February 27, 2010

More Slow Cooker Goodness

Rachael Ray has been featuring one slow cooker meal a week on her show and it's been great, because it's difficult to find newer up-to-date dinners for the slow cooker. I've especially had difficulty making a good beef stew, but this turned out great. Browning the meat first made a big difference, and the addition of bacon didn't hurt either. Rachael Ray must have a double-wide slow cooker though, so I have to cut her recipes in half for them to fit.

Beef Stew
3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 in slices
1 lbs beef stew meet
1 tbsp flour
4-5 small redskin potatoes
1 c chopped onion, medium dice
1 cup baby carrots
3 celery stalks, quartered
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 14oz can stewed tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
pepper to taste

In the slow cooker put the potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, and thyme. Cook the bacon over medium until crispy. Add to the slow cooker, reserving the fat. Turn the heat to medium high and brown the beef, 2-3 minutes on each side. Stir in 1 tbsp flour and add to the slow cooker. Top with stewed tomatoes, and tomato paste, and pepper. Give it a little stir and then cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. After it's all cooked up, stir it all together really well and cut the potatoes down into quarters just using a fork.

The piece de resistance:

Cheddar Bay Biscuits!
1 1/4 c healthy heart bisquick (this is impt because it doesn't have trans fat)
2 tbsp cold butter
1/4 c plus 2 tbsp milk, any kind
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 heaping cup shredded cheddar

Brush on top:
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
a few shakes of dried parsley flakes, just eyeball it

Inspired by Red Lobster, this recipe makes a less greasy version. They turned out so good I'm almost too excited to type the directions!! Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butter up into small pieces, more or less dice it. Combine it with the flour. I found it easiest to just use my hands. The butter should remain in little chunks throughout. Add cheese, milk, and garlic and toss together with a fork. Don't over combine. Drop approximately 1/4 c portions of the dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn golden brown. After you take the biscuits out, melt the butter and stir in the garlic powder and parsley flakes. Use a brush to spread the garlic butter over the biscuits. Do not skip this step, it really makes them. Use up all of the butter. Enjoy!

February 25, 2010

Is going to church really necessary for christians?

Can God be powerfully at work in your life apart from being part of Christ's body, the church? This was one of a few eyebrow raising questions posed by our pastor last Sunday while doing a study on Ephesians 2:11-3:13. I like this question. I've been the christian who touted the fact that I had a close personal relationship with God, but was not interested in the "religion" and rituals found in a church. I think this is pretty common thinking of non-christians and believers who did not grow up in church. My sophomore year of college is when I accepted that Christ was my savior and the Lord of my life. I was going to church then and all through college. It wasn't in church that I first accepted this, however. It was in my dorm room with my bible. I learned and benefited from the messages I heard at church, but I really felt my relationship grow during my quiet times with God. After college I moved back to Richmond where I did not have a regular church, and I did not make the effort to find one. This was the stage in my life where I would have said that I didn't need to go to church on Sundays to be a christian. This was reinforced when I moved to North Carolina and had one heck of a time finding a church to call home. There were plenty of churches that I felt like would distract from my faith instead of grow it. This caused me to be even more sure that what God and I had on our own was enough.

It wasn't until I found a gospel-centered church that challenged me to continue to really grow in my knowledge of God and be truly changed as a christian, that I was able to look back and see that I hadn't been growing; I hadn't really seen God work in my life; I hadn't seen the fruits of my faith. I still had the assurance of my salvation, but I certainly wasn't experiencing what God had hoped and planned for me to experience. God's vehicle for fulfilling much of his plan is the body of Christ... it is the church. Being involved in a good church has provided me with opportunities to bless others that are less fortunate that I am, and it has provided me with opportunities to serve those in need in my community. These are both things that are part of God's plan that I was missing out on when I was not attending church. There's so much more though: I'm really learning about God's character, I've got a core group of amazing friends to pray for me and encourage me, I've been inspired by the faith other people exhibit in tough times. It's a true community of people who all fall short of the holiness of God, who are all thankful that God has loved us anyway and desires that we know Him, and who desire for God to use them to fulfill his plans for the world.

