in my kitchen.

when I decided to join the challenge, I didn’t think about October being one of the busiest months in our life lately. packing, working and having a life are exhausting things when all combined! Brent has been the victim of many crockpot meals and egg dishes lately… but one thing I am so looking forward to in my new home is cooking again! 

I have always enjoyed food, and growing up family dinners were a huge part of our life. My mom home-made just about everything, and her granola and applesauce and savory suppers totally spoiled me. Creativity in the kitchen is just another aspect I discovered that I loved as Brent and I got married. I have found that one of my favorite things about my husband is that he shares this love of food. He grew up watching the Food Network and sitting on the counter, watching as his mom cooked. He is probably more well versed in “cooking lingo” than me, and definitely better with meat. Together, we make a good pair. 🙂

When people ask me what I like to cook, I never really know what to say, and usually just say “idk, everything?,” but lately I have been realizing that I do have favorites. I love quiches, and soups, and homemade pizzas-because I get to create, come up with new flavor combinations, decide what colors look good together (I do think of this when it comes to my food) and I don’t have to be constrained by a recipe. I also love to bake, specifically breads. I don’t know if this has to do more with my love for bread as an overall food group, or that I enjoy the challenge of succeeding at gourmet breads, and find warm golden loaves home-y, inviting, and beautiful.

in my kitchen

i feel alive

i feel creative

i feel inspired

i feel at rest

i feel at home.

Yesterday Brent and I got to be in the kitchen together again,  preparing a yummy fall soup for dinner with friends. That morning I had baked some fresh loaves of my favorite french bread recipe, and together we created some delicious whipped butter with garlic and herbs. I want to share this bread recipe with you because I feel like it is the most forgiving of my recipes, and a great one to start with if you are interested in getting into baking! The butter is so simple, but so delicious on the bread! (a great flavor cover if your yeast doesn’t rise properly;)) and we used the leftover butter this evening to fry up some fresh brussel sprouts!

I hope you enjoy, and it’s so good to be back to sharing with you! I’ve missed it!

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Forgiving French Bread

-makes TWO loaves!-

Ingredients:

1/2 c. warm water

2 TBSP yeast (or two packets)

1/2 tsp sugar

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2  c. warm water

2 TBSP olive oil (or vegetable)

2 TBSP sugar

2 tsp salt

5-6 cups flour depending on consistency

Using first three ingredients, dissolve the yeast and 1/2 tsp sugar in the 1/2 cup warm water. Allow to bubble for about 8 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix/knead for 10 minutes. I have found that timing with breads is actually important because mixing too much can make the dough tougher.

Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. Punch down, and then rise for another 30 minutes.

Form two loaves (I usually put one on each pan) and slize 5-6 knife marks in the top. If your dough is sticky, grease the knife.

Cover the loaves and allow to rise for 10 more minutes. Do not be alarmed if they don’t look that different.

Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt and cracked pepper.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. This is a very accurate time, at least for my oven.

Allow to cool before serving!

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Garlic Herbed Butter

Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

(Approximately )1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary

1 TBSP chopped fresh basil

1 TBSP chopped fresh oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

salt & pepper to taste

This one is so easy it’s ridiculous! The key is the ingredients. Fresh herbs definitely make a difference, but I think you could change up what herbs you use! Throw the softened butter, herbs and spices into your mixer and beat until slightly fluffier consistency. Serve in a small dish garnished with herbs!

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bread

inspired.

sometimes I just need a little bit of inspiration. here are a few things I’m loving these Fall days-

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1. Chicken Sweet Potato Apple Skillet

2. warm & inviting string lights

3. countryside, on fire with beauty

4. cozy plaid scarves

5. comforting, warm drinks

6. oh sweet joy blog and clothing line

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my pinterest– {for more things I’ve come to love!}

On Quality Time and the Kitchen Table

There’s no place I’d rather be on a cloudy, dreary day then in a warm and cozy kitchen. Considering this week’s weather pattern, you can imagine how thrilled I was to have a  free evening (scarce words with my scheduling tendencies…) and to actually spend time creating a delicious meal, rather than throwing something together as we head out the door for whatever activity we have that night.

This week I prepared two of my most recent “favorite meals” , both involving my best ingredient, chicken. I am not a huge meat girl, and to be honest raw meat grosses me out a little bit, but I cook a lot of chicken, a lot of quiche, and sprinkled with the occasional ground beef or turkey we get by just fine. 😉

As I was using these two simple, yummy recipes I couldn’t help but think of blogging them. Some things are just too good not to share!

So for those of you in search of your next “go to, super easy and actually tastes good leftover” dinner idea, maybe one of these will help!

