9.17.2014

Refreshed and Recharged

I have a few blog posts in my head that have not made their way out yet, so I thought I would tide you over with what's been going on with our little family lately. More specifically, here is what is going on with the littlest member of our family.



This adorable ten-month-old boy has been growing in leaps and bounds, it seems. He no longer has army crawling as his only mode of transportation, he can also crawl on his hands and knees if he has a mind to. He loves to pull himself to standing and can, thankfully, find his way back down to his knees or his bottom most of the time. Elias has been able to say, "mama," for awhile, and he can also say, "dada," "uh-oh," and "bath" (although I'm a little unsure on that last one).



He loves to eat and can even get a spoon in his mouth if all of the circumstances are working in his favor. He likes eggs, fruit, sweet potatoes, squash, chicken, roast beef, noodles, and all manners of crackers or cereal. :)

As a family, we are trying to soak up the last rays of this transition from summer to fall, enjoying some time outside whenever we have the chance.



Because I remember silly things like that, Jordan and I celebrated our ten-year dating anniversary along with our 7 1/2 year wedding anniversary. Jordan's gracious mama babysat our children for us so we could go out to our favorite Thai restaurant and have some good one-on-one time, followed by my first jamocha shake in three years at our favorite coffee shop, Burgie's (this is hand-scooped ice cream and real espresso, my friends!).


It was good to have some opportunities to reconnect this weekend, as I have really been struggling lately with how I have been doing as a parent (and a stay-at-home parent, at that) … but that's for another post. All in all, I am so glad that God gives us times of refreshment when He knows we need them the most. We all need to recharge sometimes so we can jump back into our jobs, our families, and our ministries with renewed vigor. 

He never lets us run dry.

"By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence." ~2 Peter 1:3

8.23.2014

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza with White Garlic Sauce

It's been three weeks since I last posted, and that was about me finishing the Couch-to-5K program. I seriously have not run since then (my foot had me out for awhile, but now I have no excuse), so it's only fitting that I post another recipe for you—and not exactly one you would want to eat before a run. :)

I have been in love with the chicken bacon ranch pizza from Pizza Ranch and the gourmet chicken garlic pizza from Papa Murphy's for awhile now. I wanted to make a pizza that had a garlic sauce like PM's pizza, but still had that bite from the ranch. So, I did what I do best:  I took my favorite things about different recipes and melded them together.

I wish I had step-by-step photos for you, but when I cook a meal that I haven't done any prep for ahead of time, there's a lot of bribing with cartoons or Cheerios until Jordan comes home to distract the kiddos. … Anyway, without further ado, here is the recipe all you facebook commenters have been waiting for.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza with White Garlic Sauce




While I like wheat crusts and pan crusts, I thought that a simple, white crust would be best for trying this pizza. Since we're not going for a really thick crust here, we don't have to let it rise very much, which is nice if you're short on time.

Ingredients:

  • White crust
  • White garlic sauce
  • 1 whole skinless boneless chicken breast (about one pound)
  • 1/2 pound sliced bacon
  • 1 - 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • Prepared ranch dressing

White Crust:
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp quick-rising dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add oil and 3/4 cup of the water, and start your dough hook on low. As the mixture combines, determine if you will need any of the last 1/4 cup of the water to incorporate all of the ingredients. Once everything is combined, allow the hook to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can just mix it by hand and knead it on a lightly floured surface (it's okay if it's still a little tacky, but it should pull away from the counter cleanly). Cover; let rest for at least 10 minutes in a warm area.

Before you start your sauce, preheat oven to 425°F. Lay 1/2 pound of bacon in strips on a cooling rack placed onto a cookie sheet. When oven is ready, place bacon in the oven for 12-14 minutes; let rest before finely chopping.

White Garlic Sauce:

  • 1 whole chicken breast, filleted and finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp fresh or 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (shredded is better if you have it on hand)

Coat a large cast iron skillet or other large skillet in olive oil over medium heat; melt 1 tbsp butter in pan. Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and add chicken to pan. Cook chicken until browned and no longer pink in the center; set aside. Add remaining butter to pan chicken was cooked in, and scrape up brown bits until butter melts. Slowly whisk in flour until no lumps remain. Gradually whisk in milk. Add salt, pepper, garlic, and basil. Mix in Parmesan cheese and mix until cheese has melted. If sauce seems too thick, whisk in more milk, as sauce will thicken as it stands. Remove from heat.

While chicken is cooking, sprinkle flat baking stone with cornmeal. Place dough in center of stone; roll within 1 inch of edge. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes.

