Archive of ‘Lifestyle’ category

How to Prepare for (and Crush!) an Instructional Coach Job Interview

I’ve recently had the pleasure of interviewing for several coaching positions, and I’m here to share the knowledge I acquired through the process. Interviewing is something that new teachers are officially prepared to do given lots of scaffolding and support provided through their education program. However, it is not something a veteran teacher typically plans to do, and we definitely don’t get any guidance, support, or feedback. We are usually out of practice, low on confidence, high on anxiety, and worried we’ve been “out of the game” for too long. I’m here to hopefully help you come up with a game plan and access the confidence you need for a positive experience.

Gathering Materials

Before even looking for vacancies, there are a few documents that you’ll need to pull together. I gathered:

  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • A current Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • PDF copies of all of your college transcripts
  • PDF copies of all of your teaching license(s)
  • A personal statement / cover letter

In terms of Letters of Recommendation, I would encourage you to ask colleagues who have seen you in leadership roles. It may not always been feasible to ask a direct supervisor, but when possible, seek out people with whom you have collaborated on important projects. When people ask me to write them a letter of recommendation, I will often ask them to provide me a bulleted list that can include their professional qualities, accomplishments, team memberships, and a list of pride points. Consider doing the same for the persons from you elicit a letter, even if you never wind up offering the list (it will help you organize your thoughts and build your confidence!). Be bold and ask people in administrative positions. The worst that can happen is that they say no, or that they write you a letter that is more about what the school or district is currently working on in general without talking about you in specific (that’s my telltale sign that either they don’t know you well, or they don’t have anything positive to say).

A great free platform for making a resume is Canva. Previously, I have used Microsoft Word and Pages, but it’s 2023 for gosh sakes! We can do better! And… it’s free. I’d recommend finding a minimalistic design and removing the picture element. You’ll look so modern and polished! You’ll need a section about your professional teaching experiences, teaching certifications and other professional trainings, and your educational background. I’d also recommend including a section on professional skills. Here’s my big secret for this part – a great place to get ideas is by looking at other job postings! An example of some professional skills from my own resume include:

  • Advocate for all learners, believing in the positive value of diversity
  • Highly motivated to use technology to enhance instruction, engagement, and access

You may also choose to have a section for any publications you’ve made, teams you are on, work experience outside of education that contribute to your professional impact on the community, coursework or seminars or networks that you participate in, etc.

Next, plan ahead for getting your hands on your transcripts. This process can take time (and sometimes money), so request them ASAP.

Finally, clear your mind and schedule and give yourself space to craft a powerful personal statement. A personal statement is a vehicle for pulling your thoughts together, explaining why you want/love to be a coach, and arguing for why you are an incredible candidate and valuable member of any team. Remember that bulleted list I mentioned above for your LoRs? It can come in handy here! You get about 3/4 of a page to really sell yourself. Tell about your professional journey, why you love the field of education, what makes you stand out, and the personal philosophies that guide you. This can also be somewhat of a draft that you can use for a cover letter. Those are trickier to write ahead of time, as you’d want to tailor it to the position or district to which you are applying, but having some key talking points or paragraphs pre-written is very advisable.

Once you have all these items pulled together, you’re ready to look for vacancies.

Searching for Vacancies

I have been an instructional coach for the past 6 years, and I have absolutely loved every minute of it. I knew it was a job that was tailor-fit to my interests and skills, and I am positively certain I want to continue in this leadership role. ‘Teacher Coaching’ has many faces and many names, and it seems that different districts have different definitions, expectations, and nomenclature for the position. In fact, even in my 6 years, my position has been revisioned and renamed at least 3 times. That is par for the course, and part of what makes that position so effective; you have to have the flexibility and growth mindset to engage in continuous improvement and adjusting to meet the needs in front of you.

The variety of philosophies, expectations, and terms used to describe an Instructional Coach can turn searching for a vacancy into a fun scavenger hunt. I’ve had success with all of the following terms: Instructional Coach, Literacy Coach, Teacher Leader, Teaching and Learning Coach – as well as different combinations and iterations of any of the following terms: staff development, coordinator, specialist, learning, coach, instruction, literacy, leader.