(P.S. Although I practically collect cookbooks and have loads of beautiful ones, I tend toward Pinterest for much of my food inspiration. These are both pinned to my done! board (a goal of mine was to organize the pins I’ve actually completed) but below are my own variations/changes.

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BBQ Chicken Taquitos

 (original recipe here)

I love these taquitos for numerous reasons.

1. I think the pineapple/bbq sauce combo is amazing.

2. It’s really hard to screw these up, I promise! In fact I don’t even use exact measurements, I just throw everything together and pop it in the oven!

3. They take a little prep, but on the night you make them they are EASY and QUICK.

4. They taste good leftover. In our home, these meals come few and far between. (we are not too big on leftovers.)

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-This recipe makes approx 6 taquitos

-Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

-Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I found that the parchment paper is super helpful when it comes to cleaning the pan)

Ingredients:

approximately 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (for this I used a whole chicken from Costco, which I had cooked in the crock pot over the weekend. Their rotisserie chickens also work great!)

-1/2 red (or white) onion, caramelized

-1 bag shredded cheddar cheese

-1 can chopped pineapple (fresh is obviously SO good, but canned works too and is easier to have on hand!)

-Cilantro (I used maybe 3 TBSP chopped, it’s kind of up to you how strong you want the flavor to be)

-1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce (our personal fav)

-1 pack flour tortillas (I have used mini and large, either works)

Directions:

The instructions are as simple as this. Mix your chicken, can of pineapple (drained), onion, cilantro, salt & pepper to taste, and as much BBQ sauce as you like together with half the bag of cheese. Fill your tortillas with the mixture and place them side by side in the pan until it is full or your mixture is gone! I then covered the top with a light layer of BBQ sauce and sprinkled the rest of the cheese on top. Since your ingredients are all cooked, the taquitos really only need to be in the oven to warm, so around 20 minutes is fine (depending how hot your oven gets) and then I pop mine under the broiler to crisp the tops a little. The first time I made these I served them with rice which was delicious, but this week I just did a vegetable which was equally good! I read in the comments on the original blog that this recipe freezes well, which I would believe, but have yet to try.

We ate this Monday, and reheated in the oven Tuesday with a little extra sauce for dipping! So delicious!

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Avocado Chicken Parmigiana 

(original recipe here)

This recipe, which I served last night along with an amazing fresh avocado/blueberry salad and some Trader Joe’s pasta, is so simple and really no different from your typical chicken parmesan, but for some reason we just love this variation!

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-The recipe makes two chicken breasts, but again- it’s one of those recipes you can kind of just guess on ratios and make as many as you need!

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

-Spray baking pan with olive oil

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded

-1 egg

-3 TBSP milk

-1/2 cup flour

-1/2 cup breadcrumbs

-1 small can of your favorite tomato sauce (I’ve found that flavor really does matter in this one)

-1 ripe avocado

-1 bag shredded mozeralla

-fresh oregano and/or basil (not necessary, but definitely a great addition)

Directions:

Again, super easy! Whisk your egg and milk together in a small bowl. Mix your bread crumbs (I made mine with the ends of a loaf of bread and our mini food processor) and flour in another small bowl. Dip your chicken in the milk/egg mixture and dredge in the flour and bread crumbs. Fry in a pan with olive oil on medium/high heat to brown both sides (I actually used avocado oil which we found at Costco and just had to try. I figured it was fitting since the recipe uses avocado 🙂 ) When the sides are browned, place in your greased baking pan and cover in tomato sauce. Cover the pan in foil (important to keep the chicken moist) and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees (the baking time is to finish off the chicken, and will vary based on the thickness of the filets). When the chicken is almost completely cooked through uncover and sprinkle fresh herbs and salt and pepper over the sauce. Then place slices of avocado on the chicken breasts, and top off with as much mozzarella as you like. I am a firm believer in lots of cheese on italian food. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until cheese has melted!

This is great over pasta, or just plain, and the avocado really adds something! One beauty of this recipe is that, if you don’t like avocado, the tomato sauce might drown out the flavor and help you incorporate it into your diet. 😉

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The other thing I love about the kitchen is that I truly believe so many memories are made there. (so much that I wrote it on a chalkboard above our little table). Growing up, family dinners wer a regular occurrence in our home, and one that I grew to love. It was such a treat to actually sit down and enjoy a meal with my husband last night- no rushing out the door to the next thing! Later in the evening we had our friends and conveniently neighbors down for the best fresh mint mojitos and strawberry shortcake, but I’ll save those for another post!

