First of all: Shout out to my sister on her birthday today!!!!! πŸ™‚

Wow…I have so much to blog about! Let’s start with something that I got in the mail the other day!!!!

I haven’t tried these out on the bike yet (they came with the clips, but not the pedals – what?!?!?), but as soon as I buy the pedals – which I may just buy a new set of clips/peds depending, I am trying these out! I’ll let you know how they work and such. AND….they fit like a glove! Perfecto! The jersey – same thing, I just didn’t get a picture. Soon, my friends.

This morning I boiled up some eggs for a *healthy* egg salad. What, you say? I know, egg salads are not the healthiest thing around, but I tell you this one is so good – and not as bad as you may think. So, first I’m going to tell you how to PROPERLY boil an egg – to perfection, my friends.

It’s usually the most simple kitchen tasks that get messed up because it’s so easy to ignore the importance of them, but that gray-green ring around the yolk of an over-cooked egg has got to be one of the most unsightly culinary mistakes out there. The reason this occurs is a reaction between the yolk and albumen as the egg cooks at high temperatures for too long, so preventing the ring (and that sulfurous smell that accompanies it) is pretty much as simple as not overcooking the eggs.

Overcooked eggs are harmless to eat, but they’re not particularly tasty – the whites are rubbery and the yolks are chalky. So, to boil an egg and retain a vivid yellow yolk encased in a delicate white, just follow these simple rules:

1. Start and end with cold water
You want to start your eggs covered with at least an inch of cold water and finish them by running under cold water. Gradually increasing the temperature of the water from cold to boiling is key to preventing the whites from becoming rubbery before the yolks have a chance to cook. It also reduces the chance of the shells cracking during cooking, as air trapped inside the shell can be released gradually, rather than as a burst of steam. Running them under cold water afterward halts the cooking process, which also prevents the whites from overcooking and being rubbery, as well as preventing that dreaded ring. Today, I also put some cold water in a bowl to set in the refrigerator while I prepared the other parts of the egg salad.

2. Season your cooking water
Add a small splash of vinegar and a pinch of salt to the water you are going to boil the eggs in. This has two effects. The first is that, if by chance an egg shell does accidentally crack, the protein will coagulate instead of seeping out and making a mess of the water. The second is that it slightly softens the shell of the egg, making it easier to peel later.

3. Use β€œold” eggs
This doesn’t actually make a difference as far as the cooking process goes, but eggs that are very fresh are more difficult to peel once cooked, which can affect their appearance if the shells do not come off cleanly. Try to use the older carton of eggs in your refrigerator when making boiled eggs because they will separate easier from their shells. In the case today, I knew I would be making these late last week when I made out my menu plan, so I bought my eggs well in advance.

4. Use a timer
Once you bring the water to a boil over high heat, cover the pan, turn off the heat and start the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, drain the water and transfer the eggs to an ice bath or run under cold water until cool, to prevent overcooking.

That’s it. If you start large eggs over high heat, covered with an inch of cold water seasoned with salt and vinegar, and turn off the heat when they come to the boil, cover and let sit for 15 minutes in the hot water, then run the eggs under cold water until cooled, you have perfectly cooked hard boiled eggs every time.

The finished product:
Perfectly boiled eggs. Yumm-o!

I boiled 11 eggs (I know, odd number – I needed to leave 6 for another project). I used 7 eggs in my egg salad recipe. And here is the recipe – this one is so good! I love cold egg salad during those hot summer days.

7 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1-1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

*Note* I like less mayonnaise (I don’t like the taste of it very much) and more mustard, so feel free to adapt this recipe if needed to suit your own taste.


Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Remove yolks from 3 eggs and reserve for another use. Cut remaining egg yolks and all whites into 1/2-inch pieces.
Whisk mayonnaise and mustard in medium bowl to blend. Add chopped eggs, celery, green onions, and tarragon. Stir gently to blend. Season egg salad to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Look what I picked up at the store!

