Summer Fruit Salad with Minty Lime Dressing

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Whew! It’s been a crazy couple months! Summer is normally a bit overloaded, but this summer is even crazier than usual. We went on a trip to Indonesia and that trip was bookended by weddings, friends in town, and several important meetings for Matthew. We’re off again this weekend to a wedding in Austin and are excited to see Texas family.

In the midst of the craziness, I’ve still been cooking and especially enjoying summer fruit! Have you had any peaches yet? They are to die for! I haven’t been able to get enough peaches or blueberries and I’m hoping to visit a blueberry farm to pick my own in the next couple weeks. Growing up, every summer we would drive to Tyler, Texas to pick blueberries. After picking pounds and pounds in the hot summer sun, we’d go to a nearby state park for a picnic and swimming. When we got home, my mom would make blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, and freeze lots of the fresh blueberries for later use. I love those summer memories!

Today, I’m sharing an easy summer fruit salad that is refreshing and a little out of the ordinary. It’s great on it’s own or paired with Greek yogurt for breakfast or with ice cream for dessert. I definitely recommend eating this the day you make it as berries don’t like to be wet for long and this salad had a sweet dressing with a little extra zing.

Happy cooking and happy summer!

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Summer Fruit Salad with Minty Lime Dressing

ingredients

4 small, ripe peaches or 2 large, ripe peaches, slice
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sliced raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
2 Tablespoons water
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Teaspoon lime zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
12 mint leaves, finely chopped

to make

Wash your fruit and slice peaches and strawberries. Place all fruit in a bowl.
In a small jar or bowl, combine water, honey, lime zest and juice, and finely chopped mint leaves. Pour over fruit and stir gently. The dressing will mostly fall to the bottom, but that’s ok. Allow fruit to refrigerate for 30 minutes to soak up the dressing. Before serving, give a stir and top with toasted walnuts. (Don’t add the walnuts too soon or they’ll get soggy)

Enjoy!

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Eating with the Armstrongs

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(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?!

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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.

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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.


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.

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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!

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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!


Classic Sugar Cookies

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My family has lots of traditions. We love traditions because they make things meaningful and special. Things like eating fondu on Christmas Eve, celebrating Advent, and sharing things we love about each other while opening gifts are treasures to our family. As we’ve become adults, these traditions have helped us enjoy the magic of the season. In a way, traditions link together memories year after year, adding new experiences, creating new traditions and cherishing the old ones.
My mom’s Christmas cookies are a must-have tradition in our family. They are absolutely fabulous and so fun to decorate! You may have noticed that I rarely post baked goods here because I’m not a huge baker, but these cookies are so simple and so delicious. They’re my mom’s classic recipe from her Betty Crocker recipe book. Tried and true. I hope you try them!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Classic Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Betty Crocker
makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on size*

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

To Make:

Mix powdered sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla extract. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Preheat oven to 375. If you just want round cookies, as pictures, take a spoonful of dough, roll it then flatten it. If you want to make shapes with your cookies, refrigerate dough, covered, for at least one hour. Roll it out flat, then use cookie cutters to shape. *My husband likes them thick and fluffy, I like them thin and crisp. If you’re making them larger, add about 1 minute to baking time.

Place cookies in a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7-8 minutes and until the edges are brown. Allow to cool. Decorate with icing and sprinkles.

Icing:

Mix one cup of powdered sugar with 1/4 cup milk. Add more milk until desired consistent is reached. Similar to the texture of honey. Ice cookies and immediately add sprinkles so they will stick.

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Eating with the Armstrongs

The coming of fall has been a dream! A few things I’ve enjoyed lately…

My birthday was really special this year. I felt so loved by friends and family and specifically enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Frankie Marcello’s with my husband (get the chicken piccata!), tea with my girl friends at the English Tea Room  (the Earl Grey Supreme is divine) in Covington, dinner and drinks with Matthew and my parents at Galatoire’s Bistro (you’ve got to try the banana bread pudding!), and gifts galore!

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The pumpkin latte with house-made maple whipped cream at Magpie Cafe. Need I say more?

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The grand opening of Trader Joe’s. I won’t mention how many times I’ve been so far. But some of my TJ faves so far include: 21 Seasoning Salute (a salt-free blend of yes, 21 different spices, perfect for chicken, fish, burgers, eggs, etc..), Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea, Tuscan White Bean Hummus, Gorgonzola Crackers, and Coconut Bonbons, and my husband’s fave Cookie Butter (dangerous).

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Rollerblading with my puppy, Boone. Maybe the most fun and scariest form of exercise ever. I’m bringing rollerblading back!

