Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ranch Snack Mix

This is the "yummiest" snack mix I think my mouth has ever snacked on.  Seriously.  My mom gave me a cookbook when I "went veg" called Vegetarian and More! by Linda Rosensweig.  It's full of vegetarian recipes with optional meat add-ins (for the carnivore husband).  Anyway, this recipe is from that cookbook and I'll definitely be making it again . . . for that next snack attack!

3 cups plain oyster crackers
1 cup thin pretzel sticks
1 cup wheat square cereal (such as Chex)
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
1 package (1 ounce) ranch salad dressing mix
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a 15" x 10" or larger baking dish, combine the crackers, pretzels, cereal, and peanuts.

In a small bowl, combine the salad dressing mix, oil, broth, chili powder, and garlic powder.  Pour over the cracker mix and toss to coat.

Bake, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown.  Let cool.

Makes 8 servings

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Honey-Glazed Carrots and Add Thyme for Whipped Potatoes

Tonight's dinner was quick, easy, and tasted like it was neither.  Even Matt, who doesn't like cooked carrots, liked these!  Since the recipe makes 12 servings, I adjusted the ingredients a little to just make enough for the two of us. 

Honey-Glazed Carrots
  • 6 cups water (I used 2 cups)
  • 3 pounds baby carrots ( I used 1 pound)
  • 2 Tblsp butter (I used 1 Tblsp)
  • 3-4 Tblsp honey (I used 3)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (as much as you'd like)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I forgot and it was lovely without)
  1. In a large skillet, bring water to a boil.  Add carrots, and return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 8-10 minutes or until carrots are just tender.  Drain carrots, and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. To glaze carrots combine butter, honey, lemon zest,  red pepper, and salt (which I didn't use and it was yummy still).  Stir constantly over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture bubbles.  Carefully add carrots (mine splashed a little, woopsie).  Toss gently for 2-3 minutes or until carrots are thoroughly coated with glaze and heated through. 
Claire Robinson is a newer chef on Food Network, and her show is called "5 Ingredient Fix".  It's pretty self-explanatory, but you only need 5 ingredients for all of her recipes (except for oil, water, salt, the stuff you're definitely going to have).  Talk about easy!  Here is her recipe for "Add Thyme for Whipped Potatoes".  I didn't take a picture . . .whipped potatoes aren't that intersting to look at :)

  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled (and I smashed mine with the side of a knife)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into equal-size chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add the half-and-half, garlic, thyme, and butter and heat until the butter is melted. Allow to sit over very low heat to infuse the flavors and keep hot.
  2. In a large pot, add the potatoes, cover with water and generously season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately drain the potatoes and put them through a food mill over a serving bowl. If you don't have a food mill, you can hand mash or use a hand mixer (I used a mixer), but be sure to not over-whip if using an electric hand mixer or the potatoes will get gummy.
  3. Pour the hot infused half-and-half mixture through a fine mesh sieve into the potatoes (I strained out the garlic cloves, but left the bits of thyme in). Stir with a wooden spoon to combine and season with a little salt and pepper (which I did not do). Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
Eat and Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Silly Goose

Born July 14, 2009
Brought home November 29, 2009

Meet our baby boy, Goose!

Because of my work and school schedule, Goose has become quite attached to Matt.  Super cute!

He is already entering his crate upon command.

We are working on "sit" and "stay".

Started to bell train him to go potty outside, but the bells just scared him.  We may give that another try. However, "potty training" in general is going very well!

In classic Maltese fashion, Goose will "kill you with his kisses"! He loves licking Matt's ears and his tongue will even go up my nose sometimes :)

