Friday, November 1, 2013

New blog! Come with me!

Anyone who visits this site may realize that it's unmanned lately. It's true! I've created a new blog and I'd love for you to come see me there!

This one will remain because I think there is some really good stuff, but I will no longer be creating posts here.

Please follow me at Unfolding Lovely.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

It's been about a month...

Yep. It's been a month since I've blogged. I'm okay with that.

It's been a busy month. A crazy month. A messy month. A "how-am-I-ever-gonna-get-through-all-of-this" kinda month. A really great month!

There are so many changes either happened, happening, or will be happening and it's all so scary and exciting. There are three things keep me grounded.


Really. Yes...that's my list! heh.

I have a GREAT God who is walking right next to me.

I have a GREAT kid who is working his tail off to learn his own way.

I have GREAT girls, including my family girls, who will just let me melt down. Build me up. Help me when I'm in a jam. Laugh with me. Share their joys with me. Let me walk alongside them. Allow me time to process. Allow me to cry. Let me be completely stupid and crazy. And take me to see the Rocky Mountains on my birthday. I have really great friends!

So, in this moment, in this season - I am holding on tight to my Daddy God. Remembering his unfailing love. Remembering my desire and heart to be constant in Him. Remembering His goodness.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Homemade Hamburger Helper

There are a million recipes for this sort of dish. I really like mine, though. =]

2 pounds ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 can diced, fire roasted, garlic tomatoes
16 oz elbow noodles, uncooked
2 Tbs smoked paprika
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 Tbs onion powder
Salt and pepper
8 oz block of cheddar, shredded
1 c. hot water
2 c. milk

For the roux:
1/4 c butter
2 heaping spoons of flour
cold milk

Add a bit of olive oil to a very large hot skillet (or a large dutch oven) and toss in your onion. Saute onion until it begins to soften, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the meat is fully browned. Drain.

Turn the heat on the burner to high. Return the ground beef to the skillet, add the noodles, tomatoes, seasonings (with additional salt and pepper), water, and milk. Combine and bring to a boil. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. You may need to add a bit more water. That's okay. Add it! =]

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, whisk in the flour. Slowly add milk until you have a nice sauce. You don't want it too thick, but you want it thicker than milk! Add salt and pepper to the roux.

Add the roux to the beef and noodles, add the cheddar, combine. Taste. Make sure your seasonings are to your liking!

You guys know I don't measure, but I'm trying - so these are approximates... I'll get better one day. Maybe. =]

Friday, May 17, 2013

Changes are comin!

Yikes! It's time for my 5 minute Friday post and I haven't had time to post a thing all week. 

In this, I shall remain constant - I pray. =]

I'm moving, y'all! It's sudden, unexpected, and scary. At the same time, it's exciting, refreshing, and necessary! Have you ever had a week or two feeling every emotion possible? 

That's where I've been for the last 10 days or so. 

Scared - yep. Worried - yep. Unsure - yep. Wondering - yep. Failure - yep. 

Even with His love, His care, His compassion - I am human. I am flesh. And I have my moments of doubt. 

It's hard to admit that, but it's true!

Why am I in this position? Why does He not love me enough? Why am I not good enough to enjoy a peaceful life? Why, why, why?

Well, because there is something WAY bigger than I can even see happening here. After a couple days of sheer panic, lots of tears, and just talking it out - I'm at peace. Total complete peace. 

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

I have 5 minutes here, folks! I *will* go deeper into this feeling - but I gots 5 minutes, y'all!

Five Minute Friday

Friday, May 10, 2013

This aching heart... - 5 Minute Friday

If I said to you, "do you ever feel Jesus pain?" You'd think I was crazy... I mean who *feels* Jesus pain?

Let's me explain during my 5 minutes for this Friday.

As I grow closer to Christ, my relationship with Him deepens. I have joy overflowing, but I also have sorrow overflowing. The things I see, hear, witness, etc... are heartbreaking. There are things that I can do *nothing* about. We cannot make anyone else understand what the love of a Holy, Omnipotent, Loving Savior feels like. It's an experience that person has to feel all on her own.

As I was driving home yesterday, my heart soft, as it seems to be all the time now... All I could think about is this...

If this feeling, pain, angst, sorrow, undoneness is how *I* feel - how then must Jesus have felt as He walked this earth. How then must God feel when we fail Him over and over and over again.

I don't have any answers. No challenges. No words of wisdom for how not to feel this way.

I'm only being transparent.

This is how I feel.

Joyful and sad. Happy and broken. Full of tears in one moment and praising Him all the same.

When I stop feeling this way - I've lost who God has called me to be. 

This is right where I'm supposed to be and God will grow me here. Right here.

