staying real : not sitting on the cactus

Yesterday and I didn’t get along. For a variety of reasons, both legitimate and laughably illegitimate. When 6pm struck I was ready to call the day a wash and hope for better luck tomorrow.

But I still had a whole night ahead of me…a whole night! A night with a roof over my head and food in my stomach and clothes on my back. In the grand scheme of things: a really good night. And I couldn’t come to terms with going through it grumpy.

So I made an effort.

I started by laying on the living room floor and crying praying. These verses were brought to mind and were especially comforting.

And then I did these things:

1. I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Really, is there anything more effective than sunshine and sidewalks to snap you out of a bad mood? I really don’t think there is.

2. I made my new favorite salad for dinner: Quinoa with Watermelon, Feta, and Parsley. (Recipe coming Friday!)

3. I listened to the daily podcast from Chip Ingram. It’s become something that I look forward to every day. If you are looking for encouragement, insight, and wise biblical teaching, I can’t recommend Living on the Edge strongly enough!

4. I watched Friends. Because laughter really is the best medicine.

(And then I watched the Bachelorette. Because watching Sean run through the streets of Prague shouting “Emily! Emily!” is pretty good medicine, too.)

I went to bed a happy woman. And this morning, I woke up to this:

A fitting reminder that there are real frustrations in life, but we don’t have to focus on them.

Amen? Amen!

Hope you all are having days free of cacti cushions and full of real joy!

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staying creative : desperate fridge dinner winner

This week’s picture comes with a recipe! It’s a 2 for 1 deal!

So last night. Dinner. Go out? No. Smoothie bowl? Been there, done that, more times than I remember…this week. Something healthy? And easy? And using up old groceries? YES.

I had frozen salmon in the freezer and quinoa in the pantry. The spinach and arugula expired a few days ago but what’s in a stamped date? Everything else was added on the fly.

Winner, winner, desperate fridge dinner!

Ingredients:

Spinach and Arugula salad base

For the quinoa:

  • 1/4 cup quinoa dry, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sliced scallions (about 2 Tbsp)
  • fresh parsley (about 2 Tbsp)
  • fresh ground garlic salt to taste

For the salmon:

  • 4 oz. salmon filet
  • 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Boil the quinoa until water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. When just a little water remains, turn the heat off and let sit, covered, for another 5 minutes or so. Fluff with fork and add remaining ingredients.

While the quinoa is boiling, whisk together the maple syrup, mustard, and vinegar for the salmon glaze. Coat a grill pan with non-stick spray and heat to medium-high before adding the salmon. Cook each side for 4-6 minutes, adding glaze as you flip.

Make a bed with the salad, add the quinoa, and top with the salmon.

Healthy old groceries dinner in under 30 minutes.

As Nike would say, BOOM.

good things : summer bucket list

Happy 1st day of summer, friends!!! I haven’t done any bucket-listing for awhile, but summer just begs to be bucket-listed. There are so many fun things to do and plenty of time in which to do them! Here are my top 10:

Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt Pops

pinned here via here

1 :: get ice cream at Lugia’s

2 :: go to Hamlin Beach

3 :: make my own greek frozen yogurt pops

4 :: spend a FULL WEEK at home

5 :: have corn on the cob, watermelon, and chicken on the grill

6 :: go for a long, hot run on the canal and/or Genesee River

7 :: take a day trip, complete with packed picnic lunch (Canandaigua? Pennsylvania???)

8 :: have strawberry lemonade

9 :: make s’mores

10 :: go to an outdoor concert/drive-in movie/summer festival on a warm night

and bonus!

11 :: have dinner outside with friends by the water

via martha stewart

What’s on your bucket list?! If you need any ideas…look no further than Martha Stewart’s definitive guide to all things summer. We’re talking 60 ice cream desserts, no-cook recipes, party ideas galore, and an index that makes it unbelievably easy to lose a few hours in summer planning. Have fun! And happy summer!!!

inspired : 6.17.12

summer food love from joy the baker (that strawberry pineapple crumble! oh my word!)

all about the wonderful world of southern weddings

love these colors : lagoon and lemon

how to teach your kids (or even yourself!) responsibility and discipline

9 no-bake summer desserts from fitsugar (um, yes to all of these!)

love this article about monthly challenges by 12 months of lent (SUCH a cool blog!)

the gotasks app has been a such a great find! I use tasks in google calendar for my daily to-do’s and this app syncs seamlessly.

this copy and paste recipe calculator is going to save me SO MUCH TIME

if you haven’t been on the chobani website lately, you are missing out! great content!

a catalog you can purchase from and feel great about : gifts of compassion

my affection for the packers notwithstanding, I honestly love the branding of wisconsin cheese. check out all of their outstanding websites!

a pinner after my own heart – love all of amanda’s boards!

