December 28, 2009

Kitchen Mishap of the Week

For some odd reason, the bottle of balsamic vinegar was in the fridge. This would not be that big of a deal except for its uncanny resemblance to my bottle of soy sauce. I should really consider renaming the title of this blog to "Kitchen Mishaps," because it's amazing the things that happen to me in the kitchen.

I just got off the phone with Matt, encouraging him to leave work and, "get home, already!" because dinner is ready. All I had to do was dress the noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil and toss the chicken on top. I measured out a tablespoon of soy sauce and poured it over the noodles. "That doesn't smell right..." I turned the bottle around, crap, balsamic vinegar! I called Matt back and told him not to hurry, I needed to cook the noodles all over again, bummer.

I tasted the balsamic noodles to decide if they were really bad enough to throw away. It would be a shame to waste them if I could do something else with them. They didn't taste too bad, kind of diluted. "What if I just... rinse them out?!" Perfect. I tossed them back in the strainer and rinsed the pooh out of them. The soy sauce and sesame oil were strong enough flavors that you couldn't even notice the balsamic vinegar. Kitchen crisis averted! I wish I could just run hot water over all of my kitchen mishaps.

Honey-Jalapeno Chicken over Sesame Noodles
spaghetti noodles - I still have to eyeball serving sizes for pasta, good luck :)
1 jalapeno, sliced and seeded
1/3 c honey
1/4 c cilantro
salt and pepper
1-3 tbsp water
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 rotisserie chicken, shredded or sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce (NOT balsamic vinegar... see above...)
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 c chopped scallions (totally optional, I left them out this time)
sesame seeds (I just sprinkled them on top because I had them, also totally optional)

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a blender or food processor, combine jalapeno, honey, cilantro, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. If you need to, add water, a tbsp at a time and blend again until you get the desired consistency. Heat oil on medium low. Add chicken and the sauce and cook until heater through. In a medium bowl, combine noodles, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Scallions too, if you wish. Toss and then transfer to a serving bowl. Pour heated chicken and sauce over noodles, sprinkler with sesame seeds, and serve.

December 22, 2009

This ain't no-bake cheesecake

Since I'm behind on blogging and have made lots of great recipes lately (and wake up thinking about my pretty kitchen-aid mixer) I thought I would include a recipe that we're still not finished consuming. I did everything I could to ruin this recipe. Please keep in mind that I do not bake and therefore do not have a trained eye to diagnose what might be simple issues to someone who bakes regularly. First of all, after mixing the crust I realized it was a lot... crumblier than I thought it should be. I decided to be patient, it will probably look better after I bake it. I pressed it into the baking dish, baked it, and let it cool. I approached it again, poked it with my finger, decided this just can't be right at the exact same time I spotted a lone stick of butter on the other side of my kitchen. "One CUP of butter, not one STICK of butter!" Oh. So, I scooped the filling out of the mixer and into a new bowl so that I could make the crust again. MUCH better this time. Won't make that mistake again. Once the crust cooled I poured the cheesecakey topping over it. I remember Jacquie telling me that one time she started to cool everything in the fridge (takes 2 hours) without putting the pear slices on, so my mind was focused on making sure I did that part in the right order. I added the pear slices, sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar and put her in the fridge. By the way, I made this in advance for a Christmas party. I went to Charlotte for two days and the plan was to come home, pack her up, and go! I came home and the cheesecakey topping was not as... firm... as I remembered Jacquie's being. What could I have done wrong?? Surely it should have had plenty of time to "set up" after 48 hours in the fridge! As we walked around puzzled, Matt asked, "What's in it?" I replied, "Just cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla!" He said, "Did you cook the eggs?" I said, "Well, I didn't put a scrambled egg in it!" As those words came out my little dim light bulb went off. Maybe I was supposed to bake the cheesecakey topping! You mean it's not a Jell-O no bake?! I don't know what I was thinking. Well, we were about to walk out the door for the Christmas party and my dessert still needed to bake for 45 minutes AND cool for 2 hours. Needless to say, we didn't end up taking it, and a week later some of it is still left in the fridge. Every night for dessert we have pear bars and hot tea. Tea that Jacquie first introduced to me, oddly enough. I wonder if she knows how pleasant our evenings have been thanks to her inspiration!

Jacquie's Pear Bars
2 sticks of butter
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped pacans

Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer. Add in flour, vanilla, and pecans and mix well. Press into a greased 9x13 dish. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

2 pkgs cream cheese
2/3 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Mix cream cheese and sugar. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well. Spread over crust after it has cooled.

1 can of pears halves (there is a difference here between generic and the good stuff, get the good stuff)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Slice the pears length-wish into 1/8 in slices. Spread the pears over top of the filling and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Cool in the fridge for 2 hours.
You can also place the pear slices so that there will be one slice on each bar which takes about 16 pear slices and makes for a nice presentation.

December 21, 2009

Can't cookies cure headaches and achey knees? Please?

You would think that not having a job would give me plenty of time to stay on top of everything. So not true! I was laid off three weeks ago, and although I'm doing plenty of things in my free time, much to Matt's dismay, working out has not been one of them. Why do I hate working out so much? I recently went to the doctor for a physical and talked to him about my three major ailments: headaches, achey knees, and trouble sleeping/bad dreams/anxiety at night/clenching my teeth. Yes, that's all falls under one complaint. His prescription for all three? Exercise. Sigh. I always feel better after I work out, so why isn't that motivation the next morning when I'm sitting on the couch thinking about how much I do not want to do it again?

Anyway, one thing I have been doing plenty of in my free time is cooking. Tonight we had pork chops marinated in dijon mustard and italian dressing with broccoli and mac and cheese (with a little Louisianna hot sauce added at the end). That's not the recipe I want to post today though. Today was a milestone in the Meitl kitchen. Today I made chocolate chip cookies from scratch. This is not the first time I have made chocolate chip cookies from scratch, but it IS the first time I've made really really good chocolate chip cookies from scratch. The two "ingredients" that allowed this to happen were our friend Mario's recipe (with one minor substitution) and my beautiful kitchen aid mixer. I can't believe I wanted six months into our marriage to bring out the kitchen aid mixer. I thought we'd never have enough counter top space and I thought it would be way too much of a hassle to clean. I was wrong about both. It's a beautiful persimmon color, and I was happy to rearrange the counter space to make room for it. As far as cleaning, it's just a bowl and a beater!

Mario's Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 c butter flavored crisco (I used 3/4 c butter, which I highly recommend, to eliminate trans fats)
1 1/4 c firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (if pecan pieces are omitted then add 1/2 c more of chocolate chips)
1 cup pecan pieces (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl. Please make sure the butter is room temperature. My wonderful brother taught me that the reason my cookies used to stay in balls instead of spreading out was because my butter was not at room temperature. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy (or do what Mario does and hand stir them with love). Beat in the egg. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls (or just big soup spoonfuls) 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. (My preference is to use reynolds release wrap, it's amazing). Bake at 350 for 8-13 minutes depending on desired chewiness or crispiness. Matt and I checked them after 8 and decided to give them 2 more minutes. 10 minutes ended up being perfect for us except for two of the cookies that were a little larger than the rest and didn't quite cook enough for our liking. Note: They will look a little puffy and not quite done after 10 minutes but they sink down and crisp up a tad as they cool. Let them cool for a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack or plate.

I can't tell you how excited I am that I successfully made pretty (and yummy!) chocolate chip cookies. Sitting on the couch breaking a warm cooking in half while the chocolate chips are still a little melty makes being jobless feel like a minor detail.

