Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Legacy of Love!

Here I am, thoroughly enjoying a rare moment.  On this unusually cold and brisk Autumn morning, I am sitting with dark roast French press coffee at a local French cafe.  I'm alone at a table for two by the window soaking in beautiful crisp blue sky outside and the ambience of the uptempo classic French music and cozy atmosphere inside.

Sigh... I'm right at home.

My hearty breakfast just arrived and it looks "damazing", as our daughter would say!  Homemade croissant sandwich of ham, Swiss and egg large enough for  two meals.  I discovered soup could be a side at breakfast, so of course I went with that option!  I chose the potato leek, and what a good choice!  Creamy and smooth with a rich depth of flavor makes it delicious.  Next time, I may just get a large bowl for my whole meal!

While this mental image may portray my life as easy-going and glamorous, trust me it is not.  (I know that God has given me a blessed life even on the mundane or crazy busy days that usually fill my week.  Hear me, I'm not complaining!)  A morning savored at a cafe is a treasure that I enjoy from time to time in between my role as a mom and homemaker.  Roles in which I feel so honored to have!  Just two years ago I would always be alone during the day and praying for some noise of children in the house!  (To think of praying for noise...)

It's just that my introverted, introspective soul needs solice and beauty once in a while to refuel.  A good cup of coffee and a sparkling conversation with my husband is my favorite, but while he works and my littles are at preschool, this morning I've decided to make an hour to sit, relax, reflect and write.  

Last week the love of my life and I celebrated 10 years (TEN!) of marriage!  

I'm so proud to say that, especially given the times we live with pre-nups and live-ins, our marriage is becoming a rarity!   I can say that I'm still happily married after a decade, but it is not by our own strength at all.  I can only attribute our successful marriage to the first strand in our three strand cord, and His name is Jesus.

By His love and grace we have persevered in and through some of the lowest lows of our life.  As many of you know, every family is climbing mountains of different kinds behind the closed doors of our homes, but I knew the moment I committed myself to Heath at 17 years old, that we would be together for eternity!  Not every story begins like this, but we believe God placed us together from the start.  Heath knows my very ugliest behaviors and every single fault, yet he chooses me and I him.  

Choosing each other every single day.  That's one of the foundations of a lasting marriage.

The way God created marriage is amazing, because it mirrors Christ Jesus and His relationship with the (us) the church.  How beautiful of a design this is!

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself it's Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wifes should submit in everything to their husbands.  

Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he may sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy without blemish.  

In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his wife lives himself.  For no one ever hated their own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church."...
Ephesians 5:22-30

We've sort of been celebrating this anniversary for months now!  In July Heath surprised me by taking me to a jewelry store to choose a new ring for my solitare diamond.  I was stunned!  I have never been one to want or "need" a large ring.  In fact before our engagement, I remember telling him that a fruit loop would do if it meant we were married for always!  I actually meant that it, too.  (Fortunately he didn't listen!)

This is now what my ring looks like, and I am humbled and grateful to wear it.  It's very unique, and I'm excited to one day pass it down as a family heirloom.  I want our marriage and family to leave a legacy of loving Jesus and each other that will be continued for generations to come!  A legacy of love.

Trust me when I say my wedding ring represents more than just "being married".  No, after 10 years the love in our marriage has already deepened to a new level of strength and commitment. Being married forever and learning to live civilized together isn't always easy, but since I married someone I loved genuinely it's worth every effort.  

Heath is so worth it!!  

It may be cliche, but I married my best friend.  We actually enjoy being together and we still have fun!  Music has drawn us together from the beginning, so that  inspired my gift to him.   I surprised him with a trip to the music store to buy a new mahogany Taylor guitar he's wanted for a long time!  He's been a musician for most of his life but hasn't bought a new guitar since high school so this was such a fun gift to give him.  He was definitely surprised!!  He's now playing every night, and we all love singing together around this beautiful gift we all enjoy.  

We also had some alone time as mom volunteered to keep the kiddos over the weekend so we could celebrate!  (Our parents understand how making quality time for your spouse is so important.) A romantic dinner at a classy restaurant, a trip to the movies, savoring long mornings, and a fall walk we're included in our time together.  It felt almost magical!

I can't imagine sharing my whole heart and life with anyone else in the world!!!

Life is back to normal around here since Monday, and this week is busy.   I've been in over my head sorting clothes I want to sell or give, and I'm switching all our wardrobes from warm weather to cool.  This is a huge project anyways, but especially with kids!  Of course all of those things need to be laundered in addition to our everyday laundry. (Yikes!) Storage bins and clothes piles galore fill the house for days now, as the process is long!  The house is a wreck.  Folding, sorting, selling at consignment, packing up and down stairs, hanging and placing in drawers.  I know it will be worth the effort when it's all organized and I've purged the old stuff before we move next summer, so that's what's pushing me through.  It also makes me realize how much I need to do this more regularly so the unwanted clothes don't get out of hand again.  Thankful for a problem of too much clothes. 

