Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dirty Diana

Songs that creep past your skin and sink into your veins are so hard to find. But every now and then you come across one, and you let it live on repeat until you know it well enough to take it with you.

This is one of those songs for me. And one of those musicians. I knew Sean McConnell in high school, and loved hearing him play at FCA or on mission trips. I have his first cd that he made in high school, and remember traveling all over Atlanta to hear him every time he played. There were big life lessons in those songs, and his voice drew you in and allowed you to feel the weightiness of each of them. It's like the Kingdom transcended the artist. You came face to face with your Creator by experiencing Him through Sean's music. The lyrics aren't trite, but savory and poetic. His way with words is better than most popular artists today.

Sean doesn't do as much worship any more, but everything he does is just as rich and powerful as his worship. And this song choice for today only reemphasizes that notion. I hope you enjoy!

Thanks Mary Susan for the heads up on this one. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recipe Docket

In order to motivate myself, I'm posting pictures of the four new things I want to make this week. I have acquired the ingredients for all of these beauties, but let's see how much I actually cook. :) I'm kind of over my cooking phase, but I know we eat SO much better when I get my act together. And we tend to go out less. Which means bootcamp can actually be beneficial. Womp womp.

Spring rolls

Firecracker shrimp

Tomato, Basil and Cheddar soup

Strawberry Lemonade Scones

And to round this all out a little bit, I bought THIS at Hop City this afternoon:

Does it GET any better than that!? I mean come on!!! It's currently chilling in the fridge, but I'm hoping to have some with dinner. Here's to hoping its as good as Woodchuck Raspberry or the watermelon wheat we had at work this week. ;)

Happy eating. And drinking. And cooking if you're into that sorta thing.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Balsamic Vinegar Addiction, and other great recipes...

Here are some of the foods I've made in the last week or so. I'll post the recipes below each of them, as well as a link to where I found them/adapted them from. I don't normally adapt recipes unless I don't have all the ingredients, so don't assume that I have any skill at that whatsoever! I just like to cook new things and am trying desperately to get better at it. 

Homemade Onion Rings
1 onion
1/4 cup cornflakes (I spun them in the food processor for a minute)
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 1/4 buttermilk (I used the Greek yogurt drink Kefir)

1. Slice your onion and pull apart the rings.
2. Soak all the rings for 30 minutes - 2 hours in the buttermilk/Kefir
3. Roll in breadcrumbs and crumbled cornflakes 
4. Bake at 450 for 12 minutes until crispy

These were REALLY good. Definitely way better than expected. And since they are baked, there is no  oil or deep frying involved. The cornflakes provide a good crunch, and the breadcrumbs functioned like normal breading that you would get on onion rings at a restaurant. You could probably play with some herbs in the mix, but these were perfect in my opinion. Original recipe here.

Balsamic chicken
Chicken breasts
Red pepper
Olive oil
Crushed garlic
Balsamic vinegar (or balsamic glaze which I couldn't find)
Basil leaves

1. Marinate chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar and crushed garlic for as long as you have time for. I did 2 hours and that was sufficient, but I can only imagine what this would be like after 24 hours.
2. Bake the chicken with sliced peppers on top for 15 or so minutes. 
3. Then add a basil leaf and a slice of mozzarella underneath the peppers, and continue baking until chicken is done.
4. Drizzle with balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar when finished (that part not pictured).

Killer. I'd make these a million times over. VERY flavorful and moist. Recipe here.

Fudge with marshmallow cream
3 cups chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Marshmallow fluff

1. Boil water, and place a heat-proof bowl on top of the pan.
2. Melt chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. I stirred a good bit to keep the chocolate from hardening/burning on the bottom of the bowl.
3. Take off of heat, add a splash of vanilla.
4. Pour into pan. Spread with cream.
5. Put in fridge for a few hours to harden. OR put it in the freezer for 30 minutes. :)
Tip: line your pan with foil, so the fudge will be easy to dump out and slice. 

