August 29, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Italian Shrimp & Chocolate Mascarpone Pound Cake

Once again I made 2 recipes this week.  

We've been meeting with our new Community Group for about 2 months now.  One of the things we decided at our "vision casting" meeting was that one week of the month we would get together for dinner and fellowship.  So we had our first dinner together on Wednesday.  It happened to fall on our friend Mary's birthday, so we tried to let her pick the theme.  Although she didn't really want to pick, they jokingly said that anything by Giada would be a good way to go, so we settled on Italian food.  And I ended up taking a few dishes.

I did an internet search to find one of Giada's recipes and came across this recipe for Chocolate Mascarpone Pound Cake, so I made that for our dessert.  It was a very interesting cake--because it was a pound cake, but the mascarpone cheese gave it some lightness in the texture.  I thought it tasted pretty good.

I also wanted to make non-pasta heavy main dish.  I found this recipe for Italian Shrimp on Pinterest and cooked it at my mom's house.  She helped me peel the shrimp, which was the hardest part (because this recipe was so easy).  I thought this turned out very well and several people said they liked it.  It was so easy and turned out so well, that I told a few friends at work about it the next day and one of them went home and made it Thursday night and said she loved it.  This is definitely one I will make again for us!

It was a great night of dinner and fellowship with friends.  And yummy food is always helpful when gathering with friends. 

August 23, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Ribs and Homemade Pizza Dough

I made 2 new recipes this week!

On Tuesday night I went to a women's kick off at our church where I enjoyed a fajita dinner with 360 other ladies.  So I made these ribs in the oven that afternoon/evening for David to have for dinner.  I only made 1.5 lbs (about half of what the recipe called for) and he ate half for dinner and took the other half for lunch the next day.  I only got a small bite when they came out of the oven, but he really enjoyed them.  So I actually made them again--with the whole 3 lbs of meat-- this afternoon so I could enjoy some too.  These were very easy to make, they just take 2-3 hours to cook so not super practical most weeknights.  I will probably try to adjust them for crockpot cooking at some point.  But they worked well for a Sunday afternoon at home too!

The second recipe was for homemade pizza dough.  I'd blogged a few months ago about trying out Jen Hatmaker's recipe for homemade pizza.  The dough did not turn out well, but the sauce was delicious.  I've made another batch of the sauce since then to freeze and we had a few friends over for dinner last night to make homemade pizza.  So I thought I'd try a different dough recipe this time.  I tried out this one I found on Pinterest that can accommodate a large pizza or 7 individual pizzas.  Since we were having friends over, I went ahead and did the crusts for individual pizzas so each person could customize the pizzas with their toppings.  

I made them about an hour before our friends came over.  They didn't look very pretty, but once you covered them with sauce and cheese and toppings that didn't matter and they still tasted pretty good.  I'm definitely still on the hunt for a good crust recipe, but this one worked out pretty well

I enjoyed my pizza with sausage and spinach.  We also had pepperoni, mushrooms, and jalapenos available for pizza toppings.  It was a great night catching up with a few good friends over pizza!

August 18, 2015

15 Years

It's been 15 years today since my dad passed away.  I blogged several years ago about how I've seen God's hand on August 18 over the years.  It's a day that always comes with a mix of emotions.  There's so much newness in August.  He died the first week of my Freshman year in High School.  So every school year the beginning falls right around the anniversary of the day he died.  In some ways it's nice to be out of school and not have that part of the reminder.

David and I are sharing our story (both individually and as a couple) tomorrow at our Community Group so I've been thinking a lot about how God has worked in my life.  And my dad's story is a huge part of that.  God taught me a lot in the time my dad was sick and he has taught me a lot in the 15 years since then.

I realized recently that at some point in the last year I hit the mark where I have lived more of my life without my dad than with him.  I was 14 when he died.  One of the things that's always hard when someone dies is thinking about all of the things they won't experience with us here.  It's crazy to think how much of that I've walked through... graduations, learning to drive, moving to college, starting a career, getting married, buying a house, meeting my niece and nephew, and all of the little everyday things in between.   

Since I wrote about this 6 years ago there have been a lot more good days than bad.  I've continued to see God's faithfulness in my life and in our family.  God's walked with our family through weddings, babies, another cancer diagnosis, losing my grandpa.  He continues to remind me that He is Lord of All.  That He holds every tear.  That He holds every praise.  That He never lets us walk alone.

