Wednesday, October 17, 2012


The current trendy carb: quinoa.

What is this difficult to pronounce food?

Quinoa (keen-wah) is usually considered to be a whole grain, but it is actually a seed that comes from South America. But it is often prepared as grains are like rice or barley. I had seen all sorts of recipes and articles and such about this grain and I didn't think I was trendy enough to try it out, but I put my insecurities aside and purchased my first bag. Speaking of isn't the cheapest item in the grocery store, but keep in mind, a little bit goes a long way because it fluffs up when you cook it just like rice.

Reasons why quinoa is "in" right now:

1. It is considered a healthy alternative...and these days all things healthy are "in"...thus...
2. It is gluten and cholesterol free. Another big thing right now, the gluten free phenomenon. I do understand some people are required to eat gluten free however, so for them, this is great!
3. Although high carb, also very high in protein--it fills you up very quick! So bulk it up with veggies and other goodies and you have a hearty healthy meal that will keep you full and satisfied.
4. It cooks quickly. Once your water is boiled it only takes about 10-15 minutes to get that high protein grain nice and fluffy and ready to eat.

So that's all of the reasons I could come up with...but I think they're pretty least for me who is easily lured in by trendy things. Congratulations Quinoa, ya got me.

I posted a recipe in my last post that included quinoa in the recipe and I highly recommend it. If you like pizza, you'll enjoy these yummy quinoa pizza creations!

I had tried another recipe before that because the picture on Pinterest caught my eye. Anything with broccoli and cheese has to be good! I've tried to spread the broccoli love to my kindergarteners...they're not quite on my level yet. is a broccoli and cheese casserole, but instead of rice, I'll give you one got it! QUINOA! Very very yummy. LOVED this one!

I tried another recipe last week which has been my favorite so far! I am always looking for things to take in my lunch that are healthy, that will keep in a lunchbox, and preferably don't have to be heated. We eat lunch in our classrooms so its a little difficult to run to the microwave everyday. All that to be said, I discovered this quinoa recipe, surprise surprise; which turned out to be a great lunch box option.

Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Recipe adapted from here

What you will need:

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
(Another great addition is tomato if you want to add more to it!)
Lettuce to serve on (optional)

Dressing Ingredients:
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chile pepper
pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 

What to do...
Check the quinoa package to see if it needs to be rinsed (it often needs to be rinsed in a mesh strainer). Combine quinoa, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, or until all water is absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Combine diced red pepper, drained black beans, green onion, and cilantro in a large bowl. Set aside and make dressing.

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together.

Add the (fairly cool) quinoa to your other ingredients and then stir in you dressing. Add enough to moisten all ingredients. 

The salad absorbs the dressing especially well when it is refrigerated so it is best after it has chilled for a little while. I scooped mine on top of some lettuce and ate it as a salad, but it is also great by itself! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

football and food: my life as of late.

Fall is officially here! As cliche as it may is my most favorite season of all. The colors, the smells, the food, the leaves, the weather, and football season! My "visitor" as mentioned in my last post, warned me that when football season came, our weekends would look a little different. Having grown up with two brothers, and a family who thoroughly enjoys watching sports, I (thought I) knew what to expect.

I do enjoy watching football. I enjoy attending the event more than anything, but when that isn't an option, I do enjoy watching it on TV. There's something about the sound of the band, the announcers and ESPN Gameday echoing through the TV on Saturday that I just love. One of the first weekends of football this season, I spent with Visitor at his house. Auburn played at 11 AM that Saturday, so I (stupidly) thought "Oh good! Then we'll have the afternoon and evening to do something fun/enjoy this beautiful day!" Wrong. That evening I totaled the hours of football viewing. 13 hours, my friends. 13 hours. I guess I can't say I wasn't warned.

Now regardless of the 13 hours of football, I did have a great time. I'm glad I can do something with Visitor that I know he loves. And bless him, because he is so patient with me when I ask silly questions about this sport that I still don't completely understand. To this day, I get umpires and referees confused. Embarrassing...I know. So...Visitor, if you're reading this, thanks for opening my eyes to the unknowns of sports. I know my brothers appreciate you.

Once I accepted the fact that football season meant "different looking" weekends, I decided I could still have my fun during these viewings. When we don't get to make it to the Plains for the game, and we are sitting on the couch, I have found I can spend way too much time (and run down my phone battery three times in a day) on Pinterest. Thanks to this lovely invention, I have been pinning a million and one scrumptious looking recipes. If any of you Pinners can relate, you have pages and pages of recipes on your Pinterest boards and have never attempted any of them. I decided this would stop. I was going to tackle some...while Visitor watched football.

