Saturday, May 3, 2014

Cinco de Mayo Inspiration

It's no secret that I love Mexican food and culture. Although it falls right in the middle of finals week, I'm still dreaming about fabulous Cinco de Mayo party decorations and menus. Here are some of the things that are inspiring me. 

This fun pinata project from Studio DIY is gorgeous. And I just happen to have some gold spray paint! 

Love this party from Sweet Designs by Amy AtlasA gorgeous multicolor cake, churros with dipping sauce, and Jarritos! Jarritos are super cheap and colorful. 

The infamous Pinterest-y pinata cookies by She Knows. These are so stinkin adorable, right?!

We actually attempted these last year! Although... I failed to read through the entire recipe before we began and we didn't have quite enough time to complete them as directed. So we ended up making regular flat cookies, not filled with goodness. It would be super fun to try again! 

(nailed it.)

A Taco Bar like this one from Oh Sweet Joy- I'd love to include corn and flour tortillas; several meat fillings; and tons of fun toppings- cheeses, sour cream, and maybe mango cucumber salsa, strawberry avocado salsa, or verde ranch dressing.

Or what about a guacamole bar instead? Yes. Why do we not celebrate Mexican style more often? This example from Pink Parsley has me drooling. 

Plus so many of my established favorites would be perfect fits for a fiesta! Queso Blanco, Beans a la Charra, and Mango Agua Fresca are all time tested winners at my house.

 Do you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? What are your favorite foods and activities?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Buttermilk Biscuits

My mother spoiled us growing up with homemade breakfast nearly every morning. I've discussed before how my parents ignited my love for good food, and it's because they put such care in what they prepared for us, emphasizing quality and flavor. One of my favorite meals, even today, is biscuits and gravy. It's the ultimate in comfort food, perfect for Saturday morning lounging. These biscuits are quick to whip up and bake. They are fluffy and soft and melt in your mouth with a dab of butter and honey. 

You can prep the dough ahead of time, freeze and pop in the oven in the morning. There are so many ways to serve these delicious treats. Prep them for bacon and egg sandwiches. Spread with peanut butter and honey. Serve alongside chicken fried chicken and mashed potatoes (which is what we did for Easter!). Add butter and jam for a quick breakfast. Make sausage and gravy for a truly comforting start to your day. 

What You'll Need:
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
9 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup buttermilk

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 400 °F and grease baking sheets. 

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal (you can use a pastry blender or forks, but I just used my hands!). Add buttermilk and stir until large clumps form. Knead mixture until it just holds together. 

Transfer dough to a floured surface and roll out to 1/2- 3/4 inch thick. Cut circles out of dough and transfer to greased baking sheets. I used a mason jar to roll and cut my dough, which worked perfectly. 

Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm!

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
originally adapted from Dot’s Diner in Boulder via Bon Appetit

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Weekend Fun

Palm Sunday and Easter were truly beautiful services this year. I am so grateful for a time to reflect on and celebrate my Redeemer each year.  On top of the already meaningful celebration our church put on, this weekend was especially great. 

My mom, the hardest working person I know, made it to Tax  Day! She's a CPA and works very long hours from January to April.  She and my father got to take a nice weekend vacation at the lake and enjoy strolling around the zoo and playing mini golf. 

I tried Velvet Taco, after several recommendations from classmates. Now I'll always be a Torchy's girl, but Velvet had some really tasty selections, super friendly staff and a great atmosphere. 

oh, the tots- with herbed goat cheese, smoked cheddar, basil cream, bacon and a local fried egg. These were so outrageously flavorful and rich. I definitely recommend them! But, even between two of us we couldn't finish them. 

Left: Annatto shredded pork- avocado cream, shredded pork, grilled pineapple, pickled onion, queso fresco, and cilantro Right: Roast pork chilaquile - queso blanco, charred tomato salsa, egg, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, queso fresco, cilantro. 

We had a fun family event at church with multiple egg hunts, bounce houses, music and food trucks. We loved hanging out with all the cute kids and enjoying the gorgeous weather! 

We stopped in at Trader Joe's for some strawberries and walked out with a whole bag of yummy food, as always. Seriously though, the packaging is too cute! 

And for Easter, I made the most delicious home cooked meal. Chicken fried chicken, roasted green beans, mashed potatoes, and buttermilk biscuits. Food is my love language, y'all. 

So, from Ringo and me-  hope y'all had a happy Easter! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Southwest Chicken Salad with Jalapeno Popper Dressing

(not sure why the chicken looks so pink here, I promise it was fully cooked!)