Remove crust from oven and spread garlic sauce on crust to within 1/2 or 1/4 inch of edge. Sprinkle the bacon over the sauce, followed by the cooked chicken, then the cheeses. Sprinkle tomatoes over the cheese, and place in oven for another 10 - 15 minutes, turning at 10 minutes. Sprinkle green onions and drizzle ranch dressing over pizza before serving.

Bon appetit!

8.01.2014

You Don't Have to Go Fast … You Just Have to Go

You dont have to go fast, you just have to go.
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I DID IT!!!

I am now a Couch-to-5K graduate!

Couch To 5K Plan
Couch-to-5K Plan
Getting back in shape after baby number two has proven a lot more difficult for me. … Perhaps it has something to do with spending the greater part of three years being pregnant. Still, I seemed to bounce back last time with quick results once I started working out, so I have been somewhat disappointed. At the beginning of June, I decided to start running, even though I haven't run consistently since before I got pregnant with Kieran. And (let's be honest here) the longest I have ever stuck to a consistent running schedule is a couple of months. Oh, and did I mention that I had never run more than a mile and I detested the very thought of that?

I started with one-mile runs; my goal was to work on decreasing my mile times. My first run was June 6th, and a couple of days later, I posted this on facebook:
The other night, I ran for probably the first time in thee years (I've exercised, just no running). My time to run just one mile was awful. Tonight, I ran for the second time, and my mile decreased by 45 seconds. ...Maybe there's hope for me yet
My first mile was an impressive 12 minutes, people! At one point, I think I got down to 10:30, but a few weeks in a friend told me about the Couch-to-5K (C25K) plan; I looked into it and jumped in at week four. I was kind of glad I got to skip all of the really boring-looking intervals. Since I don't have a smartphone, I had to map out my runs ahead of time and keep track of my intervals myself. And since I am incredibly, incredibly slow (shout out to all my friends who have never reached five feet), I decided to train based on distance, rather than time.

This was too funny not to share! Running. Motivation.
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Its not about the speed with which you run, but actually getting up and doing it! Love this. #runners
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Some runs have been wonderful, but many have been hard. I am super stubborn, so that works in my favor, but I want to be so much faster than I actually am. And the more I run, the better I feel in some aspects, but old injuries and aches and pains seem to enjoy paying me a not-so-friendly visit. However, I do love the challenge and the feeling I get when I meet one of my goals.
Never in my life have I ran two miles. I did it for the first time today and was hoping I would come in at or under 20 minutes. I finished in 25:08--but by that time, I was just glad I finished at all!
And, of course, the final goal:
COUCH-TO-5K COMPLETE!!! Three miles in 36:22. #C25K #fitforlife #insertinspirationalfitnessmantrahere
I'm so glad I started this journey and proved to myself that I could do something I never thought I could or would do. I am not sure that I will ever classify myself as a runner (I know, I know, "You run. You're a runner."), and while I have lofty ideas of someday doing a 5K to 10K training, I am not sure my poor joints are built for long distances. Whatever challenge I take on next, I know that when I get discouraged I can look back on this one and say, "Remember what you did there?"

My triathlon Saturday!  This says it all!  I didn't have a pretty performance, but I crossed that finish line! :)  motivational monday: Quote Art {dead last} @mamamissblog #quote #running
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7.26.2014

Somewhere in the Middle

Last week, I had one day where I pretty much fell apart.

Even when I was struggling with a newborn and a young toddler, I never felt like I had a day like this. I was dealing with one really grumpy baby (Honestly, I can't even remember the reason anymore--teething, maybe?), one increasingly grumpy toddler who wanted more attention than what the baby was taking away from him, and no afternoon naps.

When my husband came home, he was frustrated with me about some miscommunication that we had had, and, for some reason, that was the last straw for this overwrought mama. I felt like an all-out failure, but at the same time, I was offended that this should all seem like my fault. I just couldn't let things go, and after a couple of hours my frustration and anger went from simmering to boiling over. And I--a woman who usually thinks of herself as easy-going and laid-back--yelled at my family.

Oh, it kills me just to put that in writing.

I really felt like I needed to get out of the house, but when my husband (bless his soul) suggested that I stay and talk it out, I burst out with something to the effect of, "Why?!" Then, pointing to each family member in turn, I exclaimed, "You don't like me! You don't like me!! And you don't like me!!!" Believe me, I regretted it as soon as my little rant was over. I eventually apologized to the people I love most in the world and was able to put it aside for awhile, but at the end of the evening, I was just racked with guilt.

"I hate myself," I told my husband. We talked about how the day went. We talked about how, in the span of a few short hours, I felt like I had become the parent that I never wanted to be. But it wasn't until I opened up my Bible that I really understood why I could not let this go. I knew I needed to read Psalm 51, so that's where I and all of my emotional turbulence turned.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight....