So this weekend, Visitor and little brother (home from college) got to be my taste testers for some Pinterest inspired creations. I have been on a quinoa kick lately. If you haven't cooked with it...and you like carbs...go get some! It is a great healthy alternative and is full of protein (and gluten free!).

*Recipes linked to the pictures below.

Visitor and I at the Auburn vs. LSU game

family at the tailgate--missing brother and sister-in-law!

reunited with my best friend on the Plains! 
Baked Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes

a taste of fall in a bite size treat

Quinoa Pizza Bites

And can always find a reason to need a cookie cake, right?

Friday, August 17, 2012

'twas the weekend before Kindergarten...

I have been anxiously awaiting the first day of Kindergarten for some time now. After much preparation throughout the summer, especially over the last few weeks, Monday finally arrived and I welcomed my little nuggets to my classroom. Several people asked me "What are you going to do with them on the first day?!" Dance party. Obviously. And that is just what we did. A few tears were shed by some uncertain 5 year olds who hesitated entering this new classroom in their freshly pressed school uniforms. But the minute I turned on the music, they let loose and I knew we would be just fine.

Today is Friday which makes one full week! We are still doing our morning dance parties...they call it the "wiggle" song. I should have known starting day one off with this routine meant it was going to stick. I can't say I don't love it myself though.

So far it has been great! I'm still adjusting to the change from my summer schedule as well as having 5 year olds instead of 3 year olds. However, the pros far outweigh the cons and I am very excited for this year. 

I decided that before I began this adventure that is Kindergarten, I ought to have a good weekend before I dove in. I am a big fan of "doing things". Sounds silly I know...let me explain. Don't get me wrong I love my Friday nights and Saturdays with no agenda and downright laziness. However, I also love having "things" to do. Nashville is a very cool, hip, trendy place with lots of these "things" to do, but I've never seemed to be able to find them. I usually end up at my same favorite restaurants, in the same part of town, followed by the same weekend laziness of lounging in my "duster" (a duster is what we McKinneys call our pajamas). This past Saturday was a little different. I had a "visitor" coming in town for the weekend and I told him I had planned something fun for Saturday morning/afternoon. Sure enough, he had come up with an idea himself for Saturday night. Boom. We were in business. Saturday was booked with "things" to do that wouldn't allow me to wallow in my duster.

Much to his surprise, he and I would both be attending a cooking class at the Viking Store. Not just any cooking class, mind you. No, no. This was a Sushi Class. If you're thinking "AWESOME" that was my same thought prior to when I instinctively clicked "purchase". I was hesitant when I called "said visitor" to share the news of this class, but I'm pretty sure he was just as excited as I was.

We arrived Saturday morning in kitchen heaven. I wanted to buy the whole place. In fact "visitor" told me to "chill out" at one point. Oops. We were greeted by our chefs who had aprons, nametags, green tea, and edamame waiting for us. My eyes were probably as big as the plates because I was already having so much fun and we hadn't even started cooking yet! Our head chef was great and so informative and knowledgeable. She taught us the history of sushi, sushi etiquette, proper chop stick technique, and of course how to make the rolls! She demonstrated for us first, and for the last 30-45 minutes we got to create our own sushi rolls. I was literally having the time of my life.

We learned how to make California rolls (normal and fried...the latter being the better of course), Cucumber rolls, Hand rolls (OUR FAVORITE!!!!-pictured), and miso soup. They offer a variety of different classes and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun "thing" to do. You'll have a new addition to your resume: sushi chef. Don't think for a second I'm going to be humble about it.

After stuffing our faces with our (self prepared...) sushi, we packed up a picnic (we like food, can you tell?) and made our way out to Arrington Vineyards; a vineyard located about 25 minutes south of Nashville in Arrington, TN. The weather has been surprisingly pleasant lately and it didn't disappoint Saturday night either. We enjoyed our picnic, drank some dee-licous wine, and listened to Kix Brooks put on a free concert. Another highly recommended point of interest to anyone looking for something fun to do in Nashville. It was my first time to visit and I can't wait to go back when it isn't so crowded. 

My weekend couldn't have been better. I made sure it served as a kickoff to a great school year. But what really helped kick off my first day of school was the bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils I received that morning before I headed out. Flowers really are lovely....but isn't a bouquet of pencils just much more fitting for a teacher...? I think so. :) 

Kindergarten stories coming soon...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Be hospitable without complaint.

