Thursday, April 2, 2015

Luscious Spaghetti Carbonara


Let me be quick and to the point.

I love this pasta!!! 

It's insanely good, and it's a Tyler Florence recipe which is always the ultimate kind.  He can rock some recipes!

If you've never had it before, Spaghetti Carbonara is a simple and a relatively inexpensive meal.  His recipe calls for bacon although I think pancetta is the original way to make it.  It's rich and very decadent which is probably why I haven't made it at home yet, because I usually save those meals for the special dinner out.  My kids ravaged their plates and asked for more, so needless to say it was a major hit at our house!


If I have any Italian comfort food fans out there, here is your go-to dinner for a fancy pants meal without all the fuss.  Perfect for birthdays, dinner parties, or a Friday night- classic movie night at home!


Spaghetti Carbonara

Kosher Salt (I used sea salt.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I omitted this since my bacon was fatty enough, but I'm sure it's good.)
8 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1 onion, chopped
4 large eggs
6 Tbsp. heavy cream (I used half n half.)
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 lb. spaghetti
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (I used fresh basil.)

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti.

Heat a three count of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and onion and cook for 7-8 minutes, until onion is caramelized and the bacon is crisp.  While that is going, crack the eggs into a large serving bowl.  Scrape the bacon and onion into the bowl along with the cooking fat. (I drained the fat here instead....sorry Tyler but a girl has to think of her arteries from time to time.)

By now your pasta water has come to a boil. Throw in the spaghetti and give it a stir to separate the strands; cook for the time allotted on the box for al dente pasta. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and add that to the bowl while whisking the bacon and eggs the entire time.  (You want to be careful not to curdle the eggs here.)  Then drain the pasta and add it to the bowl.  Give everything a toss.  Invert a plate on top of the bowl top hold in the heat and let the pasta set for 5 minutes.  Remove the plate and toss in some salt and lots of cracked black pepper (YUM!) and the parsley, and you will have a beautiful, comforting Italian dinner!


**Tyler Florence is the BOSS of cooking, so I recommend doing it his way first. :)


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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Delicious Sweet & Sour Green Beans


Today I'm sharing with you one of my all-time favorite green bean recipes, and that's saying something!  

I'm a big fan of green bean and think they're especially good fresh from the farmer's market or better yet, garden.  I have a history of loving me some classic green bean casserole at the holidays, delicious green bean bundles, and sophisticated haricot vert with butter and almonds.  I grew up on fresh cooked down green beans with ham hock or bacon, but this is a newer favorite and equally satisfying favorite.  Sweet, savory, salty and satisfying is this dish!  

I've used this particular recipe from Southern Plate before-- I love her recipes-- although the first time I had green beans cooked like this was in high school (Thanks Mrs. Ward!) before I knew anything much about food or cooking, but I will never forget this signature sweet and sour flavor!  When I came across this recipe, I was excited to make it for myself!  

Back to the recipe... Since I tweak everything a little, I usually I like to add diced red bell pepper for extra color and natural sweetness.  Also, I use brown sugar instead of white because in my opinion it's always better.  This recipe is tangy from the sugar and vinegar combination, and that is what makes it stand out!  Of course the bacon elevates it all and adds a crazy good depth of flavor...

Because anything that starts out calling for bacon and onions is amazing, amiright?!! 

I really do hope you can try out these decadent green beans for a special meal.  Easter would be a wonderful time to make some green beans with a delicious baked ham!  Let me know what you think.



Sweet & Sour Green Beans
Original recipe at Southern Plate

•1 lb. Green beans
•1/4 lb. or about 3 slices bacon, chopped
(Kitchen scissors are great for when cutting thinly sliced bacon.)
•1/2 small onion, chopped
•1/2 red bell, chopped
•2 Tbsp. Cider vinegar
•2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
•Salt & Fresh ground black pepper
 
*Sometimes I add a splash of water or chicken broth. 
*Last night I didn't have any red bell pepper, so they aren't in the photo here.