He is a silly Goose, and we can't wait for you to meet him!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Full of Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday!  I love that it is a holiday to simply enjoy the company of family and friends, bake and cook food that you normally don't throughout the year, eat yummy food all day long, play games, laugh, and relax.  The most important reason it's my favorite holiday (with food a close second :) is that we have a day set aside on the calendar to remind us of what we have to be thankful for.  I try to think this way all year long, but a stressful and busy life can plague my thoughts sometimes . . .and I just can't avoid the thankful atmosphere this time of year.  It makes me happy!  I decided to really reflect over the last few weeks, and here is a list of things I am thankful for, big and small, in no particular order, and the list goes on . . .
Thanksgiving 2007
  • A God who loves me no matter what, and Jesus for sacrificing his life to save little 'ol me
  • Access to education
  • My Registered Dental Hygienist license
  • Two functioning arms/hands that allow me to do my job
  • Family
  • My Maverick (Matt, for those of you who don’t know his nickname), my husband who makes me feel beautiful, loved, and adored.
  • A car that is finally mine. No car payments!!
  • To live in a country that allows me to be a Christian without prosecution
  • A Mom that survived a long battle with cancer
  • A Father that survived a not so small heart attack
  • My crock pot to cook for me when I’m at work
  • PartyLite candles to help make our house a cozy home
  • A house
  • The bright crunch of snow in the winter
  • The crisp smell of rain in the spring
  • The smell of fresh-cut grass in the summer
  • The colorful leaves in the early fall
  • My Blackberry which allows me to multitask like never before (AKA: my crackberry)
  • Old friends to reminisce with
  • New friends to grow with
  • Our dishwasher
  • Spirit 105.3 to make my heart and face smile
  • Pictures to re-live memories
  • My digital camera to capture moments to re-live in the future
  • Food Network
  • My vocal cords so I can sing
  • Ultrasonic Scalers (you other hygienists can relate)
  • Insurance
  • Nutella
  • Hot showers
  • Stephenie Meyer for creating the Twilight Saga (yes, I'm one of "them" :)
  • Dave Ramsey for motivating us to “live like no one else”
  • Burt and his Bees to hydrate my dry lips in the winter
  • Blogspot to share our lives with each other in a most creative and accessible way
  • God's daily reminders and encouragements to me to be a wife who wnjoys honoring and serving her husband
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Power steering, key-less car entry, automatic windows and locks, and cupholders.  All of which my previous care did not have.
My previous car
  • Access to medical care
  • Hot apple cider
  • Wonderfully supportive and loving in-laws.  Rachel and Roland will be celebrating their 40th anniversay December 20 (the day Matt and I met)
  • Clean and safe drinking water
  • Bringing the beautiful ocean into the middle of our living room via Matt's fish tank
  • Our baby puppy we'll be picking up November 29th!
  • Living in a neighborhood where I feel safe, and having great neighbors
  • A garage to park my car in . . .a first for me, and it's fabulous!
  • A wonderful husband who keeps the garage clean enough for me to park my car in
  • Happy memories to cherish
  • Moments of sadness and trials to make me stronger and help my growth 
  • The men and women of our armed forces in our past, present, and future; who risk(ed) their lives to protect mine
  • DVR so we can watch our shows when we have the time
  • Matt's warm feet to warm up mine
  • My massage therapist, Sharon, who works out my "Everest Knots" and will help my longevity as a Hygienist
  • My weakness, movie theater popcorn, as bad as I know it is for me
  • The Cheesemonger in Leavenworth . . . Mmmm . . . .cheeeeeeeezzzzeeee!
  • The Office, Parks and Recreation, The Community, and 30 Rock for making Thursdays so incredibly funny (this Fall anyway)
  • Sandy Kemper for creating Smiles Forever, a Dental Hygiene program in Cochabamba, Bolivia which empowers women by giving them a chance to change their family tree
  • Fruit and nut trail mix from Costco.  Dried kiwi and strawberries?!?! YUM!
  • Tofurky kielbasa
  • Shoes
  • To love in a country with such a great travel system of highways, trains, and airplanes.  Even though we all complain about it all, it really is easy to move about the country!
  • My hearing, eyesight, and speech
  • Being blessed to go on an amazing honeymoon that was more breathtaking than I ever dreamed it would be!!
  • "Cleaning mode" on our oven
  • The Love Dare to help Matt and I be the best husband and wife we can for one another
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Mom and Dad for my smile . . . Dr. Simons and Dr. Bloomquist for perfecting it
  • Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Butternut Squash Lasagna

I came across this recipe on a blog I started following in a roundabout way, (an art teacher who also loves to play with food).  The lasagna is a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, probably my favorite Food Network chef.  I don't recommend attempting this if you get home from work at 6:30 like me, because you won't be eating until around 9:00.  I do recommend making sure you have milk when you start the cooking, that will save you some time and a trip to the store for milk (thank you Maverick).  I also recommend that you don't scald the milk; that too will save you some time because you won't have to make the sauce twice.  With that said, it was soooo worth the wait in my opinion.  However, I had to cook Matt's chicken before the lasagna was done becuase he couldn't wait.  We both agree it's definitely "a keeper"!

