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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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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