December 19, 2009

Snow all around, but in our town, barely any snow came down

We didn't end up getting snowed in like we were hoping we would. Schools closed early yesterday before anything had even thought about falling from the sky and today we're just left with a little wet outside. Just 3 hours north in Virginia they have a foot of snow, and Kara in Maryland has 2 feet of snow! Jealous. In an effort to feel snowed in anyway we listened to the nutcracker suite and made corn chowder (yum!) and not-just-any-old grilled cheese sammies.

Side note. We got the new Hellman's mayo made with olive oil. Are you funny about your mayonnaise? I am. I grew up on Duke's and really, there's no substitute. It was not easy for me to put the Duke's back and take the Hellman's, but for the sake of a healthier option, I gave it a shot. I have yet to test it on something where you can really tell if the mayonnaise makes the sandwich or interferes with the sandwich (like simply bread, turkey, mayo, salt and pepper... mmmm), but I will let you know.

This corn chowder recipe is so ridiculously easy, please try it!

Corn Chowder
1 slice of bacon, sliced lengthwise then in 1/4 in slices across
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in slices
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2 in slices
1/2 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
chicken broth
2 cans cream of potato soup
2 cans creamed corn

*you can make this a vegetarian soup by using 1/2 tbsp butter and 1/2 tbsp olive oil in place of the bacon, and veggie in place of the chicken broth*

Cook up the bacon on medium heat. You want it very crispy but not burnt. Add the carrots, celery, and onion, sprinkle generously with pepper, and saute for 10 minutes. Add enough broth to just cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Test a carrot to make sure it's starting to get tender. It will still have more time to soften in the next few steps so you only want it to begin to get tender. Add the cans of potato soup and creamed corn. Fill one can of potato soup with broth and add that to the pot as well. Bring to a light boil, reduce to low and cover until ready to serve. So easy, so inexpensive, so yummy.

Not-Just-Any-Old Grilled Cheese Sammies
butter (best of softened a tad)
good bread!
good ham!
good cheese!
spicy brown mustard

We used a beautiful loaf of wheat bread from the "good bread" section of the grocer store. We got 8 slices of peppered ham from the deli and I got a few slices of baby swiss cheese. Matt used kraft american singles, but this is not recommended. Not if you are attempting to make not-just-any-old grilled cheese sammies. I mixed equal parts (about a tbsp each) of mayonnaise and spicy brown mustard. Matt used yellow mustard and mayo. So, since mine was the real winner of a sammy: spread the mayo/mustard mixture onto both sides of the bread. Add ham and swiss. Spread butter on one side. Add to a skillet on medium low eat and spread butter on the remaining side. Cook until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown. Flip, repeat, done! So amazing with the soup. This meal will definitely make you feel snowed in.

December 18, 2009

A day in the life of a housewife

This is what it looks like to be without a job for nearly three weeks. Jennifer rings my doorbell at 2:30 in the afternoon. When she comes in, I'm still in my pjs, listening to a Tim Keller podcast on my laptop, keeping mashed potatoes warm on a back burner, and sauteing veggies on a front burner. Dinner is practically done at 2:30. Jennifer missed the most enjoyable part of this day however, which was peeling potatoes on the couch in front of the TV. I can't remember the last time I peeled potatoes. The smell reminded me of growing up. I think my mom must have peeled potatoes quite often, because I clearly remember that smell, and I also remember taking slices of uncooked potatoes from her and munching on them. I'm not interested in that little snack anymore, but I did enjoy the feeling of taking the time to peel the potatoes. Jennifer was planning to go to the movies (by herself!) at 4:00. What movie have you ever been so excited to see that you would actually go by yourself?? For her, it was New Moon. I'm not into vampires and warewolves myself, but I am into Jennifer, so I threw the sheppard's pie in the fridge, texted Matt with directions to start baking it when he got home from work, hopped in the shower, and headed to the movies with the lovely Jennifer.

When we walked into the theater there was just the talk of snow. We we walked out at 6:15 there was a beautiful sheet of the white stuff over the cars and the parking lot. Not so beautiful once we stepped out into it however and got pelted by little kitty litter sized ice balls in our ears and down the back of our necks. We raced to her car and as she pulled around the back of the (fairly empty) parking lot she said, "Look! We can do donuts in the parking lot!" as she barely turned her wheel and we fish-tailed a little too close to the other cars for our liking. Our eyes got big, we looked at each other and laughed, and from that point on we respected the roads as we drove home.

Shephard's Pie
4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1 to 2 inch pieces
1/3 c milk
2 oz cream cheese (1/4 c)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp chicken stock
2 tbsp butter

Cover the potatoes with water, add a generous amount of salt, and bring to a boil. I like for my potatoes to be really done so make sure they are very very fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking put the milk, cream cheese, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and stock in a small sauce pan and warm it up. You don't want it to reduce much, but you do want to warm the milk and melt the cream cheese. It's okay if the mixture is lumpy. Strain the potatoes really well. Turn the burner off and put the potatoes back on the hot burner to help evaporate any of the remaining water. Remove from the heat, add in the mixture from the sauce pan, and mash as much or as little as you like. I like mine really mashed. Slice the butter and place over top of the potatoes. Cover and set out of the way. Once the butter has melted, give the potatoes one more stir to mix it all together.

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter
2 carrots, chopped as thick or thin as you would like
2 ribs of celery, chopped as thick or thin as you would like
1/2 small onion
one package of pre-sliced pre-washed button or crimini mushrooms
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/8 c beef broth
1/4 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1/2 lb ground beef (although we used ground turkey today)
grated parm

Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add next 6 ingredients and cook 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 8 more minutes. Add ground beef (or turkey!), worchestershire, and broth and cook until meat is no longer pink. This recipe fits perfect in a 8.5 in square casserole dish, but you can double the recipe for a 9x13 pyrex if you're feeding a lot of people. Spoon in the filling, top with the potatoes, sprinkle with grated parm and bake uncovered for 40 minutes at 375.

December 14, 2009

Our commercial

I will be sad when this video is no longer accessible on youtube, because it's amazingly funny to me. It's a Hanes commercial and the interaction between the husband and wife, the husband's desire to create a new (zany) was of doing something, and his response, "that's the future!" all remind me SO much of myself and Matt. So funny. Enjoy:

disclaimer: my husband really IS imaginative and amazing and not all all stupid

November 18, 2009

What Does Your Prayer Life Say About You?

One of our campus pastors recently spoke about what our prayer life says about us. I (along with many of us I'm sure) struggle to have a consistant and meaningful prayer life. I'm the kind of person that has God in my thoughts all day and I'm constantly giving shoutouts and I think that is wonderful... but I don't sit down for a long period of time and petition on behalf of unbelievers (although I do reserve my blowdry time for praying), or request that God do amazing things in my life in order to bring him glory. I give thanks and recognition throughout the day, but that's about the extent of my regular prayer routine. The pastor challenged me to question what my prayer-life says about myself. He said a lacking prayer life usually points to two things: pride and unbelief. Does my prayer life show that I think I can do all of this without God? Does it show that I don't believe he'll do amazing works in my life? Does it show that I don't think he desires to bless me and provide for me? Does it show that I think I can do all of this better and know what's best for myself? Does it also show that I don't think I have a role in petitioning him on behalf of those he created to know and love him? For the past few mornings I have been getting up at 7am, reading my daily bible verses, then writing in a prayer journal. I've stayed as close as possible to the format of rhte Lord's prayer. It feels good! Except for my writing hand, it hurts. I don't know how I used to hold a pen and write all the time. Praise God for keyboards.

