Worship Wednesday – Love Is Not Making Much of Someone

Love.

We’re not talking about hearts doodled on a notebook or giant stuffed teddy bears.
We’re not even talking about a dozen red roses.

We’re talking about real, unconditional love.

This kind of love doesn’t have to be between a girl and a guy -
this is also a kind of love found between parent and child.
This kind of love makes the greatest friendships what they are.

I’ll admit to you here and now that I don’t have a clue what love in a relationship feels like;
99% of teenagers have no idea.
However, I do know this form of love in friendship. It’s a love that is unbreakable under any circumstances.

That was a lot at once. Bear with me here.

In youth group, we are watching a video series by John Piper, a Baptist minister from Minnesota.
He lives by the prophecy that “God is most satisfied in me when I am most satisfied in Him,” 
which I think is an awesome quote by which to live.

The look on Piper’s face when he preaches shows the kind of love I’m talking about.

In one of the videos we watched,
Piper talked about how our culture views “love.”

In the world today, loving someone is very much the same thing as idolizing him or her; as making much of him or her.

We build each other up.
We compliment each other.
“Oh, you’re so pretty. You’re so talented. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Complimenting is fine and good, but if the feeling acquired when having received a compliment is the same as the feeling of being loved;
Houston, we have a problem.

We get so caught up in making so much of ourselves that we make nothing of God.
What we should do instead is to make so much of God that we cannot make anything of ourselves.

John Piper brings up true moments of wonder – moments that make us go “Wow.”

Majestic waterfalls, canyons, mountains, oceans.
All things God has created.

Love is dying for someone else’s sins.
Love is putting all of your faith in Him alone.
Love is having strong hope in The Lord, even when it seems life couldn’t be worse.
Love is not making much of someone.

Brown Butter Snickers Cookies

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Hey, y’all.

This is my first post in over a week. A week!

This week has been so stressful. As per every other week of my life.
And I really am sorry for complaining.
I just sometimes feel like I have to pencil breathing into my schedule.
Then, when I have time to do such things as blog, I just want to sit and be still.

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I’ve even considered not blogging any more because it kiiiind of stresses me out
with the whole only 10-or-so hours of daylight thing and me being busy most of that time;
BUUUUT I really do enjoy having this as an outlet, and my (few) readers are so supportive,
I just can’t give it up.

That being said, however, you’ll probably be hearing less from me.
More than once a week, but I just can’t stress about the blog. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

If I have recipes and pretty pictures, I’ll show ‘em to ‘ya.

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But anyway.

BROWN BUTTER.

Have you ever had it?

Best thing of my life. At the moment. Because, you know, these things change.

No but srsly I’ve been browning butter like no one’s business.
I mean, hey, if you’re melting butter you might as well go ahead and brown it, right?

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All you do is cut the butter into small pieces and melt it over medium-low heat for 5 or so minutes,
stirring occasionally, until the butter smells nutty and there are little brown bits at the bottom of the saucepan.

You can put it in place of regular ‘ole melted butter in many recipes – sweet or savory.
I’ve been using it in broccoli, fish, sweet potatoes, and these cookies.

Nuttier, more flavorful butter. It’s such a good thing.

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Speaking of these cookies, you need them, too.

This recipe is based on my FAVORITE much-acclaimed cookie recipe,
and if that’s not enough, I went and stuffed some chopped Snickers bars in there.

Even though Snickers don’t really qualify as “real food,”
I was making these cookies for teenagers. And as much as I’d like them to,
teenagers don’t care one bit about eating real food.

And sometimes, you just have to please the crowd.

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And I think these things were pretty crowd-pleasing.

But don’t ask me. I only ate seven.

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Brown Butter Snickers Cookies
adapted from White Chocolate Pretzel Cookies
yields 30-40 cookies, depending on size
Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (half a cup/one stick, plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 snickers bars, coarsely chopped

1. Brown the butter: cut 5 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Keeping a watchful eye and whisking every so often, brown the butter for 5-7 minutes, or until amber-colored bits appear at the bottom of the saucepan. It will smell nutty and de-lish.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Beat sugars and remaining 5 tablespoons room-temperature butter in another bowl. Once combined, beat in brown butter, eggs, and vanilla extract. Slowly fold the butter-sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Fold in snickers.
3. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (24 is best!). Preheat the oven to 350. Roll dough into 1-2″ balls and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly browned. Cool slightly before serving.

