxing on the weekends. It's mostly lots of fun, although work has been busy and stressful lately so the kickboxing has been coming in handy - it's like a session of Saturday morning therapy :)

Last weekend, I had been having a rough week so I planned a cooking & baking weekend to kick back and relax. First up: Friday night I made up a new cookie recipe. I need to get the recipe out and post it, but I'm calling them "kitchen sink cookies" since I just threw a bunch of stuff I liked in them. They turned out so good that I'm definitely going to make them again.

Kitchen Sink Cookies

These are made with bread and cake flour instead of regular and I subbed in quick cook oats for part of the flour. Then I threw in a bunch of coconut, a big handful of rough chopped pretzels, a smashed up graham cracker, and a handful each of cherry, white chocolate, milk chocolate and butterscotch chips. You could just kick back with a bowl of dough and a spoon and be perfectly happy, and the cookies were so good... keeping myself from eating more than one at a time was almost impossible.

Next, I decided that I wanted to make bolognese from scratch so I settled in to do that on Saturday afternoon. I found a bunch of different recipes that had things I liked about them, but the one I liked best was Anne Burrell's - plus it had a 5 star review with over 400 reviewers. How could it be bad? I'll admit I made a few changes... I cut back on the oil, used an alcholol free Merlot (quite nice, actually) and also added some mushrooms, fresh rosemary and parsley and for a little extra depth of flavor, cinnamon. I babied the sauce for about 5 hours and I have to say, it was divine.

While I was waiting for the sauce to cook, I made a quick batch of homemade baguettes (recipe from my Modern Mediterranean cookbook, which I'm really enjoying). They were perfect... golden and crispy on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle. I sliced off a few pieces and added a little goat cheese and some fig spread and just munched and savored while I stirred my sauce. It made for such a lovely, relaxing and delicious afternoon.

Homemade Baguettes

After the sauce had finally simmered and reduced long enough, I put it in the fridge for the night. The next day after church, I pulled out the extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid (which I absolutely LOVE - it's super fun to use) and made a good sized batch of homemade rigatoni. I think pasta is actually really easy to make, and using the extruder is even easier and faster than rolling it out.

Homemade Rigatoni

Then, like a good little cook, I pulled out the bolognese and got it heated back up and then finished my pasta in the sauce. One more round of adding liquid and reducing and then I finished it with a little good olive oil and some fresh parmiggiano reggiano. Yum, yum, yum.

Pasta Bolognese Cooking

Served with some roasted asparagus and fresh bread...

Pasta Bolognese

It made a lot and it's fantastic. I'm loving the leftovers, and I have some in the freezer too. A serving of the pasta and sauce is about 9 points+ on Weight Watchers. Not too shabby!

Then the week went by in a blur. Lots going on with school and work, super busy all the time and it was Friday again before I had even blinked, it seemed! So last night I went to the EMBA Honored Alumni Banquet over at the Marriott School. There were some people from previous classes, a few from our class and professors, deans, even a few students from the upcoming class. We also honored one of our professors, Burke Jackson, and that was really sweet - he's such an awesome teacher. I hung out and mingled for a while before dinner and then ended up at a table near the front with Chad, Steve and Joe from our class plus Steve's friend and Joe's wife, with another couple from a previous class. We had Todd Budge speak to us about ethics and he tied it in with the 23rd Psalm which was really quite enjoyable - fantastic message. Then they had the awards and acceptance speeches - Professor Jackson's was really touching and funny all at once; I'm lucky to have had the chance to take classes from him. The food was pretty good too... all in all a great night!

Tonight we had another dinner planned with friends - we were going up to a restaurant I had read about in downtown Salt Lake - Bambara Restaurant in the Hotel Monaco. It was shaping up to be one of our biggest groups to date and then in the end, there were only 4 of us! Darren and Mindy's daughter was in a cheer competition and advanced to finals that night so they ended up having to stay for that... then four other people dropped out as well, so it was just me, Chad, Brent and his wife Maggie. But we still had a great time and the rest of them totally missed out. The food was fantastic and we just chatted and joked around all evening. I got a few pictures during dessert.

Brent and Maggie:

Bambara - Brent and Maggie

One of Chad and I where you can see the gorgeous desserts (I had a pear tartelette with honey ice cream and a caramel sauce, Chad had a really fantastic walnut cheesecake):

Bambara - Chad and I 1

And another one after I told Chad I needed a picture where he looked like he was actually having a good time. lol.