In Wisconsin, we utilize a platform called WECAN: Wisconsin Education Career Access Network. It is a one-stop-shop for posting vacancies, applying for positions, and recruiting. You upload all of the afore-mentioned documents, and you can apply to a school district directly on the site. Even thought WECAN is popular and widely used, not all districts use it as their primary touchpoint for publicizing vacancies or recruiting future employees. Be sure to check district websites in your area and look for an “Employment Opportunities” page. Even better, you may know someone in your desired district that has access to an internal job postings page, and they can update you on what is coming available. Don’t be afraid to network!

Preparing for an Interview

So you’ve applied for your dream position, and the team has reached out to invite you to an interview. How exciting! Great job!! When you make the appointment, be sure to ask if they’d like you to prepare anything. In the past, these are items I’ve been asked to bring:

  • A 10-minute presentation of self (Slidedeck on who I am as a person, professional, and what makes me the best candidate)
  • A 10-minute video answering specific questions such as 1. What are your top professional strengths? 2. What are the key features of an effective instructional coach? 3. What are key look-fors in literacy/math instruction?
  • We will provide you with a scenario, and we’d like you to role play and coach a teacher through this specific situation

Other times, I’ve just been invited to show up for a conversation. Let me let you in on a big secret here though: Never, ever show up empty handed or unprepared. It is very possible, and highly effective, for you to prepare for an interview and never go in blind.

In the instance where nothing was asked of me ahead of time, I still spent a good deal of time preparing for the interview by closely reading through the job posting. Look for sections where they list duties and responsibilities, key skills and abilities, position goals, qualifications, etc. Now imagine the interview team turning each of these bullet points into an interview question. Are you prepared to answer it and provide evidence and specific examples to bolster your claim? Start gathering your ideas, make notes or lists, rehearse some of your answers out loud, and get ready to glide in with your head held high.

Here is an example of what I mean. If the job posting says, “Collaborate with school and district literacy teams to develop and provide professional development,” I turn that into several sub questions such as:

  • Provide examples of times you have effectively collaborated with teams.
  • What are the key features of effective long-term professional development?
  • Talk about teams that you belong to and how you go about setting and reaching goals
  • How do you work effectively with various educators, from paraprofessionals to classroom teachers to administration?

In addition to this strategy of harvesting interview questions from the school district’s own words, you can also plan on being asked some pretty popular or standard coach interview questions. Here are some I have encountered multiple times:

  • Please give an example of a time you coached a teacher or team around a specific goal. (Be prepared to talk about coaching models or resources you use).
  • What role does data play in your professional practice?
  • How do you stay sharp/current in your field?
  • How would you respond to a student who is significantly behind their peers, or who is exhibiting disruptive behaviors in class?
  • How do you engage in continuous improvement?
  • Talk about a time when you handled conflict / pushback from a coworker.
  • What do you like to see when you walk into a classroom?

It is also very important to do you homework on the district, if you haven’t already. Look at their district website for indicators of any initiatives, a list of curricular resources the district uses (which could provide insight into their education philosophies), and be sure to reach out to anyone you know who is a member of the district. Ask them why they love working there!

Sometimes, you may get a question about your long term life or career goals. Where do you see yourself in X years? Is coaching your end game, or do you have higher career aspirations? And in your current coaching role, how do you plan to grow or extend your own learning (think about your PPG goals you’ve written for this question).

And lastly, you know that every interview ends the same way. “What questions do you have for us?” Always have a preloaded question. My go-to questions are typically aimed at better understanding any district philosophies or initiatives I learned about in my district research. You might ask about any ongoing longterm professional development that the staff are engaged in, or any specific professional learning goals that the school has already identified on the horizon for next year. I also love to ask what coaching models they use, or what a day-in-the-life of an instructional coach might look like. Remember interviews are two way streets, and you also want to make sure they are the right fit for you.

Extra Credit

If you’ve followed all my advice above, you will be in excellent shape for your application and interview process. Since you are a high achieving individual and up for big challenges, I’m also going to suggest some extra credit options to really push you to be your best.

