Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Dinner Picnics

Tonight my husband and I lamented about last summer's dinner picnics. We absolutely loved eating outside on our screened-in porch any time we wanted to, even in the rain. Currently, we do not have the same setting for dinner picnics, but we are working on it. Feeling a sense of desperation with the fleeting sunlight, I asked J. to go ahead and pull our patio furniture out of the garage so we could please enjoy this gorgeous spring weather. Thankfully, he obliged and set to cleaning the furniture while I cooked up a quick dinner. No menu planning this week, so I pulled out some things from our fridge and pantry. Do you all have stock items that you most always have in your house? Spinach, pasta, sauce, and fruit are almost always in our home, and they all ended up in my version of dinner tonight!

  • spinach, arugula, & onion red sauce pasta topped with goat cheese
  • spinach, arugula & chopped apple salad
  • plum/clementine/kiwi fruit salad

We're both looking forward to having an outdoor space to share dinner with friends. What is your favorite aspect of spring?

Gilly the Independent Spirit

Having a kitty in our life has brought us great joy. She's been growing and has more of an independent spirit than she did when she was smaller. She still snuggles but not on such a frequent basis; rather, she is exploring every nook and cranny and getting into things that she probably shouldn't (as evidenced by the large amount of potting soil I cleaned up on the kitchen table earlier this afternoon). Today she spent a great deal of time outdoors. I kept the door open and she ran back and forth, never leaving our property grounds -- still a little bit of dependency, perhaps? It's hard to imagine us loving another animal/pet as much as we love her.

daytime naps

Tie Cat, 1

Tie Cat, 2

Busyness Can Be a Blessing

Life has been pretty hectic up in these parts, so we will be taking a little break from blogging for the time being.

Upcoming events include, but are not limited to:
  • Master's Practice in Augusta GA this upcoming Monday
  • Second Anniversary Camping Trip to Wilmington Beach NC the following weekend
  • Archery lessons
  • A.'s graduation from her nursing baccalaureate program!
  • Chicago trip for J.'s sister's graduation from Moody Bible

Of course, the regular busyness of life is intermixed in all of these things, so you can probably imagine how quickly these next few weeks are going to fly by. We are definitely blessed!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weekly Yums | 19-25 March 2012

Moe's Monday

Tuesday Night Group, hosted by J. & D.
chicken tortilla soup & sandwiches!

Spicy Grilled Tilapia and Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash Lasagna

Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

J. & A.'s Wedding!

Breakfast Casserole

Weekly Yums | 12-18 March 2012

Moe's Monday

Tuesday Night Group, hosted by J. & J.
potato bar!

J - Dinner @ S. & R.'s: beef stroganoff
A - Dumpling Inn, San Diego CA

A - spicy rice, red beans & chicken

A - Casa de Pico, La Mesa CA

A - K.'s homemade turkey/spinach/feta burgers

A - Anthony's Fish Grotto, San Diego CA

Sorry for this late entry, but last week was just a bit crazy. I traveled to CA to visit my good friend, K., and I have no idea what J. & K. had for dinner last week because I did absolutely zero menu planning! He tells stories of cereal for dinner, breakfast casserole, dinner @ a friend's house, and other random samplings. We're back to planning this week! While out of town, I must admit that I had some really delicious food. The best was authentic Baja Mexican @ Casa de Pico. And I don't think I've ever consumed so many avocados in my life! Lurve it.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cornus florida

While in California this past week, my husband called me for a quick conversation. He casually mentioned that the dogwood trees in our yard were blooming and that my car might be covered in yellow pollen. Still very much in the presence of gorgeous southern California, I could not help but become beyond ecstatic to get home so I could see these gorgeous trees on our property. (Truth be told, I was not completely aware that we even had dogwoods considering that we moved in during Fall and the trees were barren; now I feel blessed with these gorgeous white flowers I can see through both my front and back windows.)

My first memory of dogwood was at the age of thirteen during a northern Georgia family vacation. It's probably during these formative years that my love for nature cultivated. I remember reading a little placard that described the history of the tree/flower, its distribution and full illustrations.

