Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cranberry Salsa


One of my cooking assignments for Thanksgiving this year was the cranberry relish.  Although I liked the way it turned out, that is not the recipe I'm sharing with you; I was way more impressed with this one! 

I ended up buying two bags of fresh cranberries when one bag was plenty for my relish...what to do with the extra bag of cranberries?  Well, one snow day last week I saw a cooking segment on some morning show I can't remember becuase I wasn't really paying attention.  All I remember is they made cranberry salsa and I said "What?! I have to make that!"  Well, since I was only half-way paying attention I had to search for recipes for this...to which there are many variations.  I read through several and came up with this one. 

Cranberries are only available fresh from September to the end of the year, so make this salsa while you have the chance! Ok, I guess frozen cranberries would work too...but do you really eat cranberries any other time of the year?  Maybe we should, since they have so many health benefits.  Cranberries are rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, have anti-cancer properties, cholesterol benefits, and they can possibly even help prevent tooth decay! (First time I heard this one, so I'll have to look into it more).  Click HERE to read more about colorful, wonderful cranberries.

We had our friends Tim and Staci over for dinner the Sunday after Thanksgiving and I made Taco Soup as I wanted to make something opposite from the food we had all been eating for the last three days.  The Cranberry Salsa was a perfect compliment to the laid-back meal; south of the border meets healthy holiday fruit!

What you need:
  • 1 (12) ounce bag cranberries (I used fresh)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, rough chop (green part only)
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and minced (depending on size and how spicy you like your salsa.  I used 2 and it was very mild)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (I used 1/2 cup at first, and then added more until it tasted right.  The sugar takes the tart out of the cranberries, but let it sit in the fridge at least a couple hours if not overnight before adding too much sugar.  The flavors really blend to taste more "salsa-like" after a night haning out in the fridge together)
  • Salt to taste
What you do:
  • Add all ingredients into a food processor.
  • Mix until blended well, fine to medium consistency.
  • Refrigerate at least a couple hours.  It's edible right away, but pretty tart. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Giving Thanks

Last year, I created a list of things I'm thankful for, big and small, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday.  Click HERE to read my list from last year.  I like to take time throughout the year to remind myself of all I have to be thankful for, but this time of year I like to put my thanks into super overdrive and come up with a list of "thankful for"s; I guess it's also sort of a favorites list.  It is actually pretty challenging to come up with 100, which is why this was not posted before Thanksgiving as I had hoped, and is also why I called it good at 20 this year.  As I type this, I'm sitting at my in-laws (Momma and Papa B) while the turkey is cooking away. 
I snagged a few quiet moments while the hubby, the puppy and Papa B nap (it's noon by the way)...ok, nevermind, they both just joined me in the living room.  Here is the continuation of my thankful list from last year, because I'm  obviously still thankful for 1-100 as well!

101 - My salvation.

102 - People who wash their hands (with soap!) after using the bathroom.  I am so surprised with how many people don't wash, or just rinse with water quickly.  This is one contributing factor to my slight "germaphobeness".

103 - Returned grocery carts.

104 - Udi's gluten-free bread (I was on a gluten-free diet for a few weeks and this was a life saver).

105 - Hand sanitizer at gas stations (how convenient!).

106 - Bluetooth (that acutually works), we recommend Jawbone.

107 - Flexible jobs that Matt and I have.

108 - Vision House (I've been volunteering Wednesday afternoons and it is such a wonderful organization that helps break the cycle of homelessness, abuse and addiction.  Check out the website for more information).

109 - Project Rescue (Recently spoke at our church and my heart was broken as I was moved to full-blown tears.  This organization helps rescue women and children from sex-slavery in India; a life so horrific it's difficult to believe it's real.  I've been praying about how God wants to use me within Project Rescue, as I can't stop thinking about it).

110 - Growth groups through out church.  Matt and I are a part of a married group on Sunday nights, and I am part of a women's group on Tuesday nights.  I'm excited about new friendships that are forming.

111 - Shelfari is a website I use to keep track of books I have read and when, as well as books I plan to read.  Sign up and let's be friends!

112 - No-slip hangers.  No more stretched-out sweater shoulders for me!  I am slowly switching out all of my hangers to these.

113 - Sonicare toothbrush.  For personal and professional reasons :)

114 - Covergirl Professionals mascara.  I keep trying different types and keep going back to this one.  It doesn't smudge or smear, and washes off easily.