  1. Check out local job fairs. I know what you’re thinking; these are for student teachers and recent college graduates. True, that’s who you’re mostly going to see there. However, I can’t think of a better way to get out there, network, meet people, and learn about districts in your area. You’ll likely get a few on-the-spot practice interviews as well to help you warm up. And my favorite part is that when you visit each table, you’ll probably walk away with a one-page flyer that has all the insider info on the district. You’ll get all of their stats, initiatives, pride points, and great material for preparing for your interview and cover letter. Bring plenty of copies of your resume. Before you go, make sure you’ve practiced a firm handshake. If you aren’t sure, ask your dad or grandpa!
  2. Practice coaching with a colleague. Invent a scenario in which an educator is resistant, confused, unconfident, or not in alignment with a best practice or district initiative. Hold a mock conversation and practice coaching moves and strategies you would use to help that educator move past the obstacle.
  3. Listen to this phenomenal podcast on Confidence. I have listened to it multiple times, and each time, I learn new tools for training my thoughts. As humans, we often tend to garner confidence by looking for evidence in our past experiences, actions, or results we achieved. For example, I know I’m excellent at pouring a glass of water because I’ve been doing it successfully for decades – I am very confidence in my ability to pour water. But what happens if I get asked to pour something into a glass I’ve never poured before, like gasoline? Can I be confident in my ability to do so, without any past experiences or results to point to? This is what it can feel like in an interview when you get lobbed a question about something you’ve never done before. You might have a moment of shock or fear, and your confidence might start to slip away. Just remember that confidence doesn’t need to come from evidence, it can come from within you. Have faith in your ability to learn, adapt, try, and not give up. Have confidence in your process, your resources or tools, in your personal drive, and in your ability to problem solve. Take a deep breath, and be the boss of your brain. You’ve already got all the tools you need to solve this, and have confidence in that!
  1. Don’t forget to dress the part. I don’t know if this can be understated. At the job fairs I visited, I was really taken aback at what our newest educators felt constituted professional attire. I fully realize this makes me sound old and crusty, like the “get off my lawn” guy. However, I was not emotionally prepared for the jeans, t-shirts, flannels, tennis shoes, strapless short dresses, flip flops, and unkempt appearances I saw. Personally, I feel best in black slacks, a blouse, and a blazer. And yeah, even saying those 3 words made me feel old, but I still stand by them. I am sure to bring a pad of paper to take notes (even though I prefer to take notes on my phone, I don’t want to look as if I’m distracted by technology). I add some power earrings and nice lipstick, and I feel powerful and confident. Here I am at a recent job fair:

Remember, you’ve got this!! I’d love to hear any ideas or feedback or tips you have for preparing, applying, and interviewing. Please share your thoughts in the comments!


YNAB got us out of debt in 9 months

Have you ever had such an awesome adulting moment when something finally “clicked,” you figured it out, and you just want to SHOUT it from the rooftops?!? I SOLVED OUR BUDGET CRISIS! I GOT US OUT OF CREDIT CARD DEBT FOREVER!!!!! There, I did it!!

As a teacher, I just can’t keep it inside and I HAVE TO tell and help others. I get no kickback from YNAB for this, but I kinda sorta really just want everyone I know/love to use this and make their lives as seamless and awesome as I did for our family. Cuz I love you. And it’s easy. And it works.

A year ago, our family was in major credit card debt and crisis. We had two kids in daycare (HOLY MOLEY! It was more than our mortgage!!!) and a maxed out credit card. I was PANICKING. I mean, one small “oopsie” and we’d have no options – what if our fridge broke? Car accident? Medical trauma? We had no wiggle room on the credit card, and no way to dig ourselves out.

I’m a very frugal person with will power and determination, so I was convinced I could figure this out. My husband suggested we try YNAB, since he had several friends who highly recommended it, and I initially scoffed. $83 a year just to do what I’m already doing with my spreadsheets? Pshaw. How does spending more money help me solve our need for money?? I balked.

Then, I decided to give the 33-day free trial a whirl. Maybe I could learn something new and just cancel my subscription, no money lost. So I signed up, linked our bank accounts, and started “budgeting” on the website. You guessed it – I wound up loving it and staying on for the entire year.

The initial set-up is a huge learning curve. It took about 3 months before I felt like “yeah, I’ve fully got this. I’m ready to teach and help others.” It got pretty frustrating at times, but I persisted. There was a lot of trial and error, asking questions, and waiting to see how things netted out. But I stuck through it, and it was well worth it.

Within 9 months of starting YNAB, we were completely credit card debt free and saving for the future.