 
In a pot of boiling water, cook green beans to soften for about 5 minutes.  (If you decide to use the thinner French green beans or even canned ones, skip this step.) Drain beans and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet on medium heat, sauté bacon, onion, and red bell til bacon is crispy.  Add the green beans, sugar, vinegar, salt and plenty of pepper.  This is where I usually splash in water or broth. Toss to coat and continue cooking the green beans until desired tenderness.  Probably another 15 minutes or so, but I like mine tender.  If they look too sticky add more liquid but they are not to be "boiling" but more of a sauté.  Taste as you go and add more vinegar or sugar to your own preference.  Serve hot and delicious!
Serves 3-4  This recipe easily doubles!

Have a very happy Easter, and remember He Is Risen!!!

 
 
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Sunday, March 29, 2015

March Madness In More Ways Than One!

The month of March has been... incredibly busy but mostly, EXCITING!!!!


As you can tell we are all so happy!
 
  
These pictures were taken last night at our favorite local pizza place, Impellizaris as we celebrated! (No, not for March madness although, GO CATS.)
 
It happened.... 

We bought a our new house back in my hometown!!!!!
 
THE HOUSE I've dreamt of for years. 
 
The one at the end of the LOTR style 7 year journey of medical school and residency.  The period of time where we've really grown up, because we had to.  The journey that included years of infertility, pregnancy then heartbreak, moving to the city, living on a windy prairie, then back to the city again, 3 big moves, 3 rental homes, buying our first home, Heath gone many nights while diligently learning and working with on the job training day in and out, 3 different places of work for me then my "retiring" to be a homemaker, an adoption seed planted in my heart then seeing the fruit by bringing home 2 beautiful toddlers, and finally learning the ropes of parenting and becoming knit as family of four! *Exhale
 
That Journey. 
 
This house is the house we will move into as a FAMILY.
 
The house God has laid on our hearts that we kept coming back to when scouring real estate.
 
The house with the big yard, mature trees, and a perfectly long driveway for the kids to ride their bikes.
 
The house with the kitchen plentiful of cabinets and sunshine to stream in while I pour our first cup of coffee and prepare birthday cakes and Christmas cookies for years to come.
 
The house with the comfortable staircase I always imagined our kids trouncing down each morning that will be adorned with swags of garland at Christmas.
 
The house with the fireplace that will warm our bodies and souls after coming in from long days of play or, school, or work.
 
The house Heath and I will grow to know Christ on a deeper level as Father--Daddy-- so we can lovingly train our own kids He has given us with wisdom, strength, and integrity.
 
The house with beautiful bones that together we'll change to really make our own with touching family photography, farmhouse touches, kid's art, cozy lighting, and relaxing nooks to read and be inspired.
 
The house with the rooms we'll fill with new memories as we start the next chapter of our lives as Heath grows into the role of doctor he is preparing for and our oldest starts kindergarten at the school we are graduates of.
 
We're landing back in the place God called us from, but life will be different than it was when we left.  We were simply husband and wife with an easy job and low stress school, living in a cute one bedroom apartment with not much to our name but love and excitement for the future.  Somehow the future seems to just happen!  In this case, we are coming back full circle with the family we had prayed for from the beginning and the job Heath kept in his tunnel vision through years of school as he sacrificed much of his 20's for the call God placed on His life.  This is a house I would've only dreamed of living in, but I have loved every little place we've lived.  It's us that make it a home, not stuff.

Our current house--my first cottage-- is under contract (sold!) the very first day we put it on the market!!  God is in this, y'all!!! He has shown us favor and directed our steps even when it seemed we were being lead through the fog at times.  All the hard months work on our home paid clearly off when we had 6 showings and two awesome offers the first day.  You can't make this stuff up!  God has good things in store when we pray and trust Him!
 
But as it is written,
 'What no eye has seen, nor ear has heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him.'
1 Corinthians 2:9
 
I can boast in the Lord and brag on my husband, but I'm saying all of this from a honest and humble place.  