115 - Nail polish remover.  Seriously, what would a girl do without?!

116 - Cricut.  I am in love with this thing! I use it mostly to make cards, but there are so many other crafty things I could use it for.


117 - A handyman husband.  I truly believe Matt can do anything, and if he can't I'm pretty sure he can learn.  Plumbing, welding, electrical, wood work, yard work, cars, etc...  Here's a sample for you:

Installed New Floors

Jackhammered the old patio.

Tranferred rocks into the backyard via man-toy (tractor).

118 - Crystal deodorant.  No aluminum, no white marks on dark clothes, no BO!! This is what Matt and I both use.


119 - My wedding ring.  I catch a glimpse of it and end up staring at it, smiling.  I've never owned something as beautiful and meaningful in my life.  I love it almost as much as I love Matt.

120 - Google.  It is my answer to just about anything..."Google it".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bricky Brunch

The Bricknell Babes:
Elizabeth (SIL), Rachel (Momma B), and Moi

Now that Rachel has her girls, we've decided to try to get together once a month for a "Bricky Brunch".  Rachel was blessed with two children, Matt and his brother Paul, but I think she is really enjoying having daughters now that her boys are married.  Elizabeth and Rachel live in the same town and have been meeting for coffee once a week, but I am two hours away and can't join them weekly.  We met for the first time the other week after just a one hour drive each and were also met with beautiful, crisp yet sunny weather. 

We enjoyed some caffeine and chat time at Starbucks before crossing the street to Thompson's Furniture (one of Rachel's favorites) where we each purchased a new scarf (see the lovely new scarves above :)  We're putting the new Bricky Brunch tradition on hold for the next couple months because of the busy holidays and the fact that we'll be seeing each other anyway, but should resume in January...weather permitting.

I'm looking forward to many more memories to be made and many more "Bricky Brunches" with the Bricknell Babes!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Red Velvet Story

January to March 2009 was a stressful yet super duper exciting time!  I was working full time, going to school part time, and planning our wedding...and this particular period of time was full of bridal showers.  I was blessed with a Western, an Eastern, AND a Southern Washington shower!  

Western Washington Shower:  One of the games for me was to bake a Red Velvet cake from scratch...with no recipe. All of the ingredients I needed were placed on the counter and I had to do my best at guessing how to put it all together. Let's just say it was edible...barely.  I like to cook, but baking is another story.  Having never ever made Red Velvet Cake before, it made for some funny entertainment for the shower guests!

Baking the cake (more like having no idea what I was doing).

Trying the finished product.

Best word to describe the cake:  DENSE
"Are you sure you don't want to try it?!"

Southern Washington Shower:  Rachel's close friend was so gracious and hosted a "cooking" shower in their town.  Everyone was to bring a recipe that correlated with their gift, and guess what one of the recipes was?... yep, Red Velvet Cake!  Keep reading for the recipe...

Rachel, Me, my mom Linda at the shower.

Eastern Washington Shower:  You might want to wear an apron for this one, beause when an entire bottle of red food coloring and an electric mixer is involved you never know what could happen.  It just so happens that my sister Natalie gave me the pattern and material for an apron at the Eastern Washington shower, which I later made during a "sewing party" with Elizabeth and Rachel (my mom-in-law and sis-in-law).

With my sisters Julie and Natalie at the Eastern Washington Shower.

Matt and I also chose Red Velvet as one of our three cupcake flavors at our wedding reception...


This week we had a potluck at work and I made these red, moist, unhealthy treats...just don't make them every weekend and you'll be ok.  It's been 1.5 years since I've made them;  it's ok to indulge every once in a while!!  So, here's the recipe...

The aforementioned apron.

What you need:  CAKE/CUPCAKES
  • 3 eggs (let stand 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup butter (let stand 30 minutes)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (1 oz) bottle red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp vinegar
How to make the CAKE/CUPCAKES:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour 3, 8 inch cake pans (or 2 cupcake pans, or just use cupcake papers)
  • In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, salt.  Set aside
  • In a large bowl beat butter on high 30 seconds.  Add sugar, vanilla, add eggs one at a time beating on medium speed after each egg. 
  • Beat in food coloring on low.
  • Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to egg mixture.  Beat on low-medium after each just until combined.
  • Stir together baking soda and vinegar.  Add to batter.  Beat until just combined.
  • Spread into prepared pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes (15-20 min for cupcakes, 10-15 minutes for mini cupcakes).  Cool pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, cool, and frost...
What you need:  FROSTING
  • One 8-oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 lb powdered suger (I know it sounds crazy, ONE POUND?!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
How to make the FROSTING:
  • Cream together cream cheese and butter
  • Add sugar and vanilla, mix well.


