Thursday, November 28, 2013

Chocolate Cobbler

I made this Chocolate Cobbler, following the recipe exactly.  I thought it was really good, but can you go wrong with warm gooey chocolate and melty ice cream?  Jeremy really liked the pudding/ sauce, but didn't love the flavor of the cobbler topping.  So I'm not sure I'll be rushing to make this again, but it is quick to whip up and I always have the ingredients on hand, so I'm sure we'll do a repeat eventually.  I also like the fact the it is intended for an 8x8 pan.  Most desserts and cakes are so huge that it takes forever for our little family to eat them, this is a great size to serve us for 2ish days for just our family, or maybe one night if we had company.

Book release: The Longest Bridge across Water

We are very excited to announce that Jeremy's book, The Longest Bridge across Water, will be released January 3rd. Please see the facebook fan page for details. Like the book page to stay up to speed. We will be drawing at random a name on Black Friday to receive a free copy of the book.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Green Well Salad

This salad is from the book Bread & Wine.  It has quickly become my favorite salad ever, it is perfect in every way!  I didn't even know I liked goat cheese until I ate this salad.  The two things that I did differently than the recipe were to double the amount of maple syrup (because I like my dressings on the sweet side), and to add a 1/2 tsp salt to the onions while they were caramelizing.  



1 lb mixed greens

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 sliced pears

2 cups red grapes, halved

1 cup dried cherries, chopped if they’re the big kind

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 4 oz container crumbled goat cheese

Maple Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon Dijon

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Begin by caramelizing the onions. Slice them thinly and cook them on medium-low heat in a tablespoon of butter until rich, dark brown, about 45 minutes.

For the vinaigrette:

Spoon Dijon into the bottom of a jelly jar. Add balsamic and maple syrup, salt and pepper. Shake well. Ad oil, and shake again. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside.

For the salad:

Toss the greens with half the vinaigrette, then add the rest of the ingredients, the rest of the dressing, and toss again.

If you’d like to make it a more substantial main-course salad , you can add two cups or so of sliced, cooked chicken as well.

Serves 4-6

Friday, November 22, 2013

26 weeks

Here is what is going on with Elisha this week according to;

If you want to introduce sign language to your baby, now's the time. Her understanding of language and her motor skills develop much faster than her ability to speak. Most babies, for example, discover how to wave (around 9 months) and point (by age 1) long before they can say "bye bye" or "look at that!"

Giving your baby the tools to express herself may help cut down on her frustration. While baby signing doesn't promise to eliminate tears or tantrums, babies this young have been taught to "sign" successfully.

To begin, try using a hand signal every time you use common words such as "book" (open your palms with your hands together) or "hungry" (put your fingers to your lips). Later on, your baby will be able to express more complex ideas such as "I'm done with my juice" with a simple gesture such as putting her palms up at shoulder height.

And don't worry: Signing won't interfere with your baby's progress in learning to speak. In fact, it may actually help develop her language skills.
Your baby may favor one hand for a while and then switch to the other. But you can't really tell whether she's a lefty or a righty until she's about 2 or 3 years old.

Don't try to influence your baby's hand preference (it's determined before birth). Forcing her to use her right hand when she's really a lefty, for example, may confuse her and lead to problems with hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and handwriting down the road.

Your baby will love turn-taking games, especially ones that involve sounds and language. Let your baby be the leader sometimes, and mimic her vocalizations. When it's your turn to lead, a good way to teach — and amuse — your baby is to make animal noises ("quack-quack," "bow-wow").

One upside of these kinds of games is that they can be played anywhere. Your baby will delight in the sounds of water splashing in the bathtub or blocks hitting the floor. Show your baby how to make these fun (if sometimes annoying) noises and then let her have a turn.

Elisha is doing great.  He's had a lot of changes over the last few weeks and has taken them like a champ.

He had his first sickness, with a runny nose/ cough/ cold for several days, but unlike Noah, he never got a fever and he was a happy trooper through the whole thing, even when his breathing sounded like an asthmatic pug dog.

We started solid food and he has been responding really well to it.  He eats everything that I give him, which is usually 2-3 servings per sitting.  He eats solid food twice a day (around lunch time and dinner time) and nurses about every 3 hours all day long.  So far he has had rice cereal, banana, avocado, and yogurt.