Au Gratin Potatoes
6 russet potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
black pepper to taste
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

The box kind takes forever to cook anyway, so why not just make it yourself? Besides, have you seen the dehydrated "potatoes" that come in that thing?? Preheat the oven to 375. If it's worth it to you to dirty up one more small saucepan in order to make sure that your cheese sauce is not lumpy, then I definitely recommend putting the 2 cups of milk in the smallest saucepan you can on low. You just need to bring it to room temperature because the cold milk will make the butter/flour mix clump up. Melt the butter over med-low heat, add the flour and whisk until well blended and pasty. Take a measuring cup of any size and scoop in a little of the milk at a time. Whisk it until it is well blended and no longer lumpy. Once you can add a scoop of milk and the mixture does not lump, it's safe to pour the rest in all at once. Once that is warmed through, added the shredded cheese about 1 cup at a time. You can grate your own cheese for this, but you're already making so much of this from scratch, I say take a little help from the store and buy a pouch of already-shredded cheese. Add the nutmeg and pepper. Let the cheese sauce simmer for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, then turn the heat off but you can leave it on the burner. I like to pour in a thin layer of sauce, then add a layer of potatoes, and repeat until I'm done. Bake covered for 45 minutes, uncovered for 10. You can also thin slice an onion and layer it: cheese, potato, onion, repeat. I left the onion out tonight because I'm making this for a work potluck and it's hard to know what people will like.

November 16, 2009

Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning's End

I found out that I will be jobless in two weeks. On December 1, Equity Residential hand the keys of Lenox over to the Connor Group and the Connor Group has decided not to keep any of the current staff. We all suspected this was coming, but today we got the official word. I'm so full of emotion about it, but I'm not freaked out. I'm sad to walk out of that property and not go back. I'm sad for my residents who are going to lose every familiar face, every person that they trust and with whom they have rapport. Sigh. I just can't believe that we will go in to work that Tuesday, pack up everything that is marked with Equity's logo, put notices on all the resident's doors notifying them of the change in management, and then leave... then we just leave.

I'm looking forward to seeing what is in store for me. March would have been 5 years with Equity and May would have been 6 years in the industry. I'd really love this as an opportunity to "try" something new, but I will definitely keep my eye out for openings in property management. It would be foolish not to. Maybe God has something completely unexpected that he'll put in my path. I definitely want to be receptive to whatever that might be.

Marinated Chicken Tenderloins
6 boneless skinless chicken tenderloins
(or 2 breasts cut into strips)
1/3 cup italian dressing
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lime juice

Put a skillet on medium heat. On my stove, just under 6 is perfect for this recipe, just over 6 is too much. Too much heat will cause the honey to caramelize too quickly and burn (bad!) before the chicken is cooked through, so just be careful and keep an eye on it. 4 minutes on the first side, 3-4 minutes on the second. We had this with green beans and roasted red skin potatoes. Nothing fancy :)

November 15, 2009

I Love Sundays

Guess what Matt and I did tonight?! We made 4 lbs of candied jalapenos! What fun :) Unfortunately they are WAY too hot for me to feel like we can actually give them out for gifts so we (sigh) tossed all but 6 little 4 oz jars of them and we're going to try again - removing 90% of the seeds this time.

Matt and I have been in much discussion lately about what it means to honor the sabbath. For the most part, I enjoy my Sundays best when I am running errands and bring productive around the home in order to get things straight for the upcoming week. Scripture teaches however, that we are not supposed to pursue our own interests on the sabbath day, and that we are supposed to labor and do all of our work the six other days. For me, honoring the sabbath isn't my first problem, it's working hard enough on the other six days. If I really filled my waking hours with productivity six days a week then I could rest and focus my energy whatever it is that God would have me do to bring the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Matt and I would be free to open our home to anyone and everyone who wanted to stop by. We would be free to volunteer our time in the community, all day if we wanted. We would be free to spend time with friends after church on a whim with no worries about what is at home that is not getting done. For at least one day a week, our goal should be to be as free as possible to go where God directs us on a whim without the distraction of work, or errands, or chores. I don't believe that keeping busy on every sabbath is necessary. Matt and I walked part of the tobacco trail today and just enjoyed the beauty around us as well as the people we passed by. The point is that we were not furthering our own selfish pursuits. We were appreciating our Lord.

Exodus 20:8-10 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates."
Isaiah 58:13-14 "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

November 14, 2009

Welcome to Joes!

You know when you walk in to Moe's all of the employees holler, "Welcome to Moe's!" ? Well for some reason I holler, "ah na na Moe's!" really fast... it sounds almost the same, I promise. Matt and I were in Trader Joes (stop for a second, I have to tell you, we are in love with Trader Joes). It's become a weekend ritual to just walk through and see if we can find something new that we've never tried before. Today I found boursin cheese that is $3.49 when it's $6.99 at Kroger! That's amazing. Matt gets his expensive organic cereal at Trader Joes for the same price as Kroger but the box is about 10 oz bigger. They have these wonderful dried apricots, but they've been out of them the past few times we've looked. Today however, they had them! I ran down the aisle ahead of Matt to check for them. When I found them I stood up, looked down the crowded aisle until I made eye contact with him, and then lifted the back up in the air triumphantly. A lady right in front of me smiled, laughed, and said, "yay!" haha, she knows what it is like to find something awesome at Trader Joes. We also got mini mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. We were so excited about these that we split one in the car on the way home. I'm telling you, we're uncontrollable. And we have Trader Joes to blame for it.

November 12, 2009

I made a mess (again!), but at least it was yummy

It's never worth it to use a pot/skillet/bowl, etc that's smaller than what you need. For some unknown reason, I did that exact thing three times while cooking just one meal. I think I did it thinking that the smaller things would be so much easier to clean in the sink. Instead, I ended up making more of a mess than if I would have had if I had used the bigger things. First, my skillet was too small so the sausage/pepper mixture that I was stirring kept flying out over the edges... greasy sausage landing on the stovetop. Next, I mixed the sausage mixture with the breadcrumb mixture in a bowl that was too small... making a mess on the countertop. Last, and probably the worst, I cooked the orzo in a pot that was too small. Pasta likes a lot of extra water to move around in, that's why pasta pots are so big. But orzo is so small! Surly it won't matter if I cook it in a 3 qt saucepan instead. I then spent 10 minutes blowing down the bubbles every 30-45 seconds so that it would not boil over. Needless to say, I was a mess in the kitchen tonight.

Sausage Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (This is an awesome Emeril recipe, by the way, simplified a bit)
3 portobello caps, remove the stems and rub in olive oil
12 oz of sausage (tubes come in 16 oz, save 1/4 of it for breakfast burritos later in the week)
1/4 cup of green pepper, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I always use the plain, unseasoned ones)
2/3 cup parmesan cheese (please get a block and have a strong guy grate it and keep it in tupperware... it lasts forever and is sooo much better than the green shaker guy)
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp essence, recipe follows, and yes, it's worth it to make a batch... it's so good and I use it on everything
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400. Cook the sausage until browned, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, bell pepper, celery and cook another 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl combine 1/3 c bread crumbs, 1/3 c parmesan, essence, and olive oil. Mix well. Add the egg and stir again until well combined. Divide the filling among the mushroom caps. Combine the remaining bread crumbs and parm and top the mushroom caps. Bake until golden brown on top, about 15-18 minutes.

I like to serve this with orzo tossed with cherry tomatoes that have been halved.

2 1/2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried thyme

This makes 2/3 cup.