This is the hard eucharisteo. It makes sense now.

Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Failure is not my Middle Name!

As parents, we fail. Often.

We are broken people.

Failing my boy is one of the worst pains I've ever felt. Knowing that I've gotten in his way or not prepared him well is devastating.

From the simplest of things – like not showing him where the emergency brake is on the car and thus he fails the driving test – or to the largest of things like not knowing how to fully trust God’s timing.

Because of my relationship with Christ, I can see things as a minor setback and know that God will make it right in His time.

My boy – not so much. He doesn't get it.

I get that.

He sees failure. I see patience. He sees regret. I see lessons. He sees anger. I see grace.

My walk with Jesus is not the same as his walk. My journey began when I was 32 and he had already lived more life than any 10 year old should have lived. I failed him.

Though, we are not doomed to be failures. Failure is a lack of success. In Christ, all things are made new. Each day is a new beginning. In Christ, we find success.

Trying to teach this concept to someone who knows and understands the simple truths of God, but doesn't understand how big our God is, is hard. Real hard.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Each day, when a failure smacks me dead in the face, I cling to that verse. Yep – I failed. But, I serve a big, huge, mighty God and He is Able! He’s able to go beyond my beyond and way past anything we can ever think to imagine.

Don’t ever begin to think you are a failure. You’re not! God didn't make any mistakes! If we fail at something, we do better next time. Remember that God’s timing is perfect! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bookmarks - homemade!

Last weekend, we had a spring ladies retreat. I'm still soft from it. It was that good. That exhausting. That special. I learned many things during the planning process, and I'll likely share those things in another post, at another date - for no other reason except to let other women's leaders know what I learned and what I'd do differently next time. I could have done quite a few things differently...

One thing I would not do differently, though, is making these bookmarks! I have a secret love for bookmarks. I have an especially secret love for one bookmark that can hold three or more places at once. You know when you're doing a study or in church and you're flipping back and forth, forward and back... I need that kind of bookmark!

Here is the whole mess of supplies I had picked for various projects. For the bookmark, I used the beads, the hemp cording, and a bit of glue. Oh, and scissors. Let me show you, step by step, how I made them. =]

I used my large bible as a measuring tool for the length of the cording. Because we'll be tying some knots in the process of making it, we need it to be a little longer to accommodate for the knots. Cut an equal length of cording choosing different colors or all the same - totally up to you!

Next, I took the three cords and tied them into a knot, and then added a large bead. On each of the cords, I added a small bead, and then tied a small knot under each of them to hold it all in place. 

This is what it looked like once I had the top finished. At this point, I put it back in my bible to determine where the beads along the bottom should be. Once I found the correct length, I tied a small knot in each cord. We don't want the beads to move from the places we want them to remain - hence the knots shown below.

Near the knots, you want to add a small bead, that won't fall over the knot. After that, add the beads in any order you choose. I've never done anything like this bookmark, and I'm sure there's a technique I should have followed, but hey... I dance to the beat of my own drum over here! 

When you're done... you'll have some rendition of this... and you'll like it. Because you made it. And if you make a lot, to share with friends, your fingers will hurt. And be sore. It's worth it. 

Oh, the glue. You don't HAVE to use it... I just tipped the big knots, at the top of the bookmark, to ensure they wouldn't come apart. Totally up to you whether or not you want to do it.

French bread pizza - sorta

I'm always looking for new ways to do old things. I mean, the same old foods can just get boring. Other than a few exceptions, I am almost always making something *new*.

I saw this recipe on PineTarPress and thought it was so clever, easy, and a new twist.

You will need:
8 hoagie rolls or small french rolls, unsplit
Pizza sauce
Onion, diced
Garlic, minced - about 2 cloves
2# ground beef
2 cups (or so) of shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 375.

Heat a large skillet on the stove. Add the ground beef, onion, and garlic. Cook until the burger is no longer pink.While the ground beef is cooking, use a serrated knife to take off only the very top of the rolls. Once all the tops are off, dig out the insides of the bread, but be sure to leave a good bit along the bottom and around the edges. We don't want all the goodies to fall out or soak through.

Once your meat is cooked, drain and put it back in skillet. Add the pizza sauce to the bread "bowls" along the bottom and sides. Add a good bit of meat into each chunk of bread. As you see from the photo on the left, mine were pretty full. After the meat, add about 5 pepperoni to each pizza. Cover with cheese and bake for about 20 minutes.

This photo below was made for a "lite cheese" request, so you can see how full these are a little better.


Depending on how done you want them, you may remove them after the 20 minutes, like these ones shown below.

If you want them a little more done, turn the oven to broil, prop the door open a bit, and let it brown to your personal preference.

