#Share the Gift

I’ve been MIA for awhile on this blog but I wanted to get active for a bit to participate share my gratitude for Jesus Christ this season. share the gift amanda

 

share the gift kyle

I love the video put out by the church about the true gift of Christmas and I think it’s a great reminder to all of us that Christ is the reason for the season and the reason to celebrate.

I am so grateful for the Gift of Christmas. Here are just a few of the gifts I have received in my life this past year because of “the Gift”

The Gift of Healing-I don’t think one ever heals completely from the loss of a loved one but I have experienced so much healing in the past year and have been able to come to a place where I am feeling joy again.  I know that without Christ this would not have been possible.

The Gift of Peace and Joy-When I became pregnant again I wasn’t sure I would be able to feel joy in a pregnancy again, it felt like I would only feel anxiety, and at first I did feel a lot of anxiety and even resentment about being pregnant again.  That quickly changed and now I feel so much joy and happiness with every wiggle and kick.  I am grateful that Christ has allowed me to feel the happiness and joy that comes from expecting again despite my negative experience before.

The Gift of Forever Family-This year was really special as I got to attend the lds temple with my sister and and my future sister-in-law.  I am so glad that the temple allows families to be sealed together forever!!

So grateful for the Gift this Christmas Season.  What Gifts has Christ given you that you are thankful for!?!

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

IMG_2938

So when I made this I really had no intention of posting the recipe.  I guess I just wasn’t overly confident that it would be very good. It was simple and quick and I thought it would be a pretty typical weeknight meal, nothing fancy, but boy was it was delicious.

We have an ABUNDANCE of spaghetti squash here in our home. We grew it last summer and the wonderful thing about squash is keep it in a dark, cool area, and it’s STILL good. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first thing I’ve made with it. Last summer I was rather pregnant and squash of any kind sounded pretty awful (as did anything else good for you, I subsisted on pop tarts and otter pops. yum.)

Anyway, this recipe totally changed my mind about spaghetti squash. I am now obsessed with it and want to eat it for every meal. Navajo tacos? How about Navajo Spaghetti Squash? Baked Potato Bar? How about Spaghetti Squash Bar? Tuna Noodle Casserole? How about Tuna Spaghetti Squash Casserole? Okay…that one may be taking it a little too far…but seriously. It’s good.

The reason I was surprised at how tasty this meal was is because it’s SIMPLE! (Mom, this is the recipe for you…it has 5 ingredients…salt and pepper don’t count…neither does olive oil). It’s a great meal when you want something quick, and will yield some yummy leftovers.

Let’s get cookin’.

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Kale

Ingredients

1 Spaghetti Squash

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Small Onion

3 Cloves Garlic, minced

1/2 lb Country Sausage

1/2 bunch Kale, thinly chopped

Salt and Peppper tt

Directions

1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cut Spaghetti Squash in Half and remove the seeds. (This is easier said than done, I think the easiest way is to cut off the top and bottom so you have a level surface to work with and then carefully saw through with a sharp knife).

3. Drizzle cut sides of spaghetti Squash halves with olive oil, rub it in evenly. Place squash cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until soft.

4. While Squash is cooking brown sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. When sausage is about halfway cooked, add the onion. When the sausage is cooked and the onion is soft, add the garlic and cook for about one minute.

5. Add the chopped kale and saute until it is lightly wilted.

6. When the squash is cooked, pull it apart with a fork.  It should come out in strands that look like spaghetti. Salt and Pepper the squash to taste. Add the Squash to the sausage and kale mixture and heat through. If you want a pretty presentation, put the finished product back into one of the squash halves and serve.

Recipe adapted slightly from this recipe at simplyrecipes.com

 

 

 

Asparagus with Pecans and Shallots

Asparagus 2 So I am an absolute Asparagus LOVER. It definitely is up there with my favorite vegetables. Although who could REALLY have a favorite vegetable? If I absolutely had to choose it might be tomato, which is silly because I don’t LOVE raw tomatoes. But think of all of the foods we wouldn’t have without tomatoes. Ketchup. Pizza. I need those things in my life. Anyway. I digress. Asparagus.

If you happened to read my Menu Planning post, you would have seen Asparagus about a thousand times in the next month. That’s because the months of March and April are the only times this most delicious vegetable is affordable, So I have to get my fill.

