Thursday, December 22, 2016

Spinach, Artichoke and White Bean Soup

Spinach, Artichoke and White Bean Soup

I couldn't decide whether to leave this soup chunky or puree it.  I ended up partially pureeing it using my immersion blender and was happy with that result, but you could definitely go chunky or entirely pureed with this soup based on your preference. Serve this soup with some crusty bread for dunking and additional parmesan for topping.

-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (15 oz) can artichokes, drained and chopped into a chunky dice
-2 (15 oz) cans white beans, rinsed
-3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
-2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 c cream
-zest and juice of 1 lemon
-1/2 cup grated or shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
-4 cups spinach, torn into bite sized pieces

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add oil and onion, saute until soft, 5-10 minutes. Add garlic, saute an additional minute, stirring constantly. Add artichokes, white beans, broth, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to medium low so that the soup is not boiling. Add the cream, lemon juice and zest and parmesan, if using. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until all of the spinach is wilted. Puree if desired or serve as is.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Handmade Baby Shower Gifts

Here are some of my favorite handmade gifts to give and make as of late for baby showers and 1 year old birthdays.

These skirts are so simple to make. I mostly followed this tutorial.

This sweet little doll. I mostly followed this pattern but increased the size.

These simple headbands.

This monogram onesie, baby bow tie, paci clip, bandana bib and giraffe rattle.

These stuffed owls. I mostly followed this pattern but eliminated the feet.

These stuffed monsters are a more masculine alternative to the owls for little boys. I mostly followed this pattern but eliminated a few steps and increased the size with my copy machine.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes

I've made this as a 2 tier cake or cupcakes interchangeably. I take a short cut using a boxed cake mix in this one, you can substitute your favorite yellow or white cake recipe for the box- but make sure you add almond extract and the shredded coconut.

-1 white or yellow boxed cake mix
-ingredients needed according to box- usually some combination of water, oil and eggs
-1 tsp almond extract
-1 cup shredded coconut

For the frosting:
-1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
-2 sticks butter at room temperature
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 teaspoon almond extract
-3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
-1 cup shredded coconut

Mix cake according to package directions, adding the almond extract with the wet ingredients. Stir in shredded coconut. Bake according to package directions.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Snickers Rice Krispie Bars

Snickers Rice Krispie Bars

-1/2 stick butter
-5 cups mini marshmallows
-5½ cups rice krispie cereal
-½ cup peanuts
-11 oz caramels (unwrapped) or caramel bits
-3 TBS heavy cream
-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt butter over medium low heat in a large sauce pan. Add in marshmallows and stir together untill the marshmallows are completely melted. Pour in rice krispie cereal and stir together untill the cereal is completely coated. Pour cereal mixture into a greased 9x13 in pan and press down evenly.
Sprinkle peanuts evenly over the top of the rice krispie treats.
Combine caramels and heavy cream in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir until caramel is melted and smooth. Pour caramel evenly over the top of rice krispie treats.
Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments (for about 90 seconds total), stirring after each interval until smooth. Pour chocolate over the caramel layer and spread evenly.Let chocolate set completely, cut and serve.

Mango Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Mango Black Bean Quinoa Salad
For mine, I diced an avocado and stirred it into the salad just before serving, but my hubby doesn't like avocado so the salad isn't pictured with it.

-1/4 cup lime juice
-1/4 cup olive oil
-2 Tbsp sugar or honey
-2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp cayenne
-1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
-2 cups mango, diced
-1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/2 red onion, diced
-1/2 red bell pepper, diced
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Whisk together lime zest and juice, olive oil, sugar/ honey, cumin, salt and cayenne. Toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately or chill until serving.

Mango Curry Quinoa Salad

Mango Curry Quinoa Salad

-4 Tbsp olive oil
-4 Tbsp lemon juice
-4 Tbsp yogurt
-1 Tbsp sugar or honey
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
-2 cups mango, diced
-1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
-3 scallions, sliced
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, yogurt, sugar/ honey, salt, cayenne and garlic. Toss dressing with the remaining ingredients, serve immediately or chill until serving.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

These are one of our favorite desserts. The texture of the chocolate part is more cake-like than brownie-like, but the original recipe I started with calls them brownies, so I stuck with it. I always use light sour cream and cream cheese and they come out great, but go full fat if you prefer.

Brownie layer
-1 stick butter, melted
-3/4 c water
-1/4 c cocoa powder
-1/2 c sour cream
-2 eggs
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 c sugar
-2 c flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt

Cheesecake layer
-8 oz cream cheese
-1 egg
-1/3 c sugar
-1/2 tsp vanilla
-1 c chocolate chips

Mix melted butter with water and cocoa powder. Add sour cream, eggs and vanilla and mix. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 c sugar, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir dry ingredients into the wet ones. Pour brownie mixture into the bottom of a greased 13x9 pan.

