Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I chopped a lot of veggies on Wed to make prep easier, and somehow still spent a good portion of the day in the kitchen on Thursday. Bummer. We certainly ended up with a crazy amount of food. I was trying to keep it reasonably balanced, but it ended up carb-heavy after all. After we ate, half the mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and turkey went into the freezer for future meals.  Here was our bounty this year:

  • Turkey – baked breast-side down as usual to keep the white meat more moist, rubbed down with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Yum! Boiling the carcass has generated several gallons of broth for future meals.
  • Stuffing – I cooked a half roll of Italian sausage, then sautéed a skillet full of onions, mushrooms, garlic, chopped carrots, celery, yellow squash, and zucchini. I added all this to a bag of Pepperidge Farm bread chunks. There was enough moisture from the veggies that I did not need to add any moisturizing broth or water. I have never added sausage before, and was surprised how just that little bit really added a lot of flavor.
  • Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries – the sugar and raspberry balsamic vinegar hardened into tooth-breaking crystalline texture (like the red shell of a candied apple), which promptly melted and ran all over the place when added to the sprouts. The result was okay, but I do not expect to make it again.
  • Green beans with mushrooms – I had an idea in mind, and this recipe is fairly close to what I envisioned. I was less than enthused about my results. They were edible, but not exciting.
  • Sweet potatoes – I cut out half the butter and sugar and didn’t miss it at all. Even Alex liked them, and getting him to eat sweet potatoes is usually a challenge.
  • Mashed potatoes – The bag from Costco suggested cooking them in the crock pot. I set the timer to cook them overnight. I doubt I will do that again. The potatoes turned yellow and smelled funny in the morning. I creamed them, added sautéed garlic, and baked to reheat just before serving. They turned out pretty tasty, but the color was still a bit dingy.
  • Mac & Cheese – I used this recipe as a base as usual but added additional seasonings and used a healthy dose of pepper jack for some extra seasoning.
  • Cranberry sauce – I doubled the recipe, reduced the sugar by 1/3, added a grated apple, and included the zest from the orange I juiced. The apple was not grated as much as I thought and I didn’t like the visual appeal when it was done, so I used the immersion blender to puree it. I also made it the day before and then served it chilled. I liked it last year, but I thought it probably the best part of the meal this year.  Alex did not share this opinion.
  • Pumpkin pie – I bought a frozen pre-made one months ago when they were on sale but it’s just been occupying freezer space since so I baked and served it. It was good, but I like the seasoning combo from homemade a little better.
  • Death by Chocolate – I bought the ingredients, but Alex made every bit of it himself. It is layers of double chocolate brownies, chocolate pudding, devil’s food cake, and whipped cream. He found some snack-sized Butterfinger bars left over from Halloween, and he shredded them for a garnish on the top. Isn’t it pretty?
We certainly have much to be thankful for as we reflect on the blessings of the past year. I am not sure just why we choose massive amounts of food to celebrate our thanks, but since I love to cook, it is a vessel I enjoy using.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

AP Exams

Besides taking his Network+ exam, Alex also struggled through three AP exams this week. Yes, it was a busy week! He tested for English Literature Composition, Government, and Statistics. He has no idea how he actually did on them. Unlike the IT tests that give instant results, AP exams take a few weeks to give results since they all have free-response and essay areas. This is only the second year his school has offered the AP Stats, he has not been happy with the teacher, he has struggled with grade (hard to tell how much is the teacher and how much is just not understanding the material) so he wasn’t expecting a great result for that. He actually was surprised that he knew more than he thought he did, but there were still topics they never discussed in class so he was obviously guessing on those. It will be interesting to see how his exam scores actually break down.

When one of the teachers asked how he thought they did on the stats test, Alex said that since it was only the second time they were testing, and nobody passed last year, he did not feel he had enough statistical data to make a reasonable estimation of their chances of passing. Cute.

Network+ certification makes #10

From Alex's network teacher, sent to school management:

He is the first student to sit for the CompTIA Network + Exam at GHS. Not only did he work hard for the privilege to sit for the exam, he PASSED with flying colors!!!! Please congratulate him when you see him!

I didn't realize he was the first student from his school to ever take this test. He now has 10 certifications earned as a result of being in this IT program at school. I got a little behind in posting his successes, but here is what he ended up with:

  • CompTia A+
  • CompTia Network+
  • Dreamweaver CS 3
  • Dreamweaver CS 4
  • IC3
  • Office 2007: Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access
  • Vista