I’ve been eating these like candy.

So, for my lunch today I had some leftover salad with balsamic vinegar, cottage cheese, berries, and egg salad on 1 slice of Earthgrains thin bun (toasted – just how I like it!).

Check out this salad (picture is from when I made it yesterday – it was so good!)

My lunch plate:

I normally like a slice of tomato with my egg salad, but just forgot about it – I guess I was too hungry to care! Next time…

Micah got back a while ago from class. We really don’t have many weekend plans, but I’m thinking a picnic is in store! Also going to spend some time on my bike and also some running. Catch you later!

Do you have any fun plans for the weekend?

Quinoa Cakes!!!

See? I told you I would have a unique recipe! πŸ™‚ I originally got this idea a while back from Herbivoracious – LOVE that blog! However, I did change this recipe after having an abundance of spinach that I needed to use up. Plus, I’m all for combining 3 of my absolute favorite foods! You can read about the health benefits of quinoa here. Here you have it:

Quinoa Cakes w/ Spinach and Goat Cheese

2 cups spinach, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 ounces goat cheese
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

1. Wash and chop the spinach, pat dry. Mince the garlic. Heat 1 tablespoon
of olive oil in a small skillet. Cook the garlic until lightly browned, about a minute, then add the spinach. Cover, and cook until wilted. Set aside and let cool.

2. In a small saucepan, mix the quinoa and the goat cheese over low heat (to help melt the cheese). Remove from heat when well combined.

3. Chop the cooked spinach finely, mix with the quinoa and goat cheese. Beat the egg and mix in until everything is combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Form the quinoa into 2β€³ patties about 1/2 inch thick. Cook until well browned on one side, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side, then set on paper towels to drain.

I like to eat mine with some hot sauce…..or maybe I like some quinoa cakes with my hot sauce? πŸ˜€

My day was much better today. I must say I have a pretty awesome husband and great friends that lift me up when I need encouragement. Thank you so much! I’m now making a list and submitting session proposals to present my thesis research at various conferences around the county. And if I don’t get employment as a teacher, I plan to continue research in music education on my own, because I truly believe in music education. Like I have said to many people – I didn’t go into education for the money (obviously). I wanted to make a difference, and there is no doubt I will no matter if I have my own classroom right away or not. AND, there are still 4 positions that I am waiting to hear from and 1 other bigger position one that is a big secret (it’s nice to wish – right?)!!!!!

One more thought: In 20 days, we will have been married for 3 years! Each year is a milestone, in my opinion. Micah and I have our own anniversary traditions (which you can see here).

I can still remember our wedding like it was yesterday. Yes, even the moment when my phone rang (it was a wrong number). In my defense, I gave my phone to someone else for the day and they left it on the front pew during pictures…and then forgot about it. πŸ™‚ We still laugh about that! And for your viewing pleasure, one of my favorite wedding photos:

Do you have any birthday or anniversary traditions in your family? I’d love to know!

Check it out!

As many of you probably saw on my facebook or twitter, TRADER JOE’S IS COMING TO WEST DES MOINES!!! This is no doubt a dream come true. I always had to stock up when making my Chicago trips to see one of my best friends (right, Danielle?).

Today was pretty crazy. And to be honest I don’t want to talk about it. Right now, I just need lots of encouragement and I’m quite frustrated with the K-12 public education system in our country.

Food today. We’re not going there either. Sorry for the lame post. I’ll be back tomorrow in full swing with a very unique recipe for you!


P.S. How do you deal with life situations that are what you did NOT expect? I try to exercise like crazy to let out my frustration (and as a result I burn an INSANE amount of calories). Today I didn’t. Micah was home and was able to help me though it. We talked, and yes I cried. No shame here!!!