Another related point that our pastor made was that people are often looking for God to "zap" miracles or answers to prayers. For us, this is plan A. We pray for it and when that doesn't happen, we try plan B. We go to church and then we find someone who is able to meet our particular need. What we often don't realize is that the church is plan A, it is the way God plans to grow us, bless us, and use us to fulfill the good works He has planned. So can God be powerfully at work in your life apart from being part of the church? My own personal experience says no. If that is the case, then do we have the right to pray for God's blessings in our lives if we're not involved in the church? And how involved should we be in church?

February 23, 2010

Lovin the slow-cooker!

Slow-Cooker Short Ribs

1/2 cup bbq sauce
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp onion salt
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp yellow mustard
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tbsp flour
2lbs pork short ribs

Mix the first 7 ingredients together in the bottom of your slow cooker. Toss the short ribs in the sauce very well. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

We served this with white rice and steam-in-a-bag carrots.

February 22, 2010

Life is but a Dream

Today was a dream of a Sunday, exactly what I think they should all be like. We had 7 friends over after church for grilled brats and pasta salad. The girls sat around and chatted with the Olympics on in the background while the boys played games in the dining room. The wii was played for a bit and I went for an hour walk around the neighborhood with one of the girls. People ended up staying so long that I decided it would be a good idea to feed them dinner as well. It was about 7:30 when everyone left for the evening. I was exhausted, but couldn't stop smiling. What a joy it is for a house to be used as a place to gather and enjoy friends. Especially since I'm not working, I'm way not used to being "on" all day long, talking, standing, interacting. It took a lot out of me, but it's exactly how I wish every Sunday would be. Like a dream!

I got a jobbbbb!

I got a job offer today! Yay! I'm so so so excited.

HR Rep: We'd like to extend you an offer to join our team.
Me: Reeeeally?!!
HR Rep: Yeah! You won!!
Me: Yay! I'm sooooo excited!!

haha :) I'm super super excited. This was a tough interview process, and definitely not the easiest job (for me) to land. Blessings run amuck!

Random story: I am losing my mind. I recently had to buy ground coriander after tearing the pantry up looking for it. Where did it go?! I KNOW I have it and there's no way I ran out without realizing it. Welp, just found it. In the door of the fridge. I'm awesome.

Baked Salmon with Tomatoes, Spinach and Mushrooms
2 salmon fillets
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2-3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup kraft roasted red pepper italian dressing
crumbled goat cheese

Another kraft.com inspired recipe, this website is the best. The recipe online called for shallots, but I'm using onions and garlic, because it's what I've got. If I didn't already have to go to the store to get the tomatoes, I probably would have just left out the mushrooms. It wouldn't have been worth a trip to the store for them, but I'm glad I got them. I love that you can just grab 3 or 4 from the bulk bin and it barely costs anything. I still have some fresh baby spinach leaves left over from recipes earlier in the week which is part of the reason I am using this recipe. I am adding the goat cheese, because I have some of that left over from earlier in the week as well, and it sounds like the perfect addition to this fish. Also, the original recipe called for sun-dried tomato dressing, but I used what I had (surprise).

Heat oven to 375. Place fish in a baking dish skin side down. Season with salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and spoon over fish. Bake 20-25 minutes. This was a fabulous salmon recipe. So excited about it!

We had this with our new favorite find from Trader Joes, Harvest Grains, which has orzo, couscous, quinoa, etc, all mixed together.

February 19, 2010

Vegas wins :)

I think we have decided on Vegas!! We're hoping to go around mid-April for 3 nights. I'm so excited to pick a hotel, think about the different shows we might want to see, read reviews for restaurants. Eeeee! I would love everyone's opinion about must-see or a must-do things. Hopefully we'll pull the trigger and book our flights this weekend.