And that's my Red Velvet Story!

THE END :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Light of Life

Last Wednesday I had a some free time in the middle of the day to eat some lunch, read, and even nap while enjoying the beautiful early Fall weather and my alone time in the sun.  The above picture was my view of Lake Washington as I sat in Coulon Park.  (I napped in my car, not on a park bench, btw :)  I've been volunteering at 2:00 on Wednesdays and had a bit of time before then, but not quite enough time to go all the way back home...so the park it was!

I love the colorful landscape of Fall (God is the most talented artist!!), the combination of a crisp breeze mixed with the warm sun, the smell of pumpkin spice lattes, the way a hot cup of tea warms my hands and relaxes me before bed, soups and stews, the soft glow and flicker of the start of "candle season", and I love watching my amazing and talented hubby do something he enjoys...flag football every Saturday.  I am focusing on these wonderful things to help me not dwell on the one thing I really do not like about Fall...the darkness creeping in.  Literally.  The days are getting shorter and shorter and before long it will be dark when I get to work and dark when I leave work.  Major sad face there :( 

This is just like life.  Full of amazingly wonderful things that bring joy to my soul, but it's so easy to loose focus on these things by allowing negativity to take over.  "Darkness" can take many shapes in life such as a stressful work situation, a family/friend feud, fatigue/burnout, etc...but keep your attention on the positive (that's what I tell myself)!  A job to complain about is most likely better than no job in this economy, God can use a feud to strengthen relationships and build character, forcing personal time to rest is NOT being selfish but rather necessary for renewed strength for body and mind.
This was the scene as I was leaving the park (the picture from my cell phone doesn't do it justice, either).  It's probably not the safest thing to drive and snap a picture, but there were no other cars around so I slowed down to like 5mph, haha!  It was just so beautiful and inspiring, I couldn't resist.  I felt as though God was giving me a hug as these colorful trees bordered my exit and the warm sunlight danced on my face.  It's so comforting to know that God is always surrounding me with light, and I'm taking that with me into the darkness as Winter draws near.  There will always be something negative that can take over my thoughts if I allow it, but where's the joy in that?! There is none! 

The earth is filled with the Lord's glory.
- Habakkuk 2:14
 
For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. 
- Psalm 18:28
 
Then Jesus spoke to them again saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."
- John 8:12

I pray you too will be able to keep your focus on the comforting light of life that is surrounding you always in a world where darkness is bound to happen. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tarragon Flounder (aka Mystery Fish) and Smashed Yams

Why "aka Mystery Fish" you ask?  Because I can't even be certain what type of fish it was we ate. Weird, I know.  Last month, a guy Matt works with gave us a box full of produce from his garden: tomatoes, zucchini, onion, jalepenos, awesome!. He is also apparently quite the hunter/fisher because we were also given salmon, ground elk, antelope steaks, and a white fish we guessed was possibly cod by the looks of it.  I don't have much of an issue eating happy, hormone/atibiotic-free, roaming wild in nature meat every once in a while (and the acupuncturist I've been seeing recommended I get more "animal products"). 

I defrosted the "cod" the other day and while at work I was thinking about what I could do with it for dinner that night. I had made lemon pepper cod the week prior, so I wanted to do something else. Having not come to a conclusion by the time I got home from work, I began flipping through my cookbooks in search of a recipe for in which I had all the ingredients. I was not feeling a trip to the grocery store. Alas! I found a solution to my predicament on page 192 of The Taste of Home Cookbook (thank you Donna Smith of Fairport, New York)!  So simple!

