Vanilla Coffee Creamer

20140415-091416.jpg

I love coffee in the morning. In our home, my husband is the one who gets up first and goes straight into the kitchen to grind fresh coffee beans, boil some water, and brew coffee in our French press. I love the smell that slowly makes its way into our bedroom, coaxing me to get up and embrace the day. I love sitting in a comfy chair by the floor to ceiling window in our living room and taking some time to sip my coffee and set my heart on Heaven as the day begins.

I want to be a black coffee drinker, but I’m just not. Even after working at a high end coffee shop for almost a year, I could never give up the creaminess of coffee. I’m long past the days of hydrogenated soy bean oil creamer (yuck!) but I do still enjoy the “natural” versions that have lots of sugar. That’s why I’m excited about this homemade kind, and will never go back!

Sweetened with maple syrup and honey, this creamer is delicious, cheap and easy to make. I’m never going back!

Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Notes:
*if this isn’t quite sweet enough for you, add more maple syrup
*if you’re looking for a dairy free version, this recipe was adapted from Against All Grain-her’s is dairy free!

Ingredients:
2 cups half and half
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

To make:
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a low boil then turn heat to low immediately. Allow to simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Shake well before using each time.

Enjoy!
>

20140415-093744.jpg


Eating with the Armstrongs

20140409-225134.jpg

(perks of hosting a wedding shower: leftover flowers to brighten our home)

In true fashion, spring has been feeling quite full! Wedding showers, friends visiting, parties, and yard work have overflowed into our lives. We had a wonderful get away last weekend to a personal retreat center and we are excited to celebrate our third anniversary next week with a night spent in New Orleans!

The retreat last weekend was truly a gift. We spent two days at an amazing little bed and breakfast/counseling center about thirty minutes away from us with an incredible husband and wife who ministered to us, counseled us, and served us the best homemade Mexican food(thank you, Lord!) Coming up on three years of marriage, my teeny piece of marriage advice is this: get counseling even when you don’t feel like you “need it”. Honestly, Matthew & I are in a really sweet and peaceful season in our marriage, so we didn’t have a long list of issues to bring to our time of counseling. We went into the weekend asking the question: how can we grow in our marriage? I’m not sure why, but for some reason I expected to spend our time there weeping and hashing things out. Instead, our time was peaceful and refreshing, and our eyes were opened to some important things to work on and some revolutionary ways to communicate and grow closer as husband and wife. Even if you can’t get professional counseling, find a couple who is older and wiser than you and get time with them for advice and wisdom. However, if you can, find a professional marriage and family therapist to meet with! It is worth it!

In the midst of a full spring, here are some recipes we’re enjoying:

Smitten Kitchen’s Three Bean Chili. I love to try new chili recipes. Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs and I always know the recipes will be delicious. My change is adding some ground beef to up the protein factor for my husband. If you do add ground beef, add about 1.5 pounds, sautéed with the onions. Also, when adding the water, you’ll need to double it so that it doesn’t dry up & burn during the simmering process. I may or may not know this from experience.

The Pioneer Woman’s Heavenly Hummus Wrap: really anything with hummus is a favorite for me. Homemade is best, but I also absolutely love Whole Food’s Original Hummus. Randomly, last night I dreamed that I read the ingredient list for their hummus and it included ground up pancakes. Don’t worry, this is not true.

Spicy Sriracha White Bean Dip from White on Rice Couple; My go to for appetizers and snacks is usually a good ole classic hummus. But I really enjoyed this switch up with white beans and an Asian flare.

My Roasted Vegetable & Brown Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce: I will never get tired of that peanut sauce! Such an easy and delicious meal, use whatever seasonal veggies are available!

Rachel Ray’s Pasta Carbonara: This is quite a creamy meal but a little less heavy because she doesn’t use cream in the sauce.  A few changes: I used brown rice fettuccine, I did not use lemony breadcrumbs as a topping, although that sounds delicious! Instead of asparagus, I used spinach and instead of pancetta, I used bacon. Overall, this is a great restaurant-style meal that’s easy to make at home.