Slow-cooker Honey Lemon Chicken and Potatoes
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
salt and pepper
drizzle of olive oil

6 small russets or medium red or white skin potatoes (peel the russets)
half a large onion, diced
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1 lemon, sliced thin
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chicken broth

Rachael Ray made this on her show yesterday, except I think she topped it with parsley, pine nuts, and a balsamic glaze. Not necessary unless you really want to. Pine nuts are a little pricey for my taste. They're definitely good though.

I used russets so I peeled them. I used just enough to cover the bottom of my slow cooker. If you've got big ones, just cut them in half so they fit better. Top with the diced onion, garlic, lemon slices (so pretty) and thyme. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and heat a skillet to medium high. Add a drizzle of olive oil and brown the thighs for 3-4 minutes on each side. Add the thighs to the slow cooker, drizzle the honey, and pour the chicken broth over top. Cover and cook, undisturbed, for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

We served this with steam-in-a-bag green beans.

February 18, 2010

A Mini-Makeover

I was searching through old pictures of myself and started getting jealous of the bangs I had in 2006. I've had bangs several times since, and once since I've known Matt, and it just has not gone well. In fact, the last time a hair dresser gave me bangs, my reaction caused her to swear to me that she would not ever be the one to give me bangs again. But they were so great once. Before I got in the shower this morning I grabbed the scissors from the junk drawer and stared in the mirror. I sectioned off the area of hair I would want to cut, and before I could change my mind I cut them right at my lip-line, longer than I knew I would ultimately want them, but enough of a cut that I couldn't go back. I cut them shorter and shorter and shorter. They are still long, swoopy bangs... nothing short and dramatic, but I'm so happy with them, yay!

Shrimp and Spinach Tortellini
2 cups frozen tortellini
drizzle of olive oil
sliver of butter
16 medium shrimp
salt and pepper
lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 kraft roasted red pepper dressing (italian dressing is fine)
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
3 loosely packed heaping cups of baby spinach
grated parm

Another fabulous recipe inspired by kraft. I added the lemon and butter and didn't bother adding basil at the end. We really enjoyed it.

Add torts to boiling water for no more than 2 minutes, drain and set aside. Heat skillet to medium high. Season shrimp with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Add oil and butter to the pan. Add shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until almost cooked through. The high heat should brown them pretty nicely. Turn heat to medium, add garlic, and cook for 30 seconds stirring constantly. You really don't want this to burn! Add the dressing and tomatoes. Once this heats through and begins to simmer, add the spinach. Stir until the spinach is wilted and mixed in. Stir in tortellini and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes so the sauce can reduce/thicken just a little. Plate it up and top it with grated parm.

February 16, 2010

Orlando or Vegas?!

Can I just say that the highlight of my day was watching Dr Oz and Richard Simmons "sweatin" to Hit the Road Jack? Don't judge me.

I had my follow up dr appt today. Just some blood work to check my hormone levels. Everything is looking good, now we're just waiting for the green light to start trying again :) Realistically, that will probably be May. In the meantime, we're throwing around the idea of taking a mini vaca around March or April... I'm pulling for Disney/Orlando, Matt is pulling for Vegas. I'll let you know who wins this one.

I didn't get a chance to blog about this over the weekend, because we were crazy busy with lovely company, but I wanted to document the amazing fact that 50 states had snow at the same time. Not necessarily snow that had fallen that day, but still, snow. And then, at the same time, the winter olympics just kicked off in Vancouver and they've had to bring in snow, because the city hasn't gotten any in a few days. Just bizarre. My poor friends in Maryland are sitting on 3 feet of snow with more on the way. It's cold here, but there's no snow (in Durham at least) and the sun in shining brightly. Winter is much more tolerable when it's not dark and dreary... feeling thankful for the sun.