The day I made this easy dinner, I was literally running out the door with one, in a paper towel, to eat on my way to church. I ate it, successfully, while driving, without making too much of a mess. Other than the bread crust crumbs, everything else stayed right in the bread. It was perfect!

I hope you enjoy it! =]

Pizza sauce

Pizza sauce is one of those things that is so easy to make - I'm not sure why people buy it.

Here's how I make it:

6 oz can tomato paste
Sun of Italy Italian seasoning (I suppose you could use any kind, but I don't know why you would! =] )
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
Garlic powder
A teenie bit of sugar

First... if you like chunky sauce on your pizza, please feel free to add some canned (preferably homemade) diced tomatoes... otherwise, this recipe is for a smooth sauce.

Empty the can of paste into a medium sized bowl, add the rest of the ingredients (other than water) according to your personal tastes. It's going to be pretty thick so from this point forward, it's really getting the right consistency for you. Add a little bit of water, then mix. If it's still too thick, add a little more. Continue with the water, and maybe more spices, until you get the right mix of everything. You will be tasting a lot of sauce along the way!

That's it! Go make some pizza! Share it with me - I love homemade pizza! =]~

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My oil cleansing method

Do you have a Mark Kay rep or an Avon rep? Me either! This is probably for two reasons. My first reason was always financial. I just didn't have the money to spend on expensive products that likely still wouldn't work to help with my specific issues. My second reason is because I don't want one! haha

As a teen, I didn't really struggle with acne. On occasion I did, but not often enough for it to cause me any major concern. However, once I became an adult, it all changed. I know when I was younger, much of it was diet related, then hormone related, then I don't know what... just a mess.

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this - hormones are gonna do what hormones do. If we are experiencing a breakout on our face because of hormones, that most likely will not change. Also, check out this handy face map which will help to determine why you're breaking out in certain areas and how to fix it! This explanation has helped me so much to determine what my body is trying to tell me.

I know this for sure... the answer is NOT to keep putting chemicals on our faces in an effort to clean our faces. Make sense? We are piling up more "stuff" onto "stuff" that's already there. We need to really clean our faces.

Okay, let me share how this all started. A few years ago, I learned that olive oil could be used to removed stubborn eye makeup. You know, we love our waterproof mascara, but it could literally stay on for days, unless we used a makeup remover, which is just one more product, one more expense, one more thing on the counter...

With a small piece of tissue, apply a bit of olive oil and just clean your eye makeup off. Pull your lashes between the tissue and viola... all gone. Easy right? And inexpensive.

I talked about this with friends and wondered what else olive oil could do that I didn't know about! That's when I was introduced to the oil cleansing method.

My method is different from her method and I've never really tried her method, so I don't know which one is better. I'll share how I do mine and you can decide if you'd like to try hers, mine, a combination, neither, either, whatever you want. No pressure. I'll still like you. =]

When I cleanse my face with oil, which I do every morning, it really is like a mini-facial and a time of just plain old feelin good. When I miss a couple days, like I did last week because I was out of town, my face rebels. This part of my routine is different from the method I linked above as she references not to do it daily. I do. And when I don't, the whole world can tell. =]~

Here is my simple method. I have this bottle in my bathroom:

I fill it about 1/4 of the way with olive oil. That's it. That's my entire facial regimen. In one bottle. One thing on my counter. One thing on my face. All natural olive oil. Easy, right?

Let me add... it's important to get GOOD olive oil. Don't opt for the cheap stuff. Spend the extra bucks. Your face will thank you and so will your food. Let's face it, the olive oil serves double duty in my house. =]

Here we go: First, wash your hands! Do you realize how often we go in to do a whole face regimen and we haven't even washed our hands?! Use warm water to soak your face. Pour a good amount of oil into your palm, think quarter sized. Rub your hands together, and then apply the oil to your face. Mine begins on my cheeks, then up the sides to my forehead area, then back down to my nose, and finally, my chin and neck. And don't forget your lips! I will just continue to massage the oil into my face because it just feels good. Period. Really, you want to work the oil into your skin and pores. Continue to work it in for as long as you'd like. Sometimes I do mine for about 30 seconds, sometimes it's for 5 minutes. It just depends on my mood, my stress level, whether or not I slept well, etc...

Once I have the oil all massaged in, I turn my water to the hottest temp it will go. I wet a washcloth under the hot water, wring out the excess, and then hold it to my face. I don't rub or scrub. I just hold it there. Applying pressure to different areas of my face. I rinse out the cloth and then do it again. I will repeat this step a few times until I feel like my face is all cleaned of the junk and crud. Pat dry.