Mix cream cheese, egg, 1/3 c sugar and vanilla for cheesecake mixture. Drop spoonfulls of cheesecake mixture over the brownie mixture. Use a knife to swirl and marble the batters. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the entire pan. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool to room temperature and enjoy.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Nutella Cookie Bars with Sea Salt

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Nutella Cookie Bars with Sea Salt

I got this recipe from Two Peas in a Pod and then made a couple changes to suit my taste. These were really yummy.

-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
-3/4 cup processed cocoa
-1 cup butter, at room temperature
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup light brown sugar
-2 eggs
-1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1 cup chocolate chips
-1/2 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cocoa. Set aside. With a mixer, cream butter and sugars together until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla extract and mix until combined. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Divide the dough in half. Press half of the dough into the prepared pan. Spread the Nutella over the dough. Top the Nutella evenly with the remaining cookie dough. It is ok if some of the Nutella peaks out, but try to cover it as much as possible. Sprinkle the cookie bars with sea salt. Bake cookies for 30 minutes, or until cookie bars are set around the edges, but still a little soft in the center. Don't overbake. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack. Cut into squares and serve.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach

Lemon Chicken Soup with Spinach

This is a nice twist on the classic chicken noodle soup. The lemon brightens the flavors and adds an unexpected touch. I based this soup on the classic Greek lemon chicken soup, but then added spinach for extra nutrition. Any rice or pasta would work in this soup, but adjust your cooking times based on what you use (add a cup or two of extra water if you use brown rice). You could use white beans instead of the chicken and veggie broth in  place of the chicken broth for a vegan version of this soup. You could use a rotisserie chicken for this soup, or any leftover chicken that you have on hand. This recipe makes a large pot of soup,

-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-3 carrots, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-8 cups chicken broth
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 tsp oregano
-1 tsp thyme
-1 tsp rosemary
-2 cups desired pasta or rice (I used whole wheat shells)
-3 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded
-1/2 lb spinach, torn into bite sized pieces
-juice of 2 lemons

Heat olive oil in a soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and carrots, stirring and sauteing until softened (5-10 minutes). Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add broth, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Bring soup to a boil. Add pasta or rice, reduce heat to medium and simmer according to package directions. Add chicken and spinach., cook 5 additional minutes, stirring intermittently. Stir in lemon juice and serve.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Toasted Brie and Nutella Croissants with Red Wine Cherry Compote

Toasted Brie and Nutella Croissants with Red Wine Cherry Compote

This my knock off of a dessert at a local restaurant. One of our friends requested that I attempt this dish for his birthday. This was such a fun, delicious, sophisticated, unexpected dessert. This cherry sauce would also be delicious served alongside a pork tenderloin.



Split the croissants in half; spread the bottom with nutella, then cover with sliced brie. Place the top on the croissant and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes until warm and crispy. Serve croissant with the cherry compote and dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Red Wine Cherry Compote

-1/2 cup sugar
-1 1/4 cups red wine
-1 lb fresh or frozen cherries, stemmed and pitted
-2 Tbsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tbsp water
-1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Bring the red wine and sugar to a boil in a medium pan, stirring to mix. Add the cherries; reduce heat to low, and simmer 5-10 minutes. Add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, cook until thickened. Remove sauce from heat, allow to cool and serve at room temperature.

Mexican Street Corn Salad

Mexican Street Corn Salad

This is such a yummy, summery side dish. You get all the flavors of Mexican street corn, but none of the gunk stuck in your teeth. This is my go to when I have leftover corn on the cob after dinner one night.

-6 ears of corn; roasted, grilled or sauteed until browned and then cut off the cob
-3 Tbsp mayo
-zest and juice of 1 lime
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp chili powder
-1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
-3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
-(optional) 1/2 cup queso fresco, cotija or parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl whisk together mayo, lime zest and juice, salt, chili powder and cayenne. Stir in cilantro and cheese (if using). Serve immediately

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Happy 3rd Birthday Elisha!!!!

Happy Birthday Elisha!

This has been a big year for you, with lots of changes and firsts! This year you got potty trained. You moved from sleeping in a crib to sleeping in a big boy bed, on the bottom bunk, below Noah. You had your first trip to the ER after you fell down our front steps. You got 7 stitches in your chin and you were so brave and tough and didn't cry or whine at all while they put the stitches in, or a week later when the doctor took the stitches out. You went to the beach for the first time ever and LOVED playing in the sand. This year your oldest brother went to school and so you got more personalized time with me than ever before. And then your baby brother was born and you became a big brother yourself. You wanted to go to school too so when we started going to MOPS monthly I told you it was your school and you were so proud to go to "school" and carry your own bag in. We moved across the city this year into a new house and neighborhood. You have handled all of these changes so well.

