February 2014 archive

cilantro-lime tuna burgers

By Kristina



This recipe for cilantro-lime tuna burgers turned out so well!

Author: Megan Ware, RD

Active prep time: 15 minutes, Refrigeration time: 30 minutes

Makes 5 burgers [I ended up with six smaller ones]

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro with stems removed
2 teaspoons lime zest [didn’t include this–didn’t have microplane]
1 tablespoon lime juice [used my lemon/lime squeezer for the first time and loved it]
5 green onions, diced (white and green parts)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried ginger or 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger [used dried, but would have preferred fresh]
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard [I used Maille whole grain mustard]
2 eggs
4 five oz cans of tuna packed in water– I used a mix of albacore and yellowfin [I used Wild Planet albacore–good deals on this at Costco]
5 whole grain hamburger buns [put it over baby spinach and pickles, also tried leftovers over Ezekiel bread]
Lettuce and tomato, optional for topping

1. In a large bowl, mix together cilantro, lime zest and juice, green onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, mustard and eggs. Add tuna and mix well.

2. Form 5 patties and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

3. Heat 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Saute patties for 3-5 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Serve on a toasted bun with lettuce and tomato if desired.

Mexican tamale pies

By Kristina

Erin at Gibble Me This recently posted Mexican tamale pies. The beans and polenta enticed me to try it too, especially since I’d recently come across a recipe for quinoa polenta. The day before making the Mexican tamale pies, I made double the quinoa polenta so that I could also use it for the quinoa BBQ polenta. I also made refried beans (with 4 cloves garlic, cumin, chili powder, chipotle powder, and cayenne pepper) overnight in the slow cooker and to use those beans before blending them with my immersion blender.


  • slow-cooker refried beans
  • 1 15 oz can Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • frozen Whole Foods fire roasted corn
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • cilantro
  • quinoa polenta to cover the casserole
  • scallions for topping

I didn’t measure out exact amounts because I thought the refried beans were getting overcooked, so I hurriedly dumped a bunch in a bowl with other ingredients, then put the combination of them into an 8×8 casserole dish.

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I topped the dish with quinoa polenta and then baked it for 35 minutes.

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Here’s the final product. It didn’t stay together as well as I had hoped, but it still tasted good! From the rest of the casserole, I put together five tupperwares for lunches or dinners later in the week.

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Future Iterations
I will add more vegetable or chicken broth to the quinoa polenta and prepare it the same day.
I may try the filling with some of the following: ground beef, ground turkey, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, poblano peppers, or onion.
I may try the topping with the following: masa harina, cheese, or jalapenos.

quinoa BBQ polenta

By Kristina


I am loving this quinoa polenta by Straight Up Food. I originally found the recipe after liking Ancient Harvest quinoa polenta and wanting to make my own. I followed the recipe pretty closely, just making a few minor changes (using a mix of red quinoa and regular quinoa, omitting onion powder because I didn’t have any). I made the BBQ sauce in my Vitamix. I topped the quinoa polenta with mushrooms, red peppers, baby spinach, scallions, and shredded cheddar cheese. I partitioned the leftovers into two medium-sized tupperwares and added more black beans and spinach.

one reason to stay on Facebook: the *good* posts

By Kristina

I made a big deal of removing the Facebook app from my phone, thinking that removing the impetus to check my newsfeed on the T, in line, or when bored would make me more productive. For the most part, this lifestyle change has helped me. I don’t get frustrated by reading the umpteenth Buzzfeed listicle, quiz, Upworthy post, or political rants from friends and acquaintance. However, I am glad that I haven’t deactivated completely, because there is still a lot of thought-provoking, share-worthy stuff out there.

My friend Jon shared this amazing post by Sarah Blaine of Parenting the Core. I’ve already posted it on Facebook and tweeted it, but I couldn’t resist posting it here as well. I’m now subscribed to Parenting the Core via Bloglovin’ and am looking forward to more of her posts.

Sarah Blaine may say she “copped out,” but I believe the exact opposite. I bet she was a damn fine teacher and now is a damn fine lawyer because of this: “I continued to learn. Nine years after my law school graduation, I think I have some idea of how to litigate a case. But I am not a perfect lawyer. There is still more I could learn, more I could do, better legal instincts I could develop over time. I could hone my strategic sense. I could do better, be better.”

Those who stay hungry for learning and understand how to reflect thoughtfully will always keep on being better.