How? How can one budget app make all that happen? How did it actually save us money? That’s what I’m going to break down for you…..


The very first thing I did was to dig into our bank statements over the past year. At this point, I am being purely descriptive and just NOTICING our trends, not judging or altering them in any way.
Notebook/pencil in hand, I made a list of the major categories in which our spending occurs. YNAB gives you sample categories, but obviously personalization is key here. I noted the following categories for our family:

  • Debt Payments (mortgage, student loans, car loans, home equity line)
  • Insurances (life insurance, home / auto)
  • Monthly expenses (daycare, utilities, subscriptions like Netflix)
  • Variable expenses (groceries, gas, sundries, services like haircuts and dog grooming, medical/dental, vet, home repairs)
  • Quality of life (dining out, family activities, gifts, clothing, date night, fun)

I also made a list of big time expenses that seem to happen once a year. I put these into a final category called “Budgeting Ahead” Examples: Tax accountant, Amazon prime annual, Costco membership, Furnace tune-up, Glasses/contacts, Birthday parties, Christmas, etc. These aren’t necessarily things I have to pay for or that are due every month, but like death and taxes, they can’t be avoided when it’s time. The goal would be to start socking away money into these categories so that when the day comes, the money is there for it. At first we had no money to actually put into any of these categories, but I made them just the same so that we would be prepared.


Once I had all our categories set, it was time to take inventory and make some decisions. Once our first round of paychecks hit the app, I gave “every dollar a job” and assigned them to the categories that HAVE to be attended to – debt payments, insurances, and monthly expenses. Suddenly, with all dollars assigned, I could see just how little we had left for those “Variable” and “Quality of Life” categories. Not much! Time to go on a serious Budget Diet and reign in lots of things. Either a) we can’t spend as much money on day-to-day things we enjoy or b) we need to adjust our obligations so we have more money to spend on variables. Honestly, I chose both!

  • First and foremost, we cut WAY back on discretionary spending. We didn’t eat out for at least 4 months while we got our feet back under us. We started bulk shopping/cooking/meal prepping and packing lunches.
  • To stop any accidental late payments, we switched completely to auto-pay and online billing. This took a big chunk of time and lots of phone calls, but was well worth it.
  • We switched some payments to monthly billing instead of annual to help mitigate large annual lump sums.
  • We switched to shopping at Aldi and saved at least $200/month on our groceries.
  • We began ordering groceries online and picking up in store to make sure we stuck to my list – no impulse buying!
  • We became strong meal planners, and we only did a full grocery shop 3 weeks a month. The 4th week was for baby’s milk only, and we had to live off the leftovers/pantry/fridge for the remainder.
  • We researched best prices for diapers, wipes, and formula and signed up for Amazon auto-delivery for those items.
  • We cancelled cable.
  • We noticed that we were getting a lot of overage charges on our cell data plan, so we switched to unlimited and actually saved money!
  • We refinanced our mortgage and rolled in our home equity line, saving hundreds a month in interest payments.
  • We cashed in our credit card perks points to get a large sum of money, which we put toward the balance.
  • We had an almost ‘no-spend’ Christmas with handmade or previously enjoyed items, and we sold things around our house to fund the remainder.

Then we seriously just hunkered down, sold things around the house we no longer needed, did without, reused and reduced, until we finally paid off our credit card in full. PHEW!!! Not only was that a huge relief, but it also recouped for us those hundreds of dollars that were disappearing to interest payments!


Now without that credit debt looming over us, we could focus on planning ahead so we would no longer even need our credit card. Remember that category I set up called “Budgeting Ahead” that was filled with big time annual charges? I set goals for each of those categories with end dates, and I started putting aside money each month in preparation for the expense. When the time comes, the money is there, and we don’t have to put anything on our credit card.

We also adhere to our monthly budgeted amounts in variable categories. For example, if we set aside $50 for family dining out, we’ll always check it before we make any decisions. If we don’t have the money to go out, we don’t.

