Monday, April 30, 2012

Our New HOUSE!

We bought a house!!!  We closed on it today so it's officially our new home!!  We're still in the process of moving and are a little between places, so my posting will be a little sparse this week.  We are so thankful for how the Lord has blessed us and can't wait to use our home to have people over!  It still feels unreal that we have a place to call ours - we are so excited!!!  I'd say that I'm afraid I won't be able to fall asleep tonight, but I'm already tired from moving (side note - it's been in the 90s here!).  Happy Monday!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Right Now...

This is what our guest room looks like!  The rest of our apartment doesn't look much better, so please excuse my lack of posting the last couple days.  More news to come next week! :)  Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken with Red Rice

This is a recipe you want to make ASAP.  I found it through pinterest and made it a few days later.  The verdict:  the best dinner we've had in a while.  It was that good!  It combines so many of my favorite things (bacon, cheese, chicken) and there's the perfect amount of kick with the jalapenos.  Don't let the "stuffed" part scare you away; it's not hard and I didn't have any problems with it falling out.

Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I only used 4 but I think there's enough filling for 6)
1 cup seasoned panko (I used regular panko and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder)

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.  

Stir together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, bacon, and jalapenos in a small bowl.

Cut a pocket horizontally through the thickest side of each chicken breast, and fill with 1/4 of the cheese mixture. (Imagine it to look like a loaded baked potato; arrange the chicken breast so that the pocket is facing upward with the cheese mixture inside.)

Roll the chicken breasts in the panko to coat.  Place chicken breasts on prepared baking sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

source:  recipe adapted from cassie craves

Red Rice
2 Tbsp canola oil
6 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups long-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp chili powder
salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, 1-2 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until the grains are opaque, 2-3 minutes.  Add the broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmar and cook, covered, until the rice is tender, 25-30 minutes.

Remove the rice from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and fold in the scallion greens before serving.

source: recipe from Real Simple, March 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Weekend

Happy Monday!  We had such a great weekend - and I hope you did too!  In an effort to keep one of my goals for April, I actually took pictures throughout our weekend :)  The highlight of our weekend was strawberry picking!  We picked two gallons and then made four batches of strawberry jam!  (I used this recipe).  Saturday night we went downtown for dinner, but unbeknownst to us it was prom night somewhere.  We ended up having a two-hour wait, but it was a beautiful night and watching all of the prom-goers eating their dinner ended up being quite entertaining.  Thankfully the food at the restaurant was spectacular and worth the wait.  Sunday was church and relaxing a little, and the weekend ended with a beautiful rainbow Sunday evening!

How did you spend your weekend?

{hard at work picking berries}

{almost a full bucket}

{some of the best strawberries I've ever had}

{one of our favorite traditions is going to pick fruit}

{so very thankful for this man}

{old warehouse on the west end}

{a freezer full of strawberry jam}

{gorgeous rainbow over our apartment complex}

{double rainbow}

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Summer Tote


The is the perfect tote!  I'd take it with me everywhere this summer.  It's not too bulky so I could use it as an everyday bag, but I love the extra room it'd have for goodies from the farmers market or sunscreen and a book for the beach.  Oh I'm so ready for summertime!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread

I'm not typically drawn to low-fat recipes.  I just like eating food that taste good, even if it means I need to eat a little less because it's fattening.  I don't really know why I tried this low-fat banana bread recipe, but I'm glad I did!  The oatmeal gives it such good texture, and though it's no chocolate bourbon-spiked banana bread, it is good and has managed to disappear in two days.  I mean if it's low fat that means we don't have to eat in moderation, right? :)

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Bread
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp canola or walnut oil
1 egg, beaten
2 egg whites, beaten
3 large ripened bananas
1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and oats.

Mash the bananas in a smaller bowl.  Add the oil and whole egg and mix thoroughly.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.

With an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until medium stiff peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until top of loaf is firm to touch, about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.  Flip loaf onto a wire rack and cool another 10 minutes.

source:  recipe from joy the baker

Friday, April 13, 2012

5 Things I've Been Into This Week

1. This nail polish.  I love the light purple - a perfect color for spring!

2. This cookbook.  I can't wait to bake some things for fun!

3. New Girl.  Do you watch this show?  Every now and then I actually
laugh out loud at something - that's the best!

4. Green smoothies.  I've been drinking one every day for breakfast for a month now, 
and I seriously look forward to it every morning!

5. J.Crew.  If you're looking for something and it's not in your store or online, 
call the catalog and ask them to do a will-find-it.  They search all of their stores 
and ship it to you when they find it.  Yay for great customer service!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April: Lighten Up


So here it is a third of the way through April and I'm just now getting around to posting my goals!  And that's okay because this month's chapter in The Happiness Project is about lightening up!  Gretchen Rubin really focused on parenthood and trying to keep a light and happy household. Obviously there are no little ones running around this house, so my goals are more about slowing down and loving right now.

