April was a BUSY month!

I just realized that I haven’t been able to post and update the blog in a LONG time!  The month of April has gone by so quickly, but has been filled with lots of friends and family.   Here’s a few pictures and updates for you:

My bestie from college came to visit!   (More college friends are coming in June.  I.  CAN’T.   WAIT!!!!)

Jenn and Alison

Jenn and Alison

We went to John and Hilary’s house to hang out and made Lemon Drop Martini’s with fresh raspberries from my friend Rachel’s blog, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.   SO GOOD!

Photo bomber, John, in the background

Photo bomber, John, in the background

I helped organize and clean out my mother-in-law’s storage building one Sunday.  Along the way she told me precious stories about the family and showed me their treasures.  My favorite:  finding her wedding dress!

Greta's wedding dress

Greta’s wedding dress

Every spring, my cousins on my mother’s side get together to see a musical.  My great-aunt Betty started this tradition years ago.  This year, on the anniversary of her going to Heaven, we all went to see Wicked at Fair Park in Dallas.  It was nothing less that spectacular.  Honestly, I could go on and on about it, but I’m still slightly speechless at how incredible the cast was.  Just……WOW!

Cousins at Wicked!

Cousins at Wicked!

During tutoring, my student brought out a new book.  I was a little stunned by it at first (was sort of dark on the cover of the book) but quickly I was reading through it with her.   (She’s SUCH a joy to tutor, by the way.  I will miss working with her during the summer months).  Ghostopolis is a creative story about a boy who gets stuck in the Underworld.  It’s written in comic strip form, which really appeals to my student.  Cute story line!  I’d recommend it to any 4th-6th graders, even some in Jr. High!

Ghost 2

Ghostopolis

Did I mention that I know a published author?!?!   Another best friend from college, Miranda Campbell, has been a great joy and influence in my life.  She just published her first of hopefully many books, Missing Dad.  I was excited to get her to sign my copy when I had lunch with her and Crystal (my best college roommate, ever!) in downtown McKinney last weekend.    Go buy it!   It’s great!

Miranda's book

And then….there’s was a 1980’s Engagement Party for our friends Kyle & Jenn.  Of COURSE we had to dress up!  And boy-oh-boy, did we we dress to the 9’s.  Don’t be jealous of my husband’s legs.   I”ll let the picture speak for itself.

1980's were great years for us!

1980’s were great years for us!

So yeah!    April was busy and fun!  Can’t wait to see what May has in store for us!

Advocare Chicken and Spinach Skillet Review

I tried out a recipe from the Advocare 24 Day Challenge Cookbook. I was not very impressed, to say the least. The concept, a one pot meal, was good. It just lacked in flavor.

The dish involved sauteing onions and celery in olive oil, searing chicken breasts on each side, then letting spinach wilt while the chicken broth and sliced almonds simmered in the mix.

To spice it up a bit, I added capers That one ingredient kicked up the flavor and made the dish. I’m not totally sure of the nutrition value on capers but I’m going to go with they’re not bad. How could something so flavorful and tiny be that bad? We’ll go with that reasoning for now. I only added a tablespoon, just to get that ‘bite’ and bold flavor mixed in.

My guinea pig/taste tester (grandfather) was not a fan of the chicken. “It’s dry,” he said flatly. (Though not true at all, I think he meant that the chicken itself didn’t have much flavor.) However, he LOVED the spinach, celery, onion, almond, and caper mix!

Next time around, I might pound my chicken breasts to make them a bit flatter, or slice them into strips to get more of a flavor while cooking.

So there you go, Advocare. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a solid 5.

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Chicken and Spinach Skillet Dish – from Advocare

  • 1 to 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 – 4 thinly pounded chicken breasts
  • 1/2 of a fresh lemon
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning (or to taste)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 – 4 large handfuls fresh baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup of slivered almonds

Lightly spray a large, nonstick skillet with no fat/no calorie cooking spray. Lightly sauté celery and
onion about 1 -2 minutes, add chicken breasts and cook until almost cooked through on each side.
Season with a very small amount of sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon pepper seasoning.
Squeeze lemons juice on top of chicken as it’s cooking. Add almonds. Once chicken is almost finished
add spinach (3-4 large handfuls or 1 bag- they shrink significantly). Pour broth over spinach. Cover
and cook till chicken is done and spinach is cooked.

