Goodbye twenty-eleven

Superlative posts have become popular throughout the blogosphere. I’m not elloquent enough to compose one each month. But I do like the idea of looking back in time and reflecting.

Twenty Eleven had its ups and downs. In no particular order, I:

Was laid off and made a when life hands you lemons cake.

Found out I’d be recalled, but had no idea what I would be doing.

Ran my first-ever road race (and a 12K at that!).

Was on a total runners high and signed up to run a half-marathon.

I injured my IT Band, spent 6 weeks in physical therapy, and have only attempted running ONCE since July. No amount of foam rolling or IT Band strengthening exercises have helped :(

Went on a 2-week road trip to San Diego, Napa and Portland.

Was recalled to a new school/position and began teaching 4th grade.

Picked up a few freelance writing gigs on Foodbeat NW.

Foodbeat NW Logo

Hosted my first giveaway.

And cooked/baked up a storm.

What is your favorite memory from 2011?

Firebird Chocolate giveaway winner!

Are you feeling a bit underwhelmed now that the hullabaloo surrounding Christmas has subsided?

I am always so excited to give everyone their gifts, albeit a bit stressed – wondering if what I wrapped would be well received – but after the day is done I feel like I’m missing something. Lots of cleaning helped fill my void. But I’m here to admit, I’m a bit melancholy.

Luckily, I have one last gift to give – the Firebird Chocolate giveaway! I chose a winner at random, via random.org

And the winner is Megan of Running Foodie - congrats Megan! I’ll be sending your chocolate shortly!

Merry Christmas!

In the past I was a skeptic,

although I really should have only been skeptical of early 90’s fashion…

but this year Mr. Clause brought me a fancy shmancy sewing machine. So I guess now I believe :)

Skittles were also exchanged.

Merry Christmas from the whole Spinach and Skittles family!

The original Libb says hi too :)

How did you celebrate this year?

p.s. don’t forget to enter the Firebird Chocolate giveaway - it closes tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. (PST)

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

…well not really. It is dry here in Yakima. Not a speck of snow to speak of. Sigh. But my parents house is decorated with many items from my youth, which make me feel all warm and cozy inside.

Seriously, how cute is this little guy?
German glockenspiel – I really want one for my house – you light the candles and the figures in the center spin around
Santa stocking from when my Grandma taught in Japan, circa 1948
My brother, Jake, was obsessed with nutcrackers when he was a kid. For a while he got one every year for Christmas.
This little house was always filled with candy…not this year. I’m a little upset by this break in tradition.
These dolls are from when my Grandma was teaching in Germany, circa 1950.

Something else that makes me feel warm and cozy inside is a mug of locally roasted (and personalized!) coffee and fresh out of the oven cookies. I’ve never been a fan of snowballs, or Russian tea cakes as they are often called. I think it is because I’ve only ever had them made with walnuts. But they are the hubs favorite Christmas cookie, so I agreed to make him some. And guess what? Made with pecans they are actually quite scrumptious.

Snowballs

yields 30 cookies

Recipe from my mother-in-law

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar *
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups pecans, finely chopped

*Additional powdered sugar for rolling

Directions

Preheat oven to 400.

In a large bowl cream butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour and salt. Add to butter/sugar/vanilla mixture. When thoroughly combined add pecans and distribute evenly.

Roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Space evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes. Do not brown!

Let cool 2 minutes and roll in powdered sugar.

Once fully cooled, roll in powdered sugar a second time.

Enjoy!

Don’t forget to enter the Firebird Chocolate giveaway – it closes on Monday at 11:59 p.m. (PST)

What holiday treat do others around you love, but you aren’t a fan?

Firebird Chocolate Giveaway

Today my little blog turns one. And what better way to celebrate than with chocolate?

Firebird Chocolate is the brainchild of Foodbeat Northwest’s founder, Michael Smith. Firebird Chocolate:

sources some of the world’s finest handmade, organic, better-than-Fair Trade chocolate. Our unique funding model puts more money into the hands that need it most, the farmers who provide the cocoa beans and other ingredients. Over half of the money earned in our sales go back to the farmers either directly (through acquisition of raw ingredients and profit-sharing) or indirectly (through the strategic partnerships we have set up with our vendors).

-Firebird’s Mission & Vision

I’m one of the only girls I know who isn’t a grab-it-by-the-handful-and-shovel-it-in chocolate lover. I only like good quality chocolate. Just like I only drink good quality wine. Subpar representations of what these two proofs that God loves me just aren’t worthy of my palate.

And, just like I only like good chocolate, I’m a sucker for good branding. Must be the former marketing professional in me. Similarly, I choose books by their cover.*  Firebird Chocolate definitely has cute labeling, which drew me in. And the bars fit in the palm of my hand, which provides perfect portion control. Although this chocolate is so creamy and rich, it is unnecessary to have more than one square at a time.

*Shh, I used to be a librarian, I didn’t say that.