How many times have you been asked to "describe yourself in one word"? One of those interview questions I dread. How am I supposed to impress these people with one word in hopes I don't come off as one who thinks quite highly of themselves? I think this question should be restricted from interview questions simply because I believe it is near impossible to confine one's character and personality in a single word.

Now to completely contradict what I just said, I am going to celebrate someone on my blog today who deserves a million words to describe how wonderful and great and loving they are (see...there were 3 words already). Today is my mom's birthday. She quite possibly encompasses any adjective that has synonyms such as kind, loving, genuine, compassionate, caring, sweet, giving, beautiful, amazing, etc. etc. etc. You get the idea. But if I had to pick one word, that was also representative of her spiritual gift; it would be hospitable. Webster defines "hospitable" as "given to generous and cordial reception of guests".

In 1 Peter, Paul says "Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

The Greek word, hospitable, as Paul used it meant quite literally "Stranger-loving, kind to strangers". Being from the south, we understand hospitable to be hosting friends and family wether it be parties, weddings, showers, tailgates, dinners, etc. However Paul tells us here to love strangers. Sounds simple, but more times than not we pass by opportunities to help or serve others. Maybe it is so out of our comfort zone, or maybe we aren't observant enough to notice the strangers that we could be loving.

If I've learned anything from my mother it is to love on others. She has been blessed with the gift of hospitality. She can cook for the masses and those masses will leave with full bellies of homemade goodness. She can turn a dining room table into a beautiful masterpiece with unique touches that draw everything together. She can throw a graduation party that will bring an entire class of seniors to one house just for her famous stuffed mushrooms and butter gooey cake. She can make a bride and her bridesmaids feel like princesses the day before the big day. She can love on people any where any time, given any circumstance simply because she sees people and has a desire to engage with them and put a smile on their face.

We often give her a hard time about her tendency to talk to anyone in public; especially anyone who she senses she might have some sort of connection with that could strike up a conversation. Just recently she and my dad went to Disney World. Coincidentally, they kept running into the same family throughout the day. As you would guess, my mom didn't hesitate to start small talk with the mother of this family. This small talk turned into several conversations throughout the day and by the end of the day my mom was able to tell my dad all about this woman's life; her friends back home, her marriage, her family. My dad asked if he had gotten her name. She hadn't. She had just simply conversed with her throughout the day.

She loves on people. She listens. And she gives great advice. She is "hospitable without complaint". Many of my friends feel just as comfortable confiding information in my mom as they do in me. She probably knows more about my friends' lives than she does mine. She has that connection and that ability to listen and show love in a way that is so comforting.

Today is her birthday. Today is the first day since high school I have been home for her birthday. Usually I am in the middle of sorority rush and don't get to properly celebrate. Today I will get to spend the day with my sweet mom and love on her as she has always loved on me. She is dedicated to her family and truly exemplifies what a Godly woman should be. I hope to be as hospitable as her some day. Big shoes to fill....I don't think my strawberry cake will ever be as good as hers.

Happy Birthday Mom! Love you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Family Vacay 2012

Last weekend the McKinneys went on a family vacay. Since Daniel and Krista moved to Dallas, it hasn't been easy for us to all be in the same place at once. Between all of our busy schedules we finally agreed on a weekend, took off work, and headed for Kansas City. I know what you're thinking at this point..."Wow...Kansas guys do it big on vacation." You may not know this, but my family is big on baseball. My brothers and my dad have been taking baseball trips since my brothers were little trying to mark off all of the stadiums on their list. It started as a boys trips, but as time went on they thought it would be nice to invite the girls. How kind. We are forever grateful. They usually pick pretty good places that accommodate to our needs as well...good shopping, good food, and a fun city. We can't complain. 

I had my doubts about this city. How random is Kansas City? I must say I was wrong. 

Five of us began the trek from Nashville at 6 AM Friday morning all piled in a rental (very modern and high-tech) mini van. They don't make mini vans like they used this point I wouldn't even mark it off my list of potential future cars. We had a 10 hour car ride full of stand still traffic, competitive car games, movies, chatter, and lots of bonding time. We even got to drive through St. Louis and see the arch, which I had never seen. Needless to say it was definitely a highlight for me.

Once we arrived in Kansas City, we soon reunited with my brother and sister-in-law. And then there were seven...

We soaked up every minute of the weekend. We saw the Royals play the White Sox Friday and Saturday night. We toured the Hallmark Museum, ate some famous Kansas City barbecue, did some shopping, celebrated Daniel and Krista's first year of marriage, and played a serious game of Wits & Wagers. 

It was such a treat for us all to be together for the weekend. I wish we could do it more often, but it just makes these occasions that much sweeter. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

5 months later...