Raw Brownies from A Couple Cooks: wowowowoweeee. These brownies have gotten rave reviews from friends and from my husband. Topped with some simmered down berries or served over coffee ice cream, this is the perfect dessert. These are totally easy to make and much healthier than your average brownie.

I’d love to hear what recipes you are enjoying lately! I hope you try and enjoy some of these.

These are some photos from our retreat. Isn’t Louisiana beautiful?!

20140409-224915.jpg

20140409-224940.jpg

20140409-224514.jpg


Eating with the Armstrongs

You know those people who are just comforting and refreshing? Being with them is easy, a breath of fresh air? This week we’ve spent time with two different couples who bring us so much life.

One of those couples is my parents who visited for the weekend from Dallas. We laughed, we shared deep conversation, we ate, we worked in the yard, and overall we just relished in each other’s company. My parents are two of the world’s best.

It also comes in handy that they enjoy yard work (or at least we say they do) because Matthew & my dad picked up 23 massive bags of leaves and my mom and I planted some flowers and ferns in a garden bed that needed some love.

20140310-230125.jpg

The other couple is a husband and wife from church that we are just getting to know but who are two amazing people. I told them tonight that they need to name their house “the refuge” or “the haven” because every time we go, that’s just how we feel. And I really need to tell you the menu of the dinner they prepared because it was divine: steak, homemade challah bread, grilled avocado, grilled portobello mushrooms, roasted potatoes and a spinach and feta salad. Now that was glorious enough, but dessert was over the top: homemade strawberry pop tarts with homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit. The pop tarts were flaky and buttery and the vanilla ice cream was sweet and perfect.

But even more refreshing than the food was the conversation. Conversation is an art form and tonight it was woven together with strands of good question asking and stories and life-stirring wisdom.

Who in your life do you need to set the table for, think of some good questions, and invite over for an evening of refreshment? It doesn’t have to be fancy or as gourmet as last night, just thoughtful and genuine. Here are some recipes we’ve enjoyed lately to help you plan:

Black Bean & Quinoa Enchilada Bake from Two Peas & Their Pod
A yummy & healthy tex-mex inspired casserole. You really won’t miss the meat but you could easily add some cooked chopped chicken or cooked ground beef to make it heartier.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Our Best Bites
No butter and no wheat! These cookies are sweet and decadent with just a couple of ingredients.

Scrambled eggs with Smoked Salmon from Pioneer Woman
Wow! These are so scrumptious and add a little bit of gourmet flare to your scrambled eggs. I made my eggs using my tip for the best ever eggs.

Collard Green Falafel with Hummus from Minimalist Baker
Don’t be afraid of collard greens. They are a great leafy green with a bit of a spicy bite similar to arugula. This is a fabulous vegan and gluten free falafel recipe, best served with lots of hummus.

Warm French Lentils from Ina Garten
I’ve recently discovered my love for lentils. They are super healthy, filling and inexpensive. This recipe is packed with flavor and you can easily add whatever vegetables you want to. It’s definitely one of my new favorites and Matthew loves it too.


Avocado Toast & a Tip for the Best Scrambled Eggs

20140304-093933.jpg

Growing up, breakfast at Papau & Grammy’s house was always a comforting treat. The scent of Grammy’s flaky, buttery biscuits and her made-from-scratch, stick-to-your-ribs sausage gravy plus Papau’s famous scrambled eggs would fill the house and make our mouths water. And although the days of eating sausage gravy are now few and far between (or never), thankfully creamy, fluffy scrambled eggs are a delicacy deemed healthy and inexpensive.

Papau’s eggs are made with olive oil over low heat and lots of Papau love and really can’t be improved upon, so let’s just make sure that’s clear. But when I came about Shauna Niequist’s trick for the best scrambled eggs, I had to try them. With only eggs, a good non-stick pan and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, these are hard to beat. Something about adding the eggs, already whisked, to a cold pan, turning the heat to a medium low and slowly running your spatula through them creates the absolute creamiest eggs imaginable. The only thing better would be if Papau had made them.

