Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Luck of the Partial Irish

My Irish blood is coming in handy this month!
This week thus far has been freebie, amazing week! Last week I found a GYN 5 minutes from the lobby of our building that took our insurance and had open appointments for this week.  So I made an appointment over their affiliated appointment setter for 10:30 Monday morning.  The service sent me a confirmation email.  Then the clinic sent me a confirmation email for 10:00 am.  Which I thought odd but I called them and they said I was confirmed for 10:00 am and, since the craigslist gods have yet to place me in line with the perfect admin job less than an hour away via the Metro, it was no big  deal.  So I went to my appointment, took the clinic survey that they sent via email after, and then the appointment setter service survey that THEY sent me via email.  I mentioned that there may be a technical issue because there was a difference in time between the clinic and their reservation but there was no real big worry on my part.  
Well, about an hour after, I got a phone call from a representative at the appointment service.  The gal on the other end of the line explained that she'd seen my survey results and she wanted to know more about what I'd mentioned and I explained it pretty much the same as I just detailed here above, and that since I'm married to a Sys Admin I just know that its good to mention something that may be a problem even if it's teeny tiny.  We chatted for a moment and she was glad that it wasn't a huge problem for me in particular but that they usually don't have an issue with the time selection and that she would make sure to follow up with the clinic and look into it just to make sure that other people aren't having the same issue who have to drive a long way or have a tighter schedule, so on and so forth, but that she'd like to send me a $10 gift card to make up for the hassle.  Why, yes! Thank you.  We hung up and in about 5 minutes there was a new email in my inbox and along with the confirmation for the card, they offered to send me a free t-shirt as well if I sent my address and preferred size.  Well, free t-shirts rule so I sent along my info and was further assured that it would be in the mail shortly. 
The freebie luck did not stop there!  Tuesday night there was a promo at World of Beer for a particular brewery that had seven new beers on tap and since it was Dogfish Beer and doggie-beer Tuesday, why not?  If you ordered on one tab four out of the seven you got a free brewery brand shirt.  Well, the brewery rep only brought about 15 shirts and by the time my friends and us had gotten to four, our waitress informed us that they were out of shirts.  She sent the rep over and he assured us that while he didn't normally do this, he had extra swag in his car and wait there, he'd be right back.  He brought up a box of 12-ounce beer glasses branded with the brewery name.  We walked away that night with a pair of them.
Luck in general-we've been sleeping on an air mattress for two months and I finally found on craigslist, while just browsing the furniture section, a BRAND new mattress and box spring still in plastic, with delivery, for $250. We jumped on the deal and had a new, actual bed delivered to us by the end of lunchtime on Friday.  Air mattress? Tucked away in the guest room closet on top of our suitcases.
Find a penny, pick it up: Today, while on a downstairs run with the Chloe-monster, I spotted a shiny penny on the pavement.  I seem to be the lucky one in that regard.  Since we'v been living here I've picked up 8 cents off the ground that were all in a well foot-traversed area that other people just walked right by.  A week and a half ago Kris found a twenty-dollar bill.  If people are going to keep up the trend of dropping change here and there and everywhere in Miami, I'm going to keep in the habit of picking it up.  (Not to mention that today, having sent about 8 replies to job postings this week and having sent about 50 over the last three weeks, I finally may have an opportunity. Someone replied to me today on a work-from-home on your own time basis for a legitimate business.)  Keep it up, universe!  I'm enjoying it very much!  Hope you all are finding your own bits of luck out there as of late.
Happy Good Karma!

Allie H. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Why I'm Pro Sex-Education for our Teens

(Jerry) Winters of the Tennessee Education Association said that already existing sex-education policy was "quite adequate." Obviously not, if we’re constantly changing our sex-education legislature, what we're willing and not willing to teach and teen pregnancy is still on the rise. Check out this news article on the changes Tennessee is making and why.