November 8, 2009

The Abundant Life

Today at church our pastor asked a lot of thought provoking questions. One of them that was particularly interesting to me was, "Do I give sufficiently and live abundantly or do I live sufficiently and give abundantly?"

God has blessed with an amazing husband in so many ways, but one of the traits in him that I am the most thankful for is his heart to give. I have always considered myself generous, but Matt challenges me to give to the point of really feeling stretched. It really is our desire to live sufficiently and give abundantly, but what does that look like? It is hard for us to say, "No, we do not need to give me, we already give enough," but at the same time, there has to be some point of giving, where it would not make sense to stretch yourself any further. We care about financial security, and we care about planning and preparing for our own future and the future of our families. Neither of us thinks there is anything wrong with that. We also do not think that there is anything wrong with using God's blessings to spoil ourselves once in a while.

That being said, Proverbs 3:9 tells us how to prioritize our money and our possession. "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce." The first thing God commands us to do with anything and everything he has blessed us with, is to give it away, to bless others with it. I really enjoy this concept. God did not give us "things" for us to first use them for our own selves and our own luxeries or comforts. He blesses us so that we may bless others first. Verse 10 goes on to promise, "your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be overflowing with wine." Matt and I make sure when we are factoring into our budget what we can afford to give away, that it is not an afterthought. This decision does not come after everything else has already been allocated somewhere. We also leave a comfortable margin for unexpected opportunities to meet the needs of others that may arise. This could mean inviting friends over for dinner without regard for the cost of feeding ten, or it could mean filling two boxes of canned goods for the church instead of one. It's important to both of us that the needs of others stay at the forefront of our thoughts.

On the spectrum of sufficient to abundant, if sufficient is 1 and abundant is 10, I would venture to say that we give at an 8 - this is to say that I think we do give on the abundant side of things, but I'm sure that we could stretch ourselves more. My guess is that we also live at an 8... maaaybe a 7, maybe. We have 25 TV stations, but would an antenea and network stations be enough? We pay for the lowest speed internet, but do we need internet? I'm not sure that I believe $37 for TV and internet is "abundant." We live in a 1000 sqft townhouse - this is not abundant. We have inexpensive mismatched furniture and handmade decorations. We both drive nice cars - in my opinion this is abundan. That being said, they are both paid for and reliable. Is it smart to trade them in for more affordable used cars and run the risk of unpredictable mechanics bills? We just don't think so. We eat well and we eat out whenever we would like to. This, in my opinion, is probably the area where we live abundantly instead of sufficiently. We spend about $20 a day on food (for the two of us) and whether we make sure we have enough leftovers for lunches or eat lunches out... whether we get lunch with friends on Sunday's after church or come home to eat, whether we plan meals in advance and to big grocery trips or wing and end up visiting Kroger every time we fix another dinner... we still end up spending $20 a day on food. We don't know how we cut back on this, but from what we can tell, this is not a very high per-day average.

My prayer is that God show us ways we are living abundantly and ways that we might have a lifestyle that would be more accurately categorized as "sufficient," as well as ways that we can open up more room in our budget to give more abundantly. We know that in Luke 16:10 God tells us that "one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. We want the way we live our lives to be pleasing to God, both in the way we give to and bless others and in the way we enjoy what God has given us to keep for ourselves.

November 7, 2009

Our Happy Home

Matt and I got an early start this morning tearing through our chores. If you really want to clean the house invite people over that have never seen your home before. There is no better motivation for me to make everything look spic and span. The front bedroom of the house had become the room where "everything else" goes and it's been that way since a few months before the wedding. Today we gained a second bedroom. For the first time since we've been married we actually have a two bedroom house - amazing! We hung pictures and shelves and artwork. We staged the end table in the "guest room" as well as the second bathroom with all sorts of goodies for company. Things are actually in their place! Granted, for many things, their "place" is the attic, but that is not the same as stuffing them in a closet or cramming them under the bed until we come up with a better spot for them.

When the cleaning and organize was over Matt left for guys night which included pizza, beer, and nintendo. Hard to beat that. I stayed back and had some girls over for dinner (this is the company that inspired the transformation of the Meitl house). Since getting married, it's been very difficult to squeeze in girl time, and I find that I am a much more happy and loving wife if I allow myself these times to indulge in being female with others who can relate first hand.

Since getting married I have been involved in several conversations regarding the divide between "marrieds" and "singles." I won't get into all of my thougths on that right now, but I will say that it was just nice to have a house full of girls. Some single, some married; some parents, some not; some students, some working, and some both, but all female and all dealing with life and relationships and family and responsibilities and purpose. It was nice to spend a night together focusing on all the things we can relate to in one another just because we're women.

Roasted Pork Tenderoin
1.5 lbs pork tenderloin
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
steak seasoning (like mrs dash or mccormick)

Prehead oven to 500. Rub balsamic vinegar over the pork tenderloin. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil and rub over it as well. Sprinkle liberally with steak seasoning and pat into the pork. Roast for 25 minutes. This recipe serves 4-5 people.

Cheese Tortellini with Spinach and Walnut Pesto
1 18 oz package of cheese tortellini
1/2 cup chicken broth
5-6 oz baby spinach
3 oz walnuts
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Toast walnuts on a cookie sheet at 350 for a few minutes - don't let them burn. Cook the tortellini according to package directions. Heat chicken stock or broth to a simmer, keep on low. Using a food processor, working in batches, grind spinach leaves with nuts, chicken stock, and garlic. Stir in cheese, nutmeg, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Coat cooked tortellini with pesto and serve in a pretty bowl. I had 10 girls over so I doubled this recipe and ended up with a lot leftover.

Roasted Rataouille
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut lengthwise into 1 in strips
4 roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise and seeded
1 medium eggplant, sliced stacked and quartered
1 medium zucchini, sliced stacked and halved
1 medium onion sliced into 1/2 in rings
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary coarsly chopped
coarse salt and black pepper
olive oil to coat

Preheat oven to 500. Put all of the veggies in a rectangle pyrex. Sprinkle with garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Roast for 15-20 minutes.

November 4, 2009

From Trash to Treasure (at least, that's the plan...)

I get such enjoyment out of taking something old and making it new again. I wish I could stock my entire house full of things that have been revamped. I think it takes such love for a thing to look at it and be inspired to make it new again. It's been a while since I've done this, but I got inspired today on the Pier1 website. They have this very cute modern looking wingback chairs in bold prints. I scooted up to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store on my lunch break yesterday and found an old wingback chair for $25! She's perfect. She's narrow with smaller wings and she's very comfortable. For some reason I was feeling inspired to do a soft yellow with white zebra stripes and paint the legs black. Matt looked at me like I was crazy. I told him not to worry, I can't design the fabric, and I doubt I will come across yellow and white zebra print in upholstery fabric.

I went to JoAnn's on my lunch break today and found the most amazing fabric! It's a medium yellow with white silhouettes of fern-like leaves and flowers all over it. It's the exact feel I was looking for when I was picturing the zebra print. It will really pop with black legs! Now... I just have to figure out how to reupholster a wingback chair.

November 1, 2009

Bible Study Girls Online

On and off for over a year now some girls from my old bible study and I have been reading through the bible together and emailing back and forth our questions and comments. Three days ago we began following the one year bible track, so I will probably blog here and there about my thoughts on the daily readings.