Bambara - Chad and I 2

Sigh. Good enough.

The food was definitely worth the drive so I'm glad we still went. I had the roasted chicken with brussel sprouts and camembert bread pudding (can you say yum?) in a really fantastic sauce. Chad got a pork porterhouse on cheddar polenta that was really delicious, and Maggie got some really tender, falling off the bone lamb. Brent got diver scallops and I refrained from tasting. lol.

Whew. Now I still have a headache from all the laughing tonight and I still need to get to work on my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow. Nothing like procrastination! Off to grab some Excedrin and get to work.

A little Linkin Park love

I love me some Linkin Park... they always put on such a fantastic show!  I met Steph and Rae on Friday night for a little yummy food at the Gateway before the show.  We went to Happy Sumo where I ordered a salad and watched Steph and Rae enjoy sushi... lol.  But after dinner, we went to Kodiak Cakes Bear Country Cookies which I noticed on the way in because of the big "warm cookies" sign in their window.  Sigh. I really could have done without knowing that place was there because wow were those some delicious cookies.  I actually still have some of what I bought tucked away in my kitchen but it's taking all my self-restraint to keep from eating them all at once.  After cookies, Rae headed home and Steph and I walked over to Energy Solutions Arena for the show. 

Prodigy opened and the music itself was pretty good - nice sound which is unusual for an opening act - at least in the shows I've been to.  The stage show... well, they didn't quite understand how to adapt to their Utah audience and as I mentioned to Steph after they got off, I'm pretty sure I saw some of their dance moves in the Breakin' movies back in the early 80's.  Linkin Park, on the other hand, was completely awesome, as usual.  We both texted in our code to get a free download of the concert (waiting for it to be available) and really enjoyed it - the live version of "When They Come for Me" was ridiculous.  I was a bit bummed that they didn't do "Wretches and Kings," but they did my other favorites from the new album and most of the best songs from their other albums. 

A few pics from my phone (hoping Steph got better ones on her little camera.)

Blog photos 1

Blog photos 2

Blog photos 3

Whew!  Anyway, it was a blast, and thanks to Steph for coming with me!  I had tons of fun.

And to follow that, what better than great food?  I was recently chided for not posting recipes with all of my food pictures, so I'm including the recipe here.  lol.  (The exact quote was that it's "criminal" that I don't post recipes to go with the yummy pictures.  lol. too funny.) This weekend I tried my first recipe from my Modern Mediterranean Cooking cookbook and it was fabulous... my first attempt at a risotto.

Pumpkin-Parm Risotto

This is a Pumpkin, lemon and parmesan risotto (although the lemon is subtle).  You take 4 cups of chicken broth and bring it to a boil and then throw in a good pinch of saffron and reduce the heat to keep the broth warm.  Then, in a nice big pan (I use a 6 qt chef's pan), saute one finely chopped onion and 1-2 cloves of minced garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp butter.  Make sure you don't burn it, but you want a nice golden color.  Once you get that, add in 2 pounds of diced fresh pumpkin and 2 cups of arborio rice (I used a combination of fairytale squash or cinderella pumpkin and acorn squash because that's what I had on hand.  You can also use butternut - it's all good).  You want to cook this and stir constantly for about 3 minutes and then add 3/4C white wine (or in my case, 1/2 cup chicken stock + 1/4c vinegar - no wine on hand) and stir until it's been absorbed.  Then, you stir in 1/2C at a time of your stock that you're keeping warm over about 15-20 minutes.  You want to make sure each 1/2C is totally absorbed before you add the next.  I started tasting and seasoning with S/P at this point.  Once you've added all the stock and the rice is nice and tender, season again with S/P as needed, remove from heat and stir in the zest plus juice of one lemon.  I also added in about 1/2 tsp of fresh chopped rosemary and about 1 1/2oz of fresh grated parmesan (the recipe calls for those as garnish - I prefer them mixed in).  Then serve it up hot with more parm and fresh rosemary on top.  The recipe says it serves 4-6, but I'd say 6-8.  4 gives you ENORMOUS servings.  6 is good sized and works out to 9 points+ on WW.  Dividing it into 8 would give you a nice side dish.

So there you go!  I've got a few more recipes marked in this book to try soon.  I'm thinking of doing a homemade pasta with bolognese sauce and some homemade baguettes this weekend.  We'll see :)