We finally stopped swaddling Elisha when he sleeps.  This went on a little too long, but he just recently got past his "falling reflex" within the last month.  I put this off for a while cause he already isn't a great sleeper at night and I've been scared that the transition would be rough.  Elisha continues to amaze me at how flexible of a baby he is!  On the first day, for his 2 naps and nighttime sleep he cried less than 5 minutes each and easily fell asleep unswaddled.  If I had known it would have been that easy, I would have done this months ago.

He has started to show some attempts to crawl or scoot, but isn't quite there yet.  He also doesn't roll over all that much yet, but I think he is held a lot more of the day than Noah was at this age.

He is really showing an interest in playing with/ shaking/ holding onto toys, especially rattles and crinkly toys.

At his doctor's appointment last week he was 18 lbs 8 oz, and his head was 17.5 inches.  He continues to be on the larger side of all of these measurements, continuing to grow at a good rate.

Just for kicks, here is a link to Noah at 26 weeks.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

Pumpkin French Toast Bake

This is such a quick and easy way to enjoy the flavors of french toast for a crowd, rather than cooking up a bunch of individual slices of french toast.  I sprinkled the top with a little powdered sugar to make it look pretty, but that step is entirely optional.  Serve with syrup for a hearty, soul soothing breakfast.  This could even be assembled and refrigerated the night before and then popped into the oven in the morning.

-8 eggs
-2 c skim milk
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 c brown sugar
-1 c canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
-1 Tbsp vanilla
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-12 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, cut into cubes
-(optional) 1 cup chopped pecans, 2 additional Tbsp brown sugar

In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, brown sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  Combine with bread cubes, stirring until all of the bread has absorbed the egg/ milk mixture.  Pour into a greased 13x9 pan.  Top with nuts and remaining sugar if using.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, until set.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hashbrown Casserole

Hashbrown Casserole

I usually stay away from dishes using processed "cream of..." soups and shortcut items like frozen hashbrowns but I've had this casserole before and wanted to attempt making a lighter version myself.  Maybe one day I'll take it a step further and eliminate the processed ingredients.  I've seen numerous recipes on the internet for this dish that have up to 2 sticks of butter in them and either have crushed cornflakes or potato chips combined with butter for a crispy topping.  I'm sure that these additions are delicious, but they are a little too indulgent for everyday dinners at our house.  So this is my everyday, less decadent version.  For a holiday or special occasion I'd recommend adding some butter to the casserole and one of the topping options.  This is so quick and easy to throw together, making it a great option for a fuss free week night dinner.

-1 32 oz bag frozen hashbrowns, thawed
-1 can reduced fat cream of chicken or cream of celery soup
-1 c light sour cream
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
-1/2 c green onions, sliced

In a medium bowl, whisk together cream of... soup, sour cream, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Spread into a greased 13x9 pan (top with a little extra cheddar cheese if desired) and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Egg McMuffins

I have made these Egg McMuffins many times and they are always great.  Jeremy says they are better than an actual Egg McMuffin, and with a whole wheat english muffin and no grease they are more healthy (and cheap) than the real thing also.  They are really easy to throw together and freeze/ reheat wonderfully also.  We enjoy having these for our breakfast for dinner nights.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Is it ok to enjoy God?


Last night I went on a date with my husband. Over dinner we discussed some attributes of God, and some things He is doing in, showing, and teaching us right now. By the end of dinner I felt literally intoxicated by the presence of God... pretty much equivalent to having had a glass of wine. I felt peaceful, joyful, relaxed, a complete patience love grace and gentleness for all people, keenly aware of God, and and who I am in Him, and even a little silly/ goofy and not quite as functional and "with it" as I normally am.

This intoxication is something that I've only felt a few times before, usually following an intense worship experience. It is something that Jeremy has started to experience very often lately, frequently solely the result of discussing God and His ways. Many times Jeremy has had someone at his office, and by the end of their meeting both parties feel very intoxicated simply as a result of discussing God, and Him changing the entire atmosphere. Most of the people who have experienced this with Jeremy have never even been exposed to stuff/experiences like this before or even had a grid for this stuff.

When Jeremy first started telling me about these experiences it offended my mind... or more accurately, the religious mindset I was operating in. I thought that it just sounded weird... like something those super weird and "out there" Christians would say, you know, the Christians that there are documentaries about that basically make them look crazy... and I am not one of "those" people. I was responding to what Jeremy would say to me with doubts in my mind and not in faith. I was thinking things like "that can't be true". And then it happened to me... huh. God does that a lot. He takes something I feel/ believe and gives me an experience that is exactly opposite... and therefore wrecks my theology (like He did with speaking in tongues).