Quite the read. All with quotes from people who are past their teenage years by at least 20 years, I'd suspect, and probably don't remember what all was taught to the in their high school health class or the details of the cringe-inducing "birds and bees talk' from their parent about storks and bundles joy wrapped up with a big floppy bow because they were embarrassed beyond belief. (Let me insert my disclaimer here.) I’m not trying to push my views on everyone and say that they have to follow them to the letter.  I'm not saying that every school has to march to one syllabus. I’m merely trying to share what I believe would be a more effective way to deal with teens and sex educations and the consequences that can come from engaging in sexual activity and why you should take on what your schools don't teach your kids as being your responsibility.  
I am a firm believer in information-inclusive Sex-Ed.  I believe that it's when we teach complete abstinence (i.e. don’t have sex, it’s bad for you and we’re just not going to tell you why) that it’s kids without the all the facts who go too far too fast and, as a result, are the ones that up getting pregnant because we didn't bother to teach them about birth control and what does and does not constitute intercourse and so if they experiment, they're going to end up in a worse off case than if you present them with all the facts.  I have to think that not telling the the explicit consequences involved with having sex means that they won’t actually grasp how potentially and seriously consequential it can actually be.  Believe it or not, teens are still smart and if we give them all the information they'll do better at making their own choices.  If we simply tell a teen not to do something, chances are, they're going to think about doing it if you don't entirely inform them.
We're supposed to be teaching them how to be responsible young adults, how to make choices based on the facts presented to them right?  Having someone give us all the facts when we go to the doctor, dentist, insurance agent, etc is what happens when we need surgery, dental care, more coverage on our house or car and they present us with all the basic facts so that we can make choices happens. It's in the real world every day-so why aren't we willing to apply it when we're teaching them to respect themselves, their bodies and their boyfriends or girlfriends if we want them to be able to know how to make informed choices about everything else the second they turn eighteen?  I don’t remember seeing Sex-Ed in my list of requirements for graduating from college.  I would guess that they expected that by the time you got there (because we’ve been teaching it for YEARS), you have already made your choice to be abstinent until marriage or not and you’ve already been given enough information to be able to make that decision.  We expect them to know how to handle large amounts of information and make informed decisions when it comes to everything else but we don't teach them near enough anything anymore when it comes to personal health and Sexual Education.  Just don’t sugar coat or gloss over it like the PE teacher in ‘Mean Girls’ (“If you have sex, you’ll get AIDS and die!  Everybody take a condom.”)  Give them the cold hard facts of how easily it is to contract STD's and AIDs, how you may not know you have it before you pass it to someone else, what happens to your bodies and why, what exactly a young woman's body goes through during pregnancy, what hormones will shift and how it will affect the physically and emotionally and EVERYTHING related to the consequences of sexual intercourse. Make an impact with your information, don't just say "Oh, well, if you have sex you could get pregnant. Read the chapter and answer the questions." Have a doctor come in and describe giving birth from a first-hand point of view. Actually inform them with real-life scenarios and they'll get the picture. SLAM the facts in their faces.  
Teens respond to adults being entirely upfront and honest with them and whether or not they ask further questions, you'll at least know that you have their attention and have let them know how serious the choice to have sex is and can be. After that, it’s going to be up to them.  Teaching abstinence only teaches teens how to make irresponsible, misinformed choices because when teens don't get information from a teacher and don't want to ask their parents and be embarrassed, they get it from an equally misinformed friend who's heard bare rumors from their older siblings. You have to give them all the information and make it serious enough for them to pay attention and you might be surprised at the drops in teen-pregnancy rates in our schools after that. If you don't want your child to have Sex-Ed you should sign a waiver and they can take another 9-week course, or do your homework before you choose your child’s high school, but do take it upon yourself to tell them all the facts yourselves if you go that route.  Don’t just sue the high school for what you don’t want them to learn.  Don’t be delusional in thinking that if they don’t know the school in't teaching them, and they don’t come to you with questions, that teen pregnancy or something else won’t happen to them because you’ve simply told them that they should wait until marriage (which you should tell them, if that’s how you feel.  I’m not saying not to.  I’m just saying that you should tell them WHY you feel that they should wait.)  
When my future kids get to that age I'm going to be open to any and all questions they have and I'll be honest with them about my experience.  Yes, I waited until I was an adult to engage in sexual activity but my high school had a separate classroom for the handful of pregnant girls and I vaguely knew one or two of them*(See note below).  No, their father wasn't the first person I had sex with.  Yes, I have had a pregnancy scare and it was an emotionally wrenching few days to think that I might be pregnant before I had marriage and financial stability and what I was going to do if it turned out to be true. And yes, and I was lucky but no, not everyone will be so lucky.  We should be using the lessons from our younger years to give our children some perspective. This sort of personal relevance needs to be coming from parents and all the facts need to come from our educators since not all parents have gone through the sexual trends that their kids will be hearing about and wondering about as they grow up.  (While we're at it, part of Sex-Ed should be to teach girls how to physically protect and defend themselves if they feel physically threatened.  Toss in some basic karate with their signed agreement that they will only use it to their defense. I'm down. And teach the boys to recognize when a girl is trying to say "No" and that they need to back off.  It's through non-communication that things can turn for the worse in a situation like that.) Think about it. Makes a lot of sense to me. What makes sense to you?
Happy Responsibility (and Education)