Chicken Spaghetti Gets A Makeover!

During the weekend I watched Bobby Deen’s Not My Mama’s Meals.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, Bobby takes meals that his mother (Paula Deen, LOVE HER) makes, but changes them to be healthier.  For example:  Shrimp and Grits gets a lighter side!  No more 4 sticks of butter.  No sir, we’re getting healthy here.   It is inspiring!

And I began to think to myself, “Self, how can you take great food from your own family and make it healthier?”   Well, great question, Self!

As I poured over my recipes of what to make for the coming week, I was craving my great-grandmother’s recipe for chicken spaghetti.  the problem with it is that it has a TON of cheese and pasta in it.  I have developed an intolerance for dairy and for glutens, so cheese and pasta are on my no-thank-you list.  BUT WAIT!  *ding – went the light bulb in my head* “I can make this healthier, just like Bobby does with HIS family recipes!”

And so began the makeover for Chicken Spaghetti!

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Have y’all seen the Go Veggie Lactose Free cheese?   If you haven’t, go try it!  It takes JUST LIKE the full fatty cheese that I miss, and has the same consistency.   This was definitely going in the recipe!

Lactose Free Cheese

Lactose Free Cheese

While at H.E.B., I found this gluten-free spaghetti noodles.  Schar products are gluten free, plus they have great recipes on their website!  The pasta was perfect AND I didn’t have migraines the next day after eating it.  Yet another sign that gluten’s and I don’t get along.  Good bye to the evenings of just eating a loaf of bread with roasted garlic and olive oil.  I miss those lazy nights, but not the migraines that ensue the next day!

Schar Gluten Free Spaghetti

Schar Gluten Free Spaghetti

Next, fresh ingredients from Bountiful Baskets!  Peppers, onions, celery, tomatoes, and mushrooms.

fresh ingredients

fresh ingredients

The recipe called for a few cans of tomato sauce and such.  In retrospect, I could have made this just as easily in a crock pot while at work during the day.  If you’re in a pinch for time, go for the cans.  BUT go for low sodium and/or organic!

Tomato sauce and such

Tomato sauce and such

And then there’s the chicken.  Again, I was in a time crunch, so I grabbed a rotisserie chicken from the deli.  If I could have, I would have boiled one on my own, and reserved the stock for other cooking adventures.  I just love the flavor of your own stock.  This chicken did the trick, though.

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First things first, debone the chicken.  Be careful to get all the bones out as well as get rid of the fat and skin.  Cut the chicken into small, bite size pieces and set aside.

cut up chicken

cut up chicken

Next, cook the spaghetti noodles according to the directions on the package.

Preheat over to 350

While the spaghetti cooks, clean and diced all of your ingredients.  In a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, saute veggies till cooked through.  Add salt, pepper, oregano, and basil as needed.

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In a REALLY big mixing bowl, combine tomato sauces, chicken, veggies, and spaghetti noodles.  Pour in a full package of cheddar cheese and mix with ingredients   *Warning* THERE WILL BE A LOT OF FOOD!

In a greased, deep baking dish (or separate dishes if you’re like me and want to save some for a freezer meal), pour spaghetti in and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir spaghetti and pour more cheese on top.  Continue baking for 5-10 more minutes until cheese is bubbly and dish is cooked through.

Serve immediately!

Fresh out of the oven!  So good!

Fresh out of the oven! So good!

**Side notes:

I froze half of the dish after combining all ingredients together.  When ready to use, just thaw, bake, and sprinkle with cheese towards the end of your baking time.  This make for an easy meal on busy nights.

Also, if you choose to boil your own chicken and have it in the fridge, double the baking time.  Make sure to stir the dish half way through cooking so it cooks evenly and does not burn at the edges.