David really impressed me in the psalm we read yesterday and the one we read today. Psalm 3:2 "many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God." and 4:2 "oh men, how long shall my honor be turned in to shame." We definitely live in a time and place where we get little to no ridicule for our faith. It's almost "cool" to have the bumper sticker or wear the t-shirt. At the very least, it's culturally acceptable to "go to church" on Sundays... whether or not you truly follow Christ. This is sad on so many levels, but for one, I think it makes it harder for me to get through to people that I don't just go to church, it's not about just going to church. There is a God we serve as our Lord that has provided us with salvation, because he's merciful and we believe. How much harder would it be to be a believer if I were in David's shoes? I hate to think that I would be afraid of the path of resistance, but how loudly would I proclaim my Lord if I were being targeted? I think about muslims and other cultures that are often persecuted if their religion goes against the grain or society, and I don't blame them for not embracing our God. Could I do it? It hurts my heart for these people, because for me, compared to them, salvation and following Christ is a cake walk. Aww, these are really sad thoughts for me.

Proverbs 1:20-23 "Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks." Christians often talk about God being "silent" and this proverb reminds me that his Wisdom is loud and crying out. God is always talking to us. Through the holy spirit we have the gift of God in us which, in John 16:7 Jesus tells us is better than having him beside us, walking and talking with us in the flesh. "I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." It is we who do not listen very well. At the very least we always have scripture to help us discern what God is saying to us about anything that we're in the middle of.

October 31, 2009

Our First Halloween

Well, when you're newly married, you can't always get along. Tonight was one of those nights. I got frustrated with dinner and in a hormonal fit of mini-rage I walked away from dinner (in addition to slamming down the skillet and making a mess of noodles all over the stove top.) Matt made a comment that hurt my feelings so I told him I was going to take a walk around the neighborhood.

When I got back home he was not there. The front porch light was on, because it was dark out and the two of us were wandering around the neighborhood. Well, it was also halloween, and the front porch light let all of the trick-or-treaters know that they could get candy at our house. So, the doorbell rings and I hear this little voice say, "trick or treat?!" Oh no. I opened the door and said, "hey buddy! I can't find my husband and I can't find the candy. Give me just a second to see if I can find it." Sampson entertained the boy while I raced around the house looking for our one bag of halloween candy. Any candy! Nothing... I had to go to the poor little trick-or-treater on our first halloween as a married couple and tell him that I did not have any candy for him. I said, "I'm sorry buddy, I can't find the candy," as his mom hollers from the street, "come on sweetheart, it's okay." Sigh, haha. Matt came home shortly after carrying the bag of candy. We didn't get any more trick-or-treaters.

**Update! We found my retainer while cleaning house this morning. My cats were not to blame. I had set it on top of a seldom-used barstool. I left a message with the ortho hoping they can cancel the new one. We'll see!**

October 27, 2009

A Stumper

This weeks math puzzle:

A rectangular sheet of paper is folded so that two diagonally opposite corners come together. If the crease formed is the same length as the longer side of the sheet, what is the ratio of the longer side of the sheet to the shorter side?

Neither of us were able to figure this one out on our own.

Steaks on the Grill
Steaks on sale
Mrs Dash's spicy pepper seasoning

I don't know whey we're eating so much steak lately... we got these because they were on sale when we walked by. We seasoned them with Mrs Dash's spicy pepper seasoning (a light sprinkle on both sides for Matt's, and a thick coating on the one side of mine) and tossed them on the grill for 7 minutes.

Loaded Baked Potatoes
2 baking potatoes
olive oil
sour cream
shredded cheddar

I just poke my spuds with a knife (a few pokes on each side), coat in a little olive oil, wrap in a paper towel, and toss in the microwave. Do you know how long these guys take to bake in the oven?! Not worth it. I nuked them for 6 minutes, gave them a squeeze, and cooked them for 3 minutes more. They were perfect, and done by the time Matt had the steaks off the grill.

Spiced Shrimp
Prepackaged, peeled, seasoned, and cooked. Just heat them up and go... a well-spent $2.50.

Grilled Corn - see post from July 19th.

I'd Lose My Head

I think one of our cats got ahold of my top retainer. Matt and I tore the house apart yesterday looking for that thing. I really don't think there is anywhere we did not look. All couch cushions, dirty laundry piles, trash cans, under the stove, washer, and dryer... you get the idea. Nothing. I'm afraid if too many days go by my uppers will start to shift, so I don't really have a choice but to get a new one. I went today to get my impressions done and the ortho put a "rush" on it so hopefully it will come next week. Meanwhile I walk around trying to hold my front teeth in. I'm going to be one sad monkey if I pay for a new retainer and the old one popls up again. This happened with my glasses once. I had lost them for at least 4 months when I broke down adn got a newp pair. When the next winter rolled around and I was searching through my rarely visited scarf drawer, I found my lost pair of glasses.

October 26, 2009

2 Peter 1:2-3

Today I read 2 Peter 1. I really have to read Peter very slowly to come close to understanding what I'm trying to learn from him. I can easily get the gist after a whole chapter, but if I'm not careful, I'll skim past verses I don't understand, figuring I'll get the overall idea anyway. 2 Peter 1:2 "May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord." How are grace and peace multiplied? By a growing knowledge of the character of God and of Jesus. Many times I want grace and I want peace and I want all those gifts that God is waiting to pour out on me, but I want them without having to put in the time and energy it takes to know Him and have a relationship with Him. The irony is that grace and peace aren't even given to us because we have done the work to get to know Him, they are the fruit of knowing Him. 1:3 "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him." This is the way we access God's wonderful blessings for us. Why are we so dense to the fact that he so desires this relationship with us? And he's so available and we're so often not.

Penne Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Portobello's and Goat Cheese
This is an amazing vegetarian dish. Cook the pasta the way it's directed on the package. Scoop out a little bit of the hot pasta water (and set aside) before you drain the noodles. After you drain them, put them back in the pot. Meanwhile, thick slice an onion (I prefer yellow sweet onions for almost everything, but white onions remind Matt of his grandmother's cooking, so I used white ones for this... beeeeecause I love him). You want to cook this up until it caramelizes really really well. A little olive oil and medium heat works best for me. Don't stir too often, keep an eye on them and adjust the heat if you need to. A tiny bit of sugar helps this process as well. Just a little though! Scrape them into a bowl and set them aside while you cook up the sliced portobello caps in a little more olive oil. Add the onions back in with the mushrooms to warm them up. In the pasta pot, add about 2 oz of goat cheese (if you break it up first it will go smoother). Stir it in with the hot pasta adding the hot pasta water a little at a time until you get a nice creaminess. Dump in the mushrooms and onions, top with parsley if you wish. I also sprinkle parm after I've served my bowl.

October 25, 2009

A Typical Fall Sunday

After an amazing message at church and lunch with some other newlywed friends of ours, we drove around a little and took picture of the autumn leaves. I don't remember a fall this pretty since I was in Blacksburg, or since I visited the Smokey Mountains one October several years back. The leaves this year seem so much richer, so much more vibrant, and they seem to be staying that way for longer. I can't seem to get over them. In good fall fashion, Matt and I spent the rest of this Sunday being lazy on the couch.

Spiced Pork Chops
Sprinkle the chops with spices of your choice - we have a mix we use that contains a fair amount of cumin. Cook them for 6 minutes on each side over med heat with a little bit of oil.

just used stove top and followed the box directions, I'm not fancy.

Brussel Sprouts
I have to say, I really want to like brussel sprouts. I don't generally have a problem with green vegetables, and they are very lovely and quite cute. They just taste like feet, and I can't seem to overcome that. I made them for diner tonight and Matt said, "this is definitely the best brussel sprout experience I've ever had." My response to this was, "but unfortunately they still taste like brussel sprouts." He agreed. If you like them though, I really think this was a great recipe for them.