My family...we aren't perfect.  Our life is far from it, but it's a good one!  I have so much to learn and I fail constantly at my roles in life.  I'm a work in progress, if I've ever seen one and I'm crazy thankful for the grace of God!  Despite imperfection and at times a (very) messy life, I am His child!  I have His favor on my life and guidance in everything because I am His daughter.  I know that this journey in the perspective of our life is just a snapshot, but it has come with so much sacrifice and tears. My life is messy because I live on earth and I'm human, but the good news is I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!!!  
 
My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is make perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12:9
 
How does one wake up in the morning and not lose her mind after trying for a baby for tens of thousands of days?  God's strength. 
 
The very same power that has lifted my husband's feet to carry on into the gruel of med school and caring for others, after watching me deliver our dead daughter just days before. 
 
It's the strength I prayed for our little ones for nights on end after they had to say goodbye to the only family they knew to come into our forever (safe and secure) home with us being only strangers to them.  He makes us brave.
 
It's God's strength and power that lives in me to help me use my voice in words and not song on two different occasions now to speak publicly on what God has done in my life. 

It was God's strength for this country mouse to move from her whole world to a city knowing nobody but her husband, and learn to thrive there!
 
I began this blog post to just share the great news about our move, but I found time today to tell you more because there is so much behind a happy picture.  The excitement to move back home is more than just buying a new house and living closer to dear family and friends....  it's the monumental task that was at hand and places we've been in and out of emotionally, physically and spiritually in this 7 year journey as husband and wife with God. 
 
Though one can be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A three cord stand is not quickly broken
Ecc. 4:12
 Life will continue being pretty busy in the meantime, very exciting as a whole, and fairly mundane in the hour as this month comes to a close.  I may not have much time to blog, but we do have a new computer that makes it easier for me to write when I find the time!
 
May whatever awesome, amazing, difficult, or exciting day you are having know that it's a season of life, and I'm here to rejoice with you or to cry along side if you just need a shoulder; but God is who will never leave nor forsake you.  He's the best!!!
 
See you again soon I hope.  Happy Spring! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Worn, The Beautiful

Lately I've had a lot of things going through my mind as I scramble to finish the last few projects and deep clean before listing our house in the next week and a half or so.  

As you can imagine, as I have been on my hands and knees scrubbing bathroom grout, inside cabinets, window panes and baseboards, and I can feel the soreness in my back.  As we lift boxes and clothes from the basement to the van and then to the storage unit, again my back is sore and arms are, too.  My hands get dry from washing them so much after cleaning and my feet have stepped on everything from a lovely nail when our old carpet was being ripped out to gunky paint that dropped off our paint brushes.  We've washed and pulled and scrubbed our hair free of paint and have just collapsed many nights after tucking in the kids from shear exhaustion of it all! Because, after all, this stuff isn't our real job.  Heath is working days and nights as a resident and I'm a stay at home mom who never stops tending to the kids and house. After a couple months of working extra hard around the clock I've developed a very aching, sore body!  Right now I can feel every muscle because they are so tender.  Of course lifting little ones, taking hot cast iron skillets out of the oven, and laundry baskets up a flight of stairs will do that to you over time anyways...

Where am I going with all this complaining--err--explaining?  

Today it occurred to me.  God gave me a very healthy body. (Praise Him!)  He made me in His image.  I have working arms, legs, spine and heart so I can not only move but truly live!  My body was created to work in this way.

Across borders and seas there are moms who carry children for miles just to get clean water.  

I think I can manage a flight of steps.

There are people who don't have a very healthy heart or lungs to work for them properly.

I think I can get mine racing real good every day to become "Mommy Robot" while playing chase with the kids.

There are families around the world who only have rice mush to eat day in and day out.  Every.  Day. And they are thankful for it.

I think I can handle cooking 3 meals a day without complaining or eat leftover chili for the 3rd day in a row.