1. Enjoy the process.  I am so goal-oriented that I find myself wanting to hurry through tasks so I can check things off my never-ending to-do list.  This means that I rarely actually enjoy what I'm doing!  Pathetic, I know.  Two things that come to mind right away are cooking and shopping.  I want to take my time and just cook or bake some things for fun!  And I'm really terrible at enjoying shopping.  I walk in a store, take about 30 seconds to sweep a glance over all the racks, and if nothing catches my eye I leave.  I want to take my time and really look through things, even if it means I look through a bunch of stuff and don't end up getting anything.

2. Take more pictures along the way.  This kind of goes along with #1.  Stopping and taking pictures will force me to slow down, soak in the moment, and enjoy whatever I'm doing, instead of just rushing through it.  Plus having more pictures of the little moments along the way will make me happier in the long run :)

3. Make time for more fun projects.  I haven't been making time for creative and fun projects lately, because I'm trying to do too many other things that I think are more "important".  Example: last night when I got home from work I really wanted to do this craft I've been waiting to do all week.  Instead I felt like I should fold the four loads of clean laundry first.  And then make dinner.  And run some errands.  And then I never got around to it!  I don't want to totally neglect our house and my responsibilities, but I think I need to let some things go and make time for fun projects, too.

Have you made any new goals lately?  Are you good at slowing down and enjoying the moment?

P.S. You can see the rest of my posts on The Happiness Project here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Zucchini Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Sometimes when I get home from work I don't feel like doing anything else.  I throw some dinner together and then relax the rest of the night.  Sometimes I come home and push myself to go running.  Because I like endorphins and I don't like love-handles.  Sometimes I get fancy and decide to make a cake.  And sometimes, while the cake is in the oven, I sneak in a quick run just so I can eat a piece guilt-free.

P.S. The recipe calls this a pound cake, but we totally ate it for breakfast.

Zucchini Cream Cheese Pound Cake
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups shredded zucchini (from 2 medium-sized zucchini)

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour at 12-cup bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute between each addition, then add vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the melted butter and increase speed to medium-high to beat until velvety smooth, about 3 minutes.

Reduce mixer speed to low and add flour mixture, all at once, to the mixture.  Beat until just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to fold in the zucchini.  The batter will be thick.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

source:  recipe from Joy the Baker Cookbook

Monday, April 9, 2012

3-Day Weekends

{Easter candy}

{went to our first baseball game of the year via}

{finally read The Hunger Games! SO good}

Aren't three-day weekends the best?  Caleb and I had planned on traveling this past weekend for a mini-getaway, but at the last minute we decided to just stay home.  I am SO glad we did!  I feel so incredibly relaxed!

Friday we spent a good chunk of the day running errands and getting things done, taking a break for a lunch date with some good southern BBQ.  Then we spent the late afternoon by the pool!  Friday night we went to the Good Friday service, which was wonderful and focused our hearts and minds on Easter.

Saturday we slept in, and I think I stayed in my pajamas until noon (bliss!).  After lunch we spent the entire afternoon reading by the pool...I read magazines that had been piling up on our coffee table and had a phone date with a dear friend.  Saturday night we went to a baseball game with friends.  The weather was absolutely perfect - a clear blue sky, and when it finally got dark the moon was orange and huge and full.

Our Easter service on Sunday was really good, and we came home and had lunch just the two of us.  We laid by the pool for a little bit in the afternoon, went on a walk, and then had dinner with my aunt and uncle.  It was just a fun and relaxing weekend with a good balance of spending time just the two of us and being with friends and family.  How was your Easter/weekend?

P.S. I decided to have two winners of the Frank Peretti book giveaway, and they are Colleen and Anna!  Ladies please email me your mailing addresses :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Chocolate Socks Book Review & Interview with Holly Durst!

If you're like me and love all things Bachelor-related, then you don't need an introduction to Holly Durst.  For the rest of you, Holly was on ABC's The Bachelor several years ago, and competed on and won Bachelor Pad 2 last summer. Holly's dream has been to write and publish children's books - and her first one came out last month!  

As you can see, her book is called Chocolate Socks.  It's a super cute story and the illustrations are fun and really colorful - a definite must for a good children's book!  I'm partial to all children's books that rhyme, so I had fun reading this story to my 3-year-old niece.  When I asked her what she thought of Chocolate Socks she said, "I DID like it!" Then she told me that she would like to have some chocolate socks in her tummy :)

I was able to speak with Holly on the phone a couple of weeks ago about her new book, her wedding, and her life with her soon-to-be-husband, Blake Julian.  

First of all, congratulations on Chocolate Socks and your upcoming wedding!  You have some exciting things happening in your life right now!
I know; two of the biggest things in my entire life are happening in within months of each other!

How does it feel to have your dream of being published come true?
It doesn't feel real yet.  I’m like, "when is it supposed to feel real?!"  People are buying my books and I’m holding my book and I still don’t believe it!  Maybe when I walk into a bookstore and I see my book I’ll believe it.  It’s been such a long time coming- it took six years so it hasn’t been able to hit me all at once that I have a book out!

What did you find to be the most challenging part of this whole experience?
Finding a publisher.  Everybody tries to publish children’s books.  It’s one of the hardest things to get into.  I got lucky!

