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

Advertisements

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


Chipotle Turkey Chili with Apples & Cornbread Muffins

Ok. This is really good. Like, really really good.

Last week I was kinda having an anti-cooking streak which is extremely unusual for me-meaning, it’s never happened before. But, we had a hundred billion things going on and cooking was no longer a stress reliever for me. Praise the Lord for this chili because it totally got me back on track! It’s delicious. The perfect change up for a normal chili. I know the combination of chipotle, apples, and chili might sound unusual, but trust me, the combo is perfect-sprinkle on a little (or a lot) of sharp cheddar cheese on top, perfection.

And these cornbread muffins, oh my. Best ever. The combination of cheese and brown sugar is a lovely sweet and savory blend. Please crumble these into your chili!

Also, note: my sweet husband LOVED this dinner and said it was one of the best yet. So, by all means, make it!

Chipotle Turkey Chili with Apples

Adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.5 pounds ground turkey

1 can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

salt and pepper

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika

1 red onion, chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped

2 green apples

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1 can tomato paste

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup apple juice

Shredded sharp cheddar and toasted pumpkin seeds for toppings

To make: 

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook until brown, breaking up with a fork.

Using a food processor, puree the chipotles-remove seeds first!- and 2 tbsp. adobo sauce. Add 2 tablespoons of the chipotle puree into the meat, season with salt and pepper. Reserve remaining puree to adjust the heat at the end of cooking. Stir in the cumin and paprika. Add the onion and garlic.

Peel and chop 1 apple and add the the chili. Chop other unpeeled apple and dress with lemon juice. Add the cinnamon and bay leaves to the chili, cover and cook, stirring and lowering the heat, for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, then the stock and cider; simmer.

Top chili with the cheese, reserved apples, and toasted pumpkin sees.

Cornbread Muffins: 

Adapted from How Sweet It I

makes 12 muffins or six huge ones 

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup finely ground cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 cup creamed corn

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half

1 egg

1 cup freshly & finely grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder together and mix with a spoon. Add the egg, corn, heavy cream, melted butter and milk, stirring until smooth. Fold in cheddar cheese. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray (or use liners) and using a 1/4 cup measure, spoon batter into each muffin tin. Bake for 15-18 muffins, or until tops are golden and muffins are cooked through. Serve with the chili.