Beef Stir Fry with Baby Bok Choy and Red Peppers
3 tsp grated fresh gingerroot (peel the rest and keep it in the freezer)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lbs flank steak cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 cup kraft asian toasted sesame dressing
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp hot pepper paste
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flake
1 tsp canola oil
1 red pepper sliced thin
3 baby bok choys, halved or quartered, depending on size
1/4 cup beef broth

This is a kraft.com recipe that I've altered by adding some heat to it. This is a great website for inspiration. Marinate the beef in 2 tsp ginger, 1 clove of garlic, toasted sesame dressing, soy sauce, pepper paste, and pepper flakes. Heat a skillet over medium high. Add 1 tsp canola oil, 1 tsp ginger, 1 clove of garlic, peppers, and bok choy. Stir fry for 1 minutes. Stir in the broth, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 3-5 minutes, until veggies are crisp tender. Transfer veggies to a plate and cover to keep warm. Bring heat back up to med-high. Add beef to the pan and stir fry for 3-4 minutes or until meat is done. Remove from burner. Serve with white rice. As you know, my rice is doing its thing in a rice cooker out of my way. Thank you, Denise!

February 15, 2010

Our First Married Valentine's

I definitely don't put too much weight on Valentine's Day, but it turned out to be a lovely excuse for us to celebrate our relationship. Friday night we went out to dinner by ourselves at a Japanese steak house and had a really great time. There was a long wait and we talked like we were on a first date, just "chatty" with each other. It was so sweet. Saturday night we got Italian at a beautiful restaurant in downtown Durham, my parents' treat! We ended dinner wtih amazing gelato. I got pistachio, Matt got banana, mama got coconut, and daddy got strawberry. Heaven! Sunday we found time to play video games together which is probably one of Matt's favorite things to do with me. We also swung by Victoria's Secret and each got a little $10 stocking-stuffer-size perfume bottle. A new sexy fragrance for each of us to enjoy. Sunday night my grandparents took us out for seafood. All of that eating out made us feel like we were out of town for the weekend. It was a treat, because we certainly can't do that all the time.

Today I planned out 8 meals and headed to Kroger. I'm happy to be back in the kitchen.

Tacos with corn, spinach, and goat cheese
1 lbs ground beef
1 tsp chili powder
1 cup corn, thawed (if frozen) drained
3 loosely packed cups baby spinach
salt and pepper
flour tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup salsa

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat. Add the ground beef, 1 tsp chili powder. Cook until all of the red is gone and then drain. Reduce heat to medium, stir in another 1/2 tsp chili powder and add the corn. Cook, tossing, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper and toss until wilted. Fill the tortillas with the mixture, goat cheese, and salsa.

Spanish Rice
1 cup white rice
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cups salsa

I tried this in the rice cooker tonight and it didn't work very well! I'll probably do it again, but it kind of burnt on the bottom and was much dryer than when it's done on the stovetop. It was definitely not good enough for me to recommend it but if you would like to try at your own risk, feel free. Otherwise, simmer, covered, for 20 minutes on the stovetop.

February 11, 2010

Missing My Job

I worked in property management for Equity Residential for almost 5 years when I was laid off on December 1st. Equity sold the property to a new company that brought in their own team. As a leasing consultant I set my sights on this particular property and knew I wanted to be the assistant manager there. I eventually got my chance for that and only left Lenox to be promoted to property manager at a smaller property. I eventually worked my way back to Lenox where I was the property manager for a little over a year. I really loved my co-workers and I really loved my residents. I had was right where I wanted to be, the property manager at the property I had my eye on 5 years prior as a leasing consultant. As it was, I was sad to go, I was sad to hand it all over to people that might not care as much as we did.

Since we left 2 months ago, there have been 7 negative comments left on apartmentratings.com, bringing the "recommended by" percentage from 73 to 46 in just 60 days. It makes me so sad to think that my residents are stuck in leases where they no longer enjoy living. Every now and then I get to run into one of them at Kroger and it's a happy moment for all parties involved. Who doesn't love to make a scene in the grocery aisle?