This year you have developed such a sweet bond with your daddy. I love to see you two together. You two are special buddies and you probably prefer him to me most of the time.

Noah is your best friend. You two play together most of the time we are home, or out at parks. You two make up your own games (like "beating the people"-whatever that is) and imaginary worlds and have so much fun. Like most brothers you two bicker a lot also, but you two are usually pretty quick to apologize, forgive and move on. Each morning when Noah wakes up and comes out of your room (you tend to get up 30-60 minutes earlier than him) you cheer his name so happily and loudly. You love to see him and have him around. You do the same thing when he comes home from school.

You love Zeke so much. You love to give him hugs and kisses. You love to make him laugh. You are so excited to see him each morning and want to hold him. Whenever I burp him after nursing you want to help and you slap him on the back.

As of late, it seems that hitting is becoming your love language. You like to wrestle and be rough. You are brave and not intimidated by bigger kids. You often try to tackle, push or play rough with others. You learned this from all of the time you spend wrestling with your daddy and Noah, but now we need to solidify in you that there is a time and place for wrestling and not everyone likes to play like that.

Your daddy often says that you have the perfect personality because you are so laid back and easy going but not a pushover and you have no problem standing up for yourself. You are rough and tough yet still sensitive.

You love to help. You like carrying groceries in from the car. When you make a spill on your own initiative you will find a towel or napkin and clean it up. You like to help me cook, do laundry or help with projects I am working on. You are a doer.

I'd say that touch and time with are your love languages. Touch in that you like contact with others, whether it's rough housing or snuggling, touch seems to fill you. Your daddy and I laugh at how obvious it is the words of affirmation is not your love language. We tell you we love you and tell you great things we see in you and none of this seems to phase you very much.

You seem to be on the introverted side. You are happy to play by yourself for long periods of time, not needing or wanting constant interaction with others. Since your older brother is so extremely extroverted you get very little time to yourself though. He is constantly engaging you in some type of activity with him.

You are a pretty good eater. You eat almost all fruits and many veggies including broccoli, carrots, cucumbers and corn on the cob. You like chicken, cheese, turkey burgers and most snack foods. Your favorite dinners are mac and cheese, pizza and chicken nuggets.

Your favorite thing to do is probably to dig in the dirt with your diggers. You also love to go watch all the machines at work at "struction" sites. You like to color and do playdoh. You like to go for walks and play on playgrounds. You love to play with bubbles and sidewalk chalk. You like to do puzzles, play hide and go seek, read books and feed the ducks. Your favorite shows to watch are Bubble Guppies, Julius Jr. and Daniel Tiger.

You know the alphabet, colors, shapes and the names of all big trucks or construction equipment. You talk so well and formulate such good sentences. You still have a bit of a toddler lisp saying certain words and I love the way you say "dee-wish-ous" (delicious) and "gabaw" (grandma).

You were named after two prophets, Elisha and Samuel. We believe that you have a deep gift of wisdom. I believe that you are going to be a peace keeper. You are strong and steady and not easily swayed by emotions and I believe that you will bring that sense of steadiness everywhere you go. You bring so much joy and fun to our family and we all love you so very much!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Dinner Done by 9 am: The What

This is the third post in my Dinner Done by 9 am series. Click here to read the first post on The Why, or here to read the second post on The How regarding Dinner Done by 9 am.

Now that we've covered the reasons why I cook dinner by 9 am and the techniques that help me do this we'll cover some of my favorite make-ahead dinners and breakdown what steps I do in the morning and what I do just prior to meal time. (Click the link on the name of each dish to see the recipe.)

Fish Tacos with Cayenne Lime Sour Cream Sauce with Cilantro Lime Slaw and Refried Black Beans
-In the morning I make the sour cream sauce, shred the cabbage and chop the cilantro for the toppings, make the slaw, make the refried beans, refrigerate everything until the evening.
-Just before serving I season and cook the fish, re-heat the beans, set out the slaw, tortillas, sour cream sauce and all the toppings just before eating.

White Chicken Chili with cornbread
-In the morning I completely make the chili and cornbread, refrigerating the chili and leaving the cornbread at room temperature.
-Just before serving I reheat the chili (and cornbread, if desired) and set out any toppings.

-In the morning I fully assemble the lasagna without baking and then refrigerate.
-Just before serving I bake the lasagna as directed and serve with roasted veggies or a salad.