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Mmm. It’s good to be back.

Honey Cumin Roasted Fall Vegetables

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GUYS.

This here is my love. As sad as that may be, it’s da truf.

Gosh, I’ve missed being myself on this blog and being able to write things such as “da truf.”
Sorry if it’s a little much. But not really.

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Roasting vegetables is pretty much one of my favorite hobbies (laugh if you want but I’m not kidding),
and if you put butternut squash into the equation, well, I’m sold.

Roasting = caramelizing, and caramelizing = sugar, and sugar = the only thing.
So if you’re following my train of thinking,
roasting = the only thing.
So that’s that.

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My family started roasting fall veggies this way last year,
and let me tell you – best thing of my life.

We usually roast what you see here: winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions,
but you can add in whatever you want – beets, broccoli, turnips, the works.

I didn’t peel ‘em because who likes naked vegetables has time for that?

And a little warning (not really a warning but really a blessing because, you know, these veggies rock),
this recipe makes a TON. So I almost wouldn’t be offended if you halved the recipe.
But don’t blame me when you want more and have to roast more the next day.

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There’s something about the sweetness of the honey, the heat of the cumin and cayenne, the warmth of the cinnamon…
the flavors all meld together and bring out all the great flavor in these fall vegetables.

Recipes like that make vegetable-eating enjoyable,
and if vegetable eating is enjoyable,
life must be great.

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I just look at this plate, and I’m like,
life’s good, yo.

Don’t you feel the same?

Honey Cumin Roasted Fall Vegetables
adapted from USA Weekend October 12-14 2012
serves 8
Ingredients
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
1 large sweet potato, cubed
3 large carrots, sliced
1 small sweet onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander (ground cilantro)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
fresh thyme, chopped
salt and pepper to taste, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 375. Combine oil, honey, salt, and spices. Pour over vegetables and massage to coat.
2. Place vegetables on 1-2 foil-covered baking sheets. Roast for 20 minutes. Stir and add in thyme. Roast another 20 minutes. (I generally roast mine on convect and it takes about half the time – just keep an eye on ‘em). Serve with a sprinkle of thyme, salt, and pepper.

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Fall’s a good thyme.

See what I did there?

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Butter + English Muffin Bread

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I haven’t mentioned I love fall yet, have I?

Oh, I have?

Really?

Just kidding. Yeah, I know I’ve mentioned my love about a million times in the past month.
And I’m about to go on my tangent again.

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This spiced pumpkin butter is made in the slow cooker (aka Crockpot aka world of magic),
and it’s pretty much my new favorite thing.

It’s seasoned with yummy fall spices and sweetened with the all natural stuff – maple syrup and honey.

I’ve been eating it in and on everything:
oatmeal, pumpkin bread, greek yogurt, apples

One of the best ways I’ve found, though, is on this whole wheat English Muffin bread.

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Don’t you love a good English muffin?

Chewy, crusty delicious breakfast fulfillment.

However, on my quest for real food, I’ve found that the packaged English muffins
include more than what I’m comfortable eating.

Solution? Make my own.

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However, I’m not exactly a fan of the whole “separate into 12 muffins before baking” thing.

So I made bread. And then sliced it. And it was even better (and easier) than portioning out the dough!

The kicker on this recipe is that the dough is super, super tough.
My little handheld kitchen mixer could barely handle it.

I would definitely making this bread if you have a strong stand mixer, like a KitchenAid.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, splurge and buy one. And then make the bread.

Problem solved.

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Here’s to autumn breakfasts everywhere.

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Butter
makes 1 1/2 pints
recipe from Skinny Ms.
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/3 cup no sugar added apple juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. Chill overnight before eating.