If you’ve never enjoyed the simple luxury of avocado smashed onto a piece of toast, well, you’re missing out. It’s the best treat for breakfast, lunch or dinner and can even be made with gluten free bread, because while it’s not good eaten soft, gluten free bread can be turned into some darn good toast. My dad’s method of “oven toast” is the best: your choice of bread with a couple pats of butter, toasted in the oven at 350 for ten minutes. Can’t beat it.

So, I’m not really sharing a recipe, but just an idea and a method. Trust me and try it!

Avocado Toast with Scrambled Eggs

for one, easily multiplied

Ingredients: 

2 eggs, whisked in a bowl until the yolks and whites are combined

1 piece of bread

1/2 an avocado

a sprinkling of salt and pepper

To make:

Toast your bread. Smash avocado on top.

Make your eggs. Please make them with this method, you won’t regret it.

Put a small, non-stick pan on the stove top. Add whisked eggs. Turn heat to medium low. Slowly and gently use your spatula to move the eggs around the pan. Be patient as you won’t see much progress at first. Don’t leave the stove, keep stirring. Soon, the eggs will begin to pull together, continue stirring until the liquid has come together into light, fluffy scrambled eggs. Just before they seem completely done, remove from heat. (They’ll continue to cook).

Immediately scoop them onto your avocado toast and eat while warm!


Roasted Vegetable Brown Rice Bowl with Easy Peanut Sauce

20140228-132521.jpg

Every Christmas Eve my family enjoys a fondue feast. It’s a special, beautiful and delicious meal which starts with cheddar fondue with veggies and bread and apples followed by chicken and beef with peanut sauce and creamy horseradish sauce. Dessert puts us over the edge: dark chocolate fondue to coat strawberries, bananas and homemade buttery poundcake. I love fondue not only because it’s so good but because of the laughter and interaction we have as a family. It’s as extravagant as it sounds and we leave the dinner table feeling happy and full.

This is a definitely a special once a year treat, any more than that and we’d all be a little larger. But there’s one thing from the meal that I always crave and love to make at home: peanut sauce. The creaminess, the saltiness, it’s just perfect and so easy to make at home because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand.

Paired with roasted vegetables and brown rice, this is a great lunch. It could easily be made heartier with the addition of chopped grilled chicken or a fried egg right on top.

This week I celebrated the arrival of my first CSA produce box. My friend Lena and I are splitting a weekly box of fresh produce from a local farm, Luckett Farms. It feels really good to be cooking with vegetables that were picked the day I picked them up as well as to support local farmers. Our first box was filled with cabbage, broccoli, carrots, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and raw honey from bees on the farm. The honey is heavenly!

20140228-140818.jpg
For this recipe, I roasted some of the broccoli, carrots, and cabbage. The judges on Chopped would probably look down on the way I let my broccoli get slightly burned, but trust me, that dark crispness is where the flavor pops. It really doesn’t taste burnt, just nicely caramelized.

I hope you enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable & Brown Rice Bowls with Easy Peanut Sauce

serves 2

Ingredients:

One head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 carrots, sliced
3 one inch slices of cabbage (cut off of the whole head, keep intact)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of brown rice*
2 1/4 cups of water
Handful of chopped peanuts
Cilantro leaves for topping
One lime, cut in half

Peanut sauce:
1/4 cup of peanut butter
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
Squirt of Sriracha

To make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bring 2 1/4 cups of water to a boil in a pot on the stove. Add rice and turn heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes until water is dissolved and rice is fluffy. Remove from heat and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt to the rice.

While rice is cooking, place sliced carrots, broccoli florets, and sliced pieces of cabbage to a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over vegetables then sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Put veggies in preheated oven and allow to roast for 20 minutes. Halfway through, take a spatula and turn veggies over so they can crisp on all sides. If you don’t want your veggies to have that brown crispness, take them out of the oven after 15 minutes.

For the peanut sauce: in a sauce pan, combine all ingredients over a low heat. Stir slowly until the sauce is combined and warm.

Scoop 1/2 cup of brown rice into a bowl, top with half the veggies, drizzle generously with peanut sauce, top with chopped peanuts and fresh cilantro. Squeeze lime juice on top.

*you’ll definitely have leftover rice. Throw it in a Tupperware in the fridge and use for something else!

Yum!