And the more time that passes, the more I appreciate the time I had with my dad instead of being angry that he was taken so soon.  I cherish all of our memories together and am able to remember the good and let the bad fall away.  

After my grandfather passed away, my mom and Aunts went through all of the pictures he had.  My mom brought back a bunch of pictures from my grandparents' collection and it was fun to go through them with my brothers and show them to Aja and David (and Chase who had fun trying to guess who everyone was in the pictures of us as kids).  

As I walk down this memory lane, here's a few pictures I've gotten over the last months that I'm enjoying reminiscing over...

August 17, 2015

For the Love

So I mentioned several months ago that I was selected to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book For the Love.  I read the book back in April and it's finally being released this week.  The official release date is Tuesday, but I know lots of people who have pre-ordered it and have been reading it... and I know it's been on shelves at Barnes and Noble for a few weeks.

I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts about the book.  I really love Jen Hatmaker, so I was excited for the opportunity to be on the launch team.  In my application for the launch team I wrote about how her book Interrupted is one of the most life-changing books I've read and I recommend it to a lot of people--so I think that's why I was chosen for this launch team.

For the Love was not like that for me.  I liked this book.  A lot.  But it was much less serious than her other 2 books that I've read (Interrupted and 7).  This book read a lot more like Jen's blog posts--which can be funny and sarcastic but also uplifting and teaching.  There were some really deep chapters in this book and I have a lot of things that I highlighted and will take away from it.  There are also entire chapters where I didn't highlight anything because they weren't "words of wisdom" as much as just funny stories.  But that doesn't mean that they weren't good chapters.  Some of them were really funny (she ends each section of her book with a chapter of "Thank You Notes" in true Jimmy Fallon Style.  she also has a chapter with her whole love story with Brandon formatted in twitter updates.) and some of them were hard for me to relate to as she talked about turning 40 and raising kids, but I still laughed as I read them and had some good takeaways.  So that's why I say it was different than her other books in my opinion.

With that said, I'll share a few of my favorite quotes and sections from For the Love to give you a taste of what I did really like and take away from the book.

1. Jen write a chapter called "Porches as Altars" and it is all about finding and creating community.  I loved this chapter.  Especially for the season of life that we are in right now of figuring out what community looks like without the structure of the Young Adults group that we've had for the last 5 years.  An excerpt from this chapter:
We [the church] try to provide structure for folks to belong, to be known.  Sometimes it works like magic and sometimes it so doesn't.  You can lead a horse to water, but sometimes the horse is awkward and weird, you know?  I've had small groups create friends for life and others that felt a teeny bit like sustained torture.
I guess I prefer something a bit more organic, less program-driven.  Instead of waiting around for church to assemble a perfect group dynamic of People Who Can Meet on Tuesdays, maybe just invite some folks over.  A shared table is the supreme expression of hospitality in every culture on earth.  When your worn-out kitchen table hosts good people and good conversation, when it provides a sage place to break bread and share wine, your house becomes a sanctuary, holy as a cathedral.  I've left a friend's table as sanctified and renewed as any church service.  If you have a porch, then you have an altar to gather around.
I love the heart behind this picture of community.  That it can be simple.  But even in the simplicity it can be life-changing.  Our new Community Group had a vision-casting meeting last Wednesday where we talked about what we want our group to be about.  This picture is a great one--gathering friends around a table, inviting people in, having conversation... that's where community is built.  But groups also need some structure.  It's a good reminder for me as we continue with this new group to find ways to be hospitable and build community outside of a set program or structured Wednesday night meeting.

2. Another chapter is called "Dear Church" in which she addresses church leaders and church people--since she has played both roles, she approaches it with love and tenderness of wanting the church to be a picture of God's kingdom.  
I am convinced we want more than church was designed to provide.  Unreasonable expectations leave pastors constantly depleted (or power drunk), and people constantly disappointed (or codependent).  The early church involved small, organic communities who gathered around tables, lived simple lives on mission, and loved God and neighbor.  That was kind of it.  The first believers assembled for renewal and teaching and dinner and togetherness.  It was so basic and lovely.  Everyone pulled weight, pitched in, pressed into God.  The early church wasn't fancy or entertaining, impressive or complicated, but it managed to take the gospel to the whole world...
You are capable of a Spirit-filled life on mission without constant church management... You've got the goods: Here is your Bible, there is your neighbor, you know the prayer words, you have eyes to see your city, and the Holy Spirit dwells within you... Life is convoluted but the kingdom is simple--a pure kingdom lived in ordinary ways by ordinary people.  Let's unshackle each other's hands a bit.  Our pastors and churches teach and gather us, challenge and launch us, but no church supersedes you living your beautiful, valuable life on mission.  You fulfill an extraordinary role through ordinary means, and no leader or church can do this for you.  There is no whole without the pieces.
I think it's easy for me to look at my church and see all the things that could be done better.  All the things that I feel are missing.  All the things I want to change.  So it's freeing to have a reminder that it's okay to want more than what church is currently "providing" and to seek God and His direction for living out His word in my life