That's it. That's all I do. I don't apply moisturizer. I don't apply skin firmers, creams, and other stuff. A friend said to me the other day, "well, that is how they did it in Jesus' day!" And that was enough confirmation for me! I wash my face like Jesus did! =]~

I've also heard about a honey cleansing method, but I haven't tried that yet. I'm pretty content where I'm at with this method.

Let me know what you think! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tater Tot Nachos!

We are always looking for quick, easy meals that taste good, right? And ones that are familiar, but just a little bit different from the "same old, same old" combinations that we eat week after week.

I found a great balance of both those qualities! I really enjoy nachos, taco, burritos, pretty much anything that comes from the Latin culture finds happiness in my belly. Because of that, I literally could make Mexican or Latin inspired food every night of the week. Not everyone in my house would be okay with that... lol.

In an effort to mix things I love with a more American cuisine, I stumbled upon a recipe for Tater Tot Nachos on Half Hour Meals website. As with most dishes, the ability to be flexible and change it to suit your family is always a good option to have. Some dishes lend well to that, while others do not. This one is super flexible!

Tater Tot Nachos (adapted from Half Hour Meals)

32 oz (or more) bag of frozen tater tots
2 lbs. ground beef
Taco seasoning
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 (or so) black beans (if you're using dried beans, be sure they are cooked first - perfect for leftovers. Or use 1 can, drained)
fresh shredded cheese
chopped tomatoes
sour cream

Prepare the tots according to the package directions, though I did cook mine for a bit longer because I wanted them to be nice and crunchy and not soggy under all the toppings. While those are cooking, toss your ground beef and onion into a hot skillet and brown. Of course, add some salt and pepper. Once that's all browned up, drain it. Good job! Almost done. Isn't this easy?! Add the black beans. I would've added some corn too. There are non-corn lovers at my house. Can you believe it?! Now add some taco seasoning - I use about two palmfuls and then I add in some water and mix it all in really good. Return to high heat and let it come to a boil for about 3 minutes, then turn it down to simmer for about 5 or 6 minutes. All done!

By now, the tots should be done. To serve, put the tots on the bottom and take it from there. Just lay out all the ingredients and toppings and everyone can make them however they want to eat them. It really was a simple, enjoyable meal.

Nothing glamorous. Just easy, quick, and good. Enjoy!

Monday, April 8, 2013

BBQ Smoked Sausage, green beans, and gnocchi!

Looks good, right?
This dish was so easy to prepare and I had to share it. The potato gnocchi was frozen, not fresh. It's okay... I haven't tried to make fresh gnocchi yet. It is on my to-do list, though!

When preparing the gnocchi, just follow the instructions on the bag. Once they were done, I added butter, salt, and pepper. That was it. Such an easy side dish.

For the green beans, I used frozen since we've run out of canned beans from last year and the fresh ones at the store in the cold months are just gross looking. I can't wait for green bean season. I really can't. To prepare those, I just steamed them for a few minutes until they were no longer frozen, and then drained them. In a skillet, I added some butter, thinly sliced onion, and the green beans. I cooked them for about 15 minutes. Of course, I seasoned them with salt and pepper.

The sausage was so easy! I'm partial to 100% beef smoked sausage. I know it's a processed food and I tend to stay away from those, but I just have a thing for sausage... and bacon... It's terrible, but worth it. =]~

I got this recipe from Taste of Home.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

As you see from the photo, I cut the sausages into about 2 inch pieces. In a separate bowl, I added a whole bottle (40 oz., I think) of Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce and about 1/4 - 1/2 c brown sugar. Whisk it all together and pour it over your sausages.

The only modification I made from the original recipe was to lessen the sugar. The original called for two cups of sugar. YIKES! I couldn't do it! LOL! Once you have all the sausages covered in the sauce, put it in the oven, uncovered, for about 35 minutes. So easy. So good. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Antique shopping in northern Virginia

I had the chance to hang out with two great chickies AND explore the world of antiques at the same time. I'm not typically an antiques buyer because, let's be real, it can be crazy expensive! That doesn't mean I don't enjoy looking at all the neat stuff, though!

And the antique shops we visited also had some hand-crafted items along with the antiques they sell.

On a Whim was the first place we stopped. They had some beautiful items. I literally couldn't afford to even look at the price tag for most of it! haha... They did have an awesome pink, polka-dotted silo outside, thought and that was the best part for me! heh

There was also a pink, polka-dotted cow! It was so cute!

The second place we stopped at was Old Lucketts Store. I'm pretty sure a little part of me died and went straight to heaven. This store was amazing and HUGE! This store had a wide variety of antique items, but they also had a huge amount of hand-crafted items. My big buy here was a few boxes of girl scout cookies being sold out on the porch, but hey, I didn't walk away empty handed! haha!