What You Need:
  • 2 flounder fillets (4 ounces each)...or your own special mystery fish of the evening
  • 1/2 C chicken broth (I used vegetable broth)
  • 2 Tbl melted butter
  • 1 Tbl minced fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried tarragon (I used dried)
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
What You Do:
  • Place fillets in a greased 11x7x2 in baking dish (I used 8x8).  Combine remaining ingredients in a separate dish and pour over fish.
  • Bake uncovered at 350 degress for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Remove with slotted spatula.  Serve immediately. 
I served this up with some grilled asparagus and a new favorite of Matt's that is super simple...Smashed Yams:
  • I peel about 3-4 good sized yams (so we have some left over).
  • Dice up into about 1-inch cubes.
  • Place in pot and cover with cold water.
  • Cover, and bring to boil.  Keep at low boil for 8-10 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Drain, return to pot.
  • Mix with hand mixer until consistency you prefer.
That's it!  I do not add milk, butter, salt, pepper, NADA!  They have a creamy texture and sweet flavor and we think they are fabulous just the way they are :)  Go get your yummy does of Vitamin C, fiber, and potassium and smash up some yams!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"I don't live in a fairytale, and birds don't help me with housework."

I guess we can call it "the blues", although I don't like giving it a name.  "It" began to creep its ugly venom into my head, oh, maybe a couple weeks ago.  I began to realize that I was constantly complaining.  Although not always vocalizing my complaints, they were taking up home inside me.  I was also feeling very "ho-hum", lazy, tired, frustrated...NOT the person I am or want to be.   I married a man who isn't the first to volunteer for let's-talk-about-our-feelings time, but for some reason he encourages me to do so.  God knew exactly what I needed in a spouse in this regard.  So we began to talk about different areas of life that may be contributing to this situation...and I cried like a little girl :)

This is one of those things that, once I start talking about it, makes me feel silly for getting so worked up and emotional.  Without going into too much detail, circumstances at work, situations/concerns with family and friends, my health, being a wife, being productive with my time, etc. began to overwhelm me.  Maybe those of you reading this are better at this than I am, but we can't let Satan lead us to believe that our feelings are not valid; but more importantly, we need to recognize when we are allowing Satan to take over our feelings and use them against us. He wants us to feel weak, depressed, unmotivated, and to wallow in a murky existence of self-pity; the exact opposite of who God created us to be!  I turned to the Bible and the promises of God to remind myself that I can overcome anything life throws at me, big or small, and grow and become stronger as a result of the situation.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"
Psalm 91:1-2

Matt and I were able to use this as an opportunity to grow as husband and wife. He was there to encourage me to speak about what I was feeling, to understand without judging, and to pray for me.  Hubby really stepped up to the plate on this one, and I am so grateful that he is mine. 

As I was looking back through my notepad from church, I came across my notes from the women's conference with Nicole Johnson.  It wasn't really relevant at the time of the conference, but as I read through my notes, I absorbed the message like I had never heard it before.  One portion of my notes read: "We don't live in a fairytale; birds don't help with housework" and another portion read "Keep our princess hearts, as daughter of The King.  Our glass slipper is the Bible, the promise of God."  Exactly what I needed to hear during this time of my life!  By going to that conference back in Spring, I am now able to draw upon it as encouragement.  Here is a clip of a skit Nicole performed at the conference.  I am not even a mother yet, and can only imagine how much more I will need to draw from this then!

God sees us, we are not invisible, and I pray that the work we are completing at home, at school, in personal relationships, and in business will stand to represent not ourselves...but our great God. 


Much encouragement from one woman to another,
no matter your current struggles or walk of life!
xoxo

Monday, September 27, 2010

God Lives Under the Bed

I received this story tonight in an email from my mother-in-law.  I'm not sure of the origin or if it's fact or fiction, but what I do know is that it's inspiring.  I have been struggling with a couple areas of life lately (have been thinking about writing about it but haven't been able to convey my thoughts to written words yet) and this made my eyes tear up and put a smile on my face.  I hope you find Kevin inspiring too.
**          **          **          **          **
I envy Kevin. My brother, Kevin, thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night.

He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, 'Are you there, God?' he said. 'Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed....'

I giggled softly and tiptoed off to my own room. Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor. I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, mentally disabled as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he's 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he is an adult.

He reasons and communicates with the capabilities of a 7-year-old, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Clause is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.

I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life?

Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop for the disabled, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed.

The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child.

He does not seem dissatisfied.

He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work.

He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores.

And Saturdays - oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. 'That one's goin' to Chi-car-go! ' Kevin shouts as he claps his hands.