The Teachers

by Sarah Blaine

“We all know what teachers do, right? After all, we were all students. Each one of us, each product of public education, we each sat through class after class for thirteen years. We encountered dozens of teachers. We had our kindergarten teachers and our first grade teachers and our fifth grade teachers and our gym teachers and our art teachers and our music teachers. We had our science teachers and our social studies teachers and our English teachers and our math teachers. If we were lucky, we might even have had our Latin teachers or our Spanish teachers or our physics teachers or our psychology teachers. Heck, I even had a seventh grade “Communications Skills” teacher. We had our guidance counselors and our principals and some of us had our special education teachers and our study hall monitors.

So we know teachers. We get teachers. We know what happens in classrooms, and we know what teachers do. We know which teachers are effective, we know which teachers left lasting impressions, we know which teachers changed our lives, and we know which teachers sucked.

We know. We know which teachers changed lives for the better. We know which teachers changed lives for the worse.

Teaching as a profession has no mystery. It has no mystique. It has no respect.

We were students, and therefore we know teachers. We denigrate teachers. We criticize teachers. We can do better than teachers. After all: We do. They teach.

We are wrong.

We need to honor teachers. We need to respect teachers. We need to listen to teachers. We need to stop reducing teachers to arbitrary measurements of student growth on so-called objective exams.

Most of all, we need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students.

We don’t know.

I spent a little over a year earning a master of arts in teaching degree. Then I spent two years teaching English Language Arts in a rural public high school. And I learned that my 13 years as a public school student, my 4 years as a college student at a highly selective college, and even a great deal of my year as a masters degree student in the education school of a flagship public university hadn’t taught me how to manage a classroom, how to reach students, how to inspire a love of learning, how to teach. Eighteen years as a student (and a year of preschool before that), and I didn’t know shit about teaching. Only years of practicing my skills and honing my skills would have rendered me a true professional. An expert. Someone who knows about the business of inspiring children. Of reaching students. Of making a difference. Of teaching.

I didn’t stay. I copped out. I left. I went home to suburban New Jersey, and a year later I enrolled in law school.

I passed the bar. I began to practice law at a prestigious large law firm. Three years as a law student had no more prepared me for the practice of law than 18 years of experience as a student had previously prepared me to teach. But even in my first year as a practicing attorney, I earned five times what a first year teacher made in the district where I’d taught.
I worked hard in my first year of practicing law. But I didn’t work five times harder than I’d worked in my first year of teaching. In fact, I didn’t work any harder. Maybe I worked a little less.

But I continued to practice. I continued to learn. Nine years after my law school graduation, I think I have some idea of how to litigate a case. But I am not a perfect lawyer. There is still more I could learn, more I could do, better legal instincts I could develop over time. I could hone my strategic sense. I could do better, be better. Learn more law. Learn more procedure. But law is a practice, law is a profession. Lawyers are expected to evolve over the course of their careers. Lawyers are given more responsibility as they earn it.

New teachers take on full responsibility the day they set foot in their first classrooms.

The people I encounter out in the world now respect me as a lawyer, as a professional, in part because the vast majority of them have absolutely no idea what I really do.

All of you former students who are not teachers and not lawyers, you have no more idea of what it is to teach than you do of what it is to practice law.

All of you former students: you did not design curricula, plan lessons, attend faculty meetings, assess papers, design rubrics, create exams, prepare report cards, and monitor attendance. You did not tutor students, review rough drafts, and create study questions. You did not assign homework. You did not write daily lesson objectives on the white board. You did not write poems of the week on the white board. You did not write homework on the white board. You did not learn to write legibly on the white board while simultaneously making sure that none of your students threw a chair out a window.

You did not design lessons that succeeded. You did not design lessons that failed.

You did not learn to keep your students quiet during lock down drills.

You did not learn that your 15 year old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.

You did not spend all of New Years’ Day crying five years after you’d left the classroom because you reviewed the New York Times’ graphic of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned that one of your very favorite students had been killed in Iraq two years before. And you didn’t know. Because you copped out and left. So you cried, helplessly, and the next day you returned to the practice of law.

You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach.

The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.”

CrossFit Coolidge Corner

By Kristina

CrossFit_time.Jess brought me as her +1 to a blogger class at CrossFit Coolidge Corner a few weeks ago. CrossFit Coolidge Corner is welcome addition to the Brookline fitness scene (which is already booming with Healthworks, Bodyscapes Fitness, several yoga studios, and now Pure Barre Brookline). Several friends, coworkers, and even students are huge fans of CrossFit, so I was eager to see if I too would catch the bug. Our class included four other attendees: Shelby from Paleo Princess RD, Shelby’s boyfriend Adam, Jen from Boston Bachelorette, and Jen’s friend Melissa.