Allie H.

*My note on having the pregnant girls separated from the rest of the student body: If the school teaches some level of sex education instead of abstinence, I don’t think that they should be in a different classroom, IF they don’t want to be.  More girls might take notice if there’s someone sitting next to them who is pregnant, might ask questions about what contraceptives were used, if any, and would see on a daily basis that their classmate is going through some very emotional and physical demands that they never expected to go through by not thinking sex through.  A realization that students could process on their own terms.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Job Search Etiquette

I've been looking around our neighborhood via Craigslist lately, seeing if there's a part or full time job that is within Metro/walking distance as I've been thinking it would be fun to have some work again and hey, everyone likes a paycheck.  The problem is, job hunting just starts to drive me nuts after a while.  When you read a job description and it says they're looking for someone to start immediately, and then don't reply to your email for a week, that's a bit irksome.  If they've already found someone to fill the position and they don't reply to your email to let you know, that's annoying.  

My current pet peeve is that I've been asking, in my responses to the ads, that I'd like to know exactly where they're located as my main concern is transportation, and they send me a yahoo messenger and a time to sign on for an online interview and don't answer my question first that would determine whether or not it would be viable for me to even proceed with an interview.  I also did one of these online via messenger interviews and was trying to find out where exactly this office was located and the guy didn't give me a straight answer after two tries-if you're not readily willing to answer what I'd like to know about your company so I can determine if the job would be a good fit for me, I'm not so sure I want to work for you.  Hiring managers: answer questions, get back to people right away whether or not the job position has been filled.  You're not the only ones waiting.  I was complaining about this to Kris and saying that someone should hire me strictly to handle staffing correspondence when a business/company needs a new employee instead of hiring me to fill in the file-clerk position since whoever has been assigned to manage said correspondence is either not in HR or has too much on their plate to sift through all the incoming job-posting reply emails to focus their attention on the person that might be perfect for the position.  Kris said "Huh. Wouldn't that be smart!"  It really would.  (I'd also like to be automatically paid a dollar for every time I have to say the words "she tried to break up a bar fight, broken, splint seriously, in Switzerland," and "no, really" when someone asks me how my adorable little puppy hurt her foot.  I tell the story at least four times a day.  It would almost qualify as part time work.  Can someone figure out how to make that happen?  Would someone out there like to volunteer to pay me for it, just for kicks?  I'll keep a tally and send you the weekly bill.)    

Can we talk about being professional in business communication for a moment? I tried signing into an old yahoo account a few weeks back because it's the one I used to reply to job listings and it's been so long that I don't remember my password, or if I canceled the account because yahoo couldn't find my login name as being an established account.  Go me.  So I created a new Gmail account with a professional login name, no crazy letter combinations and cutesy names because  half of the hiring managers looking for new employees don't bother reading your resume if your email address is "".  It speaks to your maturity level and how seriously you take yourself and how seriously you're going to apply yourself to the position.  So when I reply to ads I use a professional email address.  