20140228-135641.jpg


Eating with the Armstrongs (plus why I love my siblings)

Today is a beautiful, sunny day in Baton Rouge. I’ve already enjoyed sitting outside at a coffee shop with a friend and later I’m planning to head to the dog park with Boone. The weather is a much needed pick-me-up from the early weeks of February which were grey and cold and sad.

I love February because I love Valentines Day! Hearts and chocolate, pink flowers, fancy food, cards, I love it all. Growing up, my mom always made Valentines Day special with a delicious and gourmet breakfast or dinner and my dad would give us flowers and Godiva chocolates, the best! It’s altogether more delightful being married on Valentines Day. Matthew and I celebrated with dinner at our favorite restaurant, Roberto’s on River Road, where we enjoyed sensation salad, stuffed red fish, and King Cake bread pudding. To die for. I bought Matthew some a beef jerky milk chocolate bar from Wild Ophelia and he said it is the best chocolate he’s ever had. What a man.

flowers

February is also wonderful because I get to celebrate the birthdays of two of my very favorite people in the whole world, my older brother and my younger sister.

Ryan lives in Colorado where he skis and snowboards and makes the most of life with new adventures developing all the time. He is laid back, full of joy, friendly, and just the sweetest. I’m so thankful for my big brother!

Natalie lives in Texas where she is loved by every person she knows, is the smartest girl I’ve ever met, drop dead gorgeous, and excellent in everything she puts her hand to. She may be my little sister, but I have lots to learn from her.

I’m celebrating you both today!

family

In the food world, here are a few recipes that we have enjoyed lately:

Caesar Dressing is one of my favorite things to make at home. This one uses Greek yogurt for a delightful creaminess. If you’re afraid of anchovies, just omit them! As much as I love garlic, I would use 2 cloves instead of 4, especially if you make this for a party.

The Pioneer Woman wins again with these decadent dark chocolate brownies. Chocolate heaven. As well as with Queso Fundido, a meaty Queso dip that was devoured in minutes by recent party guests.

We loved the Walnut Crusted Chicken from Kitchenspired. The flavors are really profound and the walnut crust gives the impression of breadcrumbs without the bread.

One of my new favorite meals is spaghetti squash with a meaty marinara suace. I really don’t miss the pasta at all. Just use your favorite meat sauce recipe with roasted spaghetti squash. It’s delicious!

Enjoy these recipes, friends!


Taco Chili

20140128-165805.jpg

This is our snow day. Are you impressed? Maybe not, but when you live in a tropical land of heat and humidity; well, this is our snow day.
Impressive or not, a day to stay at home calls for hot chocolate by the fire, a bundled up walk, board games, and a big pot of chili.

20140128-165913.jpg
When our church met in the evenings in our pastor’s house last year, we would cook dinner for everyone to enjoy after the service. We began with about 30 people but after a few months, we were feeding up to 120 hungry folks! One of my go to dinners for those nights was several big pots of taco chili. Chili is one of those recipes that’s good to have in your back pocket. It’s inexpensive and delicious. It can be made healthier with the use of ground turkey or chicken and it can easily feed a crowd. Seeing as I won first place in a chili making contest, I feel the authority to share my recipe with you. I call this recipe taco chili because I use black beans and corn and lots of cumin. Enjoy!

taco chili
serves 4-6

ingredients:

1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1/2 T oregano
1/2 t cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can kidney beans
1 lb ground beef
1 28oz can whole tomatoes

Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, chips, avocado, cilantro, onion

to make:

Chop your onions and garlic. Heat one Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a non stick pan. Add the chopped onions and ground beef. Use a spatula to break up meat. Cook until beef is browned through and onions are translucent. Add chopped garlic cloves and cook for one more minute. Drain any grease into a jar or trash.

Into your slow cooker, add can of tomatoes with juice. Drain beans and corn, add to the slow cooker. Add meat, onions and garlic. Add all seasonings. Stir using a spoon and break up whole tomatoes with spatula or fork. Allow to cook over low heat for 4-6 hours.
**You can also make this in a large soup pot and allow to simmer for an hour. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor.

Serve warm with preferred toppings!

20140128-171002.jpg


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,561 other followers