Great. This was VERY easy, not the least bit healthy, but fun to make. I had high hopes of adding peanut butter at some point, but the process was so quick I didn't have time to get my act together. The only tricky thing with the cream is that at room temperature, it tends to melt and drip off the fudge. That of course makes it all the more delicious, but definitely messier. Especially if you want to transport it to take somewhere. But with the dark chocolate chips, the marshmallow was a nice touch. No link for this one, I combined a few recipes I found. :)

Homemade spicy balsamic pizza
(I used homemade dough, but you could easily buy dough for this)
1 cooked chicken breast (seasoned however you like it), chopped/shredded
1 onion
1 pepper
Handful of cilantro
Pepperjack cheese
Sliced/Crushed garlic
Spaghetti sauce or salsa (I used Vodka sauce from Trader Joes)
Balsamic vinegar (sorry, I'm on a kick here)

1. Preheat the oven to 400.
2. Put some olive oil in a pan, and cook the onion, peppers, cilantro, and garlic until very soft. 
3. Spread the salsa or sauce on the crust.
4. Add cheese, veggies, chopped chicken
5. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on top (just for fun)

Pretty good. But honestly it was better the second day when all the ingredients sat together all night. I combined two recipes for this based on what I had on hand, and was overall pretty pleased with the outcome. Check out this and this for inspiration. 

Cucumber salad
1 chopped pepper (red or orange)
Handful chopped cilantro (recipe called for parsley, but who eats parsley?)
Thinly sliced cucumbers (1 used 5 small Persian cucumbers)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind (this would have been great had I known how to do it)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
*I added a little bit of honey because it was pretty tart

1. Slice cucumbers.
2. Mix everything together, and let soak until you're ready to serve.
*Some people add sugar or substitute rice wine vinegar.

This was good as a side item for a bigger meal. Its colorful, very light, and refreshing. It would compliment a lot of other foods because it is pretty tart. I thought it might taste more like pickles, but it really just tasted like cucumbers with some other flavors. You can add red pepper flakes or chili powder for a kick. The recipe did also call for radishes, but I'm pretty sure I've never bought/eaten a radish in my life. So I left those off. :)

Happy cooking everyone! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012


In case anyone was nervous that I wouldn't be able to fill the Harry Potter void in my heart, fret no more.

My life has now been made complete by Veronica Roth (and Bob Goff, but you knew that already). 

These books are outstanding. I could not put them down, and am slightly nervous that I won't make it to the fall of 2013 for the third book without some sort of breakdown. 

For those of you who can't read that title up top in reverse, here is the official Insurgent cover. This is the second book in the Divergent series, and it is one of the rare page turners that you can't ever quit reading. I kept finding myself wanting to go to sleep or skip church or run an errand, but then something else would happen to Beatrice Prior that I knew would be a big deal. And change everything. And I just couldn't stop there. Or 100 pages later. Or 150 after that. I sat on the edge of my seat for the last 48 hours with my palms sweating and heart racing, until all concluded.... WITH A CLIFFHANGER ENDING. Uggghhhhhhhhhh. I CAN'T WAIT TIL 2013 AFTER THAT! And because I love you, I won't spoil what's going on here and deprive you of being mad about this ending too. I need someone to commiserate with.

Being a young writer, Roth has certainly proved herself to be a great story-teller. These books have tons of action, a little bit of romance laced throughout, and provide an honest look at human nature. I hope that English teachers are using these books as tools because they are jam packed with great questions, perceptions, prejudices, and realities on life and the potential future of our world if left unattended to.

So I encourage you to go to your local Target, and pick up a copy today (as Target only began carrying them this week). 

Marked that off my prayer list on Friday. 

Let me know if you guys have read anything good lately, because I'm obviously only going to flounder around and complain about the void of good books the world has to offer at this point. And you know that I will always take book suggestions. 


Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Love Does

I just finished Love Does by Bob Goff. Bob Goff is an incredible man with some of the most inspiring stories I've ever read. What is so challenging about him is that anyone can do the kinds of things he does. 

He gives generously, never sparing an expense when it comes to showing his love to others. And what impresses me most is that he demonstrates love in tangible ways not only to those who are close friends, but also to those who are complete strangers. Like when he sent flowers to a woman that totaled his jeep, just to remind her that it was okay and that she was forgiven. Or like when he helped a kid he met on a walk propose to his girlfriend, and found a way to get the Coast Guard involved to make it an even more spectacular event than the kid had ever imagined it to be. Or like the time his children wrote to foreign ministers, and were invited to come visit 29 of them. He sold his car to pay for plane tickets for his family to travel to those places, because he knew that those would be lifelong experiences that his children would never forget.