Believe it or not, I am still alive. I won't type an entire paragraph as to why I haven't blogged in 5 months and dwell on the fact. Because quite honestly I would have no excuse. Writer's block, maybe?

Beginning in August I will definitely have more to write about. Since the last time I wrote, I have accepted a kindergarten teaching position! I plan on using my blog as an outlet for funny stories, school ideas, and life in general. I'll try and post more recipes here and there as well. 

Until I have something absolutely enthralling happen deserving of an entire blog post; I will leave you with 3 links that introduce you to 3 very important people in my life. My blog is an attempt at being a mediocre writer with hopes of making people laugh...these below are a little better than me and are guaranteed to enlighten you with their humor, wisdom, and even sports knowledge.

1. My Dad
If you've read my blog before you've probably read countless things about my dad. He is a very talented writer and I started a blog because of his inspiration. He started his blog here, but about a year ago was given a great opportunity to write a weekly column on the main page of Brentwood Home Page. His column, "What I Know" is published every Monday. A great read...and I'm not just saying that because I'm bias. 

2. My little brother
A writer in the making...and a good one at that. If I ever needed to know anything about sports, down to the smallest detail, I could ask him and receive a very thorough answer. He will be a sophomore at Auburn this coming Fall and is a journalism major. He was asked by SEC Jams to serve as the representative from Auburn and write articles about Auburn sports. I am so very proud of him and I know he is absolutely honored to represent Auburn in this capacity. 

3. My sister-in-law
I'll make two recommendations here. Follow her blog and follow her twitter (@forbetter_worse). She has such a fun sense of humor and outlook on life and situations that she'll have you laughing and crying. She is one of the most genuine people in my life and her words are truly sincere. Her blog is new to the world wide web but I know it is going to be a hit. She has a great use of words and knows how to keep you reading. I know you'll love her as much as I do!

So until I decide on a worthy post...enjoy these other fine reads. You won't regret it!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Superbowl: an excuse to eat lots of food

Funny how food is included in, if not the center of, almost every activity/event these days. And not just a little part of it either...take sporting events for example. There are cookbooks that are specific to tailgating food. You can't go to a baseball game without getting a hot dog. And if you can't make the sporting event--friends gather to watch while providing their own yummy goodness via potluck style--with dips of every sort, chips of all kind, and a plethora of desserts. This was my party of choice last night. I'm much more of a salty and dip kind of person, but I ended up bringing two desserts this time. And I had to share these recipes! Because not only were they dee-licious, but they were SO easy!

So I give you my two Superbowl creations, because it just simply isn't a Superbowl party without lots of food! I promised I watched the game too....well, maybe just the commercials...and the half time show.


It's impossible to start with these ingredients and not have a scrumptious outcome
Campfire Cookies (recipe found at The Girl Who Ate Everything)

That's right--you only need 3 ingredients for this melt in your mouth dip
I served it with graham cracker sticks and animal crackers--so many options!

Cake Batter Dip:
1 box of cake mix (any kind--I used yellow)
2 cups of Cool Whip
1.5 cups of Plain Yogurt

Mix in a bowl. Best served after having been chilled. Serve with any type of cookie (graham cracker, animal crackers, vanilla wafers, etc.)
*If you're always looking for ways to make your recipes a little healthier/cut back on fat/calories like myself...I used Fat Free Cool Whip and Fat Free yogurt and it still tasted great!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Who is Punxsutawney Phil?

Today is Groundhog Day. Some people call it a holiday, others call it an annual tradition/legend, and many often pass through their February 2nd completely unaware of Punxsutawney Phil's big debut. I guess I've never paid a whole lot of attention to the day, but this year being a teacher; I felt it was important to share the story with my kiddos...and I knew I could find some cute groundhog themed art to accompany the legend. Anything to keep them occupied and sitting at a table for more than 5 seconds.

One of my students' dads fulfilled a lifelong dream this year of traveling to Punxsutawney, Philadelphia to greet the furry little prophet when he crawled out of his burrow to make his prediction. His longing to attend this annual ceremony sparked my interest and I did a little research. The tradition dates back to early days of Christianity in Europe and Germany; also associated with an animal, a shadow, and a prediction of weather. This tradition made its way to Pennsylvania when German immigrants settled there. Very simple really; they bring Phil out, if there is a shadow, he "becomes frightened" and returns to his burrow to sleep for another 6 weeks--which in turn means 6 more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow, Phil welcomes spring.