His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights.

And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.

He doesn't know what it means to be discontent.

His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be.

His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it.

He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax.

He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others.

His heart is pure.

He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue.

Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.

Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child. Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an 'educated' person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.

In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith.

It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.

It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances - they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God's care.

Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed.

Kevin won't be surprised at all!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Spud (Small Potatoes Urban Delivery)

I'm not sure if I am becoming lazier, busier, or just coming up with ways to be more efficient. Whatever the case may be, I've found a way to embrace all three of the aforementioned scenarios! I remember watching the movie The Net with Sandra Bullock in 1995.  She played a keep-to-herself computer whiz who, in one scene, orders pizza online. 

 "WHAT?!" <--- <--- That's what I said in 1995. "How cool was that?!" Fifteen years later, I've discovered another thing that makes me say "How cool is that?!". I've discovered the world of online grocery shopping with Spud.com (the idea for Spud was born in 1995 btw!).  There are other companies that do this, such as Safeway and Amazon Fresh, but I've found Spud to be the best for a several reasons...
  1. Spend over $40 on groceries and there is no delivery fee, whereas other companies do have a delivery fee.
  2. Spud sells mostly local and organic, and each to next item you can see the farm where your item came from.
  3. Spud delivers any time during the day and will just leave it on your front porch, whereas other companies make you choose a delivery time window (and charge more for a smaller window).
  4. If I remember correctly, I was able to choose the delivery day, whereas other companies gave you no choice.

I have ordered groceries twice from Spud and am sold.  I do, however, go to the grocery store for last minute items or for things Matt prefers.  For example, I was told the organic "raisin bran" I bought tasted like cardboard, so I stick to the regular grocery store cereal for him.  I'm sold on ordering groceries online for a several reasons...
  1. Matt isn't with me when I go grocery shopping, but when I order through Spud he's here at home and I can ask him questions such as "Do you want me to get some bananas this week?"
  2. While grocery shopping online, I can pause if I need to answer my phone, use the restroom, or grab a drink of water and then resume my shopping. 
  3. I don't have to load and unload the car...which usually ends up being in the rain here in the Seattle area.
  4. I love getting anything other than bills in the mail; cards, books, clothes, and even groceries!  It's like Christmas when the groceries arrive and I get to unload them!
  5. I can create "lists" on their website, and also view past orders if I want a reminder as to what I ordered before.

Don't live in the Seattle area or the following areas?...
  • Portland
  • SF Bay Area
  • LA and Orange County
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • Vancouver Island, Canada
  • Calgary, Canada

...Check with Safeway, Amazon Fresh, or another grocery store in your area.  Happy grocery shopping from the comfort of your home and "YAY" for supporting local farms!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Portobello Parmigiana


Portobello mushrooms are an excellent source of niacin (vitamin B3), which is important for DNA repair (helps keep your digestive system, eyes, skin, and hair healthy) and helps your body turn carbohydrates into energy.  Niacin also aids in raising your HDL (high density lipoprotein) or "good" cholesterol.  We usually get enough from our diet, so don't run out and start taking niacin supplements becasue in excess doses it can be toxic to your liver.  One portobello mushroom has more potassium than a banana, and potassium helps the human body maintain normal heart rhythm, fluid balance, and muscle and nerve function.

Not only are these large mushrooms good for me, this is comfort food for me! With the way the weather has "turned" the last couple days with record-breaking rain (in Seattle, mind you), I crave hearty and warm meals like this.  It's a recipe from TheNest.com magazine I received in the mail last year and have already made this keeper a few times.  A "nestie" requested "a vegetarian dish a meat-&-potatoes spouse will eat".  Trust me, under the gooey pile cheese is a huge portobello mushroom waiting to be devoured and even though there's no meat in this one I honestly don't think you'll miss it.  I paired this with some steamed broccoli (calcium, vitamin C, vitamin A, folic acid, and fiber) and a spinach salad (fiber, iron, protein, and MANY more!) with cucumbers, red peppers and carrots.