Four years ago, my uncle passed away somewhat unexpectedly. His funeral service was to be in North Carolina, and on the way, my mother and I stopped in South Carolina to visit J. He was then still a bachelor, living with an entertaining co-worker, and we were just breezing by for lunch. Well, the Palmetto State was just alive with spring buds -- dogwood, crepe myrtles, azaleas, magnolias -- as far as the eye could see. My mother insisted on going on a photo rampage up and down Forest Drive, and though just silly and fun at the time, it was exactly what our souls needed. The healing touch of God's work was ever present through the beauty he supplied to us on that day. Around the same time my uncle passed, J.'s maternal grandfather did too. And in the same month, one year prior to my uncle, my very best friend's father also left this world. In a season of so much hurt, the Lord really demonstrated that death occurs so life can be created. I don't know if the dogwoods affected J. as much as they did me, but every time I look at them, I feel a culmination of sadness and joy.

Two years later, when J. proposed to me in the summer, we both knew we wanted a Spring wedding. I specifically wanted those southern blooms to be present during our celebration -- both an ode to those we have lost, and a way to glorify the Lord that creates them. After much searching and many frustrations, He did provide a wonderful space for us to marry. Given the late Spring that year, and the torrential downpours days before the date, we know that it was only through Him that he made the sun shine bright and those saucer magnolias, azaleas, lavender, and dogwood bloom on our special day.

After a long red-eye flight, I arrived home this morning, feeling wiped and jet-lagged. I stepped out to see the sun shining on our very own dogwood tree, in full bloom, at the corner of our lot. All of those open buds, waving hello to me in the wind. Windows open, my feet propped up, I write this with the white flowers in the corner of my eye.

What a grand creation He has made. I shall rejoice and be glad in it!

Multitude Mondays, Week XXXIX

421. spiritual gifts God blesses us with
422. a supportive Bible Study Group
423. God pushing me to do more
424. faithful friends
425. health of my grandfather
426. learning about variations of Christian faiths (i.e. Amish)
427. a loving husband
428. catching up
429. Tuesday Night Group by campfire (:
430. safe travel
431. a relaxing, rainy Saturday
432. naps in the park
433. new food
434. sunny weather
435. meeting new people & connecting
436. accomplishing goals
437. blooming spring flowers
438. treasuring people who are no longer with us
439. dry desert weather
440. coming home

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Food: Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Last night in a moment of weakness and feelings of despair, I pretty much begged (okay, guilted) J. into coming up with the menu plan for the week. By having our Monday and Tuesdays taken care of in a sense, it allows us the time (and less pressure) to plan meals for the rest of the week (Wednesday-Sunday) any day up until Tuesday night. This has been working out pretty well for us until this week. Being scheduled to work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday kind of cuts into the idea of meal planning. I fell asleep Tuesday night thinking and stressing about how I didn't plan or buy food for the week (and knew our pantry was fairly bare). The next morning on the drive in, I thought that I would like a smoked salmon salad that night with perhaps some orzo (have I told you my husband makes the best?). I didn't really communicate this idea with him until it was too late, so instead I arrived home to what I called Leftover Smorgasboard (aka what-ever-is-left-in-the-fridge) -- leftover smoked salmon, Kraft mac & cheese, and sliced strawberries. It was all very good, but at the end J. reminded me that our pantries were bare and what was the plan for the rest of the week?

This is the moment where I broke down and started begging. (Funny, because just on Sunday we were talking to our Church Class about who does the grocery shopping and I made a huge deal about how I never "let" J. grocery shop.) Well, my best friend is pretty great so of course came up with some pretty great meals. I didn't really know what he had up his sleeve until I came home tonight.

I entered through the back door and could immediately smell cooked bacon. There was a bowl of spinach sitting on the counter and a block of cheese (what I thought was initially goat cheese but was actually mozzarella). I plopped down on the couch to finish the conversation I was having with my mom, J. took a break from playing some dumb game on Xbox and went into the kitchen. Less than ten minutes later, this little delight was placed in front of me on the coffee table --

Oh. My. Yum.