Jen also has another chapter addressing Christians and the way we relate to one another.  Calling us to a higher standard of being thankful, committed to loving God and one another.  There's also a chapter on the role of Women in the church.  

This book covers a lot of topics.  It is at times lighthearted and funny and at times serious and convicting.  I am grateful I read it and look forward to going through it again at some point.  I just finished up an online Bible Study of Jennie Allen's Anything and in the last email they had a teaser for an online book club for For the Love that will begin September 15, so I think I will re-read the book along with that.

I also couldn't resist buying this bracelet from Noonday Collection at a party my friend hosted earlier this month. 

If you want to check out the book it can be purchased from Amazon here.

August 14, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Chicken Tenders Two Ways

So I've been trying to eat a little healthier lately.  Busy schedules, hot summers, and 10 hour work days all make me want to grab something quick and easy to eat, so a lot of nights for dinner we would grab something out.  I've been trying to cut that back a lot and to focus on eating more meats and veggies and not as much of the other stuff.

One of my favorite recipes to make when I'm trying to be conscious of what I eat are Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders.  I've made a few recipes over the past couple of years, but the one I usually use is no longer accessible (when I went to click the pin on Pinterest the link had been taken down).  So I tried a different one this week.

This recipe for almond crusted chicken tenders has only 3 ingredients--chicken, olive oil/olive oil spray, and almonds.  I had already processed a bunch of almonds into almond meal, so they were simple to put together.  I ended up adding a little Lawry's seasoning salt to my almond meal to give them some extra flavor.  They turned out really well and were a great dinner.  It's got a little bit more than just meat (or veggies) but it was a nice treat!

My awesome hubby is pretty good about eating whatever I make for dinner.  But I figured since chicken tenders are a pretty easy recipe to customize by only making the amount you need, I would try a different recipe for some for him.  So I searched Pinterest and found these Oven Baked Chicken Tenders for David.  They use panko bread crumbs, some flour, egg and some seasonings.  David said they were pretty good.  And while they may not be the healthiest food ever, they're probably miles better than for you than our regular Raising Canes/Chicken Express fix, right?  

I baked both chicken tenders according to the directions of the second ones (oven at 425, bake 17 minutes on a rack in a baking pan) and both sets turned out well. 

I served mine with a side of broccoli and David's with some mashed potatoes and leftover corn from a Mexican Food night this week.  This is definitely a dinner that I will make again!

August 7, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Chocolate Lava Nutella Cookies

So about a year ago, not too long after I started cooking through the first set of recipes, I received this message/pin on Pinterest from my good friend Amy

I jokingly told her it could be "number 52 from my good friend Amy."  I hadn't gotten around to looking at it much, but this past week I was trying to think of a snack to serve at our Community Group and I remembered this request. 

So I baked up the Chocolate Lava Nutella Cookies on Wednesday night before everyone came over and I told Amy I was only a year late in making her requested recipe.  I baked up 2 dozen and they seemed to be a big hit.  They are very rich, so 1 cookie is plenty!

You make them in muffin tins and add dark chocolate chunks in the middle, so they end up looking more like muffins than cookies--but either way they were delicious.  I had some left over, so I will probably freeze them (per the recipe instructions) and bring them out next time I need a little dessert.

Mine turned out a little darker than the picture on the recipe--my cookie dough was very dark before baking since it has Nutella mixed in.  

These were a good snack for our group on Wednesday.  We've been meeting with our new community group for a little over a month now and are still praying through and figuring out what that group is going to look like.  I'm continually grateful for good friends to walk alongside and a home to have people over.  And a kitchen to bake goodies in :)