At the Old Luckett Store, they do a design house every month or so and design a house on the property with all sort of great finds. That's where I saw this beauty.

They had a room set up as an old study or something and this amazing cabinet was in it. It was just gorgeous. I have no idea how much it was. I do know that it was huge and beautiful.

Also in the design house, the designer had a bedroom with a sitting area that was probably one of the most beautiful settings I've ever seen. I think it made me want to have her some design my house one day! heh.

And, finally, at Old Lucketts Store, some hand-crafted these beautiful metal hearts. I would love to go back and purchase a few of them to use in a room design. They were so simple, yet absolutely stunning in their simplicity.

If you're in NoVA, and you have the chance to go to either of these store, you should go. Now. Well, unless you're reading this at midnight. =]

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Roasted vegetables and Italian sausage

I love anything roasted. Don't you? I mean, it's just so good!

Last night I made a simple roasted veggie and sausage dish. It was so hard to wait for it. I mean, smelling veggies roasting, with garlic and oil, oh mercy.

The inspiration for this dinner came from KayoticKitchen. I think I liked it because of her name for the recipe - Lazy Sunday Casserole. It sounded perfect to me! =]~

I only changed a few things, and of course, I didn't measure a thing. Hate me.

5 russet potatoes, washed, unpeeled, and cut into chunks
5 carrots, washed, unpeeled, and cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch sized pieces
1 red pepper, washed and cut into strips
2 onions, cut into wedges
Minced garlic
About 2 pounds Italian sausage
Kosher salt
Fresh ground, black pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Throw all the veggies in a deep roasting tray. We have a pretty deep cookie sheet, and that's what I used. It gave all the veggies plenty of room to spread out. Once you lay the veggies out, drizzle a good bit of olive oil over the veggies, add the salt and pepper. Now toss with a set of tongs. I did add a bit of chicken broth into the pan, just so they would have some moisture while they were roasting. You might wanna do that, too! =]

Cover with foil and put the pan in the oven for about 45 minutes.

While that's cooking, heat a large skillet on the stove and sear all sides of the Italian sausage. Remove from heat and cut into 1 inch pieces. They won't be cooked all the way, don't worry! They'll finish off in the oven.

When the timer ends for the veggies, uncover and toss the veggies with a set of tongs. Add the sausage in strategic places all around the pan. Place the pan, uncovered, back in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, turn over the sausage pieces, drizzle the vinegar, and place back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the sausage is done.

There ya have it!

100th Post - Scallops!

Well, my blog fast is over. When it comes to "something has to give because I don't have enough time for everything," the blog always seems to be the first thing to be put on hold.

I made a vow to myself to go a month without any posts because I just needed some time. Also, I knew my next post was the 100th one being posted and I wanted it to be incredible. Well, it won't be... it'll just be a normal post! haha. I figured the anxiety about this particular entry being "amazing" just wasn't something I needed to add to my plate.

So, the big post is about scallops! Exciting enough, right? It was for me!

After the first flip

Here's the back story. I don't eat seafood. I haven't met a seafood dish that I've liked. With that said, I have a strong desire to acquire a taste for seafood and, more importantly, I have a desire to cook seafood for those I love. Well, my problem with the scallops was that I didn't have anyone around to taste them for me. I'll have to do a redo when I have someone around who *knows* what scallops are supposed to taste like. Mind you, I did taste them. They weren't fishy tasting like I expected. They were creamy and buttery tasting. But, again, I don't know what they were supposed to taste like...

All done!

3 scallops (or however many you want. Just make sure they're all similar in size.)
A good bit of butter, a really good bit
Fresh ground sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Get a small skillet or one that is accommodating to the amount of scallops you're cooking. Get the pan smoking hot. I mean hot! I heated the skillet on high-medium. Add the butter and let it melt and just begin to brown, do not let it burn! Add the scallops and season the side that is up in the pan. Let cook for about a minute and a half, depending on the size of your scallops. Turn and cook for an additional minute and a half. Remove to a plate. Once they're on the plate, spoon the butter remaining in the skillet over the top of the scallops. Now eat. Enjoy. Tell me what you think! =]

The scallop close-up. =]

Happy scallop eating!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Don't beat yourself up!

Ladies, why are there days we feel so inadequate? Or that we are just being lazy? Haven't done a thing all day?

I had this moment today. Thinking about how I haven't done anything of real value or worth - I'm in sweatpants for goodness sakes! How can anyone do anything worthy while still wearing sweats?! =]

So, for those of you reading, when you've spent the day inside doing nothing oh except for... laundry, kitchen cleaning, bathroom cleaning, vacuuming floors, coloring hair, showering, rides back and forth to various things for your kid(s), brushed your pets, prepared dinner menus and grocery lists, a little pinning, a little blogging, and some craft time. Some bible studying and retreat planning, a nice phone call with someone you love, and a nap...

