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.


Classic Sugar Cookies

20131223-125513.jpg

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.

20131223-131448.jpg


Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Cookies

Is there anything better than a warm cookie with a cold glass of milk?

I love the addition of mashed banana to these as it adds a bit of muffin like density and the perfect light sweetness. This cookie passed the true test when my 6 year old friend Bryley Pearl proclaimed: “the best cookie I’ve ever had!”

And with oatmeal and banana, who says these can’t be eaten for breakfast? Healthier than a donut, that’s for sure, and quite delicious with a large cup of coffee.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Cookies: 

adapted from the blog LeDelicieux

Ingredients:

  • 1  egg
  • ½ stick butter
  • ½ cups white sugar
  • ½ cups brown sugar
  • 1-½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1  banana, mashed
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together the egg, butter, vanilla and two sugars. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Add mashed banana, oats, and mini chocolate chips. Mix well, making sure there are no lumps. May seem a bit dry, but just keep mixing!

Form small balls of dough and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.

Bake 12-13 minutes. Let cook for 5 minutes.

Enjoy!