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia

2 tbsp canola oil
1 lbs tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
1 egg beaten with a splash of milk or water
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup pecans, finely chopped (food processor is probably your best bet)
1/4 tsp nutmeg

We fixed this with orzo and steam-in-a-bag green beans.

Heat the oil in a skillet just past medium heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place flour in one dish, egg mixture in a second, and in the third combine bread crumbs, pecans and nutmeg. Coat fish in flour, then egg, then bread crumb mixture. Cook about 4 minutes on each side and drain on paper towels.

February 10, 2010

Eatin Good in the Neighborhood

Matt and I met in January of 2008 and in March of that year we went on a group ski trip together. It was our first "weekend away" together and such a fun time in our relationship. At first I didn't think I would ever get off of the bunny slope, but I finally got comfortable on the intermediate slopes once it was time to go home. Matt didn't even bother trying to work on his skills, he just fell over whenever he needed to stop or go around a bend. It was so funny seeing him gain a little speed, go a few feet, then crash! Gain a little speed, go a few feet, crash! I had such a hard time getting up once I did fall down that that method would never have worked for me. At one point we took the wrong ski lift and ended up higher than we had hoped and on slopes that were much steeper than I was prepared for. Our dear friend Francis, who is amazing at skiing, led me down the whole way by skiing backwards right in front of me. I couldn't go too fast or fall forward, because he was right there. How awesome. Matt used his "special" technique to follow us down, haha. On the way home we stopped at Applebees and had their pepper jack mac and cheese. Hello, this was amazing! I've been thinking about it for two years and have decided it's time to make it myself.

Pepper-Jack Mac with Chicken and Broccoli
2 cups penne
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded pepper jack cheese (I grated a whole chunk instead of buying it pre-shredded in the baggies because I think the flavor is better for this particular cheese)
2 cups broccoli (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp canola oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper

Cook pasta 4 minutes less than the box directions. Drain and set aside. Melt the butter in a sauce pot over medium heat. Wisk in the flour until the mixture is smooth. Add milk a tiny bit at a time. If possible, warm the milk first, but this isn't necessary, just make sure you add it little by little and let the butter/flour mixture dissolve well each time. Once you've got a cup of milk added you can start adding the rest quicker. Let this simmer for a few minutes (stirring frequently) then add in the cheese, one cup at a time. Simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in pasta noodles and broccoli. Heat a small skillet over med-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Once the skillet is hot, add the oil and the chicken. Stir frequently for 4 minutes. This should brown it up a little, but does not need to cook it all the way through. Add the chicken to the cheese mixture. Pour the whole thing into a 2 quart baking dish (these are usually square or round), and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. This was SO good.

February 9, 2010

Rainy Day Dinner

It's 40 degrees and rainy out, so I decided to make dinner with what I can scrounge up from the fridge and pantry, fun! I wanted to make a chicken pot pie, but I didn't have half-and-half or cream of potato soup, or pie crust. I do have cream of celery soup, skim milk, and chicken broth however, so we'll make it work. I almost always have random veggies that will go bad if I don't use them, or partial bags of frozen veggies in the fridge. It's all perfect for this; also perfect for fried rice, lo mein, and sheppard's pie. So here's what I put together (I encourage you to use what you've got, not everyone has broccoli stalks in their freezer...)

Chicken and Biscuits

1 medium russet potatoes (did I mention I got a 10lbs bag for $1.50? potatoes go in everything I make right now)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 broccoli stalk, chopped (I save these in the freezer to maybe make broccoli soup one day)
1/4 cup mushrooms (would not normally have used these, but they need to be tossed if I don't use them today, so why not!)
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 tsp emeril's essence (salt and pepper is fine)
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp dried bay leaves (or one whole bay leaf)
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 can cream of celery soup
1/4 cup milk (skim is what we had in the house)
1 tbsp sour cream (you could use an oz of cream cream cheese here)
1 tsp pepper
1 can of biscuits

Wrap the potatoes in a paper towel and nuke them for 5 minutes. Peel and cube them. It's okay if they're a little under done. Place in a square pyrex dish along with the corn, broccoli, and mushrooms.