There are homes made with dung.  Actual poop from animals, and the families are just proud to have shelter.  

I think I can wipe down some greasy baseboards and learn to live with wet floors from all the snow and rain.

What am I really saying here?  

I want my mindset to change on my body and home.  While I like working for my body by exercising and eating healthy, I can't help but feel God made our bodies to work for us!  I can live with pain for all the gain that comes with it in the end!

With my very own ability, I'm able to clean and cook, rock my daughter every night, crawl around the floor to find Legos buried under furniture, bathe fidgety-widgety toes, and even paint entire rooms and pack lots of boxes.  

Yes, these things can take a toll, but instead of me just feeling the aches, I've decided to be thankful.

My body is a gift I can't take for granted. 

My home is a gift I can't take for granted.

I was thinking. Again.  Some of the most used rooms in my house--the rooms that I'm in the most and that stay the messiest-- those are some of the most loved places to be!!  

Here are some untouched places at this very moment in my busiest and best working room... The kitchen. (Don't worry Molly, the mess will be gone when you list the house!)  It doesn't always look so strewn, but if it does, instead of getting frusterated I want to see life!


Because this is where life happens.  Home is where life happens.  Water glasses always sitting out means that I have good things to drink and loved one to serve with a body healthy enough to do so!

 
All the crumbs mean I have plenty of food to eat.  Every day.  I've never once in life ran out of food without means to buy more.

My messiest room, the kitchen, is also best loved!  It's where I cook for my family, and you know how I love to do that!

It's where I teach my daughter the art of seasoning a homemade pizza well.  And enjoying it.  (Even when a bag of trash waiting to be carried out in the corner... Eek)


It's where in the midst of painting a room we make quick PB & Js to enjoy with the kids, and where my children just love holding onto my legs while I'm cooking.  It's where my son peeks around the corner, knowing to stay clear of the stove, but wanting to watch his mommy.


This room is always alive!  It bears the marks of working for me with almost constantly a crumby floor and clean dishes to unload, with grease splatters and dirty aprons hung.  But I live in the kitchen and it works for me, like my body works for me.  I love them for it, too! 

Sometimes the mess and the aches in life indicate--instead of something being wrong-- that something is incredibly... right. used. Loved!

God gives us strength to do the hard things in life.  The hard things that turn out to be some of the best things, if you just stick with it!

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 1 Timothy 4:7

Parenting is physically and emotionally the hardest task I've ever had.  It's also crazy rewarding and fulfilling to pour into your children!

Upon keeping a home everyday, getting our house ready to sell has taken so much out of me since the start of the year, but we're at a point that I can see all the rewards!



Painting, purging, deep cleaning, reorganizing, and color coding my closet was time consuming, but the result is beautiful!


Our closet was once a huge mess, but now it's more like a dressing room I enjoy changing in!


For two weeks our entire bedroom was moved out as we slept in the dining room.  This picture was actually after our walls were fixed from the hundreds of cracks that this old cape cod had developed in the charming wall boards over the years.  This pic was just after sanding, priming, and painting, but before the new carpet.  May I just say this picture is already light years from what this room looked like when we bought the house?  I love progress.


Our tranquil bedroom retreat after!  


This picture isn't at all staged since I snapped it after my morning coffee, and there are still details with bedding and decor to sort out.  But now, coming up here to our bedroom instantly calms me.  After a week of being snowed in with the sound of nail guns and a cloud of dust, tranquil is exactly what we're wanting! For weeks, the rest of the house haphazardly stored everything this room carried, but now we can see all the work and effort paid off!




In under a week's time of being back in our bedroom I've managed to spend every morning's quiet time up here with the Word and coffee and myself.  


Over the past 2 1/2 weeks of sacrifice during a winter storm and while construction was going on in our house, we managed to live in & through the chaos.  Imperfection at is best!



My friends, this room is a perfectionist's nightmare.  


But God made a way you see, and it's all over!