Spring (or summer?) Lettuce Wraps

These wraps were soooo good!!! This is quite a large recipe which allowed us to have lots of leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch! πŸ˜€ Oh yes. The key to Asian cooking is the union of cooking garlic and ginger together (fresh is always best!). The marriage of these ingredients creates what I like to call a great taste (AND smell) explosion that I can’t get enough of!

Spring Lettuce Wraps


1 T Sesame oil, divided
1 Β½ T Garlic, minced
1 Β½ T Ginger, minced
2 C Shiitake mushrooms, julienne sliced
2 C Carrots, julienne sliced
1 Cup Celery, chopped
1 Β½ C Green onions, chopped
4 C Cabbage, shredded
2 C Bean sprouts (one of my favorite foods!)
Β½ C Soy sauce, divided
2 T Sherry, divided
Romain Lettuce Leaves


1. Prep all the ingredients, combine the garlic with the ginger in a small bowl. Then prep and combine all the vegetable ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the soy sauce and sherry together in another small bowl. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and have them reserved for serving.

2. Heat Β½ of the sesame oil in a wok or large saute pan and then add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 2 minutes over medium-high heat, or until aromatic. Turn up the heat to high, and then add about Β½ of the vegetable mixture and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, then add Β½ of the soy sauce and sherry mixture, stirring well to coat for about a Β½ minute. Transfer to a serving dish. Wipe out the wok or saute pan with a paper towel and return it to the heat. Now, add the remaining sesame oil to the wok or saute pan, and then stir-fry the remaining vegetables for about 3 minutes, then add the remaining soy sauce and sherry mixture and stir well for about a Β½ minute. Then transfer the vegetables to the serving dish and mix well. Allow the stir-fried vegetables to cool slightly before serving.

Reason #1 why I need to invest in a wok (note: this did cook down quite a bit):

3. Serve individual plates with dipping sauce.

These were a huge hit with Micah, and he didn’t mind that it was all veggies! πŸ™‚ Although, it would be very easy to add some meat to this dish. You can also use whatever vegetables you want – these were what I had on hand (for the most part).

Side note: Micah has requested that I make my chickpea patties again – he LOVED them!!!

I’m relaxing tonight – I have a job interview tomorrow! Prayers are appreciated! πŸ™‚

Chickpea Patties + Tour

What a perfect day! We watched the Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery on television this morning. I have many memories (being a trumpet player) playing at many different Memorial Day services growing up all the way through college. It is a very important day that I hope people don’t just think of it as ‘another holiday’ or ‘another day off work.’

I made an early dinner tonight. It was lovely. I made some super-easy chickpea patties, and served them with a lettuce salad with mushrooms, cucumber, and tomato (all local) drizzled with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. All I have to say: YUM.

Here is the recipe for the chickpea patties.

Chickpea Patties

1 can chickpeas, rinsed
1.5 T. parsley (use 1/2 cup fresh if available)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. cumin
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. olive oil

In a food processor, pulse the chickpeas, parsley, garlic, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper just until coarsely chopped and the mixture comes together when gently squeezed.

Form into eight 1/2-inch-thick patties and coat with the flour, tapping off excess. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the patties, turning carefully, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

We also had some Pinot Grigio from our wedding. I must say it was very good!

As promised (a while ago), here are some photos of our apartment. We moved into this 800 sq. ft, which was a drastic change from our house that was about 1800 sq. ft. Drastic change let me tell you! Luckily we have a large storage room in our basement and we were able to bring our washer and dryer. πŸ™‚


The bad part:

We only have an apartment size stove. This is okay, and I’m dealing with it. This must be a cook’s worst nightmare! I was able to put several pans in storage, because they won’t fit. And, I’m learning to do without. Again I must think about those that don’t have what we have. We are so lucky to even have electricity and fresh drinking water. Did you know the average woman in this world walks an average of 7 miles a day to get water (and many times it is not good water).