Build your own taco/ burrito/ taco salad bar with Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken, Cuban Black Beans, Homemade Salsa and Guacamole (easily serves people who are gluten free, vegan, or picky since everyone gets to assemble their own)
-In the morning I cook the beans, put the chicken in the slow cooker and make the salsa.
-Just before serving I shred the chicken, re-heat the beans, cook rice (if using), set out all the toppings and make the guacamole. (To make the guacamole I simply stir a few Tbsp of the salsa with 2-4 diced avocados adding a little salt and hot sauce if needed).

Curried Chicken Pasta Salad
-In the morning I completely assemble the pasta salad and refrigerate. Then I simply take this out of the fridge when it's time to serve.

Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki, Hummus and Tabouleh
-In the morning I marinate the chicken, make the tzatziki, chop whatever toppings I'm using, make the hummus, make the tabouleh and refrigerate everything.
-Just before serving I take everything out of the fridge and set it up and cook the chicken.

Korean Beef (gluten free)
-In the morning I completely make the beef in the morning, chop the green onions for topping and then refrigerate both.
-Just before serving I re-heat the beef, set out the onions and sriracha for topping and cook some rice.

Picadillo (gluten free)
-In the morning I completely make the picadillo, chop parsley or cilantro for garnish and refrigerate.
-Just before serving I re-heat the picadillo, set out the toppings and cook the rice.

Bolognese Sauce over pasta
-In the morning I completely make the sauce and refrigerate.
-Just before serving I reheat the sauce, cook the pasta and roast some veggies to serve with it.

Slow Cooker Indian Curry (gluten free, vegan)
-In the morning I throw all of the ingredients except the spinach in the slow cooker.
-Just before serving I stir in the spinach and cook rice to serve the curry over.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille (gluten free, vegan)
-In the morning I get everything set up in the slow cooker.
-Just before serving I set out parmesan cheese for topping and cook the pasta.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dinner Done by 9 am: The How

This is the second post in my Dinner Done by 9 am series. To see the first post on the reasons why I cook dinner by 9 am click here.

I've already covered why I try to cook dinner by 9 am each day. In this post I'll cover more details on how I do this.

Not all dinners lend themselves well to being cooked in advance. Casseroles, soups, stews and salads tend to be dishes that can easily be prepared in advance without compromising quality. Things like seafood, seared/ grilled meats that are served warm and pasta are not usually reheated with as good of quality the second go around, but there is still a lot that can be done in advance when preparing dinners including these components.

The list below is a good breakdown of what cooking activities I do in the morning and what I save for the hour prior to meal time.

Things I do in advance;
-assemble salads, but don't dress them
-make salad dressing
-make all sauces (dipping sauce, sauce bases for pasta dishes...)
-marinate, wrap, stuff or chop meat
-wash and chop herbs and vegetables
-pre-cook vegetables (when applicable)
-fully assemble any casseroles (mac and cheese, lasagna, green bean casserole, breakfast casserole...)up to the point of baking, refrigerate and then bake immediately prior to serving
-fully cook all soups, chilis, stews and curries, refrigerate and then heat back up prior to serving
-make any dough or baked goods that are necessary
-throw everything in the slow cooker when using it
-fully prepare any cold salads/ pasta salad (like chicken salad, pasta salad, curried chicken pasta salad, sesame noodles..,)

Things I do directly before eating;
-reheat any soups, stews, curries etc.
-add fresh herbs into soups or stews
-dress salad
-cook any seared/ grilled/ roasted meats
-bake any casseroles
-roast veggies for side dishes
-cook and add pasta to soups or sauced pasta dishes
-cook rice when using

Stay tuned next Monday for the next post in this series with links to many of my favorite make-ahead dinners and tips on what I serve them with, what I do in advance, and what I save for the last minute. Don't forget to follow me on social media or subscribe to my blog to make sure you don't miss the next post.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dinner Done By 9 am: The Why

I get a lot of questions and comments about my #dinnerdoneby9am that I've been using for a year so I decided to do a blog series about this concept and hopefully answer once and for all the many questions that have been asked. This first post in the series will be dedicated to explaining what #dinnerdoneby9am is, and the why behind it. I plan to do a couple more posts including more details on the how and my favorite dinner done by 9 am dinners. If you have any questions please comment on the posts and I will answer all the questions on the final post of the series.

The Why

Whatever the opposite of a procrastinator is, that is what I am. I like to do things WAY ahead of time. I start planning my friend's baby showers when they're still in the first trimester, sometimes even before they are pregnant. Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today is my mantra. I like to finish my work before I play. I like to get all of the errands, cleaning, cooking, bill paying, emailing etc. done first thing each day so that I know how much time I have to play and can be totally present while I am playing- not distracted by what I have to get done later. This helps me to be more present in those play moments enjoying the people around me. I also know from experience that in having small kids around there are always unexpected things that come up in my days. I know that 3-6 pm is the most challenging time of day with my kids. We have homework to get done and my kids are tired and cranky as bed time approaches. If I waited until the evening to get dinner done it would be a much more stressful process because there are so many people and things competing for my attention all at once. My kids are at their best, most rested and happy selves in the morning so they are more inclined to entertain themselves and need less intervention. One of my kids is also at school in the morning, so we have less people around the house all together. I am a morning person. I get up between 5 and 6 everyday ready to jump right into my day.