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (I used a 3 lb squash and it was perfect)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 amaretti cookies, crumbled (a tip from, I used Pepperidge Farms gingerbread men)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Heat oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. (I just mashed it up in the skillet with the back of a wooden spoon) Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender (keep one side of the lid popped to vent to prevent the suction that can cause "heat explosion") . Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Lightly butter a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna (this was Matt's job:). Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!!!! (hopefully before 9:00 pm :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Champion

You're looking at the 2009 Maple Valley Rec League Champion team!!!  I had such a great time cheering my Maverick on this season, and am excited for the Spring league he's planning on playing in as well.  I have to give it to his team "Polk High" for playing with such integrity and sportsmanship.  I witnessed some pretty "dirty" plays and heard some pretty "nasty" words from members of other teams throughout the season, and that just isn't fun for anyone. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

More Than Enough

This last Tuesday on my drive home from class, this song by Barlow Girl came on the radio.  I cranked up the volume to 40 (which is loud in my car :) and sang along at the top of my lungs not caring for a second what other drivers on the road thought! (it was dark, though)

All of You
is more than enough for
All of me
for every thirst and
every need
You satisfy me
with Your love
And all I have in You
Is more than enough
I once wrote a paper in an English Composition class regarding "Pecuniary Emulation", the desire to acquire "more".  With this song, Christ reminded me to be content in the place I am in life and for what I have; and it also brought back memories of the days when I struggled to put gas in my car and ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.  I feel so blessed to be married to such an amazing man, to have a great career especially in these "hard economic times" (a phrase I've been hearing a lot lately).  I thank God for such a supportive family who helped me through those difficult years with masses of emotional support.  So, just when I was feeling the urge to desire "more", I was reminded of what I am MORE than thankful for! 

I am more than content

All I have in You

Is more than enough

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Drive to Covington.

Department of Licensing office #1 . . . now an Edward Jones.

Consult DOL website via my Blackberry.  Thank goodness for my Blackberry.

Drive to Kent.

Can't find office.  Call for landmark.  Find office.

Department of Licensing office #2 . . . wrong office, was told to go to a different DOL in Kent.

Department of Licensing office #3 . . .wait one hour. Again, thank goodness for my Blackberry to keep me preoccupied.

Slightly panic when asked to sign my new name as I have not much practice.

New driver license with a picture without braces, new address and NEW NAME!!! Priceless!

Amanda Elizabeth Bricknell  :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Rise to Fall

Fall has officially arrived, and the weather is suddenly crisp and very wet. We are absolutely loving the vibrant colors.  For some reason, our surroundings seem more colorful this year.  The pictures above were taken of the intersection at the entrance to our housing development.  Stunning!  What a beautiful thing to see when leaving and arriving back home! 

I have started what will hopefully be my last year of school.  For a while anyway.  This quarter I'm taking Research Methods, a Community Dental Health class (that's not the official name, but is essentially what it is, a year-long class), and International Communications (a year-long class).  This entire year will be devoted to a group community project. 

Matt has started up flag football again for the 3rd year in a row, and this is the first year I'm out here every Saturday to watch!  I'm out here every day now, and I still get excited when thinking about that :) Matt plays for a Maple Valley team called Polk High, and they are currently 4 -1, so he's pretty excited that they are doing well.  I enjoy bundling up in my warm gear and wrapping up in a blanket to cheer him on with hot chocolate in hand.  Today, however, I missed the game that went from 19-20 to 26-20 in the last 22 seconds for a Polk High win!

Today I volunteered with Serve Day at our church, New Life Christian Church.  Every spring and fall, the church takes Salvation Army donations, has dumpsters set up for people to dump their trash, a metal recycle station for large items like barbecues, a shredding company comes out to shred sensitive documents, and for the first year we provided oil changes for single moms.  It was a very wet and dirty day as we unloaded garbage from people's vehicles and gave it to the dumpsters to be forgotten about forever.  Just as Christ willingly and lovingly removes our "garbage" from our lives no questions asked.  He lightens our load and lifts our burdens, and all we have to do is show up.

A great fall find was this recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins . . . so tasty and festive!