And maybe my favorite part (and a major key ingredient for not accruing interest payments) is that at any given moment, I know exactly how much I can and should pay down on our credit card. Since every dollar has a job, I know that I can pay my credit card balance every single day to avoid accruing interest, and I know exactly how much to pay. At the very top of the webpage or app, the first line item tells me how to wipe out my credit balance based on how I’ve spent money and assigned dollars. Before YNAB, I just had to guess? hope? pray? that I paid the balance and didn’t offset any other needs I’d have for the month. To that end, I check it and pay our credit card at least once a week if not more. This practice alone has saved us hundreds of dollars a month in interest, while allowing us to continue using our credit card to earn incentives.


To me, being able to set goals and budget ahead has been the best part of YNAB. Without that, we’d continually be stuck in this perpetual debt cycle. Between carefully observing our habits, adjusting as needed, and planning ahead, it’s been a real miracle for our family. It also helps us to have clear agreements and communication. Since the app syncs to our phones and laptops and doesn’t live in a spreadsheet on someone’s computer, we have constant access and can make informed, team-based decisions in the moment.

In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend YNAB for getting your budget and life together. I don’t ever want to go back to a life without it!


HAPPY 2015!!

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 8.12.55 AM

On this day last year, I made 14 New Year’s Resolutions to myself. It’s time to see how I did!

2014 GOALS

1. Finish my dissertation DONE
2. Potty-train Ruffy (our dog) DONE
3. Clean out / Organize the basement DONE
4. Remodel the upstairs and get a new tenant …half done (no new tenant)
5. Save up and purchase an elliptical …nope
6. Stick with the Paleo diet 90/10 Well, for 10 months! 
7. Make a big dent in my student loans Big? A dent, anyway
8. Plant and eat my own vegetables / herbs DONE
9. Create a family recipe book DONE
10. Finish my handmade Christmas gifts by November DONE
11. Use our wedding china DONE
12. Go on at least one vacation DONE
13. Go parasailing (I mean… why not?) …nope
14. Cook an entire dinner for my family DONE

So 9 and 3 halves out of 14 isn’t bad, is it? We did remodel the upstairs, but we decided not to get a tenant because we are moving. I didn’t purchase an elliptical for the same reason. And the Paleo diet? I kept up for 10 months but needed to stop for medical reasons. Parasailing would have been great, but I guess I just need to move that to my 2015 list! All in all, I am very pleased with my progress. I knew I was shooting for the stars with such an ambitious list, but if you don’t raise the bar, you never know what you can achieve! Speaking of 2015, it’s time to make a new list! This one will be very different.


2015 GOALS:

1. Commit 10 random acts of kindness
2. Move into our new home
3. Work out regularly (~3 times per week) and stay in shape
4. Keep an even keel – no stress meltdowns
5. Give more compliments – make people smile!
6. Unplug (no screens) for a day
7. Go on at least one date night per month
8. Get my bed back – no dogs!
9. Conquer my fear of waxing
10. Go on a vacation
11. Make a big dent in my student loans
12. Spend less, save more (at least 3 month’s salary)

So there they are, my 2015 goals! They look so daunting and huge right now, but I hope I can conquer them by year’s end. Baby steps are the key to success (and writing down your goals, check!)

I’d love to hear about your goals, too! Anything scary? exciting? fun? challenging? important?


Summer Bucket List 2014

Fellow teachers, you will totally understand where I am coming from with this post. We get so excited for summer – not because we plan to sit around all day, but because we’ll finally have the time to catch up on all of the ‘life’ we miss out on during the school year. We get to take care of ourselves, take care of our homes, and reinvest in our relationships. I don’t know a single teacher who doesn’t push themselves even throughout the summer to be the best they can be.

Most of us, in fact, continue to work on our teaching practice throughout the summer. We tutor, plan, research, collaborate, and create. I don’t stop thinking about my students and my classroom at all throughout 10 weeks. In fact, I will be doing something school related 5 days per week. The best part, of course, is that I get to sleep later, work at my own pace, and work anywhere I like (including my sunny backyard, the library, or a coffee shop).

I have many things I’m really excited to do this summer. I also have things I know I need to accomplish. To ensure that I maintain a healthy balance, I’ve created a Summer Bucket list. I’m happy to share it with you. I’d love to hear about your summer goals, whether or not you are an educator. What are you most excited about? What do you hope to accomplish?

Summer Bucket List 2014 (c) Kristen Dembroski

This template was designed by My Love for Words


School T-Shirts

School T Shirts (c) Kristen Dembroski

You know what happens when you’ve worked at a school for 7 years? You realize you’ve collected a looooooot of T-shirts. It makes me so happy when I look at them! Each is a unique and fond memory. Many are signed on the back in Sharpie.