The tradition remains and this year was Phil's 126th prediction. My guess is there is more than one Phil. But the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club keep the number of groundhogs that have appeared on the down low. Groundhog Day is kept alive by this 'Punxsutawney Groundhog Club'. (Yes this is a real club...imagine putting that on your resume). The members of this club take care of Phil year round and prepare for his big day. Phil lives in an enclosure in the Punxsutawney Memorial Library along with other groundhogs.

The way I see it is kind of like the North Pole. Phil is Santa Claus, and all of the other groundhogs (and members of this club that help prepare for the ceremony) are the elves. They spend all year in preparation for one day. They do their job and retire back to another year of preparation. Sounds cyclical. Speaking of cyclical...great movie: Groundhog Day.

I have no doubt this tradition will always remain, but isn't it funny that according to weather records, Phil has only been right 36% of the time, yet we still hold this large ceremony, watch it on the news on February 2nd, share the story, have countless childrens' books written about it, and even do crafts in its' honor. I guess there's just something cuter about a groundhog than a meteorologist.

Preschooler's version of Punxsutawney Phil

The real Phil. The legend himself.

Monday, January 30, 2012

My dog is going to Heaven

I often spend my mornings doing a devotion and reading from the Word. This morning was no different, other than the fact that I woke up a little late, and in a hurry to get to work, forgot to put my bible back on my bedside table. I came home on my lunch break, and when I walked into my room I saw this site: my sweet dog Ralph sound asleep, head resting right beside the open Bible, and a pen conveniently placed underneath his paw. I like to think he was spending some time in the good Word himself. I hate to boast, but I think I have proof that my dog is a pretty holy one. People always wonder if dogs go to Heaven. I know mine will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Agnus Dei", Lamb of God

Just a little love for Jesus as expressed through a little boy. This is sure to give you chills. Watch the whole thing. Incredible.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Jumping into a new year

Okay so let's just say I hit a busy, crazy, chaotic few weeks after Thanksgiving and my blog took the hit as far as getting the least attention. But who doesn't get busy during the holidays, right? So the last time I wrote was in 2011, which is no more! I can't believe it is 2012. I am glad it is a new year though, I was ready for a fresh start. 2011 was getting old.

New Years resolutions. Everyone makes them. And by the second week of January most are making some excuse as to why it hasn't worked, or like myself; compromising the resolution, so as to not seem that you have been a complete failure. Justifying the means as to why you must alter the original resolution. Here's an example. This year I decided I wasn't going to eat sweets. Not for an entire year, just for a "cut back". I shared this with my parents, which was probably my first mistake. The more people you tell, the bigger failure you feel like once you don't stick to your resolution. January 1st, not even 24 hours into the new year, I walked in the kitchen (with no intention of eating), and walked out with a brownie. Now, in my defense, it was one of those packaged low calorie, low fat brownies (there I go justifying again...), but chocolate is chocolate and I was caught red handed already eating a sweet. My dad, who had remembered mention of my resolution looked at the brownie, then at me. Without a word from him I quickly explained myself "I decided I'm not going to cut them out completely, I'm just going to eat less of them...and really New Years day shouldn't even count." His response "Already compromising one day in, huh? Sounds promising." So I decided I didn't need a holiday to tell me I needed to set goals and make resolutions. I'm pulling a rebel move on this one...I'm just going to make the resolution when I see fit. 

I've never been big on New Years Eve. Not only does it mark the end of the holiday season, but I think it is one of the most anti-climactic holidays that gets way too much hype...and usually ends up being kinda "blah" as I call it. This year didn't prove much different. As I dressed up in a sparkly top ready for a night downtown, I found myself in my pajamas by 10 and at Sonic at 11:30 P.M. with my best friend, drinking a milkshake. The excitement didn't stop there. We then proceeded to her house where we watched Dick Clark in Times Square, saw the ball drop, and jumped off the fireplace at midnight. The fireplace tradition comes from my dad. He used to tell us when we were little that was how we "jumped" into the new year. I used to think the year would only change if we jumped off the fireplace. To this day, every year I share the fireplace tradition wherever I am. I can usually get a few to join me and I believe a few have even adopted the tradition themselves. So even though my New Years Eve usually starts out every year with big plans and expectations, it almost always results in retiring before 10 to pajamas, a couch, family or a few friends, and a fireplace; and I am perfectly okay with that.

Oh and like I said...the fireplace tradition goes with me every year. And it doesn't stop just because there may be lacking a fireplace. When my family was in Tampa a few years ago for the Outback Bowl, we retired to the hotel room (told you--every year never fails) and made the beds makeshift fireplaces. If we hadn't jumped that year, we'd be behind. It's just tradition. Happy New Year!