Living Room (I took this picture when we first moved. It’s not as messy now!):

And I’m still trying to downsize our office (which once was an entire room) into 1 desk:

Hallway (bathroom on right, bedroom on left, spare room straight ahead):

Bathroom (with a pretty big closet on the right):

FYI: I have a load of laundry to do. πŸ™‚

On to the spare room (complete with music room + futon):

Unfortunately, my large bookshelf was damaged during moving, so I had to get creative. I have a LARGE amount of books (and I have 2 boxes in storage). So, here are just some of my piano and voice books – stored on top of the piano):

And more, stored on the floor – for now, until we get another bookshelf (and the box on the right is only 1 of my thesis boxes:

When we first moved, I found a filing cabinet at Salvation Army for $12!!!!! It now holds my LARGE library of choral music (over 1,200 scores):

There is also a large closet, which for now holds my school binders and books (of course they are organized):

And now, our bedroom:

FYI: The blanket on our bed currently is a quilt made by a very special person (an amish babysitter that my sisters and I had when we were little – I received this quilt from her for my high school graduation).

Closet (very full!):

FYI: I still iron most of our clothes.

One more – Guess who has an anniversary coming up? πŸ˜‰ We’ll be married 3 years pretty soon!

I think that’s enough for now. Hope you all have a wonderful evening!


P.S. Do you have any memorial day traditions? Do tell!


We had a pretty relaxing day around here. My sister ended up not visiting, so I wasn’t stressed about the house apartment (I still need to get used to that) looking perfect – I’m pretty picky when it comes to having visitors. Micah and I went to Cornerstone Church this morning. This is the second time we attended (we also attended a couple weeks ago).

Success!!! We loved it – awesome worship experience. Micah and I connected very well with the speaker and he introduced himself to us. We even got connected to another couple with connections in Burlington – what a small world we live in! The first time we attended we really thought the church would be too big for us, but we just needed to give it another chance. I also saw some relatives of mine. Micah and I finally felt like we were making progress on the whole meeting new people. πŸ™‚

We came home and I made lunch. Is it just me or do you also crave salads in the summertime? It’s something about the heat & humidity that makes me crave cool salads. I made a huge one – with some great lettuce from the Des Moines Farmers Market. I topped it with tomato (local), yellow pepper (local), mushrooms with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar – the best dressing in my opinion!

After lunch, we crashed. FYI: Sundays are mandatory nap days in our house! πŸ™‚ Then, we packed up and planned to check out another coffee shop. Unfortunately they closed early because of the holiday weekend. But since Panera was right around the corner, we settled there. Here was my view. πŸ˜‰

I have the BEST husband in the world!!! We had great conversation and LOTS of studying……

We got a sweet study bible for one of my graduation gifts and started digging this afternoon. Cornerstone is studying the book of Isaiah (one of my FAVORITE books of the Bible). This ESV Study Bible has really great commentary. Including one of my favorite Bible teachers……Dr. John Piper.

I started another Inductive Bible Study on the book of Isaiah. It’s amazing what you can learn in just reading a few verses of Scripture! And Micah and I were oh so thirsty!

Oh yes, back to Panera. I ordered an unpictured carrot walnut muffin and shared one of their new black cherry smoothies with Stonyfield yogurt. It was yumm-o! We were at Panera for a couple hours. We had great conversation. I know I’ve said this before, but investing in your marriage is PRICELESS!!!

We’ve been laying low the entire evening. Tomorrow we don’t have plans. Micah has studying to do for school, and I’m planning a bike ride, and who knows what else.

Leaving you with this thought: God is offended by religious ritual, however impressive, if it conceals an empty heart and a careless life.

Have a great night!

P.S. Tomorrow’s Post: Tour of the Apartment!!!

A perfect combination

Words do not describe today. Awesomeness.

We got somewhat of a late start, but still managed to leave the house around 8:30am. The trip to Des Moines was shorter than I expected, and I do plan to take advantage of that! πŸ™‚

The farmer’s market was packed!!!!