Blanch the sprouts for 3 minutes then half them. Roast them at 400 for 20 minutes with olive oil, the juice of 1/4 of an orange, and sliced garlic. When they are done, sprinkle a little parm to melt over the top. They really were quite good... for brussel sprouts.

October 17, 2009

Learning to Prioritize

I woke up this morning to find the hubs creating a program on his laptop that would help us prioritize our to-do list. He was playing with formulas involving importance, time to complete the item, urgency, and effort. Even though we agreed that finishing the Thank You cards from the wedding needed to be done two months ago (ie. important and urgent), the time to complete and the effort involved kept it down to 5th or 6th on our list. He played with his formulas until the Thank You cards were finally tied for first with an important and time sensitive, but quick and easy email to a friend. I was finally satisfied with these results. We grabbed the cards, headed to Panera, and finally finished them! The funnest part about this software was that "completing scheduling software" remained at the bottom of his to-do list now matter how he weighted the factors.

Maple Salmon
I got these recipes from "The Next" magazine that I'm unsure exactly why I'm receiving in the mail... changed it up just a little.

Preheat oven to 425. Combine 1/4 cup maple syrup and 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar in a bowl. On one side of a roasting or baking pan, drizzle veggie of your choice (they used carrots, broccoli, and zucchini; I kept it simple with just zuccs) with olive oil. Place salmon fillets on the other side of the pan. Season with salt and pepper and brush with the maple syrup mixture. Bake 15 minute, check it, back for another 5 if needed.

Walnut Couscous
In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of chicken broth to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of couscous and 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts. Cover and let sit for 5-7 minutes until broth is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

October 16, 2009

Today's Mail

I got my new drivers license in the mail today! I'm excited that it looks like me... looks pretty good, actually. I can't wait for the next cashier to ask to see my ID, with my new name and my new signature. Gone are the days of being hassled by airport security because my drivers license picture (with a younger, fatter face and shorter hair) didn't look much like me anymore.

I also got my new check card in the mail. I had to cancel mine the other day after a random charge from Pennsylvania showed up on my bank statement. The whole card is bright ugly stop-light red... and gray. Red... and gray. Ew! And it says DEBIT CARD in two separate places in really cheap-looking font. It looks like an ATM card or some cheap temporary card. Actually, the temporary card that Matt got when we merged accounts that even said "Valued Customer" in place of "Matt Meitl" looked better than this guy does. I'm thinking about losing it and ordering a new one in hopes that they rotate designs at random and I'll end up with a prettier one next time.

September 18, 2009

Playing in Traffic

On the drive home from Bahama today (where we were decorating for the Petefish/Welch fesival of love that will be taking place tomorrow) there was a red balloon bouncing around in traffic. It was like a beach ball at a concert. It never popped; not as long as I could see it at least. It just bounced off of bumpers, hoods, roofs, and windshields, back and forth between the two lanes of traffic. It was a very enjoyable moment.

September 17, 2009


Girls are not always the easiest species to get along with, even when you're one of them. If you get a group of your best girlfriends together, most of which do not know more than one or two of the others, and they all get along really well (even to the point of enjoying each other's company) I consider that a huge testimony to the one person who brought them all together. Tonight was Melissa's bachelorette get-together and her girls are simply amazing. We brought our favorite pot-luck dishes to share and then went to the Cheesecake Factory for... cheesecake. Nothing too fancy, nothing seemingly spectacular, but a wonderful evening with wonderful girls none-the-less. All of which happen to adore the same miss Petefish.

On the menu:

Fruit Dip - brought by one of the ladies, not myself
1 8oz tub of cool whip or whipped cream
1 8oz can of crushed pineapple
1 packet of vanilla pudding mix

Now whip it, whip it good. This dip was so yummy we almost filled up on fruit before we got started on the rest of the dishes.

July 29, 2009

An Incredible Egg-sperience

I consider myself to be fairly successful in the kitchen, but sometimes the simplest tasks provide me with an absurd challenge. Today I wanted to hard boil an egg. I do not love eggs, and I have never hard boiled an egg before. I called my mom and got these directions: put an egg in cold water, bring it to a boil, let it boil for 10 minutes. I did this, in fact, I even let it boil for 11 minutes. I rinsed it off with cold water, peeled it, and prepared to cut it in half. The moment of truth. I sliced it, it fell open, only to reveal that the yolk wasn't quiiiiite done enough. It wasn't runny, but it was a dark-ish yellow. Ew-eh. I know mom said to put the egg in cold water, but I already had a nice pot of water going so I put egg in it. Almost immediately the water started filling up with this nasty white swirly stuff. Apparently the egg had a slight crack and was leaking into my water. Gosh, this is getting to be more trouble that it's worth! I eyed the original egg that was aaaaalmost done and decided I would nuke it for just a second. Sometimes when you're in the kitchen you just have to wing it. I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds. At 28 seconds one of the little yolks popped, jumped up out of the egg white, sprayed the inside of the microwave door, and landed far from its departure point. Woops, that didn't work. When Matt got home from the gym, I shared the fiasco with him and made sure it was okay if we did not have egg in our salad tonight.

On the menu:

Steak Salad - yes please!

Is there anything else to do with leftover steak? Our salads included lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, bacon, cucumbers, and blue cheese crumbles with the steak. They were awesome.

July 28, 2009

Flowers For No Reason

I discovered the most amazing flower at Kroger. They were sunflowers, but they had fiery red petals, a yellow reddish center, and deep purple leaves! How amazing?! So amazing that I spent $7 to have them on the dinner table since we are having company over tonight. I'm pretty sure they are spray painted, but that's okay with me. The stems even dyed the water purple. I think maybe we should work "weekly fresh flowers" into our budget; they just make a girl happy.

Oh, that reminds me. This might be my favorite newlywed story so far, because it's just a perfect example of the kind of little ups and downs I think every newlywed couple experiences. A few weeks ago I got dinner with a girl friend and left Matt alone for the evening. I stopped by the house after work before heading to dinner to start the dyer so we could have clean sheets on the bed that night. I got home a little after 9... very tired and very excited to be coming home to my way-cute husband. First, I pulled in to my parking space to find that he had drug the recycling bin out front when I thought we had decided that I was right and that the recycling was not going to be picked up the next morning. So, in a very small way, I had gone from happy to frustrated in an instant. I walked in and saw flowers in the living room with an amazingly sweet note. Aww! Happy again. My way-cute husband however, was nowhere to be found. I concluded that he must be waiting for me in our bedroom. I open the bedroom door and not only is he not waiting for me, but there are not even sheets on the bed. Frustrated again. I was focused on the fact that I was so tired and unable to get right into the bed that I couldn't fully appreciate the flowers or even notice that he had put a movie in the dvd player for us to watch. I refluffed the sheets in the dryer, made the bed myself, and crashed. He said he was going to get himself ready for bed. I felt better once I was horizontal, and I was once again happy to be ending the day with such an amazing man. I laid there waiting for him to return. After ten minutes or so I realized he wasn't coming back. Frustrated again. I wandered out into the living room only to find him sitting on the edge of the couch, eyes wide, mouth propped open just a little. One look at his position and expression and I knew exactly what had happened. He got ready to turn the movie off, got sucked in by a scene, lowered himself onto the couch (slowly now, because gonig from standing to sitting while watching tv constitutes multitasking and this is no simple feat for those way-cute boys), and there he sat, as if frozen in time, until I came out and found him. The movie was Ice Age, mind you. No high speed car chases and captured his undivided attention and prevented him from joining me in the bed. No thrills or action or suspsense. Just a really cute sloth with a lisp and a pear shaped bottom. The up and down of my emotions that night made me laugh. If not then, at least the next day.

