The Sweet Tooth Within

>> Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So, it's Day 16 of 21 of our Daniel Fast.

I can hold out from sweets for a while, but SIXTEEN DAYS!!! That's asking a lot!

Around Day 14, I was seriously craving some sugar. Everyone who's an expert in sugar detox says your body will decrease cravings for sugar after a few days, well mine increased! :) It might just be the comfort of something sweet and yummy after dinner, or the cold rainy weather we've been having in the NorthWest, or maybe the stress of life in general, but it was time to get creative and I needed something sweet.

So how, do you ask, did I make a dessert when I'm not allowed any breads, sugar, dairy, or eggs???

Very, very creatively!

So, Holly Furtick, the pastor's wife of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC had a recipe on her blog for a bread pudding from when they did the Daniel fast several years ago. She made hers with stewed apples, but if you know me at all, I hate cooked apples, and "the taste of hot apples in my mouth"! (That's for you, babe). So, I went with the idea of strawberries and breaking it down to make a strawberry sauce to go over it. I pretty much followed Holly's recipe for the pudding, and then came up with my own recipe by messing around with the sauce. This recipe is also vegan for all you vegan followers out there!

But I have to say, I'm kind of sad the fast is almost over. It has been an amazing time of growth physically and spiritually, and my husband and I are looking forward to keeping up a lot of the ways we've been eating.

Don't panic, it won't only be vegan recipes from now on!!!

I can't wait to tell you what we're doing to celebrate the end of the Daniel Fast! It's gonna be good!!! :) Can you guess??

Vegan Bread Pudding with Strawberry Sauce (Pudding adapted from Holly Furtick, Sauce by Me)

Ingredients: BREAD PUDDING
4 slices Ezekiel or any brand sprouted bread, chopped up (Trader Joe's has several brands as well)
Soy or almond milk - enough to cover bread
~ 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1 1/2 Tbs. honey
1/3 cup pecans

2 cups strawberries, sliced
~4 packets natural stevia (This is a natural plant extract, but can be found near Splenda at the store. This should be to taste, it can be your preference. If you don't like the aftertaste, go with less.)
2 tsp. vanilla extract.
1 Tbs. cornstarch

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees

2. Cut slices of Ezekiel bread into cubes and place in 8x8 baking dish. Pour enough soy/almond milk to cover each piece. Allow to sit for 15 min.

3. Top bread and milk mixture with cinnamon, honey and pecans.

4. Bake in oven for approximately 20-30 minutes or till desired doneness (I like mine a little crispier with most of the milk absorbed).

1. Slice strawberries.

2. In medium saucepan combine strawberries, stevia, and vanilla extract.

3. Cook over medium heat till strawberries break down.

4. Mix 1 Tbs. corn starch with ~ 1 TBS water until smooth. Add to strawberry sauce and combine for 2-3 minutes until sauce thickens.

5. Place in food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Serve warm with bread pudding.


Don't Stop Reading Because It's Vegan

>> Friday, January 22, 2010

I knew that would catch your attention!

I know a lot of people turn up their noses and won't give this recipe a try because it's vegan, but I'm here to tell those people to give this recipe a second chance! It's delicious, it's yummy, it's good for you, and it's packed with protein!

My church, Southbay Church, is doing a 21 day Daniel Fast, which we are right in the middle of. Actually Day 13 of 21. The Daniel Fast is based off of Daniel chapters 1 and 10, and includes not eating any meat, breads, sugars, and additives in food. So, as you can imagine, the meal planning and eating has been VERY creative. It's very close to a vegan diet, but take out the sugar, flour, etc. Lots of whole grains, legumes, salads, fruits, and nuts have been on the agenda for us, and this recipe is part of that.

It's hard to write up the exact measurements for everything, because I basically opened the fridge, looked in there for a few minutes and pulled out every veggie I thought might be good in this and chopped away. So I'll give you an approximate, but the good thing is that there isn't really a right or wrong way to cook this - customize the veggies to your liking - my favorite way to cook!

Do you have any good vegan recipes I can add to my repertoire?

Vegan Stir Fry (By: Me)
Makes 4 Servings

2 Tbs. sesame oil, divided
3 oz. firm, extra protein tofu, thinly chopped
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 cup raw broccoli florets
1 cup raw baby carrots
1 red or green pepper, chopped
1 8 oz. packet sliced portobello mushrooms
~ 2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 cup brown rice
Sea Salt to taste

In a small sauce pan, combine sea salt, 1 cup brown rice and 2 cups water. Place on high heat until boiling, reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until water is absorbed, about 30-40 min.