Bring a small skillet to med-high. Season the cubed chicken with 1 tsp of emeril's essence (salt and pepper is fine if that's what you've got). Once hot, add a little canola oil and then the chicken. Stir frequently for 4 minutes then add to the pyrex dish. Turn the heat down to med-low, add a touch more oil and then the onions and carrots. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the dried bay and parsley and cook for 1 more minute. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth, cover and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Stir in 1 can of cream of celery soup, 1/4 cup milk, 1 tbsp sour cream, and 1 tsp pepper. Mix the liquid into the soup completely. When I was done I felt like it needed one more splash of chicken broth because it was just a little thick for my liking - be willing to tweak things as you go along. Add this to the pyrex and mix it all together very well.

Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350. Raise temperature to 450. Once the oven beeps, uncover, add the biscuits and bake for 8-10 minutes more.

I'm kind of amazed, but it really was good!

February 8, 2010

29 Years In The Making

I actually had a very nice birthday. My mommy had sent me a box with instructions that it was not to be opened until February 3rd. I opened it in the morning while on the phone with her. Inside there was a tag that said, "The First Ever Port-O-Party." Inside were four Little Debbie square cakes, four candles, a box of matches, and two noise makers - a blue one for Matt, and a pink of for me... although Lola-cat was pretty sure the pink one was for her.

My brother called to wish me happy birthday on my "real 29th birthday." I wasn't sure what he meant until he explained, "next year and any number of subsequent years you will be celebrating your 29th birthday again, right?" Haha, I thought that was pretty cute.

I got dinner with a few ladies, and even had a margarita. It was my birthday, after all :) On Saturday Matt took me shopping for a new watch. I knew I wanted a watch with a white leather band and a white face. We ended up finding one at Fossil that was perfect. It's got a square face and a few rhinestones. Matt was pleased to buy me a little bling.

Can I do this?

So, I haven't written much lately, which is a shame, because I have about 20 quick, easy, yummy recipes I've made lately that I would love to share. I keep this thing pretty light-hearted, but I think I'm going to open myself up more, starting today. In regards to past hard-times I often look back and wish I had an account of the "thing" when it happened. There is something comforting about re-reading ones own words later on when you can calmly remember a past sorrow.

The reason I haven't written much lately is because Matt and I found out on Christmas morning that we were pregnant. How can I possibly talk about anything other than this? But at the same time, we knew we were not going to advertise the news until later. Well, we went to the doctor last Monday (one week ago) for our 9/10 week appointment and discovered that the baby was no longer developing. It was not a viable pregnancy. The doctor was great to assure us that nothing we did caused this. She said not even if I had had a glass of wine, or skipped my pre-natal vitamins, or if got in a fight with a friend. None of those were the casey anyway, but her point was well taken.

It was a pretty rough week, especially since Wednesday was my birthday, but Matt and I are really okay. We are not discouraged, we have no reason to believe that we will not have a large family one day, and we ARE encouraged that we at least know that we can get pregnant, even if this was not the time for us to begin our family. We spent 48 hours sad and grieving, which I believe is so necessary, but we really feel like we're ready to move on from it. We trust God with our whole lives and have no reason to believe he's not in control, even in the middle of this. We know that this is just going to be part of our story one day.

I am writing this, partly because I think that women should talk about it more often. Yes, it's private, but it's painful, and when you're in the middle of it you feel like you're the only one that's ever had to go through it. It feels like the biggest tragedy. People don't speak about it until you're in the middle of it, and even then, I think people are hesitant to say, "oh, this happened to me, too." A. because they don't want to put the attention on themselves, and B. because they don't want to downplay what you're going through. But what I was going through was so sad in my mind, and the unknown was so scary, that I needed it to be downplayed. I needed to hear the stories of people who were years past it with perfectly lovely families to boast about.