And you haven't even had dinner yet - you're doing just fine.

Do not beat yourself up. It's all fine.

You're not lazy.

Most of my day has been in this little space. It's okay. 
Go get 'em, tiger! Rawr!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Risotto - don't be scared!

Risotto is one of those things that I had to learn. I mean Gordon Ramsey is always yelling at people because of bad risotto... it was a personal challenge!

It can be scary, but mostly it's just time consuming.

Here are the things you need for basic risotto and below I will post a few variations and add-ins.

A bit of olive oil and butter
1 onion, diced
minced garlic, to taste
1 cup of Arborio rice
5 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine, optional
1/4 c (or so) of fresh parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the chicken stock in a small sauce pan. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to simmer. In the meantime, chop your onion. In a large skillet, heat over medium heat, the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the onion and cook until it's translucent and tender. This should take about 10 minutes. We don't want the onions to brown, we just want them tender. Add the garlic, if you choose to have garlic, for about a minute. We never want garlic to get brown, we just want it to become aromatic and not raw. =]

After two additions of liquid
Add the rice into the skillet with the onions and garlic. Stir the rice around so it's coated in the oil and just beginning to get toasty and nice. If you're using wine, add the wine now and stir until it's all absorbed. If not, just skip this step and move onto the next one. Add one cup of the warm chicken stock into the skillet with the rice and stir it constantly until the stock is all absorbed. Once it's absorbed, add another cup and constantly stir until it's all absorbed. Continue to add the stock, one cup at a time, until you use all the stock and it's all been absorbed.  Add the salt and pepper, mix. Taste the rice and see if it's done. It should be firm, but cooked through and not at all "crunchy" and the rice should be creamy. This process will take quite a bit of time, stay dedicated to it. It's a lot of time stirring, but it's so worth it. It will take no less than 20 minutes, but may take even longer. Add the cheese, mix it in until it's all melty and good.

Here's the thing with risotto, it's going to create its own creaminess. If you desire a creamier rice, use a little more stock or water. It will continue to absorb until you find your happy place.

Just about anything can be added to risotto. In this particular picture, I added peas. My plan was to do a nice pea puree, but I wasn't feeling well, so I just added peas and called it a day. I was fine with that. =]

Almost any vegetable can be added to risotto. Asparagus, pureed roasted squash, peas, leeks, mushrooms, artichokes, etc... We can try anything! When cooking risotto with veggies, add the veggies at the beginning with the onions. The rest of the steps are the same.

Finally, meat. Yes, you can have meat with risotto. Bacon is my favorite! All the steps are the same, except you cook the bacon first, remove it to a plate, drain some of the grease but leave enough in the pan to do the onions and garlic with only a small addition of oil needed.

Also, say you have some left over chicken or turkey, add that in at the cheese step and cook until it's heated through. You can also saute or broil some shrimp and add that - the options are endless! Be brave, try something new! =]

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Real Campbell's Tomato Soup...

... and grilled cheese!

Today I wanted some good, old comfort. There's almost nothing that can say that to me more than a creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese.

To make the soup:

In a large pot over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple tablespoons of butter. While those are melting down and together, chop one onion. It doesn't have to be diced too small, just a coarse chop. Once the butter and oil are melted, add the onion and continue to cook it over medium heat until the onion gets nice and soft. Don't forget to add a little salt and pepper - you know how I feel! =]~

While that's cooking, take about 60 ounces of whole tomatoes (if you can your own, you'd use about a quart), add it to a blender and pulse it a few times to break the tomatoes down. You will likely have to do this in two batches. Check your onions! Keep stirring them as we don't want them to brown or char, we just want them soft.

Once the onions are done, add in the tomatoes and about 4 cups of chicken stock. Add kosher salt and fresh black pepper and 2 bay leaves. Let all that come together, on low heat, for about 20 minutes.

Slowly add heavy cream to the soup until you've added about 1 1/2 - 2 cups. It's really a preference thing. I like my soup nice and creamy. Now, in our house, we sometimes need to make things stretch - feed the masses, yanno what I mean? So, to do that, I used a separate pot, boiled some elbow noodles and tossed them in the soup. It made the soup a little more substantial and even the pickier eaters enjoyed it because it had a little fun in it!

Then, for the sammiches... I used ciabatta bread that was fresh at the deli counter and American cheese and cheddar cheese sliced fresh from the deli counter. These are two important things. Too often we get caught in simple, old school grilled cheese. It's really easy to give it a fresh taste!