The reason I couldn't get past what had happened was not because I had become "that mom."

It was because I had become God.

In that moment, I had decided that what I wanted and felt I needed were more important than anything or anyone else. I chose not to live out Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law." 

Instead of choosing love of my family, I chose love of myself.

Instead of choosing joy in my circumstances, I chose despair.

Instead of choosing peace, I chose strife.

Instead of choosing patience, I chose short-temperedness.

Instead of choosing kindness and goodness, I chose anger.

Instead of choosing gentleness, I chose harsh words.

Instead of choosing faithfulness and self-control, I chose to give into my desires.

There I laid, on my bed, condemned as a wife and a mother--a failure as a child of God. But God reminded me--and reminds me still--that I am, in fact, not condemned but forgiven and loved. I am not--you are not--a lost cause. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

A friend recently shared an article that really helped me to put all of my thoughts into words:
The next time you’re tempted to say “I hate myself” because of the lingering sin in your life, take a deep breath, regroup, read Psalm 139, and get back in the game. “The righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Proverbs 24:16). The righteous fall. Falling is not the defining issue. The wicked listen to the accuser (Revelation 12:10) and don’t get back up. The righteous get back up.

Oftentimes, it's how we deal with our failures and shortcomings that defines us. It is just heart-wrenching to know that what you have said and done cannot be unsaid or undone. And I, for one, can begin to hate myself as I see myself branded by one moment in time. As Paul so eloquently said, "I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate" (Romans 7:15).

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You're making me
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me
Through it all, the amazing truth is that God's love never fails and never gives up on us. Rather than being branded by our ugliest moments, we are branded as God's own. Instead of finding ourselves weighed down by our failures, we find grace springing up from an unending Source. We find that His mercies are indeed new every morning.

Okay, so I am very loosely tying in this photograph with the idea of "grace springing up." ;)

7.14.2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

Normally, when I go shopping--especially when I go grocery shopping--I'm all about looking for the best price. How much does each item cost per ounce? Of course, I know better than to just buy the cheapest white bread or spaghetti sauce I can find (plus, I find myself making my own more often than not!). But there are times when you really do have to pull out a few extra pennies to get the higher quality items. Here are a few of my more recent favorites:

Raw and Unfiltered Honey


You can find this at Walmart or even on Amazon. Now, I am not a huge health nut, but I also don't like that honey is marketed as "good for you", but then we are sold a version of it that has many of the benefits removed. Moreover, I truly think that the taste is far better. It is nowhere near as cheap as the generic brands; however, at least this way you are actually getting what you payed for.

Cottage Cheese with Sea Salt


This stuff is AMAZING. I only let myself buy it every other trip to the grocery store because I am afraid that I will become addicted to it. If you don't have AE in your area, I am most sympathetic to your plight. Now, just so you don't think I'm biased, I used to buy the generic kinds and found that I liked our local grocery store's version. I also tried the Simply Kraft cottage cheese, and I thought it was just terrible. I may have been justified, since over a million containers were recently recalled. Not only does my pick taste better, but it has fewer ingredients. Oh, and the best part? "Each 1/2 c. serving is packed with 12 grams of protein, low in fat, calories and carbohydrates and gluten-free."

Mom's Best Natural Cereals


I know people who say that cereal is bad and overprocessed and over-sugared and have completely cut it out of their diets. And, while there are some that are more like milk-drenched candy (sorry, Reese's Puffs), I have completely fallen in love with this brand ever since I found their oatmeal flavors back when I would work early mornings (They have an oatmeal raisin cookie, people!). I only wish that my grocery store sold even more of their varieties--the blueberry pomegranate is my absolute favorite, and it has been sold out the last three times I have gone. Le sigh. They really are an amazing company. "Free of artificial flavors or preservatives. No hydrogenated oils. No high fructose corn syrup." Plus, they are very environmentally conscious and super affordable (Who can afford name-brand Cheerios these days?).

Pure Cane Sugar (minimally processed)


It seems like right now so many people I know are cutting out sugar from their diets and replacing it with sweeteners such as pure maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar. I was really excited when I stumbled upon Zulka Morena pure cane sugar--and super excited to find that it is only fractionally more expensive than most refined sugars. For me, this is a happy medium, as this is not an issue in our household, but, as with the honey, I would like the product to be closer to how it was meant to be.

All of this talk probably makes us sound like a super "crunchy" family--far from it! I am, however, trying to be smarter in my choices and find us products that help our family to eat delicious foods and provide the fuel our bodies need. 

Do you have any favorite finds you've stumbled upon recently?