SO inspired by katie’s story, her love for the Lord, and her outstanding website. it’s a true treasure!

pin of the week:

Cake Batter Protein Shake (190 calories and 35 grams of protein...flipping out over here)

(190 calories and 35 grams of protein. FOR REAL.)

(THANK YOU, KATIE!)

pinned here via here

good things : discoveries

Recently I’ve discovered a few wonderful things. And they are:

1. NFL Network on Hulu

Um…HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS??? There are no words. Well there are words, and they appear in the picture above. They say, “Need a break? You have been watching for more than 3 hours.”

Oh.

Well, then.

In my defense, I have no defense. I just love football way too much.

If you’re looking for me between now and September, you know where I’ll be.

2. New Old Soap

I ran out of bathroom soap. Which is only half true, because I have plenty of other soaps that would have no problem making themselves useful in the bathroom. What I really ran out of was eucalyptus mint foaming soap…and I really prefer foaming soap in the bathroom and scrubbing soap for the kitchen because I’m just one big freak. I was just going to use my back-up kitchen soap in the bathroom…but had a stroke of genius instead! I pumped some of the lemon scrubbing soap into what little remained of the eucalyptus soap, added some water, and gave it a good shake. And lo and behold, I now have lemon eucalyptus mint foaming soap that I like even better than the original! (In no small part because I feel like this is a great discovery for all of womankind. Really…just think of the possibilities!!!)

3. Fresh Greens

For the record, don’t believe me when I say that something changed my life. Because it happens often. And while true, it usually doesn’t carry the weight of what most people define as life-changing.

But really…fresh greens changed my life this weekend. And you can take that one to the bank. Or to the farmer’s market, where I purchased said greens.

PEOPLE. OH MY WORD!!! I didn’t think that I could love salad more than I already do. But buying fresh spinach and arugula changed everything. It was like going from Sunny D to fresh squeezed orange juice. So crisp! So fresh! So flavorful!!!

I then proceeded to make six salads. For myself. For the whole week. I’m not even kidding.

Sometimes, when I’m in the kitchen, I’ll pluck a few leaves of spinach from the bunch just to snack on because they’re that good.

Oh my word. Totally life changing.

4. Homemade Sound System

That insert on the chute of the food processor? Perfect for holding an iPhone playing Pandora and amplifying the sound x 100. I had many a kitchen jam session this weekend.

Clearly, because there was so much to celebrate!

Two thumbs way up for unexpected goodness all around.

staying in rochester : f. olivers

When my parents were here last weekend we ate lunch at Magnolia’s and then wandered down Park Ave to F. Oliver’s, purveyor of flavor-infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

After the WONDERFUL store employee showed us around and let us sample a thousand different combinations…my Mom and I decided to get two bottles and then split them at home: Orchard Ripe Red Apple and Farmstand Strawberry.

I can tell you with confidence that these bottles are no longer half-full. They are now almost three-quarters empty.

Because OH MY WORD…this stuff is incredible!

I love many things about these vinegars, and let me tell you about a few of them: First, I love it that what is on the label is what is in the bottle. There is no Red #5 or Strawberry Flavor in the Farmstand Strawberry, there is just pure strawberry goodness infused into a smooth balsamic vinegar. And that’s another thing I love – these aren’t your runny, grocery store vinegars – these guys have body and heft. They’re almost closer to a reduction in consistency without being quite so syrupy. They also don’t have the bite of traditional vinegars, so they taste AMAZING as-is over salads, pastas, ice cream, straight from the bottle, etc.

And don’t even get me started about the flavors we left behind.

F. Oliver’s, you have a customer for LIFE.

staying hungry : grilled raspberry balsamic chicken over roasted asparagus and pecan pilaf

So, I kind of cheated this week…again. But whatever, at least this one didn’t start out frozen.

Technically, these meals are supposed to be derived from recipes pulled from the endless stream of blog posts and magazines I hoard, but this recipe came straight from the aisles of Wegmans.

And I have no remorse about said circumstances because it turned out to be a darn good, though perhaps long-winded, meal.