What you need:
  • 4-6 oz dry spaghetti (I use whole wheat)
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour (1/4 cup is really all you'll use)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I used grated)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 large portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (I use the rest of the jar on the spaghetti)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tbl fresh basil, chopped (I forgot this, even though I had it.  I'd say it's optional)
What you do:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.  
  • Scramble egg with salt and pepper in a shallow dish.  Add flour to another shallow dish.  Combine panko, Parmesan and melted butter in a thrid dish.
  • Dip mushroom caps into egg, dredge in flour and then coat with panko and Parmesan mixture.  Place breaded mushrooms on a baking sheet and top each with 1/2 cup marinara sauce.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella on top of each mushroom cap and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Divide spaghetti between two plates and top each with one portobello.  Garnish with fresh basil (optional).
Happy, healthy eating! 
Please let me know what you think if you try it out!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Shack


After a lull in interest in this book, I forced myself to continue reading, and have finally finished.  Now I am struggling to articulate what I really think about it. If you are interested in reading The Shack, I would recommend you avoid reading reviews of it first, which I did.  This is one reason I am struggling to really tell you what I think.  If you are a Christian and already have an understanding of the Trinity and how God works in our lives, you may or may not love The Shack.  Some explain the Trinity like an egg:  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit represented by the shell, white, and yoke.  To me, this is not the best analogy because even though they are all parts of the egg; they are still three separate entities.  A better analogy is liquid, vapor, and ice; all are water and will always be water.  Just like God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all God.  I fall terribly short at explaining this, but Young does an amazing job, in my opinion, at explaining the Trinity and how much God truly loves each and every one of us as if we were the only person on the Earth to love. 

According to RisenMagazine.com The Shack "has been praised as a masterpiece and condemned as heresy but never ignored. The main objection comes from some Biblical literalists who object to Young’s playful portrayal of the Trinity. Still, most anyone looking should be able to uncover the heart of God in this fiction."  By the time I got back into the book, about Chapter 10, I began dog-earing like crazy and the heart of God was so revealed I could feel it.  Yes, I guess Young's portrayal of the Trinity is "playful"; it is definitely unlike anything I have heard before. This is why I say you may or may not love it...it's unique. 

The description on the back of the book..."Mackenzie Allen Philips's youngest daughter, Missy, has ben abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.  Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into hos darkest nightmare.  What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question:  Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?  The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him."

My suggestion is to read The Shack and form your own opinion.  Personally, my view of the book changed entirely from beginning, to middle, to end; and I can say I'm glad I forced myself to keep reading.  Here is one excerpt that really hit home for me.

God speaking to Mack on page 142:  ". . .do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you?". . ."Why do I do that?" asked Mack. 

"It is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can't.  It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn't even real, nor will it ever be real.  You try to play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try and make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear."

. . ."So why do I have so much fear in my life?"

"Because you don't believe.  You don't know that we love you.  The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love.  I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future.  To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you.  You sing about it; you talk about it; but you don't know it."

When I take comfort in the overwhelming love of God, my worries are lifted off my shoulders.  Today in church we sang a song that is not new, it has been part of our worship service before, but for some reason it really hit me in a good way.  I couldn't even help being taken over with emotion and tears poured all the way down my neck.  I am seeing our beautiful, loving God from a new perspective after reading this book, and am feeling His presence like never before in my life.  My desire is for everyone to feel God's amazing love like I do.  After reading The Shack, I believe everyone will take away something different and unique to their own life.  Here is a video for "You're Beautiful" by Phil Wickham, the song from church this morning. (I'm starting to see a "beautiful" theme here!!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Praying for Pakistan

(WorldBulletin.net)

My heart breaks for Pakistan, and I wish there were more I could do.  I, once again, can't imagine what it would be like to experience total loss such as this.  What concerns me is the overall lack of International aid.  Is the world burninng out, fatiguing, and overwhelmed?  It is truly overwhelming indeed, but is our duty as humans to come to the aid of one another.  This is my prayer for myself, for you, and for the world; and that God continues to poor compassion into our hearts and compels action out of our lives...