Some of the thoughts I would think in reaction to Jeremy's stories of these experiences would be things like; "is this even okay", "is it okay to enjoy God?", "why would God give us experiences solely for our pleasure, doesn't this seem un-spiritual or unlike the God that has been portrayed to me?".

Now looking back, it seems funny to me typing those questions... of course it's "okay" to enjoy God! I think that line of thinking just reveals how deeply religious and sterile my understanding of God was, and how incorrect my definition of "spiritual" was. It reveals my misconception that Holy means joyless, sterile, orderly and more. It reveals the way I compartmentalized fun and recreation and God and spiritual... believing these things didn't coexist. When of course they do, God created fun, recreation, pleasure and enjoyment... He is those things, it is His nature!

Verses like the one below, are coming alive to me in a whole new sense now.
Luke 11:13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
I've always known that God gives us good gifts, and read this verse through the lens of provision, of Him giving me things to enjoy. When really, that is out of context, right in the verse it talks about THE gift of the Spirit... and now I'm starting to understand that the Spirit is for our enjoyment.
I still don't have an answer as to whether God gives us these experiences solely for our enjoyment, but I have come to realize that He is love, joy, hope, peace etc. and before we can overflow with these attributes to others, that we first have to be filled with them ourselves. I have come to realize that He is these things, and He is in me, so it is my nature to be those things also... anything contrary is not my nature now. I have come to realize that I am an agent of these attributes to others, on His behalf, so while it is a by-product that I get to enjoy them myself, that He has purposed me to minister Himself (love, hope, joy, peace etc.) to everyone I encounter.

God is blowing my mind today and taking me to a whole new level of realizing who He is and what a life lived in communion with Him looks like. As I type this I am driving my husband crazy with just how elated, enthusiastic, and joyful I am at 4 in the morning, bouncing around the house with a spring in my step, just so excited to be awake, and to be able to enjoy God. It's like I have come alive in a whole new way and my senses are being awakened and I just can't contain the excitement within me, it is bubbling up out of me.

Shouldn't that be how we, the church, are? Shouldn't we be so excited about God and so filled with Him that we can't contain it, and it is contagious to everyone we encounter? Isn't that a picture of a Christianity that would change the lives of those who encounter it leaving people completely different, and transforming their circumstances and the world around them?

I hope that you spend some time truly enjoying your Creator today friends!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Feta Breakfast Casserole

Feta Breakfast Casserole

I had a bunch of feta cheese and veggies lying around that needed to be used up, so this was my solution.  Breakfast casseroles are such a great way to use up leftover cheeses, veggies, and meats.  Plus they are very simple, fairly healthy, and inexpensive.  We have breakfast for dinner at least one night a week since it is simple and inexpensive and breakfast casseroles are a great option for those evenings.  I always assemble breakfast casseroles (if I'm serving them in the morning) the night before, and then remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature for an hour in the morning prior to baking as directed.  Since this is more of a savory dish, I added herbs and garlic, but those could be left out for something more traditional.

-2 c skim milk
-8 eggs
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 1/2 tsp thyme
-1 1/2 tsp rosemary
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 1/2 c feta cheese
-assorted veggies, chopped (I used spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes here).  If using fresh spinach or mushrooms, lightly saute them first and squeeze out excess moisture.  If using frozen spinach, thaw it and squeeze out excess moisture.
-8 slices whole wheat bread, cubed (I used to be more "fancy" and cut the crusts off, now I even use the end pieces and leave all of the crusts on.  I don't really notice any difference in the finished product)

Combine milk, eggs, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and garlic in a large bowl.  Whisk until well mixed.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour/spread mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan.  (Refrigerate for up to 12 hours at this point if desired).  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until set.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Mac and Cheese Cups

This recipe is from the book Bread & Wine.  I've posted the recipe as it is in the book, but here are the few changes that I made;

-used whole wheat pasta
-after trying to melt the cheese, whisking till smooth and failing with a gloppy mess, I just tossed the melted butter and shredded cheese with the pasta and this worked well, and even skipped a whole step
-I made mini macs for appetizers as the book directs, but I also made some in muffin tins as a side dish for dinner... those I baked at 350 for 25 minutes

Everyone really liked these.  Most mac and cheese recipes that I've followed over the years call for ground mustard in them, which is a nice touch.  But, I will never do that again.  The dijon in this recipe added a new depth and complexity to mac and cheese that I will incorporate into every future mac and cheese I make.