After an introduction by coaches Brett and Yosh, we got started with the workout. I was surprised to recognize lots of elements from workouts that I’d done in personal training and at my friend Barbara’s boot camp. I was happy that the workout was motivating rather than scary!

1) Mobility
We started with foam rolling our calves, quads, IT bands, adductors, and mid-back, followed by stretches to loosen up our muscles. CrossFit Coolidge Corner members are instructed to do these before every single class. I liked these exercises and will incorporate them more at home.

2) Warmup
We did these in a line going back and forth across the gym floor (except for the sled push, which was done on turf) for about 50 meters. This reminded me of track practice and gym class.
– walking spider lunges + hamstring stretch
– high kicks
– high knees
– butt kicks
– high knees
– broad jumps
– shuttle sprint
– high knees
– skips
– sled push relay

The small class size was great for getting individualized attention and differentiated instruction from Coach Brett and Coach Yosh. Both Brett and Yosh have significant training experience (e.g., coaching weightlifting teams or CrossFit Fenway), and that experience was evident in their accurate corrections to form and ability to differentiate instruction. Because Shelby and Adam were experienced CrossFitters, they did strength and the Workout of the Day (WOD) with Yosh while Jess, Jen, Melissa, and I worked with Brett.


3) Strength
– Strict Press (5-5-5-5-5)
– Ring rows (10-10-10-10)

Jess and I partnered up for the strength portion. For the strict presses, we prepped using PVC pipe so that we could practice the motions with correct form (e.g., keeping elbows lifted and holding core in). However, I found it easier to maintain form when using the 15 pound bar with 5 pounds of weight added. We alternated the sets of ring rows and strict presses with each other at the same station. I tried to get as low to the ground as possible on the ring rows and ended up paying for this later (in the WOD and for three days of soreness).

4) WOD
– Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)
— 3 burpees
— 200 m shuttle sprint with med ball (14 RX for women, 20 RX for men)

After Brett explained the WOD, I thought “thank goodness the medicine ball isn’t wall balls!” and thought it would be reasonable. I thought wrong. The WOD was much harder than attempting a two-mile time trial or doing a tough track workout. As humans, we tend to gravitate toward what we do best and avoid practicing what we’re not good at. Burpees and short sprints both have top spots on my “things to hide from” list, so I found this WOD extremely challenging mentally and physically.

I appreciated Brett’s motivating attitude and cues for countdowns, as well as his suggestions for differentiation. He recommended to try an easier medicine ball weight so that we wouldn’t tire ourselves out at first. I initially tried to carry the prescribed medicine ball weight of 14 pounds, thinking “Fourteen pounds is not that much.” Oh but it is! I have now learned that I could sprint 200 meters with three fourteen pound objects (bags? babies?) but after three reps, I had to drop to 10 pounds, 8 pounds, and finally no weight at all. I am glad that I took a risk and attempted the higher weight though…I normally tend to be conservative with weight or advanced modifications (like in Pure Barre).

5) Stretches
For me, this was more like “lie on the floor and whimper.” I’m glad that the coaches made us stretch, because we would have been twice as sore if we had not.

I can see how CrossFit appeals to those who crave high-intensity, dynamic workouts, are motivated by competition, and like to bond with their fellow gym-goers. The workouts are constantly changing and will get you to improve at strength, speed, and endurance. However, I can also see how competition can be demotivating for others. I used to incorporate lots of team competitions in some math classes, but realized that some students hated those competitions out of fear of embarrassment or looking dumb in front of their peers. At CrossFit, I liked that we were working hard in solidarity, but I didn’t like feeling as if we were racing each other during the WOD. I think this is why I’ve grown to like indoor cycling classes…everyone in the room is working hard, but they’re all together rather than spread out according to speed and strength.

Though CrossFit is so difficult (and includes many of my most-feared exercises), I appreciated the chance to try it at CrossFit Coolidge Corner. Branching out of one’s comfort zone is important to do as a teacher and as a student. I would recommend CrossFit Coolidge Corner to both newbies and experienced CrossFitters based on the quality of instruction.

Thank you to Rachel and Kerrie for organizing and providing Sweetgreen tote bags with Motto green tea, a headband, and a CrossFit Coolidge Corner t-shirt!


cheddar scallion biscuits

By Kristina


While on a plane this week, I had a biscuit with butter and strawberry jelly. The buttery biscuit inspired me to make these biscuits via Fifteen Spatulas. I doubled the recipe and saved a few by freezing them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, then putting the frozen biscuits in a freezer bag.