Meanwhile, it medium sized skillet or wok, heat 1 Tbs. sesame oil. Add chopped tofu and cook until golden brown. Place on a separate plate and put aside.

Heat remaining oil in skillet, and add chopped onion, cooking until tender. Add garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 min. Add remaining vegetables, cooking until crisp tender, approximately 5- 10 min.

Aren't the colors in this dish amazing!!

Add the soy sauce to the pan of vegetables, continuing to cook until vegetables are fully tender. Place cooked tofu back into pan and cook over low heat until heated through. Remove from heat.

Place cooked vegetable mix over cooked rice. Season with additional soy sauce if desired.

The delicious dish! Happy Cooking


Smoky Chicken Salad

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

My husband and I are doing the P90X exercise program. If you haven't heard of it, be very glad you haven't! :) It's hard, crazy, and intense. We're on day 76 of 90.

Of course my husband started seeing results the week we started, and I still am waiting to see the results. The joys of being a woman. He got big muscles, and I got none. He lost 15 pounds of fat, I've lost 5, He can do pull ups, I can't do any, he's almost got a six pack, and I have 6 inches of flab, he eats In and Out Burgers all the time, I eat none. Why is it that when it comes to losing weight and working out, men just do better than women? Really frustrating! :)

Anyway, while doing this, I tried to cook most of the meals in the provided book for dinners at least, and we followed a sensible diet plan for breakfast's and lunches. Sorry, I don't have time to come home and grill turkey burgers for lunch - I had to make it functional for me with working a full time job, being part of a church plant, and me being the one doing all the planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.

One day, I was making dinner from one of the recipes and accidentally combined the recipe I was making with the recipe that was directly under it when reading the ingredients. Well, it happened to be amazing, and it ended up being my favorite recipe from the program. The recipe was for chicken salad, and I ended up adding a bunch of spices not in the recipe including: chili powder, cumin, and a small amount of coriander. After making it a few times I just add the chili powder and cumin, but it makes it wonderful! It's simple, quick, and easy, and I have even made this one for lunch and made it back to work on time! :) Here's the recipe:

Smoky Chicken Salad: (Adapted from P90X)
Ingredients: Serves 1
8 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast
2 1/2 ounces low-fat mayo
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons green onions, diced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (or to taste)

Place chicken breasts on indoor grill or skillet and cook until done, but still tender.

Once cooked, place in food processor and shred chicken finely. This can also be done by hand if you don't have a food processor.

In a separate bowl, combine mayonnaise, mustard, green onions, and spices.

Add shredded chicken and combine. Chill until ready to use.

You can eat this a variety of ways: put it in a wrap with some fresh veggies and lettuce, eat it plain, on a sandwich, etc, but I really love a scoop of it on my salad with a sesame ginger dressing on top! So filling.

Have you ever made a recipe that was a flub that turned into fantastic? What's your favorite?


Baby Shower

>> Thursday, January 14, 2010

This past weekend, my friend Laura and I hosted a baby shower for another of our friends, Mandy. She's expecting her third baby, but first boy! We were very excited, and the chance to do anything crafty was a bonus! Laura and I had a lot of fun planning, and even more fun prepping, even though we don't have any kids of our own. Mandy decided on green and brown with monkeys as the theme for the nursery, so we decided to incorporate that and make the shower a jungle theme.

A few months ago, my friend from Charleston, Carissa made these sweet decorations for her best friend's baby shower. They were adorable, and it gave us some inspiration to make these.

We made a cute little banner to welcome the little one to the world.

Then we made some cupcake toppers to brighten up the table a bit

An adorable diaper cake made a perfect center piece, and went perfectly with the jungle theme. You can find some great instructions for diaper cakes here

Here's a picture of the whole table, ready and waiting for the fun.

Now we just need this sweet little boy to make his appearance! Can't wait to find out his name! :)


A Birthday Meal

>> Saturday, January 9, 2010

I celebrated my birthday this week. Yes, I know, it's only a week and a half after Christmas. You don't have to tell me that. This was not always fun growing up.

You know, getting everyone's toys they didn't like from Christmas as a birthday gift. Or celebrating my birthday before we all went back to school from Christmas break, so half of my friends were still on vacation and couldn't come to my party. Or not getting to bring in cupcakes for your birthday because my birthday was always on a day when we hadn't gone back to school yet. BOO! :)

But it wasn't all bad - you know the let down when you are a kid on Christmas night after you've opened all the gifts and played with all the toys, and then you think to yourself that the next time you get to open gifts again won't be until your birthday? (Oh come on, you know you all thought it!!) Well, for me, that just happened to be only a week and a half away! Of course I never have those thoughts anymore - you know, I meant when I was a kid! Don't judge me.

