Eating with the Armstrongs

Happy Fourth of July week! We are headed to the beach with some friends today and I couldn’t be more excited for some time to relax and to get a much needed tan. I’ll be making my recipe below for Grilled Teriyaki Chicken in kabob form for our Fourth of July feast along with my Zesty Black Bean Dip that I posted last week, and will probably include grilled corn and fresh watermelon for sides! Yum!

We’ve enjoyed the recipes below this summer-I hope you try them out!

Perfect Peach Iced Tea  We love sweet tea all year around, but especially in the summer time! And I’ve been completely obsessed with peaches this summer, so this tea really hit the spot for refreshment. I like how the simple syrup can be served on the side so that people can add it as they choose.

Grilled Veggie Burritos The Pioneer Woman always has great recipes, and this one is super easy and delicious. Grilled vegetables are another summer food favorite for us. You can easily swap out the white rice for brown rice or quinoa.

Artichoke Pesto I really enjoyed this flavorful take on pesto. Delicious on pasta, but also on a sandwich, grilled chicken or other veggies.

Grilled Teriyaki Chicken  The longer you marinate the chicken, the more flavorful and tender it will be! The whole day or even over night is the best way to go. As you’ll see, I used salmon for the original recipe, which is incredible as well. Make sure to boil the marinade rather than throwing it away so that you can use it for an incredible sauce over rice, cous cous or quinoa. You’ll need to bring it to a boil, then allow it to simmer for ten minutes since it was used with raw chicken. But after that, it’s safe to consume! My only change is that I used a Tablespoon of Dijon mustard instead of the white wine and ground mustard. The Dijon provides a similar flavor profile if you don’t have wine on hand!

Roasted Red Pepper Chicken Enchiladas I could eat the sauce for these guys by the spoonful! What’s better than roasted red pepper? A few swaps for this recipe:

-swap 2 red peppers for the poblanos, but roast for the same amount of time

-exclude the bread crumbs in the sauce

-swap half a 28oz can of whole tomatoes in their juice for the chicken broth

-swap the black beans for 2 cups of cooked chicken

-to make it a little lighter, I sprinkled a 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese on top rather than 1 cup.

Quinoa Salad This is my all time favorite quinoa salad! To mix it up a little, I used a roasted poblano pepper (roast at 425 for 3o minutes, allow to cool, remove skin, chop) instead of the red pepper. I also added half a can of black beans for added protein. Delicious!


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.


Roasted Vegetable Brown Rice Bowl with Easy Peanut Sauce

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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!

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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!

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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!


Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Candied Pistachios, Red Onion, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing

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One of the books on my Book List for 2014 is Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I’m not sure why I haven’t read it until now as it’s been recommended to me countless times and I gave it to both my mom and mom-in-law for Mother’s Day. But now I’m halfway through and totally in love. Her thoughts on food and community are rich and real, blanketed with recipes and with stories invoking laughter and tears. I’ve already tried her enchiladas, which are incredible, and I can’t wait to try everything else!

One of my favorite things she shares is her philosophy on feasting and fasting. The idea that in life there are times of feasting, indulging mostly around holidays and vacations, which can be followed by times of fasting, eating a stricter more careful diet, with some treats in moderation. I love this idea. We don’t have to feel guilty about eating that extra sugar cookie or drinking a huge mug of hot cocoa when we balance it with a season of grilled salmon and mixed greens and spinach upon spinach.

This really encouraged me as today I’ve started the 21 Day Sugar Detox. After a hearty time of holiday feasting, I’ve felt the need to freshen up our meals. Inspired by my friend Alexa who has a wonderful blog, aptly named, Kitchenspired, I’m jumping in! Find out more here or follow Alexa’s journey.

Today’s salad is a lovely combination of flavors that can be enjoyed in a season of feasting or fasting. (Although it’s off limits for the detox.) Over the holidays, we went to a delicious little restaurant in Rockwall, Texas called Zanatas. Upon fist bite of their house salad, I knew I’d want it again, so here’s my recreation, which I think is pretty similar. I hope you try it!

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Mixed Green Salad with Figs, Red Onion, Candied Pistachios, Feta Cheese & Lemony Dressing
serves 4

Ingredients:
4 handfuls of mixed greens
6 dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 tablespoon salt

for the dressing
Adapted from Power Foods
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 large shallot, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
(You’ll have extra, use on other salads or sandwiches!)

To make
:
For the candied pistachios: preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and water. Add pistachios, stir to combine. Place a piece of parchment paper on a small baking sheet. Spoon pistachios onto parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Mix together lemon juice, Dijon, olive oil minced shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

In a salad bowl, place mixed greens, diced red onions, feta, chopped figs and candied pistachios. Drizzle with 1/4 cup of dressing, combine and add more if needed.

Enjoy!


Pasta é Fagoli {Kale, Pasta & Red Bean Stew}

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One of the biggest blessings of this past year has been our puppy, Boone. He’s just the sweetest and has brought so much joy with his playful personality and all around adorableness. Recently, he has been begging for food. He doesn’t whine or anything, he just sits about 1 foot from the table and looks at us with his big brown puppy eyes and from time to time licks his lips. It’s really all my fault. It’s just that I want him to get to taste a little bread or bacon once in a while. I’ve never fed him directly from the table, I promise! I usually “accidentally” drop something on the ground while I’m cooking. I don’t think my trickery is working. He’s figured out that I’m a softy who can’t say no…to my dog. This does not bode well for one day when I have kids.
So of course, when making this stew, I may or may not have dropped a piece of Parmesan cheese on the ground. It’s my favorite food and I feel like in his little dog life, Boone should get to taste it.
Anyways, on to why you’re here: kale, beans, & pasta in a rich tomatoey stew seasoned by a Parmesan rind (don’t be scared!) and pancetta (again, don’t be scared). It’s Italian, it’s comfort food, it’s healthy, and it’s flavorful. With a big piece of crusty buttered bread for dipping, it’s the perfect winter meal. I like my soups and stews to have lots in them. I’m not a huge fan of creamy, evenly textured soups. I like to get different flavors and bites throughout. And this fits the bill!

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Pasta é Fagoli

adapted from My Favorite Things

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece pancetta, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 Tbsp dried bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, (buy a block of cheese, cut off the rind!)
2 cups small pasta, I used Orecchiette but shells would work great
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese for topping
Freshly ground pepper

To Make:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, chicken stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 more minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.

P.S. In real life I topped my with significantly more of the beloved freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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