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do, and please share some of your favorites! I love new ideas. 🙂

 

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12 Ways to Warm Up to Winter

Since my husband works in construction, snow is probably his greatest enemy. I, on the other hand, am a secret (but not so secret) snow lover. I get so much joy out of days off and roads closed it’s ridiculous, but I think we can all agree this is definitely a long, harsh winter. I feel like it’s around this time of year that things start to go downhill. You hit Valentine’s Day and then suddenly it feels like nothing is worth looking forward to and there’s an awkward pause before spring. Here are some ways that I am choosing/learning to enjoy this winter, and love where I’m at for all it’s worth.

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1. Crisp & Fresh Decor. I have recently become a fresh flower fanatic. I just love having them anywhere in my home, cause they really do brighten a room. Fresh bouquets can be a little pricey during this season, so I’ve turned to greens as my creative outlet. I love to incorporate jars of them wherever I can, mix them with other flowers, or use them to in centerpieces when I’m entertaining. Another perfect solution I’ve recently discovered is Paperwhites. These bulbs are so low maintenance, I mean it’s almost too good to be true for a girl who wasn’t blessed with gardening skills… I picked up a couple at Central Market for $1.50 each, put them in jars, keep up with the water and they simply grow. I love the touch of spring they bring to my home, i’m so impressed they’ve lived this long.

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2. Find Reasons to Celebrate. I am always up for a holiday, a party, anything that means friends and celebrations. In the winter (and all year round) I thrive off of finding ways to make each day special. Whether it’s celebrating Valentine’s Week rather than day, holding an authentic Irish dinner for St. Patrick’s Day, or dropping little “Have a good day” gifts on people’s doorsteps. When I focus on others I find so much more life than succumbing to the winter blues.

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3. Enjoy the cozy & comfy. It’s easy for me to pull on some sweats and Brent’s hoodie and go into hibernation mode, but you don’t have to dress down to feel comfy and warm. I feel ten times better when I do something, anything to my hair, put on a little make up and even just wear a pair of jeans.

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[some of my cold weather faves. waffle sweater//gap. infinity scarf//h&m. lace band leggings// forever 21. cable knit socks// bath & body. embellished fingerless gloves// target.]

4. Get your fill of fresh. I’ve always had a goal to eat my fruits and vegetables each day. In the winter it feels 10x harder. Recently I’ve been pulling out the blender and making smoothies as a yummy way to get these nutrients. Vegetables seem harder for me to eat throughout the day so throwing kale or spinach in with my frozen fruit is the perfect solution. We love the frozen fruit medley at Costco and a huge bag is only $10.

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5. Workout. I’ve mentioned this before, and as hard as it feels to get up and get going, the best thing I can do to kick that blah feeling is move. If it’s too snowy to make it to the gym I do a combination of great workouts I’ve found online. Cassey is slightly ridiculous sometimes but she keeps me occupied and is great for strength training. Fitness Blender is another great one I’ve recently discovered, and use to get my cardio in.

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6. Winter is the perfect time for easy cooking. I always think of winter as the more complex of the seasons as far as meals go. That was before I discovered a Pinterest, a million delicious soup recipes, and came to the realization that soup is easy. When I have broth for a base, some kind of grain (rice, potatoes, pasta), a variety of vegetables and a source of protein I can usually come up with some savory soup. Another thing I love to make on cold and snowy days is quiche. Again, staples you have in your fridge, a way to use up lots of leftover ingredients, and easy!

Here is a delicious recipe for Bok Choy Chicken soup. It’s light and healthy but feels like warm comfort food on a snowy day.

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7. Love those hot drinks. I don’t think i’ve ever enjoyed a mug of something hot more than I have this winter. During the day I love a cup of hot tea, when a friend comes to chat I pull out the french press and some new creamers, and when we have a snow day or company coming I get creative. Snow days typically mean homemade hot cocoa (2 cups sugar to 1 cup cocoa powder). SO easy and SO irresistable. One evening we had friends over and tried making our own egg nog. Another super delicious and simple recipe that I’ve used multiple times since. 

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8. Cleanse your closet. What better way to spend a day stuck at home than going through all those clothes you never wear. I almost always find something that I forgot existed (so it’s practically like shopping all over again) and a million things I know I’ll never wear. I try and keep in mind the last time I wore an item, envision myself actually wearing it out and if I’m really struggling I’ll text my sisters for a second opinion. My current closet is a little too small for my clothes, so until we have a house where my clothes get their own room (one of my secret dreams :), ) I am cleaning like every month just to organize! My most recent cleanse led to color coordination, which has made picking outfits way more fun.

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9. Tackle a project. If you have a husband he might hate me for this, but I’m always up for a new project. I can’t wait for a bigger house with more rooms to re-do, but in the meantime I’ve found my fair share. The most recent was this dream-come-true chalkboard wall which Brent played a huge part in!