With this in mind, several years ago I started cooking dinner first thing in the morning. Not all meals lend themselves well to being prepared in advance but many do, especially soups, casseroles, pasta salads, curries, lasagnas, stews, chilis, even the sauce bases for warm pasta dishes can easily be prepared in advance. Anywhere from 4-7 dinners that I prepare each week are prepared ahead of time in the morning. Even dinners that can't be fully prepared ahead of time I will chop, marinate and prep for in the morning and just finish off the final cooking before we eat in the evening.

This is what works for me. You may be different. You may not be a morning person. You may be rushed to get out the door in the morning and not have extra time then (in which case if I were you I would do all of this preparing and prepping the prior evening to when I was going to eat each meal).

Stay tuned for my next post providing more details on the how and what behind #dinnerdoneby9am. If you don't want to miss the rest of the series of #dinnerdoneby9am posts follow me on social media and/ or sign up to follow my blog via email or a reader in the right column below.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Learning to put down the to do list

It all started a month ago at book club. We were discussing Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. One of the discussion questions I asked our book club ladies was; "What is your super power or special talent that makes you uniquely you?" Similar to a situation like this in the book, our room full of ladies had a hard time answering this about themselves. A few of us chimed in on gifts/ talents that we saw in others, but as a whole we had a hard time owning the goodness within ourselves. I thought long and hard about myself and the only thing I could come up with was #dinnerdoneby9am. (This is the hash tag I use to capture all of the dinners I am able to have prepared prior to 9 am). But I wasn't satisfied with that answer. I wanted to have an answer that was deeper and more meaningful.

A few days later I explained this scenaraio to Jeremy and asked for his thoughts, knowing he would have better insight than me. He explained to me that #dinnerdoneby9am is not my super power. That it is a product of my super powers. That my super power is who I am and how I was created, and that #dinnerdoneby9am is something I do. I started thinking about how I am a doer and how as a doer I (incorrectly) tend to assign worth and value to myself and others based on what we do. If asked to tell someone about myself or my day I would probably give you a long list of things that I do or did. I place high value on doing.

Fast forward two weeks. Jeremy and I were having a meeting for our ministry. Discussing what we had going on, where God was giving us favor, what doors He was opening up, and where we should invest our efforts currently. In this meeting we decided to cut two major projects that I had been putting a lot of time and energy into. These were big projects. Projects for me to do. Projects I was proud of. Over the course of the meeting we decided to put both of these projects on hold- maybe for now, maybe permanently. We realized that these projects were a result of striving, of us trying to make things happen ourselves rather than following the favor and open doors that God had given us. Everytime that we've tried to make things happen on our own it has always flopped. But when we simply follow the favor that God gives us He has dropped amazing opportunities in our laps. Opportunities that we weren't even aware of. Opportunities that were so much better than the things we had tried to do on our own. So this is how we've agreed to operate. Follow favor. In this meeting, once we decided to put these projects on hold I started sobbing. It was a deep painful sob. I don't think Jeremy or I really understood why I was so upset. In talking and processing it became clear that I was finding my value and worth in what I was doing and that when those things were put on hold I instantly felt inadequate. Not enough. Small. Unimportant. It was clear that I was finding my worth through what I did.

As I didn't fully get the lesson from those two interactions God continued to gently nudge me on this topic of doing. A few days later I sat down to spend some one-on-one time with Him. I started journaling some prayers to Him and found myself apologizing for various things that I hadn't been doing enough of lately. Not praying enough. Not reading my Bible enough. Not doing enough 'spiritual' things. And I realized that this doing mentality was seeping into my relationship with God also. I was like Martha, putting a higher value on all of the things I was doing for Him rather than just freely being with Him.

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a good warning about just how futile doing a bunch of stuff is if we're not doing it out of love. If we're doing stuff to earn or prove our worth then we aren't doing it freely out of love. We are then doing from striving, stress, pressure. If we do stuff to earn our worth we are undermining what Jesus did on the cross. We are inadvertently saying that what Jesus did was not enough. We are trying to work for what we have been freely given.

So in the midst of all these lessons I hear God speaking Psalm 46:10 "...Be still, and know that I am God" over and over again to my heart.

Be still and know. One translation says cease striving. Being still is not something that comes easily for me. My first instinct and reaction is always to do. To take a step. To do the next thing. But I hear God telling me in this season to stop. To wait. To be still. To know. To sit at His feet like Mary.