As I've gotten older, doing the big birthday dinner out to eat with a bunch of friends always sort of overwhelms me. I have a difficult time choosing somewhere that I might like, that will be able to include everyone, fit everyone, etc. My husband and I were talking about this, and I mentioned that I would just love to have a few of my friends over for a small dinner party, with a good meal, and something really special. Well, let's just say I have the best husband! Boy did he deliver. He threw the best dinner party, with a meal that he made (all my favorites, and I didn't do a thing), even made a cake from scratch, and had a few close friends over for a really fun and relaxed time! It was great!

Yes, he did need a little help and some extra time- okay a lot of help, at one point every person (except me) was doing something in the kitchen to get the dinner ready, and he said to me "how do you do this by yourself and have it ready on time" Practice, lots of practice!

He went the extra mile to make everything special: coordinating dinner ware and table runner (yes he went out and bought some of this stuff!!), candles, roses, all my favorite foods, he even coordinated the wrapping paper for my gift with the color scheme. I should take notes! :)
We had Chicken Bryan (a Carraba's recipe that we figured out the recipe for), two cheese risotto, balsamic roasted asparagus, and raspberry laced vanilla cake that had this amazing buttercream frosting with raspberry liqueur in it!

I had an amazing time with lots of laughs, love, and amazing food!

Got one amazing gift I wasn't expecting - an Apple MacBook - more blogs!!

And I have one amazing husband to thank for all this! Thanks to my husband and friends who made this a really special night! Best birthday in a long while!

What about you? What's your favorite thing to do for your birthday?


A "Go To" Meal

>> Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I have a confession...

It's not a big deal really...

But it's kind of sad...

I cheat when I'm having people over/entertaining and I need a good meal...

I have a "go to" meal.

I know this is probably common, but when you're supposed to be good at cooking, you shouldn't have to rely on "go to meals". So just be forewarned, don't come to my house for dinner twice, because I don't know what I'll make you - I only have one go to meal! :)

One of my favorite parts of the "go to" meal is risotto. I know it sounds pretty common, something anyone can make... but I'm telling you, this risotto is to DIE for!!! The trick is to KEEP stirring. When you think you're done stirring and it's time to add more liquid, keep stirring!!

I originally got a pretty good recipe at my first gourmet cooking class I ever took at Charleston Cooks. I was thoroughly impressed by how yummy this recipe was, tried it at home and actually got it right. After making it a few times, of course I wanted to venture out and try my own thing. This recipe is a few year's worth of love and passion changing things up until I got it JUST RIGHT! The mascarpone cheese sounds like an odd addition, but trust me, so creamy! It's the most creamy, yummy, biggest comfort food you have EVER tasted. For serious!

What's your favorite "go to" or comfort food meal?

Two Cheese Risotto (BY: Me)

INGREDIENTS (serves 4-6)
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry sherry + 2 TBS(NOT cooking sherry)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 TBS butter + 1 TBS for use at end if desired
~4-6 cups chicken stock
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (best to get this fresh and grate when needed)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced


**VERY IMPORTANT** Due to needing to have both hands ready for stirring, it's important to have all ingredients measured and prepared prior to starting the cooking process.

Place chicken stock in small saucepan and place over low heat, keeping warm.

In a large frying pan, melt 2 Tbs butter, add chopped onions and cook until tender. Add arborio rice, continuing to cook until rice is toasted.

Carefully add sherry to pan, as it will splatter. Stir rice until dissolved.

When sherry is completely dissolved, using a ladle, pour 1 ladle of chicken stock that was left warming into the pan, continuing to stir until dissolved.

I took a picture of what the pan should look like when it is time to add more liquid. There should be streaks of the rice on the pan, so when the next scoop is added, it's used as a deglaze almost.

Continue adding liquid one ladle at a time until completely dissolved before adding next scoop, and until rice is al dente (You can taste and tell when it is done, but you can also know based on there only being small white spot in middle of rice, rest of rice should be clear.

When rice is al dente, make your last liquid added last 2 TBS dry sherry for added flavor.

Remove pan from heat and stir in remaining 2 TBS butter if desired (yes, you want to because it makes it ridiculously creamy). Then add cheeses and tomatoes and stir.

Place risotto on serving dish and top with Parmesan cheese if desired.