Whole Wheat English Muffin Bread
yields 10-12 slices
adapted from Sweet Saucy
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk (I used almond)
1/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons cornmeal, divided

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1/2 a cup of each type of flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add the warm water and milk and beat with a mixer on low for 30 seconds.
2. Beat mixture on high for 3 minutes, slowly adding in the remaining flour. I alternated flours during this time.
3. Grease a loaf pan and sprinkle a tablespoon of cornmeal in the bottom. Add the dough to the pan. Set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. Sprinkle remaining cornmeal on top of the risen loaf.
4. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Cool before slicing.

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It’s Fall, y’all.

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Nacho Potatoes

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It has been a week.

I know it seems as if I say that every week,
and, well, I do, but this week is HOMECOMING.

Even though I’m not on the court, it’s kind of a stressful week for everyone:
homecoming dues, homecoming floats, homecoming pictures

It’s a fun but hectic time.

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And to celebrate the end of homecoming week,
I’m showing you these beauties:
Barbecue Chicken Nacho Potatoes

It’s beautiful nostalgia for me;
Memphis Redbirds games consisted of baseball (ha yeah sort of), that little theme park, and these.

BBQ NACHOS HOLY CHEESE AND BBQ SAUCE OH AND DID I MENTION BBQ

The best of my life.

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So with the arrival of both Fall and comfort food season,
I thought BBQ nachos would be a good thing to do.

And it was.

First of all, the slow cooker does a ton of the work,
so don’t fret when you’re busy with all of your Fall Fun.

I lightened it up for you a little bit, too, with the chicken and hearty potato.

And skinny queso! Oh, so good.

You could totally add tortilla (totally tortilla) chips if that’s your thing.
Sometimes you need a little crunch in your life.

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This is a delicious, hearty, flavorful, quick dinner when you’re needing something
to get this Autumn on the road.

It’s pure unadulterated, childhooded, hot potatoed, tailgated bliss.

Need I go on?

BBQ Chicken Nacho Potatoes
serves 4
Ingredients
2 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (I used this one)
4 small-medium russet potatoes
1 recipe queso/nacho cheese dip (this skinny one is FABulous!)
extra BBQ sauce, for serving

1. Place the two chicken breasts and BBQ sauce in a slow cooker. Cook over high heat for 1 1/2 hours or low heat for 3 hours. Once cooked through, shred with two forks.
2. Coat potatoes with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for an hour or until softened.
3. Make the queso according to recipe. Slice open the potatoes and pile on the chicken, queso, and BBQ sauce. Serve warm with a smile.

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TAILGATE TIME HALLELUJAH

Worship Wednesdays: Broken

So often Wednesdays come and I am utterly broken.

I am worn out, beaten down, exhausted… broken.

The message of Sunday church has started to wear off and worldliness has begun to take over.

I am angry. I am stressed. I am self-centered.

I get news I don’t want to hear; bad occurrences of trivial value happen upon my friends or me.
I wallow in self-pity and disgust in my surroundings.

I get to the point where I just want to run away from it all – I don’t want to think about life or talk to anyone about what’s going on.

Not even Jesus.

What kind of craziness is that?

Because of my selfish, loathsome ways, I don’t want to talk to the only person who can actually help me.

Proverbs 14:12 addresses this; apparently this sort of thing is common:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

God says it again: WE ARE NOT RIGHT.

We are wrong. We are insolent, sinful beings; and we are wrong.

But wait! Romans 5:8 gives us hope.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

No matter how broken we are, no matter how sinful we are;
God wants to talk to us.
God wants to hear about our problems, no matter how ridiculous or trivial they may seem.

All you have to do is pray.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Roasted Chicken

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“Chicken? I could eat some chicken.”

FRIENDS. Gosh, I love it.

Remember that episode?

Watch this clip. Please, just watch it.

And just so we’re clear, I’m totes a Monica. Just in case there was a misunderstanding.

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I like to think Monica would be quite proud of this chicken.

It’s super simple, really. Mix some tangy goat cheese with some herbs and get a chicken and stuff your little heart out.

And if you wanna be like me, sing while doing it.

Better yet, make up the song lyrics as you go. Like I did.