We're preparing for a short visit "back home" over the weekend, and this will be the first visit in almost 4 months for Heath and I!  The Fourth of July was our last time to come home.  There is just something comforting about stepping into your loving parent's home for the night.  We all can't wait to see everyone again!   The 3 1/2 hour drive should be gorgeous as the trees are nearly at their peak of jeweled colors flaming with reds and oranges.  I am thankful we live in such a gorgeous state for fall weather!  

As I sit here reflecting, I'm reminded again just how special even the mundane days of life are.  For it is those days that add up to give me the anniversary of 10 years with my husband, and the home filled with bustling children I adore!  

Sometimes those days give me this...

And this!

And my hilarious wild hair of a baby girl!!!

My mug is empty and left with French press coffee oils (if you drink it you know), and so I should go.  It's been wonderful sharing with you some more, as my cup has been refilled with memories of the life I lead and a legacy in the making.  Only by His goodness and grace! 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Easy & Cheesy Salsa Verde Chicken

This may be the easiest Mexican dinner you'll ever make, or at least the best tasting easy one!

Cheesy salsa verde chicken only requires three delicious ingredients: chicken breasts, salsa verde and cheese!  (All in the name, right? :)  I also seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and cumin for extra flavor to penetrate the meat.  This cooks together in a cast iron skillet or (any other baking pan) to a zesty, cheesy chicken dish!

It tastes delicious over a bed of brown or Mexican rice.  I found this awesome organic brown rice at Trader Joes that is not only inexpensive, but only take about 12 minutes to cook verses 40 minute regular rice.  I love it!  Add more flavor to your rice by cooking it in chicken broth instead of water and adding seasoning right into the rice/liquid mixture before cooking.  No more bland rice!

I also made our favorite "Cuban style" black beans flavored with diced onion, fresh garlic, cumin and paprika.  Serve the delicious cheesy salsa verde chicken with sour cream and extra salsa if you like! Cilantro would be beautiful but we don't like the flavor. (I know, weird.) Be sure and give a squeeze of fresh lime juice over your plate before serving to add a bright flavor that balances all the spice.  

I think you're going to go back to this delicious Mexican dinner time and time again for a quick weeknight supper.  I know we will!!

Cheesy Salsa Verde Chicken
Recipe from: Posed Perfection

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2-3 Chicken Breasts, cut in half (I actually cut these length and width-wise to make cutlets.)

1 jar Salsa Verde (green tomatillo salsa)

1 c. of your favorite shredded Cheese (I freshly grated pepper jack and sharp cheddar)

Salt & pepper

Ground Cumin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Drizzle extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of a large cast iron skillet or 9x13 inch pan.  Lay out the chicken pieces evenly.  Season chicken with spices.  Pour salsa over the chicken and bake for 15-20 minutes.  

Turn the oven temperature up to 400 degrees, take the pan out, and spread the cheese evenly over the chicken.  Return to cook another 10-15 more minutes, depending on thickness of chicken. The salsa will bubble, and the cheese will get nice and gooey.  Salt a bit more just after coming out of the oven.

Serve the chicken (and extra salsa in the pan) over the rice or cut up and in tortillas as a yummy taco.  Enjoy!
Serves 3-4

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Light of the World

    Jesus says,

      "You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  

     Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  

     In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to Your Father who is in Heaven."

Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Hayride Favorite! Sweet & Salty Haystacks

Today is a chilly cloudy day!  It's so Autumn like with my windows open and a candle burning away on the mantle.  I just love this type of day!  Drinking coffee, staying in pjs (for most of the day, yes) and watching a movie with the kids amongst ironing and laundry.

Right now my first pot of chili of the season is simmering away in the Dutch oven, and it smells divine!  

We've been cutting back on excessive desserts, but this particular day seems to be asking for a cozy treat to surprise my family with!  I just remembered an old favorite that's quick to make and never fails to please.

One of my favorite fall time treats, and the only candy I make for this time of year are haystacks!!!  Aww... What a classic easy recipe with flavors of butterscotch, peanuts, and chow mein noodles that somehow evolve into a little mound of goodness!  

I'm not sure exactly why I think if them as an Autumnal goody except I think of butterscotch and caramel this time of year with their rich flavors, and I used to make big batches of haystacks every year for family hayrides. They are perfect to munch on while singing in a hay covered wagon in the country!   I just needed to bring this recipe back and introduce them to our children.

So craving these I decided to whip up a batch using what I had in the cabinets.  I don't keep chow mein noodles on hand, so I though I would dive into my favorite combination of salty and sweet instead. Thus adding buttery crushed ritz crackers and salty (goldfish) pretzels!  

Glorious sweet golden mixture is this, but I really think the salty crackers and pretzels set this apart from the original.  It's the easiest "candy" treat in the world to make, and so within 10 minutes I have a pan of haystack beauties.  Crunchy haystacks waiting to cool by the open window as the chilly air invades my cozy home.  This is truly my kind of day!  Please excuse me while I enjoy one, and you should do the same!