I read these stories and am just flat out inspired and stirred up that he has learned to love and live in such a tangible and expressive way. A way that people long for, but don't have the gumption to just do.

He helps dreamers dream. He challenges you to live outside yourself. To see others first. To let others enthrall and captivate you with who they are. He makes no excuses. He says yes, even if its hard or uncomfortable. Because that is what living a life fully engaged is all about. Creating memories now that you'll never regret.

He reminds me so much of my favorite lesson that I took away from Blue Like Jazz. That we must love others simply because they exist. Why is that so hard to do sometimes? Why is it so unbearably easy to pick apart why you should/shouldn't do something, when you know it would mean the world to someone else? Maybe we don't give ourselves enough credit. Maybe we think that it wouldn't matter to someone, when in reality we are who they need in this season. Or maybe we don't like someone, so we want to withhold our love from them. But maybe it's in the overcoming of our flaws and issues and specks that we see past what we see, and are able to lay hold of what God sees.

If someone simply asked me to see a movie tonight, I'm more inclined to say no than yes. Why is that? I love spending time with people, and I never regret a minute doing it. But sometimes its just easier to stay at home. Or easier to finish my book, or watch a movie. Because that requires virtually nothing from me. When going out would mean I'd have to spend money, look presentable, get home late, and probably use up gas in my car. But is that really how God wants us to live? Secluded in our rooms with the TV on, completely MISSING an opportunity to engage with someone? To encourage them? To be encouraged by them? To swap life stories? To be reminded that we all need love and friendship and meaning and people to believe in us? We're meant to live bigger life stories than I think we can even dream up for ourselves, and sometimes it takes someone like Bob to point that out.

Closing the final pages was incredibly difficult for me, as this book is one that will ring in my heart for decades to come. And I know that I cannot simply 'walk away' from this one. This one was different.

If I could pull apart a few of the truths that I really want to carry with me, they would be related to doing more, loving more, and engaging more. And I realize that sounds kind of stupid, but after reading these compelling and awe-inspiring stories from Bob Goff, you realize how much more you could be doing. And by “you”, I mean “I”. Because I can get lazy. And forget to be intentional. And forget that I can matter. And those are terrible things to forget. Because at the end of the day, love does.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Cooking new foods is an invigorating process for me. I feel like I always get stuck in a rut with dinner, so finding new recipes and actually making them is a big step. This recipe for Vietnamese Summer Rolls I pulled from Pinterest, and literally had zero idea how they would turn out. I've never done any kind of roll or wrap before, but this one seemed easy enough to replicate. 

Ingredients for the rolls:
Handful of lettuce
Rice sticks
Chopped mango (I used mango salsa)
Steak (the recipe didn't call for this, but I thought it'd be a nice addition)
Rice paper
Mint (the recipe calls for this, but I did not use it)

1. Soak the noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes or until soft. 
2. Cook steak (or meat of your choice in sesame oil)
3. Chop lettuce, cilantro and carrots
4. Dip the rice paper in water and soak for a few seconds. Dry off.
5. Put the cilantro, lettuce, noodles, meat, carrots and mango salsa on the first third of the wrap.
6. Fold over the end closest to you (where the ingredients are), fold in each side, then roll.
7. If you wanted to bake or fry the roll at this point, you could. However, eating them raw is great. And better for you. 

Ingredients for the dipping sauce:
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar (I used white wine since I didn't have rice vinegar on hand)
Ground ginger and/or garlic
Red pepper flakes

1. Mix all ingredients together. Make sure the sugar dissolves in the mix.

I highly recommend a dipping sauce of some sort (even if you don't use this one). The flavors are a little bit bland, although the mango salsa kicked it up a little bit. I really liked this dipping sauce, and you could probably do any variation of these ingredients, or any of your choice. 

I loved making this as it gave us a needed break from baked chicken, tacos, and spaghetti. They would be great for an appetizer at a party, or as part of a bigger meal. I really loved them, and hope you'll give these a shot! Here are some iPhone pictures of my ingredients, but I'll replace them with real pictures once I get them on my computer.