So, I cut the tops off the bread rolls like this...

In a small bowl, I added about 1/4 cup of mayo - not miracle whip - and some garlic powder, to taste. On one piece of the bread, I smeared a good bit of the garlic mayo. Then I added one slice of American and one slice of cheddar. Don't over cheese a grilled cheese. It's about using good, quality cheese and just enough to make it yummy. Close the sandwich up. I made 10 sandwiches, but had to go back and make some more mayo along the way. I buttered one side of all the sandwiches while they were sitting on the counter and the pan was heating up. You want to make grilled cheese over medium heat. This will give the cheese time to melt without burning the outside. Whatever you do... butter the bread and not the pan! As I got ready to add them to the pan, I held it carefully and buttered the other side.

Yes, this was a child's bowl. At least I grabbed a photo, right?

Cook until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.

Now go eat! =]

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Proof of His Love challenge!

This post has been writing itself, in my head, for months. My closest friends know that I’ve been struggling lately. With what, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been calling it broken heartedness.

I prayed some time ago for Jesus to break my heart with what breaks His heart. Since then, I’ve been walking around broken hearted. Shocking, right?! I have a friend who prayed once (I’m totally paraphrasing) about our lack of suffering and, in comparison, not only to Jesus, but many others in this world, we have no idea what it means to suffer. She asked for suffering?! I didn’t understand it when she first told me years ago – I understand now.

When I think about narcissistic people, I think of the world. I think of people who don’t know Jesus and, therefore, don’t know the true love, compassion, humility of Christ. I think of a mental disorder. I think of crazy, mass killings with no cause or reason. I think of horrific crimes as seen on TV police dramas… I think of all things “bad.”

I don’t think of Christians.

I don’t think of me.

When I think of greed, I think of those who have too much and give very little. I think of those who always want bigger, better, more. I think of people who will do anything to meet their needs. I think of people who will use, abuse, and throw away those who don’t fit into their pretty package of life.

I don’t think of Christians.

I don’t think of me.


I’m finding, more often than I’d ever like to admit, that we live in a world of narcissistic and greedy people – regardless of a relationship had or not had with Christ.

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.” ― Stephen Colbert

Wow. Yes!

Wikipedia describes narcissism this way: “is a generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, conceit, or selfishness. Narcissism is usually considered a problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others.”

David Thomas, PhD, suggests that narcissists typically display most, and sometimes all, of the following traits:
·         An obvious self-focus in interpersonal exchanges
·         Problems in sustaining satisfying relationships
·         A lack of psychological awareness
·         Difficulty with empathy
·         Problems distinguishing the self from others
·         Hypersensitivity to any insults or imagined insults
·         Vulnerability to shame rather than guilt
·         Haughty body language
·         Flattery towards people who admire and affirm them
·         Detesting those who do not admire them
·         Using other people without considering the cost of doing so
·         Pretending to be more important than they really are
·         Bragging (subtly but persistently) and exaggerating their achievements
·         Claiming to be an "expert" at many things
·         Inability to view the world from the perspective of other people
·         Denial of remorse and gratitude

As followers of Christ, and finding new life in Christ, are we not supposed to clothe ourselves in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? Forgive one another as Christ forgave us? Over all these things, aren’t we to love?

We LOVE. That’s our calling. We love Him, and because of that love for Him, we love others. Period. We love struggling couples, we love new moms, we love those without a home, we love those who break the law, we love those who are not kind, we love the unloveable, and we care for those who are in need! Without love, there is nothing.

I would like to think greed and selfishness are only in people who don’t know Jesus, but it just wouldn’t be true. There are greedy people in this world who proclaim the love of Christ.  It’s our sinful nature. In Colossians 3 we are reminded of how we used to be, as non-believers. But we are also told, beginning in verse 12, who we are now and how we should behave with Christ in our heart.

Remember that time we felt hopeless, lonely, burdened. Yet someone came alongside to offer a lending hand. That’s what we should think about when looking at others who *need* us.

I have a passion for wounded people. For unjust things. We’ve discussed this in previous posts. I think it’s just starting to come full circle for me.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of seeing, hearing, watching people do little or nothing to love others. I’m sick when I see someone pleading for a little compassion and that person is just ignored, passed by, unacknowledged. Unloved. Rudeness shown to them, no empathy, a missed opportunity. Of course, these are not things I see all the time, but I do see it way more than I’d like. I can only state what I see and feel.

I’m not saying this to pretend that I’m perfect or that I’m above all this – I’m NOT! I have that flesh desire, the sinful nature, the yearning to be selfish right into the core of who I am. But what I really want to see is that we all, together, strive to be better than our flesh. A longing to fulfill the mission the Jesus started. The desire to fulfill our responsibility to Him. I mean, come on, the Man died for us! The least we can do is our best for Him.