But job searchers, we're not the only ones out there making the mistakes.  Someone sent me a reply to my email the other day and the email handle THEY used was quite unprofessional as well.  Let's just say the word "bubblehead" was involved.  I'm not sure I want to work for a self-proclaimed bubblehead.  If you use that to invite people to interview with your company, you obviously don't take your job OR yourself too seriously, either.  I thanked them and said "never mind."  It's the first time I've seen a hiring manager or employee use an immature email address and I'm sure it won't be the last but it's just appalling.  It's not like you have to pay for email.  If you already have an internet connection, guess what, it's free.  Pick an email address that relates to the company you work for.  Use your first or last name and the company name together.  (And reply with the name of the company in the body of the email so the applicant knows that you're being professional, as well.  It also possibly helps the applicant find out more information about the company so they can help determine if they would be a good fit for the job.)  Once you hire the person, you can use whatever email account you wish to memo them but upfront and foremost, be as professional as possible.  I've had a professional email address for forever since I started working part time as a file clerk when I was thirteen.  If a thirteen year old can manage to be professional, a forty-year old hiring manager can be as well.  I also respond to ads with my full first and last name.  If I take the job and we get along, fellow employees can call me Allie if they like. That's fine with me, but my business cards and desk name-plate will still read "Allison" because it's my name.  You really should apply and correspond with the name that is going to be on your paycheck and your tax forms.  It's only reasonable and practical.  Think about it, folks.
Happy Job Hunting! (Or Happy Working!)

Allie H.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Recipes for Making...when my kitchen goods get here!

I've been spending the last few moments trying to do laundry and straighten up and that typically turned into grazing notebook pages as I came across them to see if the pages were story parts that need typing.  Instead, that led me to handwritten recipes previously found on the Internet that I was saving for typing and adding when my laptop was back in tip top shape and I realized, why not share the love?  Sharing is caring, good food is good food and cooking new things that sound seriously entirely delicious is fun!  So here's a jumble of dressings, entrees, and pasta sauces that I'm eventually going to get to making but feel free to give the a try yourselves and let me know how they work out for you!  While everything here is so much easier to find (Ragu, Hidden Valley with their million varieties of salad dressing, etc) I've told myself that I'm going to get more practice and therefore much better and cooking the most basic things from scratch (or mostly scratch) to expand my recipe repertoire because thee basics of the basic recipes are MUCH easier to come across here in the states while not costing an arm and a leg.  If anyone recognizes these recipes as theirs, PLEASE let me know.  I do apologize for not citing you but I found them all easily enough on my laptop browser before it went out of commission.  So, without further ado, on to the recipes!

Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce
1/2 cup mayo, regular or light
2 TBSP yellow mustard (or brown, or spicy depending on how much of a kick you want..experiment!)
1/2 tsp garlic powder (people who know me, know I double when it comes to garlic, so again, to taste)
1 TBSP vinegar
2 TBSP honey
salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Whisk together mayo, mustard, garlic powder and vinegar.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cool for at least an hour before using as a dip/spread for fries, chicken wings, bread sticks, hot dog wraps, chicken sandwich wraps, etc, get the idea. Easy enough to double/triple.

Variation Honey Mustard Sauce
1 cup mayo (regular, light, whatever you prefer)
3 TBSP honey
2 TBSP mustard (again, preference. Experiment!)
Directions: Combine all ingredients and stir well, cover and chill for 2-3 hours before serving

Low-Cal Creamy Balsamic Salad Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP light soy sauce
1 and 1/2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 and 1/2 TBSP honey
3 TBSP nonfat Greek yogurt (or non-fat regular yogurt)
1/2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Directions: combine all ingredients in a small bowl or tightly lid-able shake and mix well to combine.  Easy enough to double or triple as needed for extra guests.  Store in fridge in airtight container for up to one month, shaking occasionally as needed to re-blend.

Mustard Vinaigrette (Salad dressing or marinade)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 and 1/2 tsp honey
1 and 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup veggie oil
2 drops hot sauce of your preference
Directions: Whisk all ingredients together or combine in a jar and shake.  