It has been nothing less than our faith in God that has enabled us to move past this with a good perspective. We have felt the prayers of our friends and the presence of our loving savior. We know that we're in good hands no matter what sadness we face in this world. The lyrics of two praise songs have been stuck in my head and have encouraged me this past week:

Blessed be Your Name

Every blessing you pour out, I'll turn back to praise. And when the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your glorious name." You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, "Lord, blessed be your name."

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting

Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art. I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart. Thou hast bid me gaze upon thee, and thy beauty fills my soul, for by thy transforming power thou hast made me whole.

Simply trusting thee Lord Jesus, I behold thee as thou art, and thy love, so pure, so changeless, satisfies my heart. Satisfies my deepest longings; meets, supplies my every need. Compasseth me round with blessings; thine is love indeed.

Jesus, I am resting, resting in the joy of what thou art. I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.

I'm hoping to find time this week to flood the blog with recipes (and maybe a few stories) from the last month that I've been wanting to get on here. We'll see. If it's too much work to go backwards, then hopefully I can at least keep up moving forward.

Super Bowl Sunday should be an official holiday

I love football. The biggest reason (for me) to celebrate the super bowl is that it's my last chance to indulge in the sport until September. It's nice to go out with a bang. The food's not bad either. We went to two parties this year, both with amazing food! People showed up with wings, cream cheese stuffed bacon wrapped jalapenos, an amazing cheese ball with pineapple and pecans, chili, and even brunswick stew made from quail! Matt and I brought potato skins and they were a hit. They are definitely one of my favorite things to make for football parties. The first party we were at was predominantly Colt's fans and when we left at half time the score was 6 to 10, Colts. We drove 30 minutes to our second destination and when we walked in the score was 13 to 10, Saints, and this was definitely a house of Saints fans. How fun! It's easy to love Peyton Manning, but I was definitely pulling for the Saints to win, which they did, by 14 points, yay!

Potato Skins

8 medium russet (or baking) potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar
10-12 slices of bacon
pepper (no salt, the bacon takes care of that)

sour cream and chives for topping

These are SO fun to make. I use baking potatoes and usually end up getting 4 skins per potato. This time, however, I was able to find 16 palm sized russets and so I got 32 miniature skins and they were SO cute. I'm so mad I forgot to take a picture of them :) This is an easy recipe, but it's time consuming. Wash the spuds, stab them with a knife a few times all the way around (I do 3 small quick stabs on all four "sides." Wrap them in paper towels and nuke them. Nuke time is going to depend on how many potatoes you put in the microwave at a time and on how big they are. Usually between 6 and 8 minutes works. Flip them half way through. Give them a little squeeze to see if they are starting to feel soft. Add 2 minutes as needed. Be careful, they are very very hot. Meanwhile cook 10-12 strips of bacon crispy, but not burnt. Drain and blot the bacon really well and break it into bits. Cut them in half lengthwise and scoop the stuffing out into a bowl. It works best to score it with a knife then scoop it with a spoon. Be careful to leave some potato, about a 1/4 inch throughout. If your potatoes are big, you can opt to cut them in half one more time (making quarters of them) or you can just leave them as really long boats. Up to you!

Reserve 3/4 of your potato filling for mashed potatoes later in the week. With the 1/4 of the filling that's left, add 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the bacon. Mix it up. The potato should just act as a "glue." Eyeball it and add another spoonful or so if you need it. Spoon the filling back into the potatoes so that it's just level with the top of the skin, do not pack it. We stored them on a baking sheet, covered them with saran wrap, and took them with us to the party. Once we were there we heated them through at 350 for 20 minutes or so (you'll be able to tell when they're ready). Spread a little sour cream on top and you've got a great football party food.