The milk chocolate (41% cocoa) doesn’t have the chalky aftertaste I’ve come to know from mass-produced milk chocolate. Instead the flavor lingers in your mouth, long after the square has been consumed. But the star of the show is the dark chocolate espresso (70% cocoa). One bite sent me back to my days as a barista, filled with the glorious smell of espresso as shots were pulled for the waking. The chocolate isn’t just espresso flavored, but it has actual espresso beans chopped up and mixed inside. While, again, one bite is a sufficient after dinner treat, the flavor and calorie content make eating the entire bar in one sitting entirely appropriate. In fact, it might be a requirement.

That’s an ingredient list I can get behind. 

Firebird Chocolate is based out of Seattle and is available for purchase at small independent retailers and online. In Spokane you can find their chocolate at Atticus Coffee or Chocolate Apothecary.

When Michael realized my blog was about to turn one he was thrilled to celebrate with me, and is offering one lucky reader the chance to try three bars of their chocolate (Dark Chocolate Espresso, Milk Chocolate and Huckleberry Dark Chocolate).

To enter, simply visit Firebird Chocolate and tell me, by leaving a comment on this post, which chocolate from their currently available and/or future available chocolate you’re most interested in. They also take suggestions on flavors you’d like to see. I think a dark chocolate with sea salt would be divine.

You’ll receive an extra entry for tweeting about this giveaway (and leaving a separate comment). Stuck on what to say? Perhaps you could write:

@spinachandskittles is giving away Firebird Chocolate, which sources some of the world’s finest handmade, organic, better-than-Fair Trade chocolate

This giveaway closes at 11:59 p.m. Monday, December 26th.

*Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review, all thoughts and comments are entirely my own. Michael sent me a few chocolate bars along with a Christmas card because he is nice like that. I asked him if he would be interested in donating the bars for this giveaway. He happily agreed.

How pinteresting: Slow cooker chipotle black beans over rice

Two important things before we get to the recipe: a) Happy 60th Birthday to my dad!

b) tomorrow is my one-year blogiversary – check back for an exciting giveaway from Firebird Chocolates!

And now, the pinteresting recipe:

(pinned here, via)

I spotted this slow cooker chipotle black bean dip Monday and immediately re-pinned it. It has easy and quick written all over it. I also happened to have nearly all the ingredients in my pantry, which meant I could whip up dinner without running to the store. #winning

I don’t, however, consider tortilla chips to be an appropriate carb base for my dinner, so instead I enjoyed this marvelous dip over brown rice, (I think quinoa would be a great alternative). The leftovers I wrapped in a warm flour tortillaland tortilla. ‘Twas scrumptious. It isn’t pretty, but then again, this is a meal comprised mostly of beans. You can’t expect too much.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Black Beans & Rice

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 4

Nutritionals: 387 cal, 41g carb, 14g fat, 23g pro, 9g fiber, 3g sugar

Ingredients

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can non-fat refried beans

1 cup salsa (I used Kirkland Organic)

10 oz frozen corn

2 chipotle chiles, diced (in adobo sauce)

6 oz shredded cheddar cheese, divided into 4 oz portion and 2 oz portion

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Directions

In slow cooker, combine black beans, refried beans, salsa, frozen corn, chipotle chiles, 4 oz cheddar, cumin and garlic powder. Heat over low for 2 hours. Add onions and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 2 additional hours.

Serve over brown rice or quinoa (or use as a dip). Top with remaining cheese, sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), green onions, avocado and tomatoes.

Enjoy!

 

I’m linking up with Camille at All Things Lovely for her Pinterest Recreation Linky Party – check out what others are recreating here.

What is your favorite use of chipotle peppers?

Thank you!

Thanks so much to Molly over at Lives in Progress for awarding me the Liebster Award. The two lovely ladies at Lives in Progress and I first found each other via Mixx and Match’s Teacher’s have Class and Style October 2011 edition.

Liebster means “dearest” in German. This award is given to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers.
The award has these stipulations:
1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your 5 blogger picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Hope that the people you have sent the award to will forward it to their favorite bloggers.
So, without further adieu, here are my nominees:
1. Julie at Spinach and Sprinkles (which I originally found because our blog names are so similar, and stuck around because she is so awesome – plus she is a fellow teacher, which earns a spot in my professional heart)
2. Tessa at Amazing Asset, whose daily struggle with moving forward from ED really hits home with me. She is stronger than I was when going through all of these scary changes, and she is sharing them, which helps others going through the same thing (more than I think she knows).
3. Kiah at Good For Me Girl, which I always pronounce K-I-AH even though I know it is KEY-AH, like the car. Sorry Kiah :)
4. Katie at Real Food Katie’s Way, check out her Crockpot Chronicles – great, easy recipes!
5. Becky at Yank in Yorkshire, who is an American (and my friend) studying in England. Her stories are well written and amusing. Plus she just got engaged in Paris, watch out Will and Kate – you’ve got some competition for best British couple :)
**disclaimer** I think this award was designed by someone who has a blogspot or blogger hosted blog, as both have “followers.” WordPress, as far as I am aware, does not have followers…I have followers via email and twitter, and you can follow other wordpress blogs, but those without wordpress blogs can’t follow you the same way you can if you have a blogger or blogspot blog…long winded way of saying, I have no idea how many followers some of the blogs I nominated have, but if they are new blogs to ME and my google reader, then I think that counts. Right?
p.s. check back on Friday for my one-year blogiversary giveaway from Firebird Chocolates!