"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 4:16
"According to the UN, 14 million people in Pakistan have been affected by the worst flooding in that country in memory. The flooding, which began in July with heavy monsoon rains, has left an estimated 2 million people homeless, and destroyed homes, farmland and infrastructure. Food, clean drinking water, shelter and medical supplies are needed in the initial phase of this disaster." (WorldVision.com)
*          *          *          *
"Britain's deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accused some nations of failing to offer sufficient support.
"The response from some sections of the international community has been lamentable," Clegg said, without naming the countries he believed had failed to offer appropriate help.
The latest flooding over the weekend hit a poor region on the border between Sindh and Baluchistan provinces.
Sher Khan Bazai, the top government official in Nasirabad district, said 25,000 families had been made homeless by waters 8 feet high in some places. About 4,000 small villages had been either cut off or washed out.
"Water is everywhere," he said.
Once the floods recede, billions more dollars will be needed for reconstruction and getting people back to work in the already-poor nation of 170 million people. The International Monetary Fund has warned the floods could dent economic growth and fuel inflation.
While local charities and international agencies have helped hundreds of thousands of people with food, water, shelter and medical treatment, the scale of the disaster has meant many millions have received little or no assistance. The U.N. has voiced fears that disease in overcrowded and unsanitary relief camps may yet cause more deaths." (CBSnews.com)


World Concern is a wonderful organization and is working with partner agencies to assist flood victims with disaster relief. To make a donation to help with the flooding relief in Pakistan, please click HERE.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scallops with Vegetables and Quinoa

As of 3:30 today it was 96 degrees here (which is hot and uncommon for the Seattle area).  Matt and I spent the morning at a friend's house helping with a covered patio they're building (He helped, I sipped iced tea and watched), and we also visited a couple rock quarries to get some ideas for our backyard project....which reminds me, I should post an update on that.  It has stayed relatively cool in our un-airconditioned house by keeping the windows shut, the bedroom doors closed and the fan going in our bedroom.  So after scoping out a campsite nearby for a future weekend trip and a Target run, we are now home, hot, and sitting on our bed trying to stay cool during the hottest time of the day.  Thought it'd be a great time to share a recipe I've been wanting to post!

Last month, Matt was talking to one of the trainers at our gym about nutritional counseling, and the trainer recommended a book called The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno.  I have not read much in the book other than the recipes, but I found a real winner in this one!!  I made this recipe a few weeks ago and I highly recommend it.  It's filling yet light, so much flavor, and I was especially excited to serve this on the sushi plates I bought in Chinatown in San Francisco back in 2006.  Don't like scallops? You could just cook the veggies and quinoa as a side dish.  Not sure what Quinoa ("KEEN-wah") is or if you'd like it?  Click HERE for a great description of what it tastes like, nutritional qualities and health benefits (especially for vegetarians).  It's a staple in our house, and I love that it's scrumptious in hot dishes like this and also cold salads.  I buy ours at Costco, it comes in a big resealable bag and is a great price.

What you need:
  • 1 lb scallops or 3-4 scallops per person ( I ate 3 and Matt ate 5)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, well rinsed (it's bitter if you don't rinse it)
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 6 small zucchini
  • 4 similarly sized carrots, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and deveined, cut into long strips
  • 5 scallions, trimmed, cut lengthwise
  • Juice and zest of 1 fresh lime
  • 2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari sauce (or just use soy sauce)
What you do:
Quinoa
  • Place rinsed quinoa and 2 cups vegetable stock in saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Let simmer, covered, until all liquid is absorbed.
Scallops
  • Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in skillet.  Add scallops and pan sear over medium heat, two minutes per side (click HERE for step-by-step directions for searing scallops).  Remove from heat.
Vegetables
  • With a vegetable peeler, peel strips of green zucchini skin.  Don't use white center part of zucchini; you can use that part for another meal.
  • Peel strips from the carrots until you have reached the core.  Don't use the core; again, it can be used for another meal (stew, snack, salad, etc)
  • Heat remaining olive oil in skillet.  Stir-fry red pepper, scallions, zucchini and carrots in batches.
  • Once all the veggies have been stir-fried, season with lime juice, sesame seeds, sesame oil, ground ginger and tamari (or soy sauce).  Serve over quinoa, top with scallops, and garnish with lime zest.
I did the prep work for the veggies and got those going, added them to a bowl covered with tin foil to keep them warm while stir-frying the batches.  I started the scallops as I was on my last (I think third) batch of veggies.

Yummy yummy in my tummy...I hope you get to try it too! 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

When I Say "I Am a Christian"

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost! That’s why I chose this way”

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble-needing God to be my guide

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible but God believes I’m worth it

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name

When I say, “I am a Christian,” I do not wish to judge
I have no authority–I only know I’m loved

- Carol Wimmer, 1988 -