Mini Mac & Cheese
Ingredients to Serve 8
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (or 4 cups cooked)
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for pan
1 tablespoon dijon
2 dashes Tabasco
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Smoked paprika
In a pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni to just al dente, which is just a touch firmer than how you’d like to eat it. About 5 minutes. Drain.
On medium-low heat, warm butter and cheddar cheese, whisk till smooth.
Add Dijon, Tabasco, egg yolk, whisk again.
Add macaroni and mix until well coated with cheese.
Brush mini muffin pan with melted butter, then sprinkle grated parmesan into each cup.
Spoon into muffin pans, making them slightly rounded and packing them gently. Top with grated Parmesan.
Bake at 425 for 12 to 14 minutes, until bubbling and golden on top. After removing from oven, sprinkle with smoked paprika.
Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving, because they will set as they cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken

This is very similar to my Slow Cooker Chinese Char Siu roast pork, and just as good.  Serve over rice with sriracha, sesame seeds, and chopped green onions for topping.

-3-4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
-3/4 c honey
-1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
-1/4 cup hoisin sauce
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
-1 Tbsp sesame oil
-1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
(*double sauce ingredients if making new sauce after cooking, like I do)

In slow cooker, whisk together honey, soy, hoisin, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and Sriracha sauce. Add chicken, turning to coat.  Cook chicken in slow cooker on low for 4 hours. Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred using 2 forks (discarding any extra fat while shredding). At this point many people would return the meat to the juices in the slow cooker, thicken with cornstarch, and then serve. I discard those juices (because they are full of the fat that cooked out of the meat). At this point I whisk together a sauce almost identical to the original sauce (but with 1 tsp instead of 1 Tbsp of Sriracha) in the slow cooker, return the meat to the slow cooker, and cook on low for 30 min- 1 hour, then serve.

Friday, November 1, 2013

23 weeks

Here is what is going on with Elisha according to;

Your baby's getting better at spotting very small objects and tracking moving things. At this point, he may be able to recognize an object after seeing only part of it — like his favorite toy peeking out from under the couch. This will be the basis of little hide-and-seek games you'll be playing in the coming months.

He can also follow an object out of his view. Your baby will reach for a block (or another object) on a table if you hold him close to it, and once he's got one, he may just go after a second.

Earlier your baby learned to distinguish between similar bold colors. Now, he's beginning to sort out subtle differences in pastels. Reading books about colors or playing with colored blocks is a great way to learn about the color palette.
When your baby starts fussing at the supermarket, you may be able to distract him — not for enough time to knock everything off your shopping list, but a few minutes goes a long way these days. Try engaging him with funny faces or a round of "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider."

Clapping your hands, giving him something to hold and mouth, or pointing out new objects in the aisles might work, too. But, remember: For some sensitive babies, the sights, sounds, smells, and overly friendly folks found in stores can be too much.
Your baby's ability to interact with you, others, and his surroundings is growing daily. At this stage, he may start playing little games as he begins to understand that simple actions have results. He may drop objects just to watch you pick them up or to see how and where they fall.

Once he understand that letting go of something is as much fun as picking it up, your baby's world will become more interesting — and yours a good deal messier. Tiring as it sounds, you'd better get used to it. In a few weeks, this will be accompanied by your baby's fits of giggles.

Before long, you'll probably notice the noise level increasing, not only because of your baby's babble but also because he'll find out how much fun it is to bang objects together. Banging, shaking, and mouthing are all ways your baby conducts his experiments on the world.

Elisha is doing great.  He continues to be a very happy, smiley, laid back baby.

He has started "saying" a very early version of "hi".  I remember this was the first wordish sound that we ever heard Noah say also, although we considered mama to be his first word.  Every time Jeremy and I see our kids we say hi, so I think he is beginning to pick up on and try to mimic that sound.

He is still growing at a speedy pace and now, at 5 months, is wearing 9 month clothes.

He loves engaging and interacting with people and he has a little game that he likes to play that we call his "bashful" face.  While I'm holding him over my shoulder he will make eye contact with someone and engage them.  He'll quickly shoot them a big gummy grin before immediately burying his face in my shoulder hiding his eyes as if he is playing shy.  He will do it over and over again and it melts my heart every. single. time.

He loves to be outdoors and go for family walks.  He loves watching and laughing at his brother playing.  He loves sitting on the couch on Sundays and watching football with his daddy.  He seems eager to start eating solid food (we'll start in a few weeks), and eager to get down on the floor and move around and play in the mix of everything.

He is still getting up one or two times per night, but sleeps from almost 8 pm to 8 am with the exception of waking up 2ish times to eat.