Yield: Makes 8 biscuits, using a 2-inch cutter [I made these while talking with a friend, so I forgot the biscuit cutter step. I don’t own one yet and would have used a glass. I ended up shaping them like drop biscuits and ended up with 12. Some biscuits were bigger than others.]

Ingredients [what’s below is doubled]

12 oz flour (2.5 cups)
2.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar [forgot to double this but it turned out fine]
8 tbsp butter, cubed
6 oz cheddar cheese, grated [used a mix of sharp cheddar and white cheddar]
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup buttermilk

Directions: I like the specificity of visual cues in Fifteen Spatulas’ directions. I would have overstirred or melted the butter otherwise! I put them on a cooling rack for a few minutes after taking them out of the oven.

“Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (always nice and hot with biscuits, you want to put a strong fire under their butts so they puff up nicely). Butter a sheet pan.
Whisk to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Add the cubed butter, and work it with your fingertips, breaking down the butter and coating the little butter pieces with flour. When it looks like large crumbs, stir in the cheddar and scallions, then make a well in the center. Pour in the buttermilk, and fold the flour over it, and gently distribute the liquid throughout. Make sure you don’t overstir, it should look sort of crumbly.
Flour your countertop and dump the dough out onto it. Gently pat it out into a circle or rectangle, and use a biscuit cutter to cut out little biscuits (or, just cut it up into pieces).
Place the biscuits on the pan and bake for 10 minutes. Enjoy!!!”

Other Biscuit Combinations to Try
– Cheddar + Chive (would have done this today, but Whole Food was out of chives)
Blue Cheese + Scallion
Salami + Gorgonzola
Parmesan + Basil

More Breads to Try
Hot Buttered Fluffy Pretzels
Millet Muffins

views from the college side

By Kristina

My fiance and I often say that we are so compatible because we believe in the same values and have similar interests, but we are not too the same. For instance, if he were also a high school teacher or if I were a college professor, we would probably have driven each other crazy. There would be too much venting about mountains of grading / standardized testing or managing grad students / endless meetings.

However, we can share about the realities of K-12 education and the challenges of developing educational technology and we both grow as educators by learning from each other.

I’m so proud of all the amazing things he does. Read about his upcoming conference in Dubai here.

what’s in a name?

By Kristina

CJT_RainbowMugPersonalized “Mrs.” Mug by CJayne Teach

My students like consistency, whether it be the same seat in math class or the same Starbucks drink every morning. Some have even protested my upcoming post-marriage name change. I’m not alone; our former music teacher still got called her maiden name two years later and our awesome student support/advisory teacher/family outreach/generally wonderful person still gets called by hers twelve years later.

The varied name nomenclature in schools interests me. In other Boston Public Schools, teachers are universally referred to by “miss” or “mister.” My elementary teacher friends in Virginia go by “Mrs. [Last Name]” whereas married female teachers in my current school go by “Ms. [Last Name].” Boston Public Schools oddly has not let married female teachers change their email addresses, only the display names, i.e., I would still be kbuenafe@bostonpublicschools.org with a display name of “Danahy, Kristina.” I’m hoping that our switch from Outlook to Google Apps will make the email address switch possible though.

Owning one’s name fascinates me too. I used to hate feeling different from everyone else in the classroom; I wished to be one of the four Jessicas, Jennifers, or Emilys…or even just Christina rather than Kristina. Later in life, I hated the butchering of my last name by unsuspecting teachers who called roll from their class rosters. I ended up learning the Army alphabet to avoid people butchering it when taking messages or looking up my name at event registration tables (“B as in Bravo, U-E, N as in November, A, F as in Foxtrot, E).

Now I’m happy to be unique and proudly own my name. Some cool things about it: Buenafe means “good faith” in Spanish, and my middle initial is Q. I’ve taken to signing everything “KQB” for the past 13 years (picked up the after seeing my favorite systems engineering professor do it). It’ll still always be my name even after I swap out one word…and I’ll still have to spell it out when leaving messages or signing in at events.

I’ll just have to deal with the student reactions for now…

Student 1: You can’t change your name! You’ll always be Ms. Buenafe!

Student 2: No. I think I’ll keep calling you Ms. Buenafe, because I like it better.