Marinated Antipasto Mushrooms
Anyone who knows me well knows I make mean marinated baby carrots for potlucks and parties.  I imagine these are somewhat similar and I'm dying to try them.
1 pounds of brown or white button mushrooms, or mixed if you prefer
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup red onion or shallot finely sliced
2 TBSP each oregano and thyme, preferably fresh
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp coriander (optional)
Directions: Wash mushrooms carefully and remove stems.  Boil in salted water for about 10 minutes and drain, letting cool.  Combine all other ingredients in a jar, close and shake well until combined.  Add the cooled mushrooms and close lid, shake gently and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from fridge at least ten minutes before planning to serve.  Shake every couple of hours to keep the olive oil from separating.  

Mushroom Saute
2 TBSP butter
1/2 TBSP olive oil
1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
Directions: Melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in remaining ingredients and saute for 20-30 minutes or until tender.  

Three-Veggie Skillet
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
1 medium sweet and red pepper, julienned
1 and 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 TBSP minced fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried)
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Directions: coat grill-and-serve skillet with non-stick cooking spray, place on grill.  Place veggies and garlic on with oil and grill and cook 6-8 minutes until crisp-tender.  Remove from grill and toss with basil, salt and pepper

Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette
6 leeks, 1 inch of tops trimmed, halved lengthwise and washed well
2 TBSP mustard (Dijon or plain)
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
Directions: bring a large pot of water to a boil.  With kitchen twine, tie leeks together into two bundles with green tops at the same ends.  Add bundles to boiling water.  Reduce heat and simmer until leeks are tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove and rinse with cold water.  Drain well and gently pat dry with paper towels.  Mix dressing ingredients in a large bowl, whisking together gently, adding the oil in a fine stream.  Add the salt and pepper.  Gently toss the leeks into the bowl with the vinaigrette, coating well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.  

Grilled Yellow Squash w/Creamy Herb Dressing
2 medium yellow squash, sliced lengthwise
Olive oil
garlic salt
freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped herbs (oregano, thyme & parsley)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 TBSP milk
Directions: Season the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill squash at 400 degrees for 5 minutes on each side or until nice grill marks appear.  Be careful not to over-cook!  Combine sour cream, herbs and milk in a small bowl and mix well.  Remove squash from heat and serve.

Teriyaki Marinade for Salmon or Chicken
1/2 cup teriyaki sauce
2 TBSP olive oil
1 clove minced garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1/8 tsp black pepper
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
2 TBSP sesame seeds
1 TBSP brown sugar
Directions: Combine all ingredients, reserving the brown sugar, in a ziploc bag, close and shake to mix well.  Add 1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds chicken breast or salmon fillets and marinate for 6 hours, if thawed, overnight if frozen, in the fridge.  To bake, place in a shallow glass baking dish.  Pour 1/3 cup of the marinade over the meat and sprinkle with brown sugar.  If using salmon, be sure to place skin-side down.  Cook at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (that was the recommended time for the salmon-the chicken would probably be 25 to 30 minutes. I'm really not sure. But if all else fails slice into the chicken to check for done-ness.)

Quick Creamy Italian Sauce (for pasta or chicken)
1 (10oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese (Italian and Herb Flavor)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
fresh chopped parsley (optional)
Garlic powder (optional)
Directions: In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients, excepting the parsley, whisk all ingredients and let it warm up until heated through and bubbling, stirring constantly, about 3-5 minutes.  Remove from  heat and toss with cooked warm pasta or serve over crispy or grilled chicken, and garnish with the parsley.  Variations (my own ideas): Substitute cream cheese with heavy cream and mix in well-grated Italian blend cheese (about 1/2 cup), a dash of basil and  oregano.  Add a can of of well-drained Italian style diced tomatoes.  Best served over bowtie or medium-sized shells.

The Simplest Tomato Sauce
1 (28 oz) can of whole peeled tomatoes, not drained
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
5 TBSP butter, unsalted
Salt, to taste
Parmesan cheese, optional
Directions: Heat the tomatoes, onion and the butter in a heavy, non-stick sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring it to a simmer, then turn heat down to low.  Allow to simmer at a steady pace for 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, discard the onion and salt to taste.  Serve over warm pasta, top with sliced or shredded Parmesan.