We’re talking packed as in it was hard to walk! And Micah isn’t a big fan of that – which is okay. After I scoped it out for a bit, I went in for the kill. I didn’t get pictures, but I got some great lettuce, spinach, asparagus, and tomatoes. I’m planning on using the asparagus for a pizza tomorrow, so stay tuned!

We originally wanted to get something to eat at the market, but with the hot sun, big crowds and long lines – we opted for something different. I picked up some roasted red pepper goat cheese. This was a.m.a.z.i.n.g. OMG!!!!! We also bought some pretzels for a little snack before lunch. This combination was perfect considering my infatuation with goat cheese AND roasted red peppers. Do I need help?

I got a very nice gift certificate to Olive Garden for graduation, so since we were in the area, we went there for lunch. I have to be honest. I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants, but who doesn’t love a free meal?!?! πŸ™‚ I don’t have pictures here, but I had some portobello stuffed ravioli. Also, a lovely glass of wine. πŸ™‚

Came home and crashed. We both took naps – much needed, and I gained some energy for a short ride. I did a 10-mile leisurely ride around town – perfect weather! Which leads me into my next topic…..

I was at the grocery store the other day deciding what product to buy for my work-outs to maintain hydration. When it gets to be summer and you have the hot temps, it’s hard for me to drink just water. Problem: Most of those sport drinks have HFCS in them. Which (if you know me), I refuse to buy. Then, I spotted this:

Verdict: Not bad! I liked the flavor, and it didn’t leave a bad aftertaste. The nice thing about it is that there are not many calories. I really LOVE to drink coconut water, but I have yet to find it around here….I’m sure I can find it somewhere, I’m probably just missing it. Hmmmm…..but this will definitely do until then….especially on those 20+ mile rides.

What do you use for hydration in your workouts? Any suggestions?

Grilled Vegetable Orzo Salad

Nothing new to report for today….except we will have our first visitors on Sunday! So, I am pretty busy unpacking the final boxes (only a few) that were in the spare room and making sure that everything is in it’s place. Just the way this OCD gal likes it. πŸ™‚

This is a recipe I developed last summer, but it never made it to the blog. It is so easy and you can adapt it to use the vegetables that you have on hand. Much better that your traditional pasta salad you find at those summer bbq parties – in my opinion! This is a larger recipe that I use to take with us. If I’m making it at home for dinner (just for 2), then I cut the recipe in 1/2 – at least.

Here you go!

Grilled Vegetable Orzo Salad

Zucchini, 1-inch diced
1 medium red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 medium red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo

For Dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To Assemble:
4 whole scallions (white and green parts), trimmed and sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3/4 pound good feta
15 fresh basil leaves (I use a scissors and cut the leaves myself, much easier this way)

Prepare the grill.

Toss zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer to a grill basket. Grill for 15-20 minutes, until browned, stirring occasionally. I would say this salad is best when the veggies are grilled, but if you don’t have access to a grill or want to save a bit of time, you can roast them.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the grill basket into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, feta and basil. Check the seasonings and serve at room temperature.

I also like to eat this cold – maybe that’s just me? Really, you can serve it warm, at room temp, or cold. Just depends on how you like it!

Have a great evening!

Do you have any favorite dishes you take to summer parties? I usually make a big batch of my salsa. It’s always a hit – especially when served with lime tortilla chips! πŸ™‚


Take a look at this:

This is what my AWESOME husband bought for me today! The shoes are brand new Nike cycling shoes valued at over $100. And the cycling jersey….well, if you do any biking, you will know that it’s hard to find a jersey under $50. We found this on Ebay, and paid $25 including shipping!!!!! I had been watching this for the past few days. When it came down to it, I asked Micah if I should bid, and he said no. 😦 Little did I know, he was bidding behind my back!!! This made for a very happy Amanda. πŸ˜€