Student 3: I don’t want you to change your name.
Student 3: Do you have a sister?
Me: Yes.
Student 3: Then she can be Ms. Buenafe.
Student 3: Oh! Do you have a brother?
Me: Yes.
Student 3: I know. I’ll marry him and *I’ll* be [Student 3] Buenafe.
Student 3: [bats her eyelashes at me]

Update: Here’s more married-name swag. DomestiKated Life posted some awesome personalized note cards from Atelier. Love the Coffee Talk ones.

the best part of waking up

By Kristina

…is a message on your cup.

Not just your name scrawled in black Sharpie by a Starbucks barista (though the name mistakes can be funny) or America Runs on Dunkin, but a reminder to set a positive tone for the day.

When I saw this cute mug on Etsy, memories of signing library book cards with a freshly sharpened number 2 pencil and pecking out “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” on a typewriter popped into my head. I thought, “this would make a great gift for teacher friends!”

peptalkmugMug by CJayneTeach

After I read the message inscribed on the index card lines, I thought “yup, cute gift…and powerful message.” It reminded me of setting the tone of the school day as if setting an intention for a yoga class. I like to start my school days with a solitary walk from the T, planning my day while surrounded by the peace and quiet of the Boston Common and Bay Village. I think about how to make lessons run smoothly and motivate students, how to make meetings and events run smoothly and motivate teachers (as a grade team leader), and how to make internal assessments, exam review, CAS, extended essay, and various IB components run smoothly and motivate students and teachers (as an IB coordinator). It’s easy to forget to set that intention and give way to worries about all of those things.

I could get behind this coffee mug’s intention: “You are awesome. Your students are learning from you. And today is going to be a good day.”

It evokes memories of a mentor teacher who used to used to start each school day imagining herself as the queen of her classroom and repeating “I am tough. I am strong. I own this.” This confidence-building phrase has stuck with me over the past six years, picking up a companion idea of “everything is going to be okay” in this little queendom that is my classroom. Recently, my old roommate helped reinforce the idea of trading agitation for calm + finding strength in peacefulness by sharing the mantra “I am peaceful. I am grateful” that she’d picked up at a yoga retreat.

So after this February break is over and I’m back to morning coffee and walks in the snow to school, I’ll remember to listen to the coffee mug: not to think of myself as awesome all the time, but to remember to stay positive and keep finding those moments of awesomeness in teaching, learning, and leading.

cookie dough cupcakes & bake sales

By Kristina

Last week I made cookie dough cupcakes (inspired by my friend Jess) for a prom bake sale. This is now the third prom I’ve helped the students fundraise for. Over the years I’ve gotten much better at forecasting what kids & teachers might want to buy and how to streamline my baking efforts so that it doesn’t infringe upon my teaching.

1) Go Simple and Consumable. Last year, I made some “hot chocolate in a bag” that included Nestle Quik, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and white chocolate chips after seeing a fellow BPS teacher selling them for Key Club. However, they did not sell well at all with my students. First, I think they didn’t know how to use them. Second, they involved too many steps between purchase and consumption.

2) Leave gourmet ingredients to dinner parties. My coworker who is an amazing baker made chocolate chip cookies using Ghirardelli chocolate. The staff understood that a pricing markup was reasonable given the cost of this chocolate, but students preferred to purchase 50 cent cookies rather than indulge in the premium cookies for a dollar.

3) Go Transportable. I knew I didn’t want the hassle of making a cake or a pie that could get jostled on the T and need extra utensils and plates for serving. Luckily, I had an awesome cupcake carrier that could safely protect 24 cupcakes.

This led me to a plan of combining Tidy Mom’s advice to substitute a stick of butter for vegetable oil in Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix (on sale!) + Cookie Dough Schmear + Betty Crocker Buttercream Frosting (also on sale). I chose to go the prepared mix route to cut down on my ingredient prep time and baking time, and also planned out my ingredient list and two-day baking plan in advance. One day was for making and freezing cookie dough balls and the second was for the cupcakes.

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I added some pretty cupcake wrappers and toppers that I’d found at Marshall’s.

705a3bc6951811e3849612be83976d1b_8After scooping batter into the cupcake liners with an ice cream scoop, I deposited frozen cookie dough balls in the center of each.


I took them out of the oven (and the tins) to cool after giving them the “does it bounce back when poked?” test.

I let them cool for 15 minutes and then frosted them with a cupcake decorating kit and the help of my fiance.


My frosting technique was a bit inconsistent.


But it got better! I found the process quite soothing (like knitting).

The cupcakes sold out and I got lots of compliments on them. I will definitely make these again.

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