Creamy Crabby Pasta
1 (16oz) package farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1 (10.75oz) can of condensed cream of celery
10 and 3/4 fluid oz milk
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 pound imitation crabmeat, flaked
1 bunch green onions, well-diced
1 cup frozen peas
Directions: bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook 12 minutes, until al-dente and drain.  In a saucepan over medium heat, blend the cream of celery, milk, and cream cheese.  Mix in imitation crab, green onions and peas. Toss with pasta and serve as is or bake in a glass baking dish at 250 degrees for 30 minutes with a mixture of grated Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs as topping.  

Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Cream Sauce
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP butter
3 cloves fresh garlic minced
1/2 a medium finely diced onion
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can artichoke hearts, well drained
1 (14.5oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound thin spaghetti
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 TBSP fresh chives or preferred herbs, finely chopped
Directions: cook pasta until al dente, drain and set aside.  Melt olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic and bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add artichoke hearts, stir and cook for 8-10 minutes, reduce to low heat.  Stir in the cream and the chicken broth.  Add salt and pepper (do not under-salt!)  Cook over low heat util heated through, then turn off heat.  Turn pasta into a large bowl, sprinkle with Parmesan and pour sauce over the top.  Add chives and toss lightly to combine and coat.  Serve immediately.  

Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce
1 (8oz) package bow tie pasta
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 (6oz) jar roasted red peppers, well drained and chopped
1/2 pound fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup half & half
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
Dash of red pepper flakes
1/2cup Parmesan cheese
Directions: Cook pasta in a lightly salted pot of boiling water, 8-10 minutes until al dente, and drain.  In a skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage until evenly brown.  Mix in the roasted red peppers, mushrooms and vodka, bring to a boil.  Cook and stir for 5 minutes, until most of the vodka is evaporated and mushrooms are tender.  Mix tot tomatoes, half & half, and crushed red pepper into the skillet, reduce to low heart and cook, stirring frequently for 15 minutes.  Serve over cooked pasta and top with Parmesan cheese.  

Miso Mac and Cheese (Yep, that's right. Miso.)
1 pound elbow pasta
1 TBSP olive oil
2 cups mushrooms (preferably shitake) thinly sliced
8 oz creme fraiche
3 TBSP sweet white miso
1 and 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp hot sauce of your choice
salt and ground pepper
Directions: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to directions.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water; drain pasta and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet over medium, heat the oil.  Add the mushrooms and saute until browned, 6-7 minutes.  Move the skillet off the heat.  In small bowl, mix together creme fraiche and miso, and stir that into the mushrooms along with the cheese, garlic powder and hot sauce.  Once cheese is melted, add drained pasta.  Mix well and sprinkle with the reserved pasta water until desired consistency is reached and pasta is well-coated.  Season well with salt ad pepper and serve immediately.  

Chicken Chestnut Soup
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup butter
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 cup flour
1 quarts chicken stock
salt and pepper
Ground bay leaves
2 cups sliced water chestnuts, well drained
4 cups diced, poached chicken breast
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Baked puff pastry rounds for garnish
Directions: Cook the carrots, celery and onions in butter over medium heat until tender.  Add the garlic and the flour; cook for 5 minutes over low heat careful not to burn.  Add chicken stock, season with salt , pepper and bay leaves and simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.  Add the chestnuts and the chicken, simmering for an additional 15 minutes to heat everything through.  To serve, place in bowls and garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche and a puff pastry round.  I personally would add 1/2 to 1 cup of small pasta, like mini shells or elbow noodles just to make it a different kind of chicken noodle, but do as you wish! Just simply add for the last 9 minutes or so of simmering or cook before hand to just al dente and add in the last minute of cooking to heat through.

So many options!  Let me know, anybody, if you try any of these and what you thought of them, if you made any changes and how it came out!

Happy Kitchen Mess-Making!

Allie H.