Went for another 20 mile ride today. And this time, I did get lost. When I finally got back to town, I took a short cut. I would say today’s ride was perfect. There were still hills, but I was prepared. And they didn’t last the entire ride! There were 3 decent size hills, but I took it slow. Micah and I also had a lovely 45 minute walk this evening. I love investing in our marriage. I can’t put a price on it. ❀

My meals the past couple days have been incredibly uninspired. I'm sorry! I promise to have a recipe tomorrow – it's a good one, so stay tuned! Tonight, I have some spinach that needs to be used, so I made a HUGE spinach salad with red peppers, olives, and feta. I also used the Greek Feta Dressing. I’m not a creamy-dressing kind of person – in fact, I don’t ever remember liking it even as a child. I’m more of your oil/vinegar-dressing gal. But, I was in the mood for something creamy and this sounded pretty decent. It is very good. Here are the nutrition facts:

And my gigantic salad:


I’ve been glued to the news for the past couple weeks on the oil spill. It angers me – words do not describe. The photos and videos I have seen are so disturbing. Brings me to tears. I’m turning off the tv for the night – can’t take anymore of it. :*(

Have a great night! Don’t forget to comment if you would like to be added to my blog list! πŸ˜€

Questions for you:

1. Have you scored a good deal lately? I’d like to know about it!

2. What are your thoughts about the oil spill? I know that’s a very abstract question, but if you have any thoughts, feel free to comment!


What you say? Lobster? Okay, I’m not talking about food here people! That’s just what my arms look like right now. Yes, the first sunburn of the year happened today. It’s ok though. It doesn’t feel bad, and it’s not as bad as other burns I’ve had. I’m white as a ghost and always have been. Even with proper coverage I still burn. Anyway…….onward.

This morning, I packed up my gear and headed out on a nice ride…or what I thought was going to be a nice ride.

Pre-ride fuel:

Verdict: I hope these are still on sale!!! πŸ™‚

I used Map My Ride and found a ride (23.5 miles) that I thought would be doable for today with the amount of time I had. So I started out. And it felt great. Until about 10 minutes in. The hills – or mountains? – were intense for the first 15 miles!!! I did NOT think I was going to make it. Once I got back to the edge town, I thought I was lost. But I trusted my instincts and I was right on track. At mile 16 (after I was finally on flat land again) I started feeling pretty weak, so I had another bar (there are 2 small bars in a package, but I only had 1). I felt much better and had more energy to finish strong. Now that I know that route, I’ll definitely be riding it to train on hills. Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad – but in my defense I didn’t plan on lots of hills today.

When I got back I took a nice cold shower (Amanda Fact: She only takes cold showers in the summertime) and made a green monster. Okay, a purple monster – but it really looked brown. So good. In the mix:

3 Handfuls of Spinach
3/4 Cup Almond Breeze (this stuff is AMAZING – if you haven’t tried it yet, do it. Now)
1 T. Chia Seeds
1/2 C Frozen Cherries
1/2 C Greek Yogurt
1/2 Banana
1 T Protein Powder

Another Amanda Fact: Amanda eats 99% of smoothies with a spoon. I know they taste better that way!

I must say the cherries really made this GM a hit!

Micah wanted some study time out of the house, so it was the perfect time to introduce him to Stomping Grounds. Check out my last post about Stomping Grounds here. This time, I ordered the egg salad with local farm fresh eggs. Divine, I tell you! It was served open-faced, and the bread was awesome. It was some kind of multi-grain, and toasted. Micah wasn’t hungry, so he ordered a strawberry smoothie made with LOCAL strawberries. This was no doubt the BEST strawberry smoothie I have ever tasted outside of my home.

Currently we are enjoying Border’s. And I’m going to browse. It just might be a bad thing that there is a Border’s in this town…….;)

One more thing. I have added another page to the blog – Blogs I Read. If you have a blog and would like to be added to the list, let me know. I’ll gladly add your blog! Also, if you are reading this via email or GoogleReader, etc. hop on over to the blog. It looks a little different. I needed something more summer-like. πŸ™‚

Have a great night!