I won’t get into detail on that one. 

I will say, however, that stuffing this chicken was one of the most fun (and rewarding)
experiences I’ve had in the kitchen. And that’s saying something. Sort of.

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The tangy, melty goat cheese; the crispy, flavorful skin… it’s a beautiful thing.

If you wanna be extra special and cool,
stuff this chicken also with chopped tomatoes and artichoke hearts and serve it over rice and roasted peppers.
You’ll love it; I promise.

Monica Geller-Bing (BING SO CUTE) would.

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Goat Cheese Stuffed Roasted Chicken
adapted from How Sweet Eats 
serves 4-6
1 3-4 lb whole chicken, giblets removed
4 ounces goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Clear your countertop for the chicken action. Coat chicken in olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in a small baking dish (see Jessica’s for a good idea of one). Combine goat cheese, basil, oregano, and garlic salt. Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of this mixture, and stuff the rest of it under the skin above the breast, pressing it as far back as the thighs. Get in there (yeah, yeah).
2. Combine tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and reserved goat cheese mixture. Stuff this into the cavity of the chicken.
3. Place chicken in the oven and roast for 60-75 minutes or until the chicken reaches 180 degrees. Let it rest 30 minutes before carving.

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“Wow, Monica, this meal looks delicious!”

“I KNOW!”

#twinz

Blueberry Streusel Oatmeal Flax Muffins

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It’s FRIIIDAY, FRIIIDAY

Gotta eat blueberry streusel muffins on FRIIIIDAY

That’s how that song goes, right?

In my world, yes.

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Muffins are the perfect way to end the week.

You wanna know why?

Well, besides the fact that muffins are perfect for any day of the week
because they’re just so freakin’ good.

But muffins are like the epitome of easy.

Easy = no mix dry, mix wet, mix wet with dry.
Easy = mix it ALLLLL together.

And that’s your lesson on The Anatomy of a Muffin.

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Muffins frustrate me sometimes with their high calorie count.

Like, why can’t we live in a calorie-free world?

I sometimes imagine a world without calories. It’s a really happy place. But that’s another story for another time.

But these muffins won’t bust your diet, and I promise they’re super delicious!

They’ve got oats, whole wheat flour, flax seed (you won’t know it’s there, I swear), greek yogurt, and blueberries.

I like shoving healthiness in stuff. It makes me feel like a stealthy ninja.

I like shoving these muffins in my face, too.

It makes me feel like a healthy stealthy ninja umm… girl.

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AND look at that streusel. Just look at it.

That’s where all the butter goes in this recipe, and it is worth the heck out of it.

When these cute hunks-of-love-aka-muffins are baking, all you smell is the pretty BUTTAH on top.

I’m getting more liberal with my butter use if you couldn’t tell,
and I. am. loving. it.

It’s part of my quest to eat Real Food. More on that to come.

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Bursty, beautiful blueberries. Alliteration.

I know blueberry season is over, but they were on sale at Kroger.

So I bought ‘em. And I used ‘em. And you can do the same. Or frozen will work! You have to freeze them anyway, so you know.

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Yeah, and also, these were terrible.

Obviously.

Blueberry Streusel Oatmeal Flax Muffins
yields 12 muffins
adapted from Pinch of Yum
I
ngredients
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 heaping tablespoons flaxseed
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons nonfat Greek yogurt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup blueberries, frozen
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Either grease or line a 12-muffin tin. I’d recommend greasing because due to the oats, these muffins tend to stick to wrappers.
2. Mix all ingredients through baking powder in a medium bowl. Fold in blueberries once everything is well-combined.
3. Using a 1/3 cup measure, divvy out muffin portions. Combine butter, brown sugar, and flour in a small bowl. Crumble with your fingertips until a delicate crumble is formed. Sprinkle liberally on top of muffins.
4. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy warm. These stay good at room temperature for 2 days.

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Weekend breakfast for the win.

Walnut Encrusted Grouper

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Guys, sometimes my life makes me laugh.

I guess that’s a good thing, right, that I can laugh at myself?