I thought I had learned this lesson and gotten over this doing mentality eight years ago when I had quit my job in the corporate world managing hundreds of people. I had given up the suits, the business cards and the title. I thought at that point in time I had learned the hard lesson of not identifying myself by what I do. That my value isn't a list of actions or accomplishments. But apparently there was still a remaining layer of this issue to work through lingering from years earlier. I may have no longer been finding my worth in my career, but I found other avenues of things I did and accomplished to find my value in.

In this season of my life, in which I am a stay-at-home mom first and foremost, if I define myself by what I do I will literally feel like a combination of a milk factory cow and a janitor because I nurse my baby, wipe little behinds and clean up messes all day long. I do thousands of seemingly mundane tasks that I have to do all over again the next day.  This means that if I don't learn the lesson of finding my identity in Christ rather than in what I do that I will be left feeling extremely underutilized.

I tend to measure my days by the number of items crossed off on my to do list. The problem with that is that the most meaningful moments of each day are not found on to do lists. The meaningful moments are found in relationship and connection. In kissing boo boos, reading books, conversations, hugs, snuggles, in being still and silent enough to hear God speak . This is the good stuff. When I'm caught up in do mode, racing to check off all of my tasks I tend to miss those moments. In do mode I don't notice the sounds of little feet running up and down my halls. The kind words of one brother to another. The "I wuve you momma, you're sweet" whispered to me by a toddler. The look in my husband's eyes when we all snuggle together on the couch at the end of the day. These are the moments that I don't want to miss.

No career, title, relationship, status, possession, accomplishment or accolade is meant to fulfill us or define us. We are not the sum of these things. These things will always leave us unsatisfied; searching, striving, comparing and performing for more.

The truth is that I am not defined by what I do. My value doesn't increase or decrease based on my actions or what I accomplish. My worth has been solidified by Christ's death on the cross. By what He says about me and who He created me to be. That I am created in His image. That I am a child of God. That I am loved. Whole. Chosen. God's special possession. Righteous. Forgiven. A new creation. Fearfully and wonderfully made.

The truth is that I am not the sum of what I do. I am the sum of what He did.

And all of that goes for you as well dear reader.

We are defined by the fact that God loved us so much that He became flesh. Came to earth. Died. Rose and defeated death so that we could be in right standing with Him. Fully restored. This is what He says we are worth. Whether we do another thing for Him or not, this has been decided.

So let's sit back and take a big deep breath together. Let's be still and know. And then once we really know deep in our hearts that we are enough, that we are worthy, that we are valued, loved and cherished just as we are, then we can do from a place of freedom. From a place of confidence in who God created us to be and who we are in Him; now, and eternally.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower

This recipe is slightly adapted from the Skinnytaste Cookbook. This was amazing. Even my non-cauliflower liking husband said he could eat this once a week, and that says a lot! This is so simple to prepare and yet has the most deep, sophisticated, complex flavor. This will be a regular at house.

-1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 tsp turmeric
-1 tsp cumin
-1 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Whisk together olive oil, turmeric, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes. Toss oil mixture with cauliflower. Roast cauliflower at 450 from 20-30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Berry Ricotta Cake

Berry Ricotta Cake
This is slightly adapted from a Molly Wizenberg/ Orangette recipe, which was slightly adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. In some the reviews people mentioned adding lemon zest or almond extract to this cake and I am super eager to try each of these additions individually, but wanted to make the cake as is once first. I used a combination of frozen blackberries and frozen cherries but think this cake would be great with frozen mixed berries, blackberries or raspberries. I doubled the berries from Molly's recipe and next time I might even increase the amount to 3 cups. Other than that I LOVE this cake. It is so easy to throw together and comes out so delicious and moist!

-1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
-1 cup sugar
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-¾ teaspoon salt
-3 eggs
-1 ½ cup ricotta
-½ teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 stick butter, melted
-2 cups frozen berries, divided

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan, and press a round of parchment paper into the bottom.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently stir ricotta mixture into the dry ingredients until just blended. Then fold in the butter, followed by 1 1/2 cup of the berries, taking care not to crush them. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly, and scatter the remaining berries on top.

Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding. Cool completely before serving.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

These are Pat's Bars from the book Kitchens of the Great Midwest. The only change I made was to increase the amount of chocolate and change to semi-sweet rather than milk chocolate. These bars are super easy to throw together and taste like a giant Reese's cup.

-2½ cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
-1 cup melted Grade A butter
-1 cup peanut butter
-2½ cups powdered sugar
-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips with 2 tsp. Grade A butter
Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup melted butter, peanut butter and sugar. Pat into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Melt the chocolate chips and 1 tsp. butter and spread on top of the bars. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into bars.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chewy Granola Bars

Chewy Granola Bars

I got this recipe from a fellow MOPS momma. It is super easy to throw together and made with ingredients that I always have on hand.