So here I am today back in my clean, but imperfect livingroom.  Just the way I like it now.

Where there is beauty that God made.

Life lived.

Where there is usually a coat thrown over the couch by the back door because I have a hard working husband who comes home to me!  (I can handle a few strewn coats now!)

Life lived.

And in my well-loved kitchen there are my favorite promises I've written.. Well, God has written, but are now on my heart.  I've walked by these verses for many years hoping and believing God to change many situations, and He has!!
Life lived.

I'm thankful for the things that look worn but are actually loved!  I have a life very well-lived, and this is my year to finally wholeheartedly embrace that.

~Mommy


You know.. I'm not quite finished.  

First off, normally all the different filters in my pictures would drive me nuts, but today I'm just happy to be writing!

I did want to mention that over the past couple of months, I've been inspired by a few people.  First, when I was stretched the very thinnest during this reno, mom told me that she was praying my fruit of the spirit would further mature from this.  (Honestly, that was the last thing I cared to hear at the time when I was in a fetal position with a severe headache from all the smells and sounds.  When I had to get relief on my bed that was in the middle of our dusty diningroom with the workers in the house...that was a low point). But Mom always knows just what to pray, and now in hindsight I can see fruit developing.  God is good!!!

Also a blog post from Courtney at  Women Living Well about her unique view on her "love handles", and watching the astounding movie The Good Lie that is based on a true story has changed my whole perspective on the perfection of what I eat.  You know, I could've been born in Syria or in Niger or any other struggling country with problems that would make most of mine seem embarrassing, but I was not.  I was born in a country that generally knows no need, only want.  So while I actually enjoy cooking nice homemade meals because it's my creative outlet, I don't feel guilty for making a simple tator tot casserole to feed my family of 4 .  Because even though it's not the fanciest or healthiest, it's better food than some children may eat their whole life.  

Also a terrific book on making a home and decorating that I got for Christmas called The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith, was also was great food for thought.   


She told me to embrace "life" in your home.  The wear and tear on things only show they've been loved, and after visiting an African village herself, her outlook on what home was completely changed.  Just reading of it changed mine!

God has beautifully wrecked my life over the past few years in so many ways, because I've trusted Him to do so (starting in January 2012 to be exact). I can proudly say because of my house's recent "wreck" I learned even more how beautiful things come from imperfection.  My body and house are just two of these things.

Don't be afraid to embrace the hard or resist the perfect and "beautiful".  










Sunday, February 1, 2015

Drip Beef Sandwiches with Caramelized Onions


Awwww, Drip beef sandwiches.  

This is my new favorite recipe to stash in the rotation!  I'm a huge fan of French dip sandwiches; I've had one at several different restaurants and I can tell you where some of the best ones are.  I also love a good pot roast.  This recipe is sort of the marriage of the two with a little kick!

First off, this is a Pioneer Woman recipe: I love how she thinks when it comes to food!  (And family:) I can't eat this decadent all the time, but she has amazing down-home recipes for everyday food, or sophisticated fare easy enough for me to make.  Anyway, her husband is a serious cattle rancher and they know their beef!  So I take it from her when she said this drip beef recipe is amazing!

It's slow simmered roast with Italian seasonings, spicy pepperoncinis, and rich beef broth.  Salt and lots of pepper away and it's ready to cook all day, or at least til tender and falling apart.  Shred it up and put the beef back into the savory juices to give it the "drip"!  You can certainly stop there and serve over mashed potatoes or even for a delicious tacos filling, but we made amazing drippy sandwiches!  Pile the beef high on toasted hoagie buns with caramelized onions and provolone cheese and serve with a cup of the drippings (au jus) for a meal worth a standing ovation!  