My fall herb garden. I transferred most of my herbs from my larger garden into pots so that in the unlikely chance that it freezes this winter I can bring them inside. I love having fresh herbs right outside of my house to use in my cooking. I’m growing: rosemary & thyme, arugula, cilantro, chives & dill, sage & parsley, and not pictured, basil, oregano, mint, lavender and patchouli.

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Besides all these delights, lately we’ve enjoyed:

California Chicken Rice Bowls: this is a flavorful and delicious meal. I made it for a friend who recently had a baby, and they loved it! Also great with quinoa instead of rice. I topped it with feta cheese rather than blue cheese and skipped the walnuts.

Butternut Squash Pasta: husband approved! The sauce has a unique sweetness that changes things up a bit from your normal pasta sauce. I added a whole can of tomato paste as well as a de-seeded roasted red pepper to the blender when blending the sauce. I enjoyed the added savory and tomato flavor to offset the sweetness of the butternut squash. The recipe makes a ton, so I’m going to use the leftover sauce for pizza sauce later this week.

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant: It may sound out of the box, but these stuffed eggplants are absolutely divine. The flavor profile is actually not as unusual as you might think. I used cous-cous instead of rice. Try it!

Balsamic Pot Roast: we enjoyed this out of the ordinary take on pot roast. Pot roast is a great dinner for a cold night after a busy day, as the slow cooker does all the work!

Homemade Granola: served as cereal with milk or a topping for Greek yogurt with maple syrup and fruit, this is one of our go to breakfasts. It is simple to make and much cheaper than buying from the grocery. Plus you can control the sugar content. I like to make a batch on Sunday afternoon and enjoy throughout the week.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake: an easy but impressive looking dessert. Perfect with vanilla bean ice cream or homemade whipped cream.


What We Love about Dallas

Visiting our families in & around Dallas is always a treat! Last week, my parents planned a family “stay-cation” for us in Dallas. We spent the mornings enjoying good conversation, hot coffee & hearty brunch around the breakfast table while in the afternoons we enjoyed the city. My parents did a great job of planning and I hope you get some ideas for Dallas adventures.

My parents have a beautiful backyard and pool that feels like an oasis!

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Day one brunch, Cajun style: leftover jambalaya with a fried egg, fresh fruit & coffee!

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Afternoon on Lake Ray Hubard! We rented a pontoon for the afternoon and had a great time tubing, swimming and relaxing. We loved that Matthew’s parents joined us and we enjoyed dinner at The Flying Saucer , which has delicious and creative burgers. I didn’t get a pic, but my San Miguel burger with chorizo, avocado, pico de gallo, and queso fresco was flavor packed and delicious.

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Visiting the George W. Bush Library was incredible! The museum portion is an in depth look into George W.’s presidency. The designers did a fabulous job making the museum highly educational and interactive.

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After enjoying the best-ever chips, salsa, margaritas and fajitas at our all time favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Mi Cocina, we ventured to the Bishops Art District for dessert at Emporium Pies. This gem of a pie shop was opened a year ago by our friend Megan and her business partner. The pies are phenomenal and the atmosphere is bright and cozy. We shared the French chocolate silk with pretzel crust, the deep dish apple with cinnamon streusel, and the coconut custard. Trust me, you don’t want to go through life without tasting these pies.

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On our last full day, we went to Bowl and Barrel. This is absolutely the coolest bowling experience ever. Forget about carpeted walls and smokey air, this swanky uptown restaurant/bar/boutique bowling is hip, clean, and the food is incredible! We loved trying an assortment of appetizers.

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House made fries with sweet ketchup and ranch, a hot pretzel with grainy mustard, mimosas, beer from the tap, bacon wrapped goat cheese stuffed figs, fried cayenne quail, and Texas cheese fondue. Divine!

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Dad was quite proud of his victory!

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The whole week was a blast, but my favorite part was taking a cooking class as a family at Central Market! We received excellent, hands on instruction as we cooked a three course western-inspired meal. Our instructor explained each step and we learned new skills as we chopped, diced, stirred and mixed. Our meal was delicious: avocado, grilled tomato, corn and red onion salad, stuffed flank steak with cheesy grits and roasted vegetables, and skillet blueberry cobbler.

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We feasted a lot this week, so our last brunch was a lighter family favorite: Greek yogurt with fresh fruit, pecans, toasted coconut and maple syrup.

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I cannot express how much I love my family! I’m so thankful my parents invited us to this family “stay-cation” and worked so hard to make it fun and special. I highly recommend any and all of the things we did in Dallas and I hope you try them.
What are your favorite things about Dallas?