Using ciabatta bread, J. created this delight of a sandwich. On it:

- Ripe Avocados
- Caramelized Onions
- Sauteed Spinach
- Thick Slices of Mozzarella
- Bacon

I see this becoming a regular on our menu. Mmmmm.

P.S. Apologies for the poor photograph, I was starving!
P.P.S. Incredibly awkward: J. ran into a friend of ours from the Church Class I mentioned in the grocery store. She even made a point to say that she was surprised he was allowed to do the shopping this week. (:

Weekly Yums | 5 - 11 March 2012

Moe's Monday

Tuesday Night Group
K. and J. made Fetticini Alfredo with garlic cheesy bread and worms n' dirt for dessert!

Leftover Smorgasbord: Smoked Salmon, Kraft Homestyle Mac & Cheese, Fresh-Cut California Strawberries

Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: mozzarella, avocado, caramelized onion, bacon, and spinach grilled on ciabatta bread
(created by my dear husband -- so so soooo good!)

Fish Tacos

Breakfast Casserole

Eggplant Parmesan

Monday, March 5, 2012

Multitude Mondays, Week XXXVIII

411. plane tickets for Alaska!
412. my mother celebrated her 48th birthday!
413. quality time with friends
414. open windows
415. The Wire
416. homemade icecream
417. useful gifts
418. good news of a work schedule change
419. be able to vent about frustrations with the past week to a friend via email and then the subsequent feeling of relief and positivity (thanks T.!)
420. this week's weather forecast

Weekly Yums | 27 February - 4 March 2012

Moe's Monday

Tuesday Night Group Dinner Out @ The Pizza Joint TGIFridays

Spinach & Cheese Quesadillas with Corn and Black Bean Salad

I honestly have no idea what we ate this night. J., help me out? Was it eggs and toast?


Smoked Salmon, Baked Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus

Leftovers from Saturday

Our meal post, a week late. Partly due to my work schedule, I was absolutely terrible at planning food for the week. In my opinion, we ate out way too much and that coupled with the cruddy weather, my mood was definitely affected. Having a successful Saturday meal shared with good friends uplifted my spirits, though, so we're hoping for a much better upcoming week. How do you plan your meals for the week? Who does the shopping in your household? Do you often share meals with friends? How much eating out per month is too much?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Food: Smoked Salmon, Baked Mashed Potatoes & Asparagus

For Christmas, J.'s parents gifted us with a smoker (probably because we always demand, err, request smoked salmon when we visit). Well we finally got around to using it this weekend, and my oh my, we will be using it again. Friday we stocked up on salmon fillets (and strawberries, oh my gosh... strawberries) so we'd be ready to cook the next day.

The process itself isn't too lengthy after you've prepared the smoker for the first time. I think it took about two hours to cook. The salmon was mighty fine (forgive my grammar, we've been watching The Wire this week). MMhmmm.

To accompany the salmon, we agreed potatoes would be best. Feeling inspired by our friends Jessie & Daron, I sought to make twice baked mashed potatoes. Courtesy of I combined a few things together and created h-e-a-v-e-n. Or at least I think so. Add that with J.'s famous asparagus and you've got yourself a fiiiiine meal. Oh, did I mention that we made smoke salmon dip for an appetizer?

We were blessed to have our friends S. and R. over on Saturday night to share in this deliciousness.

What was for dessert, you ask? Homemade strawberry ice cream. Mmm. (That'll be a later post, though.)

Baked Mashed Potatoes

4 large potatoes
2/3C fat-free sour cream
3oz softened cream cheese
1C sharp cheddar cheese
2 Tbs chopped chives
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4-6 slices of turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 Tbs crushed red pepper
pinch of salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp paprika

- Peel and dice potatoes into 1-2" cubes
- Boil in large saucepan until tender (about 20-30min)
- Drain and mash (do not add milk or butter) in original saucepan
- Add 3/4C cheddar cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, bacon, yellow and green onion, black and red pepper and salt and mix with hand-mixer until smooth
- Place in 9x9" buttered pan. Top with remaining 1/4C cheddar cheese and paprika.
- Bake @ 350F for 20-30min

(recipe adapted from here and here)