Ingredients:

  • Schar’s Gluten Free Pasta
  • 2 packages of Go Veggie Lactose Free cheddar cheese
  • whole chicken, deboned and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 pkg fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 lg can tomato puree
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 lg pkg cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • Oregano and Basil to taste

Directions:

  1. Debone the chicken.  Be careful to get all the bones out as well as get rid of the fat and skin.  Cut the chicken into small, bite size pieces and set aside.
  2. Next, cook the spaghetti noodles according to the directions on the package.
  3. Preheat over to 350
  4. While the spaghetti cooks, clean and diced all of your ingredients.  In a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, saute veggies till cooked through.  Add salt, pepper, oregano, and basil as needed.
  5. In a REALLY big mixing bowl, combine tomato sauces, chicken, veggies, and spaghetti noodles.  Pour in a full package of cheddar cheese and mix with ingredients
  6. In a greased, deep baking dish (9X13)  pour spaghetti in and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes, stir spaghetti and pour more cheese on top.  Continue baking for 5-10 more minutes until cheese is bubbly and dish is cooked through.
  8. Serve immediately!

WordPress Stats: addicting!

Everyday I check the stats for our blog to see what people are checking out.  The topics/pages that get the most hits:  our Advocare results!

I couldn’t believe it when I looked at a monthly view of how many hits we get per day from Pinterest.  And the crazy thing, we never intended that to happen!  We thought we’d blog about our experience with a 10 day cleanse, but never gave thought to posting our recipes from everyday things.  But now….maybe people really do like my cooking finds and ideas!

So, new goal:  post more recipes that I make on a regular basis that work well with Advocare/Paleo as well as links to good food articles for people.   I love to cook and help others find healthy and great tasting recipes, and maybe,…..just maybe,…….this is a great start to it!

Thanks, WordPress, for the addiction of checking my stats and giving me feedback on what I need to work on for the blog!  Appreciate it!

30 by 30 – Update!

My 30 By 30 is coming along pretty well.  I’m not reading nearly as much as I would like to, but I’m getting books read faster than in previous years.

Some of my most recent items to mark off the list are below:

#5 – Learn to play tennis:   I started tennis lessons in March and love it!   My instructor is very patient and encouraging, which always goes over well with me.  I’m actually more focused and determined than I thought I would be, which surprises me each time I step on the court.  I REALLY want to learn to play this and enjoy it.  Might be a little competitive after all.  Who knew?!

#7 – Get rid of 10 lbs.   DONE!   In March I was able to shed those pounds and keep it off.  Though I’m not bikini ready, I’m well on my way to it.  My biggest tip in shedding the weight – BE PICKY WITH WHAT YOU EAT!   MyFitnessPal has been a terrific app to make me more aware of what I’m putting in my body (not just counting calories, but looking at proteins, veggies, and starches helps a lot).  Also, RunKeeper is a good app for motivating and tracking your walks/jogs/runs.  I like how it maps where I’ve been and gives me updates every 5 minutes.  (Ex.  The program will tell me:   Time:  15 minutes and 30 seconds.  Distance:  1.7 miles.  Average Pace…..etc..)  And the app will interrupt my music/pod cast to give me an update.  I LOVE IT!

#15 – Buy a gun.  This past Sunday Robby and I went to the gun show and I found my dream gun.   I really just want one for protection when Robby’s out of the house.   We’ve been looking for a Walther in my price range and found a new one at the show.  So excited to go out to the range and shoot!

#16 – Last night we had friends over to eat at the house.  After everyone left, it hit me:  we threw a dinner party!   Scratch #16 off the 30×30 list!!!   We grilled ribs and had a nice little BBQ.  Hopefully this was just the 1st of many dinner parties to come.  We really enjoyed entertaining and having friends over.

#30 – I’ve technically finished 4 books.  I’m in the middle of 3 more right now.  (Little Women, Maine, and a cook book.   That’s right.  A cook book is a book, so I’m counting it.  And I really do read it from front to back.)  Hope to have all of those finished in the next week or so.

So there you have it!  More things to knock off the list!   Still working on the bigger items (i.e. get a house, get a dog, etc…)   For now, though, I’m pleased that 2 1/2 months into this list that I’ve been able to accomplish many of my goals.   The best is yet to come…..

Healthy and filling! Quinoa salad

Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law (Jenny, YOU ROCK!) I’ve been loving my subscription to Clean Eating Magazine.  Great recipes and ideas of how to keep my family eating well.   I tried a variation of one of the recipes last night, and it was FANTASTIC!   Easy to make and throw together, healthy and filling, this recipe has been added to the KEEP pile of recipes in my kitchen.