Our actions speak volumes to other people. Love takes sacrifice. We sacrifice our time, money, comfort, space, etc… It doesn’t matter if you say you love – it matters if you show you love.

How are we supposed to show the love of Christ and the truth of His word to people who don’t believe when we are too concerned with ourselves?


Following all the rules is great, but if there hasn’t been a heart change, directly from Jesus, then what’s the point?

So what is my argument in all of this?

I just want to see more love. More compassion. More empathy. More of a willingness to help. I want people to know about Christ’s love because they see it in us and they want to know more about it. I want to hurt more if it means someone else can hurt less.

I want to see a less narcissistic, less greedy society. I want to see lovers of God to stand in the gap for Him when needed. Lend a helping hand when given a chance. Do what’s right, not what’s comfortable. Do what needs to be done, not dependent on what’s in it for us. 

I want for us to be the person that people admire, not because of who we are, but because of Him in us.

Can we do this together? Will you hold me accountable? Will you ensure that my love is always constant? Will you help me to always be sure that His desire is way more important than my own?

I’ll help you, if you help me. I’ll help you even if you don’t help me. =]

(based on Bible Verses: 1 Cor. 13: 1-3 as spoken by For King & Country in their song, Proof of Your Love)

If I can speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy
But I don't love; I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate
If I speak God's word with power, revealing all His mysteries
And making everything as plain as day
And if I say to a mountain jump and it jumps
But I don't love, I'm nothing
If I give all I own to the poor
Or if I even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr
But I don't have love, I've gotten nowhere
So, no matter what we say, no matter what we believe, no matter what we do
We're bankrupt without love.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4 Joy Dare

February 4 Joy Dare - Three gifts found when bent down.

Kisses and reading time with Nicole. When I returned home this evening, Nicole's momma was doing her reading lesson with her. I wanted to give momma a break and spend some time with Nicole, so I bent to kiss her head and went through her reading lesson with her. Highlight of my day. 

Lost toys found. Do you have cats? No? Yes? Well, if you do then you know that cat toys are always missing. Cats aren't like dogs. They don't gnaw on toys until they are worn out. No. They pick up their toys and throw them around and push them underneath anything that will suck them in. When I came to my room, I found a long lost cat toy on my floor. No idea where it came from, but I know my Tiki is happy to have it back!

The yarn basket. My yarn supply has grown and emptied. I bent over tonight to go through my inventory to see if there were any projects waiting to be started and I have nothing! This is both good and bad. It's good because I've used up my yarn. It's bad because I have to go buy more! I need a yarn credit. haha. 

Are you doing the Joy Dare work with me? How's it going for you? I'd love to know. =]

Pizza Night!

I'm not a huge pizza fan, but there are times I just want pizza. Yanno? The other night was one of those times. I made three pizzas, all different.

Everyone has a dough preference. I typically buy dough balls and use them as my dough. As much as I'd like to make my own all the time, a weeknight meal, when I've been gone to work all day, isn't usually the best time to jump on the dough wagon. We gotta do what we gotta do...

Here is how I make my sauce. Take a 6 oz can of tomato paste, dump it in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Stir. Add some water. Stir. Taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. Add water if it's too thick. Stir. Taste. Stir. Add. Taste. Done! =]~ Really, this is how I do sauce every time.

The other night, I laid out all three crusts onto cookie sheets, one a little larger so the crust was thinner. And prebaked them at 400 for about 5 or 6 minutes. Once I pulled them out, this is how I topped them.

One had the tomato based sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and diced ham. This was my thin crusted one.


The second one I topped with a thin layer of apricot preserves, mozzarella cheese, diced ham, and crushed pineapple.

The third one was my favorite.
I cooked some bacon, about 10 slices, then removed it to a plate. Chop when cooled. Then, drain a good bit, almost all of the grease from the pan.


I sliced an onion really thin and added it into the pan I used to cook the bacon. I wanted the onion to really be good and caramelized. It took about 6 or 7 minutes on medium heat. Add about 1 clove of minced garlic for the last minute or so. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon to a plate.

I took about 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes and halved them. And shredded about 8 oz smoked gouda cheese.

On the crust I drizzled olive oil, sprinkled some dried basil, then cheese, then the chopped bacon, onions, and tomatoes. Then I topped it with some kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Once it was done, I added from fresh chopped basil. Yum!

All the pizzas should be cooked at 400 until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. About 12 minutes. Of course, if it's not ready just keep it in there and check it every couple minutes until it's done just the way you like it. Enjoy!