-3 cups oats
-1 cup flour
-1 t. baking soda
-2 t. vanilla
-2/3 cup butter, melted
-½ cup honey
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-1 cup chocolate chips
-(optional) 1 cup raisins
-(optional) 1 cup pecans

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, and baking soda. In another bowl, combine vanilla, butter, honey, and brown sugar; add to oat mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and raisins, and pecans (if using). Pour into a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Lightly press mixture into the pan with the back of your spoon. Bake at 325 for 22 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes then cut into bars. Let bars cool completely in pan before removing or serving.

Pork and Tomatillo Stew

Pork and Tomatillo Stew

Our book club read Tender at the Bone so for our discussion night I was charged with providing Ruth's Pork and Tomatillo Stew for our main dish. I started with her recipe, but ended up making a lot of changes, so here is my take on her dish.

-1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
-salt and pepper for sprinkling on the pork
-1 2-3 lb pork loin, trimmed and cut into bite sized chunks
-2 onions, diced
-2 jalapenos, diced
-8 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (29 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 (29 oz) can tomatillos, drained and diced
-2 cups chicken broth
-2 cups orange juice
-2 Tbsp cumin
-1 tsp oregano
-1 Tbsp sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1-4 Tbsp hot sauce
-2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
-1 can hominy, drained
-juice of 1 lime
-1 bunch cilantro, chopped
-toppings of choice; sour cream, hot sauce, cotija cheese, diced avocado, diced radishes, cilantro...

Heat the oil in a large pot, over medium heat. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Cook for a few minutes until browned on one side and stir. Add onions, jalapenos and garlic. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes- hominy. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, add cilantro and lime juice and serve with your desired toppings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Huevos Rancheros Casserole

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Casserole

You can choose to bake or fry the tortillas before assembling this casserole to crisp them up, or you can use them as is. You could also substitute tortilla chips if you have some needing to be used up. As listed this recipe makes an 8x8 pan and serves 4-6 people. Double the recipe if using a 9x13 dish and feeding a larger crowd. I like this dish better with refried beans, but using black beans is a little more authentic to a traditional huevos rancheros. This is great for brunch, lunch or breakfast for dinner.

-8 corn tortillas cut or torn into bite sized pieces
-1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce
-1 (15oz can) black beans (rinsed) or refried beans
-1/2 c cheddar cheese, shredded
-9 eggs
-toppings of your choice; hot sauce, cilantro, sour cream, avocado, more cheese etc.

Grease an 8x8 casserole dish. cover bottom of the pan  with the torn tortillas. Pour half the can of enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Spread the beans over the tortilla/ sauce layer. Top with the cheese. Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top. (At this point you could refrigerate the casserole overnight if desired). Break the eggs one at a time and slowly slide them onto the top of the dish. Bake at 400 until the whites are set, about 20 minutes. Serve with toppings of your choice.

Vegan Gumbo

Vegan Gumbo

I whipped up this vegan twist on my go to gumbo recipe in honor of celebrating Mardis Gras today. Serve the gumbo over rice and with your favorite toppings.

-1/4 cup canola oil
-1/2 cup flour
-1 onion, diced
-4 stalks celery, diced
-2 bell peppers, diced (any color combination)
-4 cups vegetable broth
-1 (29 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
-2 bay leaves
-1 tsp Cajun seasoning (such as Tony's)
-1 tsp thyme
-2 cups frozen okra
-1/2 Tbsp file powder
-2 Tbsp hot sauce
-cooked rice
- desired toppings such as parsley, scallions and/ or hot sauce

Before you start cooking the roux make sure that you have all of the ingredients chopped and ready to go. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the roux turns a chocolate brown color, turning the heat down to medium around the time that it reaches the color of peanut butter. This whole process should take around 10 minutes. Once the roux is chocolate brown remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Place the pot back over medium heat and add the diced onion, celery and bell peppers, sautéing and stirring for about 5 minutes. Add the broth, diced tomatoes with their juices, drained corn, bay leaves, Cajun seasoning and thyme. Bring the gumbo to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Add the okra and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the gumbo from heat and stir in the file powder and hot sauce. Serve over rice with your toppings of choice.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Indian Spiced Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas

Indian Spiced Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas

We've been eating a whole lot of quinoa lately. Jeremy loves the texture and I tend to eat vegetarian most weeknights so I enjoy the nutrition and protein richness of quinoa.