SIDE NOTE:

Who Knew? Digestion begins long before you put food in your mouth. According to nutrition expert Kathie Madonna Swift, MS, RD, LDN, our other senses, notably smell and sight, can jump-start the production of saliva and enzymes that promote better digestion. This so-called cephalic digestion—cephalic being Greek for “in the head”—explains why the appearance and aroma of food goes beyond mere aesthetics. According to Swift, attractive presentation, pleasing odors, and a relaxed mood improve digestion. So do yourself a favor and set the table with attractive dinnerware and light a candle or two.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Braised-Chicken-with-Artichokes-and-Olives-51150800#ixzz2PVtzRz6f

*****So on that note, please forgive my pictures and lack of presentation.  One day I hope to be that amazing blog with beautiful pictures of food and dishes and table settings.  But until I win the lottery and hire a photographer to follow me around (why can’t we all look like Giada when we cook?!?!), my iPhone camera will have to do for my cooking photos.  Thanks.

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup of quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup unsweetened craisins
  • 1 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • chopped green onions, about 1/3 cup (depends on how much you like green onions)

Directions:

– Cook quinoa according to package.  I used Bob’s Red Mill last night.  LOVE it!

Bob's Red Mill Quinoa

Bob’s Red Mill Quinoa

2.  While quinoa cooks, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup.   Set aside

3.  Chop you other ingredients.  You can add so many other variations to this recipe.  I used the pecans my dad hand-picked and shelled for me from East Texas.  YUMMM!  So good!  Almonds, walnuts, and others can be used, too.

lots of yummies to add to the salad!

lots of yummies to add to the salad!

4.  When the quinoa finishes cooking according to the package directions, pour the olive oil mixture and stir until quinoa is completely coated.  (if preparing this for the next day, reserve about 1/4 of the liquid and pour over salad when ready to eat.)

5.  I mixed in 1/2 of the spinach leaves and allowed them to wilt just a bit from the steam.  Also mix in the craisins and nuts and let sit for 2-3 minutes.  This allows the craisins to plump up a bit.

Mix well so that the quinoa is coated with the dressing.

Mix well so that the quinoa is coated with the dressing.

6.  Serve over a bed of spinach and enjoy!

What a great lunch!

What a great lunch!

This was great warm, and even better the next day when cold.   I added in some grilled chicken for the guys, knowing that they love to have some type of meat with their meal.  Easily that could be left out and just a vegetarian meal.

6 Ways to Memorize Scripture

6 Ways to Memorize Scripture.

Here’s a GREAT blog post by a lovely lady I met in college at DBU.  She has some very helpful ways to memorize scripture, which is always a challenge for me.  Thanks for the help Mary Margaret!

______________________________________________________

“Memorizing scripture is so easy,” said no one ever (or at least not anyone I know!).

It takes a lot of discipline to memorize Scripture on a consistent basis. It’s something that I’m really trying to challenge myself with this year, but it’s so much easier said than done. I’ve joined up with several thousand women (and some of my own family and friends) to be a part of Beth Moore’s Siesta Scripture Memory Team this year, and it’s been a huge help to have some guidelines and accountability.

While it’s not always the easiest thing, it’s such a crucial spiritual discipline that helps me grow in my walk with the Lord.

“When Scripture is stored in the mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to take and bring to your attention when you need it most… Want your faith strengthened? What Christian doesn’t? One thing you can do to strengthen it is to discipline yourself to memorize Scripture.” Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

Here are a few key things that have been helpful for me in memorizing Scripture:

  • Accountability – Have someone ask you how you’re doing and set deadlines for yourself. This year, I’m memorizing two verses each month, and one of my friends is checking in with me on the 1st and 15th of each month to see how it’s going.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition – For some of you, that means writing the verse out several times, and for others, it’s saying it out loud. It may even be helpful for you to draw a picture that reminds you of the verse.
  • Meditate – Spend time reflecting on the meaning of the verse. Don’t just memorize it without looking at the context to see what’s really happening. Make sure you know the bigger picture, and it will usually give you a better understanding of the verse you’re memorizing.
  • Make it visible – For me, I often put my verse on an index card above my steering wheel or on the mirror in my bathroom. Sometimes, I take a picture of my verse with my phone and use it as the background. Find what works for you!photo (1)
  • Choose a meaningful verse – Find a verse that applies to your life. Is there a verse you’ve read in your Bible study that really stands out to you? Use that one!
  • Do the verse justice – Make it a point to know all of the words, and even the punctuation. It’s all there for a reason! It will also help you in the long run to know that you really know the verse.