Like every time I start trying to explain my weekend adventures…
“Yeah, man, that was an awesome trip to Kroger! There’s some pretty cool stuff on sale.”

Yeah, laughter is a good thing.

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And there are times when you have to laugh at yourself after the event.

You know those times?

Like when your tire explodes (not kidding) on your way to your college class,
so you park in the teachers’ parking lot,
consequently receiving a ticket,
then you look like an ignorant sweat freak while trying to replace the tire.

Tires. Why do we need them, again?

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I was also very (very) thankful for my best friend Elaine.
(I’ve now officially mentioned all of my best friends on this blog)
She knows how to replace a tire. And keep me sane.

It’s a tough job.

I love her with every ounce of my heart for it all.

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If I were she, I would have laughed at my freakish self.

She did that, too, but you know.

It’s all in good fun.

Anyway, we got the tire fixed after a Snapchat palooza and soaking our clothes with sweat
(bet you wanna eat this fish now, right?).
And then I got to come home and eat this fish.
And everything was good in the world.

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This grouper… amaze.

If you like walnuts… no, scratch that.
If you like cheese (who the heck doesn’t?), you will love this.
And all God’s people said AMEN.

Walnuts, Panko, Parmesean, Parsley, Dill, BUTTAH, Dijon, Salt and Peppa =
capital l-u-v LUV.

And then you saute it and top it with THA BEST mushrooms ON the planet
and you call it a day and life.

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I know I say this about everything, even things non-food
(HA jk when do I not talk/think/breathe food?)
you need it in your life.

A-S-A-P

Walnut-Encrusted Grouper (and mushrooms!)
serves 4
adapted from The Lush Chef
I
ngredients
4 small grouper (or other white fish) fillets
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
salt and pepper
olive oil, for brushing
1 8-ounce package mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Combine walnuts, Panko, cheese, parsley, dill, Dijon, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse to chop, slowly pouring in the melted butter. Brush olive oil on grouper fillets. Press walnut mixture onto both sides of the fillets.
2. Pour a little olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Once heated, add fish fillets to the pan and pan-fry on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until cooked througout.
3. For the best mushrooms you will ever eat: melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add Worcestershire and Soy Sauces. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes or until the mushrooms have shrunken in size and are uber-delicous.

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Fa-laky.

You could try this with my beloved catfish or any other white fish,
and I’m sure it’d be delicious.

Happy Thursday!

Worship Wednesday: Hearts and Harts

Whew. It’s been a while since the last Worship Wednesday.

I could list excuse upon excuse for not posting one,
but I know it’s just because I’m too lazy when it comes down to it.

I’m too lazy to spend time with Jesus,
and that is plain sad – however human it may be.

But today I want to share a little spiritual insight with you all-
insight about a man who changed my life in so many ways.
(ps that was dramatic)

Over the past year and a half, I have been so blessed by the guidance Michael Hart and his family have shown me.
I have truly never seen a man have such a passion for Jesus and family-
things that are so dear to his heart.

I first got to know Michael when I started going to Covenant Presbyterian youth group (aka Refuge) in March of last year.
He was so welcoming, as I soon learned he always was, and his joyful spirit and zeal for The Lord
made me feel like I had always been a part of the group.

Over time, Michael taught me so many different things.
He taught me to love justly, to serve others, to laugh when things are down.
He taught me about grace, about prayer, about pure worship.
He taught me it’s okay to be late sometimes (Refuge kids- laugh here).

He helped me find my joy for Christ-
an absolute bliss-
something that just going to church most Sundays won’t help you find.

He taught me how to be a servant to others-
showing His grace through helping people who need it most.

He is ever-smiling, ever-gracious, ever-caring.
He’d never stop to think of himself when he hears the cry of others.

Michael and his wonderful, amazing wife Miriam and his beautiful kids Avery and Cannon
moved last week to Florida,
where they’ll be starting a new chapter in their lives,
hopefully lighting some flames in others’ hearts like they have done to so many here.

Covenant and Refuge will miss you dearly, Harts!

As Mary Madeline said in her post, it’s not goodbye; just “see you later.”