On the menu:
Taco Night!

Fresh Garden Salsa
4 tomatoes, chopped however chunky you like your salsa
1/4 red onion, chopped fine because they're hot
1 jalapeno, minced
8 sprigs cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Chop it all and mix it together in a bowl. It makes about two cups.

Easiest Bestest Spanish Rice
1/2 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup salsa

I have this pot that I got from my mom that I use for absolutely everything. If you don't have one like it, I recommend getting one. It's a 10" "skillet" with raised sides and two short handles. I also have the same pot, a little bigger, with one long handle and sometimes it's just too hard to clean in the sink to be worth the trouble of cooking with it. Ok, back to the rice. Heat up the olive oil on medium heat and brown the rice for a few minutes. Few a few. Stir in the chicken broth and salsa of your choice. I prefer medium spicey, chunky salksa, and for this recipe I just use the cheaper grocery store brand. Bring to a slight boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Done! Give it a stir and serve. This is such a hit every time I make it and it couldn't be easier.

July 27, 2009

Math is hard

This week's math puzzle:

A rectangular sheet of paper is folded so that two diagonally opposite corners come together. If the crease formed is the same length as the longer side of the sheet, what is the ratio of the longer side of the sheet to the shorter side?

Neither of us were able to figure this one out on our own.

Steaks on the grill
Steaks on sale
Mrs Dash's spicy pepper seasoning

I don't know why we're eating so much steak lately... we got these because they were on sale when we walked by. We seasonged them with Mrs dash's spicy pepper seasoning (a light sprinkle on both sides for Matt, and a thick coating on one side for me) and tossed them on the grill for 7 minutes.

Loaded Baked Potatoes
2 baking potatoes
olive oil
sour cream
shredded cheddar

I just poke my spuds with a knife (a few pokes on each "side"), coat in a little olive oil, wrap in a paper towel, and toss in the microwave. Do you know how long these guys take to bake in the oven?!! Not worth it. I nuked these for 6 minutes, gave them a squeeze, and cooked them for 3 more minutes. They were perfect, and done by the time Matt had the stead off of the grill.

Spiced Shrimp

Prepackaged, peeled, seasoned, and cooked. Just heat them up and go... a well-spent $2.50.

Grilled Corn

See July 19th

July 26, 2009

Stories about us!

Matt and I attended a new small group today to test it out and see if it's a good fit for us. Our current small group is going through some natural transitions right now, just life pulling people in different directions, so we figured this would be a good time for us to explore our options. As part of an ice breaker we went around and told a funny story about ourselves and our relationship. We told two short ones that I will share in a nutshell.

First, Matt's proposal included bumping into me (and nearly knocking me over) with a huge huge box wrapped in red celaphane and tied up with a giant pink bow. It was a nice beginning. The proposal also involved me popping three balloons with a straight pin. Just a few days prior, my mom and I were talking about how afraid I am of popping balloons. Somehow Matt missed this important piece of information in the initial get-to-know-you part of our relationship!

The second story was about our drive from the reception hall to the hotel after the wedding. The hotel was literally right across from the reception, the but parking lot (since it was down town) was not right across and not as easy for us to find. We drove around and quickly ended up in a part of Durham that we did not need to be... with bouncing cans and rubber balls announcing our arrival. We circled back around and all we knew was that we could not end up back on the street with the reception hall, driving past all of our guests 15 minutes later. At a time when we just wanted to "escape" to our hotel room, this wild goose chase for the parking lot was pretty hilarious.

Blueberry BBQ Chops
1/2 c blueberry jam
1/2 c bbq sauce
3 pork loin chops (1 for leftovers for your way-cute husband)

We recently found a huge pork loin on sale for under $6 and were able to cut 12 1-in chops from it. Let the meat that's on sale determine what you get for dinners that week. Because we were still craving the dinner we had at the Gordon's the other night, we decided to make it ourselves tonight. This time I added blueberry jam to the bbq sauce and had green beans instead of peas. We kept the sweet potatoes the same and they were amazing! We used Sweet Baby Ray's tonight. Preheat the oven to 350, mix the blueberry jam and bbq sauce in a square baking dish. Dredge both sides of the pork in the sauce and then bury them in there really well. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the chops. 20 minutes is probably good for 1/2 in, 25-30 minutes for 1 in.

Sweet Potatoes

Nuked for 20 minutes. They come pre-washed and individually wrapped at the grocery store. I definitely think this is the way to go.

Green Beans

Same as we did on July 20th.

July 25, 2009

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Welch!

I got out of bed at 11 today. Oh man! Matt went to the gym around 10 and I was supposed to be productive while he was gone. I greeted him at the door when he got home with a big smile saying, "Don't worry! You didn't miss a thing!" Gosh I love a lazy day. One day there will be kids running around demanding every second, so I am not going to let myself be disappointed if I'm less than productive on a Saturday morning every now and then. We rode with the Gordon's to the Welch's wedding this evening and they apparently had a similar day. They said they did nothing all day with the excuse that they wanted to make sure they could get ready for the wedding in time. I appreciate that line of thinking.

July 23, 2009

Me? Irritable? :)

Matt and I are reading "The First Five Years of Marriage" together. Today we read about the wonderful world of PMS and the exercise was to discuss ways we could alleviate stress for everyone during my worst days. I told Matt that I just need him to ignore me and leave me alone for a bit. Find his book, find his iPhone, find his Mario Kart. Anything. His tendency is to be closer to me, and that doesn't give me time to get over myself and "come around." In fact, if anything, it pushes me further away. In my mind, the body language that I would like to be left alone is loud and clear, so I get increasingly more frustrated when I feel like he's not picking up on that. One time I threw out there a simple, "wow, I'm really cranky right now," and Matt let me know today how much that helped him to understand that anything that's going on is not because he is a bad husband or because he's done something wrong, it's simply because I'm cranky and will probably refuse to be satisfied until I snap out of it. :)

July 22, 2009

Creating Our Retreat

I completed the wall-art behind our bed today! I took one of our favorite pictures from the honeymoon, the shoreline of Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island, cropped it into thirds, and ordered 18x24 inch posters of each of the three sections. With some spray adhesive, I glued the posters to foam board and voila!... big cheap artwork, my favorite. The whole piece together ends up being about 24x54. I painted a 48 inch wide white stripe against our "gobi desert" wall and hung the posters about an inch apart from one another. With that and our new curtains, the bedroom is finally starting to make sense.

July 21, 2009

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower, broken apart (breaking up is hard to do-oo)
olive oil
1 small or half of a large lemon
1 garlic clove, sliced

This is an Emeril recipe - it's fab. Arrange the cauliflower in a casserole dish. Drizzle olive oil, squeeze the lemon juice, and sprinkle garlic over it all and give it a light toss. Bake in a 500 (yes, 500) degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle parm on top when you're done. It's really amazing.