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10. Shop spring. While I’m living winter I’m dreaming of warmer weather, and I believe there’s nothing wrong with shopping for deals to prepare your wardrobe for those sunny days. I am always on the lookout for cute clearance items that I can add to my “spring collection” (A shelf in our bedroom just waiting for me). Even if I find a good deal that I can’t wear now, I try to think “How happy would I be to have this three months from now?” The answer is almost always very happy.

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[shorts//g.h. bass, $2.99 each. tank top//gap, $2.79. scarf//j. crew, $6.50.]

11. Read [Relax]. I used to love reading, I obviously love writing, but I feel like college kind of (in the kindest sense of the phrase) sucked the life out of it. I always had to read, so when I didn’t have to it was the last thing I wanted. Since graduation I’ve slowly picked up some books and gotten back into it. I feel like now is the time, summer will only get crazier, and as difficult as relaxing can be for me, I know it’s good. YOU deserve it!

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[currently reading// bread & wine by shauna niequist.]

12. How about a hobby? Hobbies sound kind of ridiculous to me. I imagine my 10 year-old-self with my postcard collection and want to laugh out loud. But this winter a friend taught me to crochet, and I think I’ve gained a whole new perspective on hobbies. I love the fact that I can “be productive” while watching Friday Night Lights or chatting with a friend, and I’m actually making something I would wear or gift… (Don’t call me for lessons though, I’m a terrible teacher. I hear YouTube has good tutorials… 🙂 )

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So some of you are still not sold on winter, I’m sure of it. But I guarantee you, SPRING IS COMING! And in the meantime, why not enjoy where we’re at?

pathway to perfection [or lack thereof].

…and so it begins…

Another day in the life of me, starting out on a rough note. 

It’s 8:00 AM on a Saturday morning and I [literally] pop up out of bed, horrified.

How could I have done this? I slept through my alarm. This never happens.

And for one of the first times in my summer I have officially slept past 6:45, no turning back now.

Feeling terribly guilty and mourning the fact that I do not have time between now and 9 AM, when I plan to start painting my new living space, to fit in my morning run, I determine to redeem myself. 

Brent’s coming down, so I’ll surprise him with breakfast.

And so I set out to create the perfect yogurt parfaits, a specially iced coffee drink, and throw a quiche in the oven for a little lunch treat. All this while hoping that I look cute and domestic but also capable and fit in my painting outfit. 

[I don’t know where I get these ideas.]

9AM rolls around and Brent comes in. He likes the parfait, but things the coffee drink is a little too sweet, I can tell. I inwardly scold myself for messing up, as if my life depends on coffee drinks and creating them is my sole talent. 

[I’d be in trouble if that was the case.]

And so the day proceeds, me trying to be perfect in every way, wanting to be the perfect painter, the perfect organizer, the perfect wedding crafter. Wanting to be so efficient that I won’t take water breaks and sitting is not an option, only pacing. 

What is this strive for perfection in me?  

I asked myself this question on my run this morning, while simultaneously pushing for a new time on my run that, if I did not make, would cause the run [in my mind] to be a total waste of time. [3 miles is 3 miles, no matter how many minutes I shave off. Why can’t I just get that through my head?]

So I am criticizing my perfectionistic tendencies, while pushing myself in one of them. Seems contradictory, right? 

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So what am I getting at?

1. I am a perfectionist. In school, in relationships, in my interests, in my talents, with my body, with my mind, with my heart. 

2. I will never achieve this perfection that I insist on aiming for. Mankind was not made for perfection.

3. I was made for grace

As I write, I consider the quote that I constantly recited to myself as I ran my first half marathon, I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection

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My challenge- to you- to me- to all imperfect perfectionists, seek out grace, fall into grace, accept grace

Romans 11:6

And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

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And while your at it, that quiche I mentioned, it was pretty good too 🙂

PERFECT CRUSTLESS QUICHE

Makes 8 servings

10 oz of fresh, shredded zucchini

1/4 C. vidalia onions, choppe

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes

Additional fresh herbs, use at your descretion (I added fresh basil)

4 eggs, beaten (if adding extra veggies, use an additional egg)

1 (16-ounce) container cottage cheese

2 cups shredded Paremesean cheese

1/4 cup chopped bread for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9″ pie plate or quiche pan.

Place thawed spinach in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Remove from heat and drain off any remaining liquid. Stir in green onions, other veggies if using (optional), eggs, cottage cheese, and Cheddar cheese. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with crushed croutons (or bread crumbs). Return to oven and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until eggs are set (if you are adding extra veggies and an egg, your baking time may be a little longer).

ENJOY!