Sweet & Salty Haystacks

1 c. Butterscotch chips
1/2 c. Peanut butter
Melt these together in a double boiler or carefully in intervals in the microwave.
1/2 c. Peanuts
1 c. Crushed ritz crackers (1/2 a sleeve)
1 c. Pretzels (I had goldfish:)
Stir these three ingredients into the melted butterscotch and peanut butter mixture.  

Spoon out onto wax paper and allow to cool and set until firm...  Wait if you can!

Savor the moment of the perfect first bite!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Classic Autumn Apple Crumble

I'm sitting a quiet home while my family sleeps in this morning, and the peace is almost too wonderful to handle!  (I love knowing my husband and children are here.)  The window is cracked enough for the cool fall-like temperature to sweep inside our home on this early September morning.  I actually have a soft robe on over my pjs and my coffee in hand as I reflect on my life.  

Fall is near!  Autumn's warm and cozy tastes and smells and colors that wrap you like a Grandma's warm embrace is almost at our door step, and I couldn't be happier!  Yesterday was simply gorgeous!  The sky was blue and the air crisp, lacking any Southern humidity at all!  

After spending a special day with my lovely grandparents and cousins, we retreated home for naps.  Well, the rest of my crew did.  I gathered the ingredients and baked up a surprise treat of the season's first apple crumble!

Chopped apples with cinnamon topped with a buttery, brown sugary oat crunch sprinkled over the top and baked till bubbly and crisp on the edges.  I had leftover German roasted pecans from a recent baseball game we attended so I added those to take this rustic dessert to the next level!  I also tossed in some golden raisins since I had them.  

What a way to usher in the fall season but with a warm cozy apple crumble fresh from the oven.  Top it with ice cream or eat it simply with milk or a cup of coffee!  Anyway you choose with be a delicious start to this beautiful season!  

Classic Apple Crumble

4-5 medium apples (I used Granny Smith and Gala)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp. Brown sugar

1c. Oats
1c. brown sugar
1/2c. Flour
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Apple pie spice
1/2 c. Butter
Dash of salt
1/2 c. Pecans, chopped-optional

Peel and dice apples into about 1 inch pieces.  Toss with cinnamon and sugar and pour mixture into a 2 quart dish or pie plate.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, sugar, flour, and spices.  "Cut" in the butter until blended into course crumbs.  Stir in pecans.  Pour the crumble over the apples and bake at 350 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes.  Serve warm!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Easy (One Pot!) Sausage & Tomato Basil Pasta

Italian food is one of my favorite things to eat!  It's comfort food to me and my husband, but it's more of a dressier version than chicken pot pie or beef stew is.  Don't you think?!  

This recipe is the end all of easy Italian recipes.  The flavors are fresh and vibrant and it's beautiful in color!  The food feels decadent with complex flavors.  Surprisingly this Italian inspired dish is actually one of the healthiest pasta dishes I've ever eaten!  Well, partly because I chose to make it that way.  I substituted turkey sausage--which happen to love--and I used multi grain pasta.  Although I did add some mozzarella cheese to add extra creaminess, I used part skim instead of whole fat cheese.  Whole wheat or multi grain pasta, turkey smoked sausage, tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and onion, oregano, lots of black pepper, and mozzarella and parm cheese complete this wonderful meal!

The best part of all is it's a one pot dish!  It all cooks together in the same dish at the same time!!  The pasta water turns into a luscious sauce that is slightly creamy and just delicious!  

If your looking for an amazing new recipe to zest up your weekly line up that won't kill your healthy eating or take an afternoon to prepare, here is it!  Enjoy with loved ones and serve with salad or bread of choice.
One Pot Sausage & Tomato Basil Pasta
Adapted from: The Slow Roasted Italian

Olive oil
1 13 oz. pkg. Turkey smoked sausage (I use Butterball) sliced
1 lb. Dried whole wheat or multi grain spaghetti
3 c. Halved grape tomatoes
Basil leaves (about 20-30), torn
3-4 Cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1 Onion, diced
Dash of dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Black pepper
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated 
1 c. Mozzarella cheese, diced
4 1/2 c. Water

In a large pot over medium heat, add a dash of olive oil and sauté onion and sausage till the sausage is browned.  Drain extra grease; there won't be much.  

In the same pot, add everything else to the sausage and onions while reserving about 10 basil leaves, 1 cup of the tomatoes, and all the cheese.  Add the water to the pot.

Bring to a boil with the lid on.  Once boiling remove lid and keep boiling for about 7-9 minutes or till pasta is just cooked. You may have to stir a couple of times.  Most of the liquid will absorb but if you're left with way too much, using a ladle remove a little of it.  You do want to leave some in there... It's the yummy sauce!

Add the parm and stir it around until mixed in.

Next add remaining tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese.

Stir it until it's well incorporated and immediately serve.  Add a little extra black pepper on top.

I accidentally kept my stove burner on low while putting in the last ingredients so all the mozz melted completely, but whether melted or chunky, it's tastes absolutely amazing!  This is one of the best pasta dishes!