It's tasty enough for company and easy enough for casual parties.  We're watching the Super Bowl tonight as a family and will eat this with some hot wings and a veggie tray... It smells so good!  I had better get to it! :)

Drip Beef Sandwiches with Carmelized Onions
Slightly Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

• 1 3-4 lb. Roast (I chose rump roast which is leaner) trimmed of excess fat
• 1 jar whole Pepperoncinis with juice
• 1 can (about 2 cups) Beef broth or stock
• 1 c. Water
• 3 Tbsp. Dried Italian seasoning
• 1 Tbsp. Minced garlic 
• Salt & Pepper
• 2 Tbsp. Butter
• Provolone cheese (mozz or Swiss works too)
• Hoagie rolls, buttered and toasted

Season the roast with salt and pepper.  Melt butter in a cast iron skillet or other heavy pot over high heat.  Sear both sides of roast until browned, about 5 minutes total.  (It will smell divine!)

Put your roast in a crockpot set to Low.  Pour in the broth and water and add the Italian seasonings.  Pour in the pepperoncinis with all the juice and add the garlic with a but more salt and pepper.  


Put the lid on and cook for about 8 hours on low. I turned the roast over half-way through.  (If you're interested, you can cook this in a Dutch oven pot by simmering on the stove for 4-5 hours, but I recommend slow-cooking in the crock pot.)


Remove the cooked roast from pot and shred it all up with two forks.  


Then return the meat back to the cooking liquid.  Keep warm.


Meanwhile, cook your caramelized onions: 
Thinly slice and sauté a whole onion in the leftover butter in the cast iron skillet over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally and cook until onion become translucent, very tender and golden.


To assemble sandwiches, pile toasted  hoagie rolls with shredded beef and a cooked pepperoncini if you like, then a layer caramelized onions and a slice of cheese.  Serve with a small bowl of the au jus dipping sauce on the side.
Serves 6-8


Enjoy hot and delicious!









 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Winter Weeknight Taco Soup


It's been a wonderful Saturday with slightly warmer weather and just enough sun shining to refresh the soul!  We went to the movie theater to see Paddington as a family at the early bird showing, and we had a great time together.  What a cute movie!!  Nowadays I'm can be a critic when it comes to kids movies, but we thought this one was just darling!  The kids laughed through it all... We all did!  Going to the movies is a big deal we all get excited for, and I think especially on a winter day it's a great way to stay cozy and have fun being out together!

Right now it's that "crunch time" of the day as I work to get our dinner of pan seared salmon and spiced rice on the table as Mr. Cozy and our son work in the leaves and trimming bushes outside.  He wants to help his daddy anyway he can, and even at 4 years old he can be a really good little helper!  I'm so proud of them both! ( The yard work is another step closer to getting our house ready to sell!). So as I write, I'm juggling cooking, (writing this post), playing babies with my daughter in the kitchen and helping her put on dress up clothes.  (She is so stinkin cute when she pretends!)  This is the controlled chaos that lends to not being a good blogger, nonetheless I am here to share some delicious taco soup this evening. :)

You'll find this is a very easy recipe to put together and simmer away on a cold and blustery winter's day! 

(Yep, that was sing-songy.)

Taco soup is similar to a hearty Tex-Mex style chili and is amazing eaten with corn chips or cornbread.  This night I made Trader Joe's pumpkin cornbread...

So. Good. 

I hope y'all will continue to give me grace as I intermently blog in this season of life with little bitties underfoot as we're about to make a big move in a few months.  Please do your family a favor and make this easy taco soup, because I think you're going to love it!  Let me know what you think.


Taco Soup
Serves 4-6

1 lb. ground sirloin 
1 onion, diced
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 c. Water (more to thin out if needed)
1 small can diced green chilies 
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1 pkg. ranch style dressing
Salt & pepper to taste

Brown meat and onion in a skillet.  Drain off any extra grease.  Stir in beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water chili seasoning and ranch seasoning and salt and pepper.  Stir together and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer med-low heat for another 30 minutes. Taste for any additional salt or pepper before serving.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream or diced avocado and corn chips.  

This recipe would also be great cooked in a crock pot after browning the meat.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.