The idea came from these places:

1. Wegmans is giving out samples of asparagus! I like asparagus. I’ve never purchased and/or cooked asparagus.
2. Asparagus = spring.
3. Chicken sounds good.
4. Oh my word what if I marinated the chicken in that dressing again??? That’s such a good idea!
5. Do I want to put it over a brown rice pilaf?
6. Do I want to put it over a roasted vegetable pilaf?
7. Do I want to put it over a wild rice and quinoa mix?
8. Do I want to put it over a brown rice pilaf?
9. Wait, did I already look at that one?
10. How long have I been standing in this aisle?
11. HEY! Pecan!
12. Man, I’ve been here for awhile.

And behold, a recipe was born.

Grilled Raspberry Balsamic Chicken over Roasted Asparagus and Pecan Pilaf

Or: Holy Goodness That Title Is Long

Ingredients:

Directions:

I’m so bad at this part. Here’s my best effort. Or an effort:

1. Marinate the chicken in the dressing for at least an hour. How much dressing, you ask? Oh, you know, that much. Enough to cover it well.

2. While the chicken is marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss asparagus in olive oil, salt, and pepper and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.

3. Start the rice. Read the box. And then proceed as directed.

4. Put the asparagus in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender but not too tender.

5. When you have about 10 minutes of cooking time left, start grilling the chicken. Depending on the size of your cut it should only take 3-5 minutes per side to grill well.

6. Assemble: scoop of rice, a few stalks of asparagus, a few pieces of chicken.

7. Drizzle a little extra dressing on top.

8. Devour.

Rating:

4/5. I really, really, LOVE this meal – it’s 110% spring! Next time I’m adding goat cheese because I have issues and I’ll add goat cheese to basically anything. I think I’m also going to start adding this dressing to everything because oh my word…it’s so amazing. But overall: winner, winner, chicken dinner!

staying hungry [nc series] : southern food tour

Well y’all…I did it up right food-wise in the South.

Would you expect anything less?

The soul food train started rolling in the right direction with a classic staple:

Stop #1: Southern fried chicken with applesauce, fried okra, and two buttery biscuits from Mama Dips.

I think I can still feel that brick in my stomach…but oh my word…it was so worth it. I’ve been dreaming of that chicken ever since.

Next was straight to Stop #2, Locopops. Because what better to add to a stomach brick than a layer of ice cream?

This one was AMAZING. Mexican Chocolate, you have my heart.

But as for pure, unadulterated love? That goes to Jubala, Stop #3, and home of one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had in my coffee-lovin’ life.

But wait, there’s more! They serve food too! This granola yogurt was good, but I think I have to make a trip back just to try one of their pressed sandwiches (oh my word, the PB&J…).

Never one to leave well enough alone, I went back to Locopops because I couldn’t stop thinking about this Pineapple Basil concoction.

It was a good decision.

Which brings us to Stop #4. I think I could do an entire post on A Southern Season, a mecca for fans of all kinds of culinary wonders. Just to prolong the experience, I decided to have lunch at their attached restaurant, Weathervane.

The chicken salad…it was calling out to me. And I’m so glad I answered. It was over-the-top amazing! And sweet potato fries? One can never go wrong with sweet potato fries.

Unpictured Stop #5: Chick-fil-A. And lots of it!

(Regret: I wish I had tried one of their new cookies. But perhaps, along with the milkshake, that would have been a tad overzealous.)

I knew that after an exhilarating three days in the South I’d need some special fuel to drive North on the fourth. So at Stop #6 I ordered a black iced coffee with a shot of espresso from Caribou Coffee. As far as iced coffees go, it was standard. I appreciated the bold assistance offered up by the espresso. The ambiance probably enthralled me more than the coffee.

At Stop #6.5…I ordered up an iced triple tall caramel macchiato from Starbucks with my free birthday coupon! The fact that I drank one iced coffee, four shots of espresso, and over 2 liters of water and only stopped to use a restroom twice in a 12 hour drive is a testament to years of building up bladder endurance. Admissions travel and cross-country road trip – I’m looking at you.

Ok, people…let’s talk about Stop #7. This was clearly the way to go out with a bang: a chicken biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen.

Don’t let it’s unassuming looks deceive you…this breakfast beauty packs a wallop like no other and leaves you wanting more! Oh…SO much more! It’s a good thing I stopped here last because otherwise I would have been tempted to have all of my meals between biscuits.

Alas. all good things must come to an end. Sometimes for your gastrointestinal system’s sake.

Which is why I woke up to this on Sunday morning:

Time to pay the seamstress piper.

staying hungry : kashi steamed sesame chicken

[This is another fake post coming to you pre-trip as I am currently south of the Mason Dixon Line and loving every minute, I’m sure. Enjoy this post for now, more details to come next week!]