Some of the wonderful T-shirts in the above collage are collected from:
* Our annual school Walkathon
* School musicals
* Foreign Language Week
* PBIS Shirts
* Volleyball T Shirts
* Jump Rope For Heart

I plan to always save every – shirt so that someday, I can make a quilt full of my favorite memories of teaching 8th grade!

P.S. How great is it to have a job where you are (occasionally) encouraged to wear a T-shirt to work!
P.P.S. Don’t even ask me how much I’ve spent on T-shirts. Yes I realize how easy it would be to figure out but I refuse to calculate the total!



Holiday Cooking and Baking

Having off of work is GREAT!!!! For the last 3 days, I have been cooking and baking like a madwoman. I’d love to share some photos and recipes with you. By the way, all of the food below is Paleo, which means grain and dairy-free.

Holiday Cooking and Baking (c) Kristen Dembroski1. Vegetable Omelet – just egg, unsweetened almond milk, peppers, tomato, broccoli, and avocado on top at the end.
2. Baked Kale – delicious! Just put a bunch of kale in a bowl, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix. Then spread the kale on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, garlic, and ground pepper, bake for 10 minutes at 350, et voila!
3. Bacon – I bake the bacon on a metal rack on top of a baking sheet so the grease can drip off. Make sure to line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier cleanup. 350 for 20-30 minutes.
4. Salmon in a Bag – I cut 6 round slices of lemon to line the bottom of a piece of aluminum foil, then placed the salmon on top. I sprinkled the salmon with salt and garlic, then topped with a few thin tabs of butter. Close up the aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the fish flakes apart and is cooked through.
5. Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies & Peppermint Macaroons dipped in Chocolate – I am a Norwegian, so I couldn’t resist trying the Thumbprint Cookies for christmas. The cookies turned out fantastic, and I will add that you really need to beat the vanilla frosting for at least 10 minutes to get the consistency you desire. I plan to add red and green food coloring for something festive 🙂 The Peppermint Macaroons turned out deliciously as well, but I will use less peppermint extract next time. Dipping the bottoms in dark chocolate (and licking the spoon!) was the best part!
6. Gyro meatballs and Tzatziki Sauce – this is BY FAR my favorite thing I have made! I used high grade ground sirloin, and I also pan-friend them after baking them to give a nice brown crisp to the meatballs. For the Tzatziki sauce, I used coconut milk instead of coconut cream or yogurt, and this was a mistake. It still tasted fantastic, but was a bit watery.
7. Party Tray – I made this for a party I attended. Crackers, 2-year aged cheddar, salami, goat cheese, almond cheddar spread, pistachios, almonds, and strawberries. Obviously the crackers and cheese are not Paleo, but the rest is proof that you can enjoy Paleo snacks with your friends!
8. Banana Nut Muffins – these are mostly just bananas and eggs with very little flour. They taste pretty eggy to me, but perhaps I should have used more ripened bananas. They are great warmed up with a touch of butter.
9. Homemade Granola – My husband and I just love this. It is absolutely better tasting than any granola I have ever purchased. I will make this again! Next time, though, I will add more nuts because there is quite a bit of the honey-mixture to go around.



My Kitchen Wish List

I have been absolutely in love with cooking and baking lately. I’ve gone from being an ‘everything-from-a-package’ girl to a ‘home-made’ girl, and I hope I never go back! I honestly didn’t know I had it in me. I used to just think I was a terrible cook, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. The thing is, I come from a family of great cooks – my mom, my grandma – and I just wanted to make them proud and live up to our family name.

So, I decided I was going to practice and practice and teach myself to be a good cook. These past 2 weeks, I’ve baked salmon, brined and roasted chicken, created a butternut squash soup from scratch, baked homemade cookie bars, made protein bites, chili, braised beef, baked acorn squash with homemade applesauce, julienned zucchini spagetti, cooked waffles, and on and on and on. My husband loves it, because the fridge is always full of wonderful healthy foods 🙂

I’ve been pulling out all of these gadgets that people gifted us for our wedding, but I never used. I am finally using our stand mixer regularly, as well as our waffle iron, blender, food processor, tools like a zester, masher, and press, and – as always – my beloved crock pot.