Chocolate Socks is such a fun book for children! What inspired you to write this story?
I got a gift one time and it was a box of chocolates and a pack of socks.  I was so happy and excited about the gift because I love them both so much.  I think “chocolate socks” actually slipped out of my mouth, and when I said it a light bulb went off.  I grabbed my laptop and started writing!  

How long did it take you to write Chocolate Socks?
I wrote the first half almost 6 years ago.  I couldn’t decide how to end it, so I finished it a couple of years after that.  But it all came pretty quickly to me once I had the idea.

What message were you hoping to give to the children who read Chocolate Socks?
I just want to inspire children to not be afraid to create what they want in life, to dream big, and to go after their goals in life.  Being on TV everyone criticizes you and puts you down and you don’t even know these people!  My book is encouraging children to do what they want.  After six years I finally did what I want – I kept with it and didn’t give up.

Does writing children’s books make you and Blake eager to have children?
[Laughs] I always thought I wanted kids immediately. The older I get the more I’m like, I can wait.  I could not wait to get married and have a family.  Now that I’m with Blake and we have such a great relationship I’m afraid to have kids and mess up what we have!

What are you working on now? 
I have lots of books that I want to get published.  I’m not working on a book right now though, the wedding is my big project right now.  We have a great wedding planner and she’s been taking the majority of the issues, so I haven’t had to, which is really nice.

What encouragement do you have for other aspiring writers?
My biggest advice to them is to be patient.  Even though I wanted this so bad and I knew someday it would happen, I was discouraged so many times throughout the process.  Sometimes I thought, you know it’s never going to happen!  But I just kept at it and I was patient - very patient.

My blog is called “The Life of a Wife”, so I want to know what excites you most about being Blake’s wife?
I am so excited to be Blake’s wife… I already feel like his wife, which is good!  I love to cook him dinner and I love doing things with him and spending quality time with him.  I love everything about him!  I actually work with him now all day at his dental office.  We’re together all day and all night.  It’s been so wonderful and everyone keeps saying, "how do you guys work together and live together?  You guys don’t hate each other yet?!"  But we get along so well!  If he goes out of the room to work on patient I miss him! [laughs]  I knew from our first date that I was going to marry him.  It was weirdest feeling.   People always say “you know when you know” and I had always thought that was a myth.  But I met him and I knew from our first date!

For you mommas - this is a great book to have for your little ones!  You can purchase Holly's book on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Black Beans & Rice with Chicken & Apple Salsa

Since starting my new job I don't have the luxury anymore to spend hours preparing new recipes every night for dinner.  Instead I've devoted Monday nights to trying new recipes - when I'm fresh off the weekend and a little more energetic.  I tried this one the other week and LOVED it.  I got the rotisserie chicken on Sunday and shredded all of the meat, so after work I just put together the beans and the apple salsa, and dinner was ready!  

Black Beans & Rice with Chicken & Apple Salsa
1 cup chopped peeled Granny Smith apple
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion, divided
1 tsp (or more) fresh lime juice
1/3 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked brown or white rice
1 2-3 lb rotisserie chicken, skin discarded and meat shredded
4-6 lime wedges

Combine apple, 1/4 cup cilantro, 2 Tbsp onion, and 1 tsp lime juice in a small bowl; toss to coat.  Set apple salsa aside.

Combine remaining onion, bell pepper, and oil in a large skillet.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until completely softened, 6-7 minutes.  Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin; stir constantly for 2 minutes.  Stir in broth and beans; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium; simmer briskly, mashing some of the beans with the back of a spoon and stirring often, until sauce is thickened, 8-10 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired.

Divide rice and beans among plates.  Top with some chicken and apple salsa.  Garnish with remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and lime wedges.

source:  recipe from Bon App├ętit, January 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March Goals & Life Update

Wow we're already into April!  I need to review my goals from March.  I had just a few and they were all about work:

1. Learn my new job:  I love my job!  I really feel like I've gotten into a good rhythm at work.  I've loved learning a new field and have really enjoyed being challenged again.  I look forward to going into work each day and am so thankful for that!

2. Manage my time well:  the first couple of weeks this was a challenge, but I juggled things around and think I have a good schedule down now.  My day is super structured now, which I like, because it ensures that I get the things done that I want to.  There are evenings that I don't finish my blog post for the next day, but I've come to realize that's okay.  

3. Get to know my co-workers:  I LOVE the people I work with!  I'm so blessed to be in the office that I am.  Everyone gets along, there's no drama or gossip, and I truly enjoy my co-workers.  

Overall I am SO happy with my new job and schedule!  Caleb says I'm much happier now that I've been working.  It's nice to get out of the house and interact with people instead of working by myself at home all the time.  I don't miss my old job at all, which is a surprise to me since I had done it for so long.  In other news, this past weekend we went to my in-laws to spend time with Caleb's family.  It was the first time we had all been together in almost six months!  We got to meet our new niece (first grandbaby on Caleb's side!) and celebrate my sister-in-law's engagement.  It was a full weekend after a busy week at work last week, so I feel like I'm still recovering and catching up on sleep!

Giveaway update:  the winner of the OXO food scale is Jillian M.!  Jillian, email me your mailing address so I can get your scale to you!  Thanks for playing everyone :)