For this recipe, I actually altered my favorite recipe for green beans by subbing steamed asparagus for steamed green beans. So good news, this recipe is diverse. Use it for asparagus now and in the summer when your green bean plants are going nuts (oh, I can’t wait for summer gardening, we have some adventures in stores that I can’t wait to share. Yes, I am twenty-four and I think gardening is an adventure….I’m a REAL party girl…)

This recipe combines shallots, butter, and pecans some of my other favorite things with delicious asparagus for a nice nutty, savory side dish. For those of you who don’t know a shallot is a small purple member of the onion family. It has thin layers which allow it to caramelize more quickly and it has a bit more of a delicate flavor. You may all know what they are, but I felt the need to share because the first time I saw it in a recipe I thought it was seafood and I was instantly grossed out (I am okay with seafood but there is definitely a time and a place). Anyway, I quickly learned that there is a difference between SHALLOTS and SCALLOPS. Woo. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the recipe.

AsparagusAsparagus with Pecans and Shallots

1 lb Asparagus, trimmed

2 Tbsp Butter

1 Shallot, sliced

1/2 C pecans, chopped

Salt to taste

1. Steam or simmer asparagus until it’s crisp/tender. Don’t let it get too soft. I have a handy little microwave steamer that I like to use where it takes about 4 minutes, but I imagine on the stove it would be more like 7-8.

2. While Asparagus is steaming, Saute shallot in 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat until soft and lightly browned.

3. Once the shallots are browned, add pecans and toast for 1-2 minutes. Not too long as burned nuts don’t taste so good. Yes, I know this from experience.

4. Stir in asparagus, remaining butter, and salt to taste and cook until heated through. Can sub green beans or probably any number of green veggies for asparagus. Delicioso!


 

Menu Planning

So I love posting recipes, but another equally important aspect of having delicious and well prepared meals without being totally stressful is menu planning.

My Dear Husband and I are saving like nobody’s business lately. Now is probably the only time in the history of EVER that we will have a surplus in our income…and don’t get me wrong, we DON’T make a lot, but we’re no longer paying for my schooling, Kyle’s schooling is covered by scholarships (smartie pants) plus my job gets him half tuition which is a big bonus, and we don’t have any living children so there aren’t tons of expenses. Anyway, we are saving for dental school, a car that we’ve decided to pay cash for rather than getting a loan, retirement, and a down payment on a house

…holy chalupa that is a lot of saving!

Anyway, the funny thing we are learning about saving, the young adults that we are, is that it makes you SUPER POOR. The good news is all of the money that we don’t have currently is at least ours, but it’s funny how we have to learn to stretch our dollars still.

So the point of this is we currently have a VERY tight food budget, which is not my favorite thing because I love food, and I love cooking.

I’ve planned our menus ever since we got married. Usually it’s pretty informal and I simply plan 3-4 meals before I go to the store every week, but I don’t plan when we are eating them, I just know those are the things I can cook that week. It’s worked pretty well, but it gets kind of exhausting planning meals EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

As we have been talking about budgeting and keeping our food costs down, I thought what about a MONTHLY menu? That way we can make sure we intermingle more expensive meals with cheaper meals, plus if something we need is on sale, I can buy it anytime in that month to make sure we’re getting the best deal.

This was a GREAT idea, and I think you should all do it whether or not you are watching your food dollars.

I decided the best way to insure we were getting an even variety of foods, was to make a category for each day of the week. A sidenote, I think this could be really fun for kids to have something to look forward to each night of the week. Anyway, the categories I chose fit our needs and helped to insure that Kyle and I were both happy with our meals, and we were keeping our costs reasonable. The categories I chose were as follows:

Meatless Monday: This one is pretty common, this is a way for us to cut down on costs (meat is PRICEY) as well as time to prepare the food and to eat a little healthier. Mondays aren’t my favorite cooking day because work is usually longer/more stressful on Mondays, plus we have Family Night so I don’t want to spend the whole day in the Kitchen.

Kyle’s Favorites Tuesday: I included this because I like to break the mold and make what some would consider weird stuff. I very rarely make the kinds of foods Kyle likes which isn’t fair, he never complains, but this way we both know at least once a week he can have one of his favorites.

New and Different Wednesday: This one is to make sure I am still having fun and getting to be creative in the kitchen. On Wednesdays I can try fun, new recipes. I chose Wednesday because it’s a shorter work day and I tend to have the time/energy to spend in the kitchen.

Leftover Thursday: Inevitably our fridge piles up with food so I like to plan a night to use them, which is another money saver!