Now that I have my kitchen operating at full-steam, I see there are a few items I would like to add to the already-stuffed cupboards. Below is my current kitchen wish list – oh a girl can dream!

My Kitchen Wish list (c) Kristen Dembroski


1. Silicone Baking Mats
2. Lunchbots Leak Proof Containers
3. Pampered Chef Dutch Oven
4. All-Clad Iron Griddle
5. Silicone Baking Cups
6. So many cookbooks! Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans, The Paleo Cookbook, The Paleo Recipe Book, Against the Grain, Well Fed 2, and so many more!!!
7. Immersion Blender by Kitchen-Aid
8. Oxo Food Storage Containers


If you could stock your kitchen, what would be on your wish list?


Snow Day Cooking

Wherever you are in the world, you may be aware of the winter disasters happening all over the south and midwest. My sister was stuck in Dallas for 2 days waiting for a flight back to Wisconsin. Here in Milwaukee, the highway is a parking lot, and the snow is falling heavily and consistently. My mom was supposed to go to work today, but after spending 45 minutes on the highway and getting no where, she called in and headed home. I hate thinking about my family out in this weather – it makes me so nervous!

I haven’t left the house…. or my pajamas (tee hee). The dogs are doing their best to cuddle and stay warm, too.

Snuggling Puppies (c) Kristen Dembroski


I’ve been cooking and baking ALL morning and afternoon. Sometimes, the cooking bug just hits ya and you gotta go with it, you know? I figure something like, “Hey, the oven’s all ready warmed.” Or, “The kitchen’s already a mess.” Even, “I’ve already opened the bag/can/jar of __, may as well just finish it?”

So yeah, I went a little nuts. Here is what I’ve made this weekend so far. Everything is Paleo friendly – only whole foods, no grains, gluten, dairy, or refined products. (Click on the list below for links to the recipes):

Paleo Foods (c) Kristen Dembroski

1. Bacon! In the oven, I lay the bacon across a metal drying rack placed on a baking sheet to allow the grease to drip. 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
2. Energy Balls These were supposed to be bars, but they weren’t holding together very well. Maybe they needed a touch of coconut oil? Consists of: almonds, cranberries, figs, chocolate chips.
3. Heart Chili This recipe took a while – browning the ground beef, sautéing the vegetables, then searing the beef cubes. It was not a ‘just throw it all in the crock pot’ kind of recipe, but it does taste delicious.
4. Cauliflower Rice A delicious Paleo alternative to rice. I will say that my food processor sure got a workout this weekend! I didn’t have all of the spices the recipe called for on hand, so I just used sea salt, ground pepper, and cajun spices.
5. Strawberry Protein Balls These are a hit with my husband. I don’t think they’ll keep very long, so I am going to enjoy them quickly.
6. Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins I love taking these to work for a quick and filling breakfast. And you know what else I love? My new silicone baking cups. I’m never going back to paper! And now I need to buy the blue pack too (hint: these are a great stocking stuffer for the foodie in your life)!

With all this food in my fridge, I still sit here hungry, not sure what to eat! Ah, dilemmas dilemmas. Maybe I’ll bake some salmon 🙂



Cooking Up a Paleo Storm

Our family tradition is to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving decorating the house for Christmas. We put up the tree and Christmas lights, which is such a fun thing to do as a family. I have one very important message for our new dog, Ruffy: Thou shalt not lift thine leg on the Christmas tree. And I mean it!

Since I was in the spirit, I also decided to cook up a storm this weekend. It’s great to have a fridge full of prepared foods that are ready to go. I spent practically the entire weekend in the kitchen. I’ve run the dishwasher 4 times in the past 2 days, sheesh! My husband assures me that our dishwasher is eco-friendly and actually uses less water and resources than handwashing, so that’s good.

I’d love to show you what I made. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am trying to switch to a Paleo diet. I am doing this slowly, and I’m up to 2 meals a day plus snacks. Hopefully I can make the permanent, full switch and stick with it!

Raspberry Torte

This recipe is from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC. The recipe is actually for a pie filling, but I decided to make it into a frozen treat instead. Next time, I would add little sticks to make popsicles, yum! Ingredients: fresh raspberries, lemon zest and juice, medjool dates, and coconut oil and butter.