"Thank you!" to our generous wedding guests

With the cash we got for our wedding we decided to give 10% towards the global mission at our church and put the rest towards a new washer and dryer. After looking, drooling, and dreaming over GE front loaders (and a few moments before we hopped online to order them) Matt decided to measure the laundry room. Surprise! They are too deep for the space we've got to work with. You would think after ordering a fridge two years ago that was too big for the space I would have learned that this should be a first step. My strapping male neighbors worked until 11pm to get that fridge in, and the night involved removing the back wheels with limb loppers, chiseling at the bottom of the cabinets above with a flat head screw driver, and removing the base board by the fridge. She's in though! And so pretty. Even if she's never coming out... So! Matt measured and we began our search over. We ended up getting a top loader washing machine with an agitator that only comes up about 4 inches, so it has just as much room as a front loader anyway. They were delivered this morning, and I was so excited to get home and do laundry. I was able to leave work a little early today so I managed to begin the second load of laundry, paint a 9'x4' white stripe on the wall behind our bed, and begin a side dish to take to the Gordon's for dinner before Matt got home from work. Sometimes I'm on quite a roll. I'll tell more about the transformation of our bedroom into an inviting and inspiring place to end our days later when more of the projects come together.

We went to the Gordon's house for dinner and a couple rounds of Mad Gab. If you're not familiar with this game, it's hilarious. If you have every desired to speak with a german accent (who hasn't!) this game is for you. The puzzles consist of a set of unrelated words that, when read aloud, sound like familiar phrases, names, places, etc. This one one of my favorites of the night:

Reef Hinge Off Dean Herds

July 20, 2009

One month as Mrs Meitl

Whoop! It's our one month "anniversary!" One of our neighbors told me that one month is the "weed out" period and that if we have made it this far we are golden. Good to know.

Matt's job got the best of him for a little while today, so, to make himself feel better, he worked through a math problem he found on some website. Isn't it obvious why I love him so? He gave me the puzzle to solve and I was able to work through part one on my own, but after scribbling on scrap paper for at least 45 minutes I decided I was never going to figure out part two. He talked me through the solution step by step while I paced the floor trying to visualize the process. Wheels just a turnin. I would never have solved it on my won. See what you think:

The absolute value of a real number is defined as its numerical value without regard for sign. So, for example abs(2) = abs(-2) = 2.
The maximum of two real numbers is defined as the numerically bigger of the two. For example, max(2,-3) = max(2,2) = 2

a. abs in terms of max
b. max in terms of abs

Grilled Marinated Ham Steaks

Grilled Marinated Ham Steaks
1/2 can of oj concentrate
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3 tbsp worchestershire sauce (or any steak sauce)
prepackaged precooked ham steak

I seriously don't know how we survived without grilling - we grill all the time right now. I let the ham steak marinate in the fridge over night. I realize this is not always possible, but if it helps, go ahead and prepare the marinade and throw it all in the fridge the day you get it from the grocery store. Just plan to cook it up in the next couple of days. As always - a hot skillet can substitute for the grill.

Hashbrown Casserole
8 oz sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 stick of butter, melted
2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 bag of ore ida frozen shredded potatoes (thawed is best, not necessary)

This recipe makes a ton. We gave half of it to Michael and had a quarter of it still for leftovers. In a 9x11 (or bigger) pyrex goes everything except for the potatoes. Mix it all up really well. Slowly stir in the potatoes a little bit at a time, because otherwise it will spill over and make a mess. If it ends up impossible to "mix without mess" then it's probably worth it to dirty up a separate pot and mix it all in a big pasta pot first.

Green Beans

Lately I've been putting water in my 10 inch skillet, and when it comes to a boil I throw in the beans for 6-9 minutes, depending on how thick they are. Just test one after 6 minutes and you'll have a good idea whether or not they need more time. After I strain them I turn the heat say down (off might even be fine) and put a little bit of butter in the pan with a sliced clove of garlic. Stir frequently, this will flavor the butter with the garlic just a bit. Throw the beans back in and toss them around a little.

July 19, 2009

Cheese Tortelini with Cherry Tomatoes and Chicken

Matt and I generally make extra chicken to save for meals later in the week whenever we cook. Sometimes we grill them and sometimes we just throw frozen breasts in a 350 oven for 45 minutes. This is not my favorite way to cook them, because they don't come out very pretty. In Matt's defense however, (since this is his method) the chicken comes out VERY juicy and is perfect for cutting into cubes and saving for a pasta dish later in the week.

So. Prepare the cheese tortelini as directed on the package. I like to strain them and brown them up (just a little) in olive oil in a skillet on medium. If your chicken is leftover from earlier in the week, go ahead and toss it in with the tortelini to heat it up. If you do not have pre-cooked chicken, cook the chicken as your first step, then set aside while you brown the torts. I don't use any sauce for this dish (although Matt likes to heat up some Prego and spoon over his) so make sure you are a bit liberal with the olive oil at the end or the dish will be too dry. Toss in cherry tomatoes that have been halved and removed from the heat. I like for them to be warm but not cooked, because I like for them to maintain that wonderful pop when I bite into them. If you have it and feel like it, you can garnish the dish with fresh parsley (just because the green is pretty) or parmesan.

Garlic Bread Sticks
From the frozen section of your favorite grocery store


Our church is studying the book of Proverbs together. Throughout the 9 weeks of sermons from Proverbs, the congregation is reading through 1 chapter a day (which means we will read through it twice). In addition, we were given verses to memorize. Bible memorization is not my strong suit. At all. It comes very easy to my way-cute husband however. That means I focused on memorizing 3:5-6 (which he already has memorized anyway) and he focused on 3:19-26. And by "focused on" I mean he read through it once and then recited it back to me missing, oh, maybe 3 words. Ridiculous!

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your paths straight. (I typed that out without looking it up, thank you. Memorized verse numero uno!)

Proverbs 3:19-26 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. My son, preserve sound judgement and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you like down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.

July 18, 2009

Dinner Guests

We had company over for dinner tonight. We also had people over for food our first night back in town from the honeymoon, but this was our first time having company over for dinner after putting the house in order and feeling like we are really starting the routine of our life as a married couple. It actually felt like "our" house this time. Right after we sat down to eat I remembered something in the front bedroom... candles! Not just any candles... candles meant to be burned to celebrate this specific occasion. Yep, brats and beer with friends... in our home. The candles were part of a very special wedding gift that consisted of a basked with several different pairs of taper candles and a pair of candle holders.

There was a poem with them that read:

A basket of candles, each kind in a pair,
in all different colors for you to share.

The white ones burn first and they are wrapped in white lace,
to celebrate your first married night in your place.

The green pair is taller and also much thinner,
and should be lit with the first company that you have over for dinner.

The dark blue candles are for after your first fight,
so you can burn them while making-up all through the night.

Pink candles set the mood and pave the way,
for your very special, first married Valentine's Day.

Now when your first year of marriage is through,
the cream anniversary pair will shine bright for you two.

Red candles aflame, both your futures are bright,
to celebrate promotions that you've word for with all your might.

By this time we hope, that maybe, just maybe
you can light the purple ones on the birth of your baby.

And just when you thought you'd put these away,
take the light blue ones out for your fifth anniversary day.

Now just one more pair left to celebrate the big two-five,
this twenty-fifth anniversary pair will show your love is alive.

Congratulations, Rachel and Matt, on the start to your forever,
and may the two of you always be happy together.

And burn these candles just the way I said,
but please remember to blow them out before going to bed!

Brats, Kraut, and Corn

Boil the brats for 8 or so minutes while the grill is heating up. This step isn't necessary, but it helps the brats start to cook through so that you can just focus on browning them to your liking on the grill. Serve them on or off the bun and I like to have several different mustard options for people to choose from. Yellow, whole grain or spicy brown deli, and dijon makes for a good variety.

Jarred is fine. Add a little celery salt, some coriander and worchestershire sauce. Heat 'er up and you're good to go! It's also a good idea to grill onions and peppers. For ease, I just do that on the stovetop while Matt is manning the grill.

Grilled Corn
We like to pull back the husks, remove the silk, and grill it in the husks for 15 or so minutes.