The time has come.

The time when I’m going to feature a frozen dinner as a Dinner Challenge post.

I’m sure y’all have never been prouder.

I’m also sure I’ve never said y’all in an actual conversation before but I’m preparing to go south for a few days so I’m trying to assimilate early.

But really…if I’m going to feature a frozen dinner on behalf of time/travel constraints…this would be the one to feature.

IMG_2876

This dinner is from Kashi’s new steamed entree line. I also tried the Chicken Farfalle, which was almost as good as the Sesame Chicken…but I REALLY LOVED the Sesame Chicken, so let’s not be too hard on the Chicken Farfelle. It was up against stiff competition.

Kashi Sesame Chicken

Ingredients:

One Kashi Sesame Chicken Steam Meal

Bed of greens of your choice (arugula, spinach, chopped lettuce, etc)

Directions:

Microwave the steam meal according to the package directions. Once cooked and slightly cooled, add to a bed of greens.

(Oh, yes. That “recipe” just happened. To anyone who felt less than confident about whatever recipe you are posting today, hopefully you can feel confirmed by this post that it’s actually better than you thought it was.)

Rating: 4/5. Although I prefer to make real food, this is about as good as microwaved meals get. Definitely worthwhile when you are in a pinch!

staying real : i’m going to MTH 2012…tomorrow morning

SO…

this is going to be short and anticlimactic because I need to go to bed soon because I am driving to Chapel Hill, North Carolina at 5am tomorrow morning because even though I didn’t get the full scholarship to Making Things Happen I decided to go anyways and I haven’t blogged about it at all or really talked about it at all even though I’ve known for the past 3 weeks that I’m attending because I’m nothing if not a champion avoider of a variety of emotions and I am scared out of my mind to go to a workshop in which we discuss dreams and life goals because the things that I’ve been making happen recently include forgetting to shower on a publicly acceptable basis and finishing the entire series of Gilmore Girls for the I-don’t-know-how-manyeth-time-because-I’ve-honestly-lost-count and that’s not really a ringing endorsement for lofty ambitions so I couldn’t bring myself to think about going to MTH which explains why I couldn’t write a sappy blog post about how much it means to me to go to MTH and how excited I am which explains the subsequent absence of all chocolate substances that were once in my pantry.

Whew.

And since I still can’t talk about it in a way that is not a paragraph long run-on sentence…that’s all I’ve got. However, I do have three short thoughts to offer in exchange:

1. This has nothing to do with anything, but I feel compelled to tell you all that I thought today was knife sharpening day at Williams Sonoma. So I put my favorite knife into an over mitt which I then put in my purse because how else do you transport a large chopping knife but in an oven mitt inside your purse and went off to the mall hoping and praying that I didn’t get a) pulled over for any reason and searched or b) set off a security alarm inside the mall and searched. But I took comfort in knowing that there is safety in numbers so at least my fellow culinary store patrons would come to my defense if I were hauled off to prison for oddly concealing odd weapons.

Imagine my surprise when I arrive at Williams Sonoma and it is NOT knife sharpening day after all. It’s just a regular day. So now I’m not walking around with a large knife in an oven mitt in my purse to have it honed to perfection by the kind employees at Williams Sonoma. I’m actually just walking around the mall with a large knife in an oven mitt in my purse.

Between the hair dresser and Wegmans this has really been a banner week for me. I think my days of being allowed out in public are numbered.

2. You guys all pack food when you are going on a road trip, right? Like a dozen granola bars and microwavable oatmeal and squeeze packs of peanut butter and trail mix and a variety of tea bags and chocolate milkshake mix and three packs of gum and bananas? And package it all up in old oatmeal canisters so that it’s separated by meal times? Right?

3. You guys all contact your favorite blogger who you’ve never met in person or had a conversation with before and ask them if, oh hey, maybe you could descend upon their lives while in their general geographic area next week? Right?

I think this entire post can be labeled under “new low.”

In other news, I’ll be posting through saved drafts this week…and then I’ll be back with an actual recap that is longer than one sentence but shorter than War and Peace next week.

I hope.

Have a GREAT week, everyone!

(And if those of you who pray could pray for my safety/sanity as I travel, I’d surely appreciate it. And if you could also pray for healing since I JUST realized that Chick-fil-A will be closed tomorrow because it’s Sunday therefore thwarting my plans for an imminent reunion and breaking my waffle-fry-lovin’ heart…that would be great too. )