Raspberry Torte (c) Kristen Dembroski

Homemade Apple Sauce

I keep saying to my husband, “This was so easy to make, and it tastes SO much better than store-bought apple sauce. Why wouldn’t anyone just make their own?” This is a Paleo applesauce with only 3 ingredients: apples, honey, and water (oh, and a dash of cinnamon). Tastes phenomenal, and no added sugar! Find the recipe here.

Homemade Applesauce (c) Kristen Dembroski


Zucchini Pancakes

This recipe is also from the book Practical Paleo. I got to use my food processor a lot this weekend! These taste wonderful and actually don’t use too many eggs (only 3). I plan to warm them up for breakfasts throughout the week, in addition to my Paleo Waffles I blogged about on Thanksgiving.

Zucchini Pancakes (c) Kristen Dembroski


Apple Cider Beef Roast

I also came up with my own ‘recipe’ for a beef shoulder/roast I picked up at the grocery store. First, I added coconut oil, sea salt, and black pepper and pan-seared the roast in a skillet – a couple of minutes, just enough to seal in the flavor. Then I transferred the meat and oils to a casserole dish which I filled with apple cider (not covering the meat, but probably about an inch high). I see now that I need to purchase a Dutch oven – hint, Christmas gift! I baked the roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. It was very juicy and tasty! I served it with a side of baked yams and roasted squash. P.S. The dogs LOVE squash. Who knew? I always try to sneak a few vegetables into their food, and this one was a hit!

Beef Roast (c) Kristen Dembroski


Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Here’s a link to the recipe for these amazing chocolate chip cookie bars. I added walnuts to mine. My husband and I are definitely going to fight over these!

Paleo Cookie Bars (c) Kristen Dembroski

Later this week, I hope to make these Energy Bars. You know, my favorite thing about Paleo recipes is how SIMPLE they are! Just a couple of ingredients, things I already have on hand, and nothing crazy or exotic I have to go to a speciality grocery store to find. It’s perfect for me and my busy teacher lifestyle!

I have one more thing to share with you all regarding Paleo foods. I found a great new blog called Nom Nom Paleo. She’s great! She recommended this Spiral Vegetable Slicer. I have wanted one of these for a while, and the reviews were great and the price was right – I ordered it! Excited to give this a try. Squash spaghetti, anyone?



Black Friday: Black is for Evil…

I used to get up early and enjoy Black Friday shopping with my family and friends. Oh, the thrill of the hunt! We would sit around with the flyers and create our Shopping Map/Plans after Thanksgiving dinner. I would sleep over at someone’s house (since I live the furthest away), and we would get up at 4am excited and ready to go. I did this for several years during my college years, purchasing the necessary household items at attractive prices. I can still tell you the bargains I found – blankets, dishes, small electrics, etc. Slowly over the years, I’ve grown disenchanted with this idea, and I’ve been Black Friday shopping less and less. I guess I realized, what do I really NEED anyway? We’re married, we have a nice home, our mothers spoil us, and we both have steady jobs to buy the things we need when we need them. I’m sure if we had children, things would be different.

Then, this year, something I never thought could happen actually happened. My mother, who is a manager at a retail store, was told that they would be opening on Thanksgiving and that she would have to come in and work. Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I was devastated when we had to cancel it. My mom had to work overnight on Thanksgiving, then again on Black Friday. She also has to work on Saturday, by which time I am sure she will be a walking zombie. She says she is too exhausted to try and do Thanksgiving this weekend, and she just wouldn’t enjoy it. We’ve decided to push off celebrating until New Years.

So how does this make me feel about retailers, shopping, and Black Friday? PRETTY ANGRY!! I did not go out shopping last night on Thanksgiving, and I truly wished no one would have. I wished that the retailers would feel silly opening their doors and paying their employees time-and-a-half while Americans did the right thing and stayed at home to spend time with family. Unfortunately, as I saw on the news, a lot of people hit the shops last night. My mom says there was a lull between 1am and 5am at her store. Perhaps things will change next year, but the pessimist in me thinks it won’t, and this will become the acceptable holiday tradition.

So this year, I will save my money and spend the day at home with my husband and my dogs instead.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

1 2 3