-1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
-1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Tbsp garam masala
-1/2 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 Tbsp brown sugar
-juice of 1/2 lemon
-2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in medium pot over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes, cooking stirring often until they are almost tender (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to medium low and add ginger, garlic, garam masala, cumin and cayenne. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes, chickpeas, salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes until flavors have combined and sweet potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, stir in quinoa, lemon juice and cilantro and mix well and serve.

Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Casserole

(unfortunately I failed to take a picture of the finished product so this unbaked pic will have to do)

Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Casserole

This has all of the comforting flavors of a classic casserole but the added nutrition of using quinoa instead of rice.

-1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
-2 cups broccoli cut into bite sized pieces and steamed until it has just begun to soften
-2 Tbsp butter
-2 Tbsp flour
-1 cup chicken broth
-1 cup milk
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided use

Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in the broth, milk, salt and pepper and simmer stirring often until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the cheddar, stirring until completely melted. In a large bowl stir together the cooked quinoa, steamed broccoli and cheese sauce. Spread the mixture into a greased 8x8 casserole.Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes and serve.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Chocolate Pound Cake

Chocolate Pound Cake

This past weekend was the birthday of a dear friend and said friend apparently loves her mother-in-law's chocolate pound cake. Her hubby got me the recipe so that I could make it to surprise her. This cake turned out great. I was quite temped to top it with a glaze, ice cream, whipped cream or strawberries but my friend's husband assured me that his mom serves it plain, as is. Apparently she does dust it with powdered sugar sometimes, which would add to a pretty presentation, but is completely unnecessary for flavor purposes.

-1 1/2 cups butter, softened
-3 cups sugar
-5 eggs
-1 cup milk
-1/2 cup cocoa powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 Tbsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Sift the dry ingredients 3 times (I cheated and just whisked them together in a bowl). Add the dry ingredient mixture to the butter/ sugar/ eggs mixture about a cup at a time, alternating with half of the milk. Once everything is combined mix on low for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and mix to incorporate. Pour into a greased and floured bundt or tube pan and bake at 325 for 80 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (I had to bake it for at least an extra 10 minutes). Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.



This is my lightened up version of this classic Tex-Mex breakfast. It's great for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner. Serve with beans and assorted taco style toppings. We have at least one breakfast for dinner a week since they are so quick, easy, inexpensive and yummy.

-1 Tbsp butter
-1/2 red onion, diced
-1/2 bell pepper, diced
-3 roma tomatoes, diced
-4 corn tortillas chopped into bite-sized pieces
-8 eggs
-1/4 cup milk
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
-(optional) 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or cotija cheese
-assorted toppings; sour cream, hot sauce, avocado...

Melt the butter in a medium to large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tortillas, stir, reduce heat to medium low. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, gently folding the eggs and veggies while they cook. Once eggs are cooked and no longer runny stir in cilantro and top with cheese (if using). Serve with  desired toppings and sides.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

This is a French inspired lentil salad. It is great warm or cold. It is also great served on its own, or over a bed of rice or salad greens. This dish is quick, easy, nutritious, vegan, gluten-free, inexpensive and great for lunch or dinner.

-1 lb lentils, rinsed
-2 tsp salt, divided use
-1 bay leaf
-4 cloves garlic, divided use
-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
-1/2 c red wine vinegar
-1/4 c olive oil
-2 tsp Dijon mustard
-2 tsp Italian seasoning
-1/2 tsp pepper

Place lentils in a medium pot and cover with water by 2-3 inches. Add 1 tsp salt, bay leaf, red pepper flakes and 3 cloves of garlic- peeled but left whole. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender.  While lentils are cooking whisk together remaining tsp of salt, clove of garlic- minced, vinegar, olive oil, Dijon, Italian seasoning and pepper. toss drained lentils with vinaigrette and serve immediately or chill until serving.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

Pasta E Fagioli Soup

I made this batch vegan but would recommend adding cooked and crumbled Italian sausage to please meat eaters and bulk up this dish. I swear by the option of adding a drizzle of balsamic vinegar directly into your soup bowl. I do this with all of my bean and/ or tomato based soups and it really takes them to the next level (IMO).

-2 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-6 carrots, diced
-4 stalks celery, diced
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-8 cups veggie or chicken broth
-1 (29 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 Tbsp sugar
-2 Tbsp dried basil
-2 tsp dried oregano
-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-1 can cannellini beans, drained
-1 can kidney beans, drained
-2 cups small shape pasta (I used whole wheat shells)
-(optional) fresh parsley, grated parmesan and/ or balsamic vinegar for topping the soup

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and saute until they begin to soften (about 5-7 minutes). Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Add broth, tomatoes, sugar, basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Simmer 15-30 minutes until veggies are tender. Add beans and pasta and cook until pasta is tender (following box directions for pasta- about 7-15 minutes). Serve soup with desired toppings.