Italian Friday: I could have simply called this homemade pizza night, but I thought we could have a yummy pasta dish now and then as well. I hate cooking on Fridays, but pizza and pasta are quick and easy, and pretty inexpensive since the dough is homemade all we really need is cheese, sauce and a vegetable.

Breakfast for Dinner Saturday: We LOVE breakfast for dinner, and this is another cheap meal because we usually have all of the ingredients on hand.

Comfort Food Sunday: This is the day for all of our classic family favorites

Have I mentioned that I love this? Because I love this. I don’t intend to stick to it EXACTLY, but it’s so nice that I only have to plan menus once a month, which honestly takes only a few minutes longer than planning for a week. The categories make planning easier because you at least have some kind of ballpark idea of what you will be eating. Here is a sample of my menu (which I am nervous to show because I am afraid of being judged for what I eat #dietitianproblems…but I thought it might spark some ideas in all of you!

Menu

 

Do you have any brilliant meal planning or budgeting tips? I’d love to hear them!

My Favorite Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Creamy Chicken Noodle

So we eat a LOT of soup around here. Soup is one of my favorite winter foods, it’s so easy to make, lasts for a week in the fridge, and around here is usually healthy and veggie loaded.

This soup is an adaptation of my Mom’s chicken noodle soup that I absolutely LOVED eating as a kid. See, this soup is CREAMY. I guess I was a food snob even as a child because I remember being served homemade chicken noodle soup by people other than my mother thinking what is this watery mess? Where’s the CREAM!!!?

Anyway, I decided to tweak my mom’s version a bit as hers calls for cream of chicken soup to thicken it, which I try to avoid in my cooking nowadays, no worries though. It’s still equally as easy and tastes equally delish.  All you brothy/watery chicken noodle soup eaters will have something to look forward to with this recipe. I don’t think you’ll turn back.

Oh, and I’m going to do something annoying in this recipe and say salt “to taste.” Anyon

e hate this in recipes as much as I do? My favorite is when the recipe is for grilled chicken for example, and the recipe says salt to taste. How exactly do I do that? By taking a big chunk out of the raw chicken breast…because after it’s cooked it’s TOO LATE! Anyway, rant over. I added about 1 1/2 tsp of salt to this recipe, but fair warning, I’m a salt lover. I’d probably start at 1 tsp and go from there. 

This recipe calls for another thing I hate, cooked chicken breast. I always want them to tell me HOW to cook it. How I cook it depends on the day my mood…sometimes if I’m really lazy  I simmer it for about 20 minutes, other times I quickly saute/pan-fry it before shredding it. If you have leftover chicken that isn’t too strongly flavored that would do great in this as well I think!

Creamy Chicken Noodle With Words

Homemade Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

3 C Chicken Broth

2 Tsp Chicken Granules or Base

2 C Chopped Celery

1/2 C Diced Onion

3 Cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 C Cooked Egg Noodles

2 C Sliced Carrots

1/2 Cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 Cup COLD water

2 C Diced Cooked Chicken

Salt and Pepper TT

Directions:

Heat chicken broth, granules or base, carrots, and celery over medium high heat until it comes to a boil. When it comes to a boil cover and reduce to a simmer.

Simmer until veggies are tender (about 20 minutes). Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute one more minute. Add onion/garlic mixture to the other veggies.

Whisk 1/2 cup of flour with 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. When the veggies are tender quickly whisk mixture into broth and veggies. Turn the heat up to medium and stir constantly until the mixture thickens to your liking.

Add cooked egg noodles, chicken, and salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with saltines or crusty artisan bread.

 

Checking In..(and some awesome crafts…)

So I’ve been a little MIA on the blog lately, sorry for my few loyal readers (Mom ;)).

I’ve been kind of anti-computer lately. Do you ever just get tired of knowing everything about everyone’s life without ever actually speaking to them? Kinda creepy. I decided I wanted to spend a little time in the real world. Plus, I learned something from my dear father that I always try to remember. He says that our greatest strengths are often our greatest weaknesses. One of my greatest strengths (If I do say so myself…) is that I am very focused and very determined. This is a strength in that I tend to accomplish what I set out to do…however it’s a weakness in that when I am determined to do something everything else falls by the wayside. Dinner? Not important…Sleep? Who needs it.