• 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Streusel Topping
• 4 1/2 tablespoons flour
• 5 tablespoons white sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 3 tablespoons chopped pecans (toasted these on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees, for about 10 minutes)

Muffin Batter
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 2 cups white sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Grease and flour 18 muffin tims.  (I made these mini muffins instead)

FILLING: Beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth. Set aside.

STREUSEL TOPPING: Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.

MUFFIN BATTER: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and gradually incorporate eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.

- Fill tins with pumpkin mixture until they're about 1/2 full.
- Carefully add one tbsp of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter.
- If you're using paper cups, try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper.
- Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Honeymooners

Six months after we were married, our dream honeymoon became a reality! I have had a "bucket list" since about middle school, only mine was called "things to do before I die". One of those was to go on a honeymoon. It was just that simple. I just wanted to be able to go on a honeymoon, anywhere; and I feel so incredibly blessed for the honeymoon we were able to enjoy.
After about three weeks since we've been back, we get to share it with you. Sunday, August 31, we took flight out of LA aboard an Air New Zealand jet. Destination: Cook Islands! We spent seven days on the island of Rarotonga, and then five days on the smaller island of Aitutaki.
We have been trying to figure out how in the world we can share our trip with you on here, because we did so much over the course of two weeks. So, here are some highlights of our trip. . . (you can click on the pictures for a larger image)
The View from our room on Rarotonga . . .

One of the Island Nights we attended, complete with fire-dancing. This night ended with a fire-dance by yours truly. I was known as "Miss America" by fellow guests for the rest of the week. We were one of very few Americans on our trip, as most were New Zealanders or Australians.

The car we rented was so cute, and SO tiny! Matt hit his head every time getting in, and it was an interesting experience for him obtaining a Cook Islands driver's license and driving on the left side of the road for the first time.

We took the church bus from our resort to the Cook Islands Christian Church to worship the South Pacific way. The singing was incredibly beautiful and boisterous, and it also just happened to be Father's Day! After the service, we were invited for lunch and fellowship; something the church provides every single Sunday.

Much time was spent around, in, and under the water. . .by Matt especially. I gave scuba diving one chance, and was fully satisfied with not going again. Matt, on the other hand, ended up diving 4 more times after our lagoon lesson. He absolutely fell in love with diving! He would also grab his snorkel gear and head for the reef any chance he could get. That boy was in heaven :)
When we arrived to Aitutaki, we received a coconut drink and an amazingly fragrant lei. Aitutaki only has a population of about 2,000 and it took us only about 20 minutes to drive around the island in our rented car as it poured rain . . .and that was taking back roads off the one main road.

On Aitutaki, we rode bikes to the end of the airport runway to a decent snorkeling spot we heard about. Matt snorkeled, and I read. . . and got sunburned.
On Honeymoon Island, it's tradition to plant a coconut if you're there on your honeymoon. So we planted a coconut! Now we'll have to return one day to find our tree :) This was part of a day-long "lagoon cruise" which also took us to One Foot Island which has the oldest post office, and we had our passports stamped; as well as "survivor island" which was one of the islands used to film Survivor: Cook Islands. Our tour guides Puna, and his wife Tutu were incredibly friendly and hospitable.
We were constantly in awe with the breathtaking views surrounding us, especially on Aitutaki!

We took about 850 pictures between two cameras, and that includes underwater pictures.
Matt's favorite part was the diving, with the food a close second. My favorite parts were the beautiful views, unbelievably teal-blue water, and the relaxing atmosphere. I read almost three books while there, and have yet to finish 1/2 of one book since we've returned. Back to the daily grind and back in school leaves little time for reading for fun :(

We also had some fun adventures kayaking, riding the bus, and seeing chickens and roosters run wild through the airport and restaurants, and trying to find a souvenir shop on Aitutaki. We had a Gecko in our room for the entire week on Aitutaki, which freaked me out a little at first. It then became a nightly game for us at bedtime to "find the Gecko". We cuddled after dinner in one of the hammocks admiring the stars that were so bright they didn't seem real. We toured the botanical gardens and Saturday cultural market on Rarotonga. At the cultural market, I was pulled onto the stage to perform some island dancing . . .not so easy. We met several other couples also on their honeymoons from Toronto, Germany, Colorado, and even Seattle.

We really miss the Cook Islands, and would highly recommend it to anyone! Although we would love to return one day, there are so many other places in the world we would like to see. We have very fond and vivid memories of the Cook Islands, and many pictures which we will never let us forget.