Here’s the verse I’m working on this week:

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14 

What are some of your helpful hints to memorizing Scripture? Is there a verse you’re working on memorizing right now? 

Easter Day- in pictures

I decided to take pictures of our 1st Easter day as a married couple.  So, here ya go!

What morning would be complete without a cup of coffee and makeup?  Necessities!

What morning would be complete without a cup of coffee and makeup? Necessities!

This past week my mother and grandmother came to visit us!  These are the flowers that I had waiting for them at the airport.  Having the flowers in the house is a sweet reminder of the visitors that were here.

Flowers for my grandmother.

Flowers for my grandmother.

Flowers for my mother

Flowers for my mother

(I know this isn’t a picture from Easter, but here’s a shot of my visitors with me at lunch one day.  Love them!)

Grandmother, Mom, me, and mother-in-law

Grandmother, Mom, me, and mother-in-law

OK, back to Easter Day….

Our church, Stonegate Fellowship.

Our church, Stonegate Fellowship.

Worship on Easter morning!

Worship on Easter morning!

Sermon notes!  Pastor Patrick really had me writing!!

Sermon notes! Pastor Patrick really had me writing!!

Ice Sculpture at the Odessa Country Club!  Happy Easter!

Ice Sculpture at the Odessa Country Club! Happy Easter!

Pretty flowers all over the place!

Pretty flowers all over the place!

Our Easter Lunch Bunch:  Daniel, Kayla, Robby, me, Daddy Jim, Teresa, and Greta.  (We missed having our grandmother, Mynaynie, join us.  She was under the weather.)

Our Easter Lunch Bunch: Daniel, Kayla, Robby, me, Daddy Jim, Teresa, and Greta. (We missed having our grandmother, Mynaynie, join us. She was under the weather.)

My mother-in-law, Greta, and her friend/partner in crime, Teresa

My mother-in-law, Greta, and family friend- Teresa

My handsome husband!

My handsome husband!

The adorable engaged couple!  82 days till Kayla and Daniel's wedding!

The adorable engaged couple! 82 days till Kayla and Daniel’s wedding!

Another windy day out west.

Another windy day out west, but it didn’t keep Robby from playing golf!

Our Easter basket!

Our Easter basket!

I spent my afternoon reading and relaxing.

I spent my afternoon reading and relaxing.

The neighbor's yard is FULL of blue bonnets!  It's so pretty!

The neighbor’s yard is FULL of blue bonnets! It’s so pretty!

Flowers in our yard!!

Flowers in our yard!!

Flowers at the front door.

Flowers at the front door.

Ok, disclaimer.  The flowers in our yard aren’t real.  I’ve found the BEST way to keep flowers in Midland/Odessa….is to get the silk ones and stick ’em in the planters and pretend that you worked really hard to make it happen.  The flowers make me smile every time I come home, so I can’t complain that they’re not real.  Just didn’t want to fool you into thinking that I’m some terrific gardener with a green thumb.  yeah, right!

Grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping. Always.  Seems like I do that more than go to the gym!

Dinner - taco soup.  Yum!

Dinner – taco soup. Yum!

Gluten Free brownies.  Not bad, but not like the traditional ones.

Gluten Free brownies. Not bad, but not like the traditional ones.

Pedicure at home while watching the Texas Rangers.

Pedicure at home while watching the Texas Rangers.

Intensely watching the Rangers lose to the Astro's.  Come on, Rangers!!

Intensely watching the Rangers play the Astro’s. Come on, Rangers!!

Disappointed.  Don't worry, babe, it's only the beginning of the season.

Disappointed. Don’t worry, babe, it’s only the beginning of the season.

What a wonderful 1st Easter married.  We’re so blessed to have a family on both sides that knows the Lord, to have a Savior that defeated death and came to save us from our sins, and to be able to worship Him together in our marriage.