Anyway, I’ve fallen off the cooking bandwagon and have been spending my time crafting…Let me show off just a little. I’ve been working on making a craft room where the twins bedroom was supposed to be. It made me sad to see it empty all of the time so I decided to make it pretty. I also recovered some parson’s chairs that have been sitting in my closet for months, and made a skirt mostly because I fell in love with the fabric and had to do SOMETHING with it.

Oh, and about the food thing, don’t worry, I’m coming back. I currently have my FAVORITE homemade creamy chicken noodle soup simmering on the stove. Plus a recipe for lentil sloppy joes in the works… (oh yum). And if you are still feeling impatient try this recipe for crockpot queso chicken chilli from Lindsay at Pinch of Yum.  Ho. Ly. Crap. It is SOOOO GOOOD…we’ve had it twice already, and I saw no reason to post my own version because it is absolutely wonderful as is. Seriously. And I always tweak recipes. I have recipe tweakitis. I can’t leave things alone. But leave this one alone because it’s freakin’ delicious. One note, I’ve made it once and my mom made it once, the recipe doesn’t clarify but we tried with fresh salsa and cooked salsa, and it turned out much better with cooked, cheap, jarred salsa.

Anyway, without further ado…current projects.

Skirt that desperately needs ironed…This was so easy and so fun, I had extra fabric and am making another one as a gift so I will post instructions soon.

Skirt


table-chairs

 

I bought the blue/red chairs at the D.I. They were brown heinous church chairs…I removed the seat and spray painted them and reupholstered the cushion. I also reupholstered the top of the card table the same way with a vinyl tablecloth we’d gotten for our wedding and never gotten around to using.

Chairs Lastly our recovered parson’s chairs.  There will be no instructions on how I did this because I made it up, and I definitely used a hot glue gun which I am pretty sure is not recommended. We’re all about appearances over here.

Well, til next time. We’re off to see the hobbit. I am a horrible wife who made her husband wait until it came to the cheap theaters. Seriously, I am the worst. More to come.

 

4-Grain Breakfast Pudding

Breakfast Casserole

So my favorite type of recipe is one that is 1. Incredibly Delicious and 2. Incredibly healthy.  Let’s be real here folks, I love all food, and recipes that are delicious but not healthy definitely still have their place.  But they aren’t as shocking, as awesome, or as guilt free.  I mean, say you have a friend who tells you about their latest, most awesome recipe.  You ask what’s in it and they reply, heavy cream, butter, salt, cream cheese, sugar, lard, and every other good but not so good for you thing.  You will probably think of course that sounds amazing, it has only amazing things in it.

But what if I were to tell you about a breakfast pudding with barley, bulgur, flax seeds, and dried fruit….and it’s creamy amazing comforting goodness.  You would probably have a bit of a hard time believing me.  You might even think that I’m a tad bit crazy and wonder if I also like Liver or something gross like that..(sorry liver lovers…) Then, upon my insistence, you would try my recipe, and the magic would begin.

See, that’s what’s so great about healthy, delicious recipes.  The shock factor.  Anyway, this pudding truly is amazing.  I’ve been trying to expand my breakfast options as I’m not a huge cold cereal fan.  It doesn’t taste all that great, it’s not all that inexpensive, and it’s not all that good for you so why have I eaten it every morning of my existence?  This is a great replacement and it makes a ton, so make it one night and have leftovers for breakfast all week long!

It’s not overly sweet, but the dried fruit gets plump as it bakes and each time you get one you get a burst of delicious fruity flavor to balance the hearty grains.

This recipe is so easy, but you’ve got to give it time, don’t get hasty or the grains will be chewy and not so yummy.  Let it cook the full hour and a half. It’s worth it, and of course that won’t happen in the morning, just do it the night before and throw some in the microwave for breakfast. Like I said, it makes a lot.  You could even freeze some in individual portions for breakfast on the go.

Without further ado:

4-Grain Breakfast Pudding (adapted from The Canadian Living Test Kitchen)

Breakfast Casserole 2

5 C water

3/4 C pot barley

3/4 C rolled oats

3/4 C bulgur

1/2 C slivered dried apricots

1/2 cup dried cranberries (or raisins, but trust me…use cranberries)

2 tbsp flax seed meal

1/4 C packed brown sugar

1 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. In an eight inch glass baking dish whisk together 5 cups water, barley, oats, bulgur, apricots, cranberries, flax seed meal, brown sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon.

2. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.  Serve warm.


 

What are your favorite healthy AND delicious recipes?

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