With promising sunshine and delicious seasonal produce, salad season is upon us again! (I mean winter salads are great too but there is something about summer flavors!) This salad features my favorite southwest flavors with ingredients that I can easily reuse in other recipes. Plus, jalapeno popper dressing pulls all of the fabulous tastes and textures together into creamy, spicy bliss. 

This isn't a very healthy salad but you can easily lighten yours up by using grilled chicken and fat free ingredients in your dressing!  

What You'll Need:
for salad:
one serving chicken 
mixed greens
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup diced red onion 
sliced grape tomatoes 
charred corn on the cob
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed
crumbled tortilla chips 
for dressing:
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup jalapenos
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

What To Do:
Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until completely smooth, adding one jalapeno at a time until desired flavor is achieved (I used 2 fresh jalapenos in mine but peppers vary in heat so be prepared to adjust accordingly!). Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Prepare chicken as desired. Layer greens, avocado, corn, black beans, onion, tomatoes, and tortilla chips. Top with chicken and dressing.  Enjoy! 

Chicken recipe from Ruthie Hart
Dressing Recipe from Closet Cooking 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

zoo day!

I was scheduled to be out of town teaching at a conference this past weekend, but due to registration, travel and attendance logistics, I ended up staying home. My sister convinced me to spend Saturday exploring the Fort Worth Zoo with her and I am so glad I did! It was a gorgeous day, with a perfect breeze and just enough sunshine. 

When we first pulled up to the zoo, ALL of the parking lots were full. Instead of giving up, we decided to take a detour to Target. I grabbed an iced coffee, Lindsey got popcorn, and we browsed all the pretty spring dresses, shoes and stationary. After exercising all our self control, we made it back to the zoo in time for most of the families to exit for nap time! 

pretty kitty

gotta be honest. he reminded me of the scary mutant monkeys from Catching Fire! Ah.

The gorilla habitat was especially large and well designed. This guy (below) watched us as we walked all the way around, and followed us down to this window, pausing to enjoy a moment with us before the crowds pushed in with their fancy cameras and big strollers. (not that there's anything wrong with fancy cameras or strollers ;) 

Lindsey matched this fun wall so well! 

the baby elephants were definitely a highlight- so playful and cute! 

Hey Aslan

the squirrels in the zoo had no fear, bobbing in and out of each enclosure, 
sneaking up to tourists to steal snacks. I wanted to take this one home :)

The penguins coupled off for snuggle time in the afternoon. Did you know there are only four species of penguins that live in cold climates? At least ten species of penguins live in warmer, more temperate climates! 

Look at this swift fox. Oh! That face. 

And the otters are always my favorite. They have so much fun! 

After a long afternoon of strolling around the zoo, Lindsey and I enjoyed the sunset and breeze at Clear Fork Food Park. She grabbed a burger and fries from The Smoke Wagon while I tried the duck tacos from Holy Frijole. Duck, with mushrooms and spinach, served with a mole sauce- they were pretty amazing, as you can see. I also got a glass of Good Karma Kitchen's freshly muddled strawberry basil lemonade. This combination was truly perfect at the end of our day, delicious and flavorful without being greasy or heavy! 

I couldn't resist trying Gypsy Scoops ice cream for dessert. I got a scoop of Gypsy Bride (vanilla ice cream with wedding cake and chocolate chunks) and a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter. The quality was outstanding- so rich and creamy! The Gypsy Bride flavor worked so well- I could've eaten a whole carton of it! I'll definitely be back this summer for more. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

baked french toast

Although living alone has some definite perks, it also requires some creativity when food is involved. Last week I happened to have a beautiful loaf of bakery bread with no possible way to eat it all before it got stale. So instead of gorging myself on sandwiches, I added some apples and blueberries and baked up this delicious french toast! 

This recipe will yield quite a large batch of this yummy brunch bake. I only made about half of it for myself. It lends itself easily to adaptation, meaning you can sub in whatever fruit or milk products you have on hand! And oh my goodness, the way this smells as it cooks? Out of this world. You can also prep everything at night and refrigerate until you're ready to bake and serve in the morning, making it a fantastic option for when you have guests! 

What You'll Need:
  • 1 loaf Crusty Sourdough Or French Bread
  • 8 whole Eggs
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 3/4 cups Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 pinch Nutmeg 
  • 1 stick Cold Butter, Cut Into Pieces
  •  Fresh Fruit (optional)

What To Do:

Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter. Tear bread into chunks (or cut into cubes) and evenly distribute in the pan.
In a medium sized bowl mix together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Pour evenly over the bread. Cover tightly and store in the fridge for several hours or overnight.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add nutmeg if desired. Add butter pieces and cut them into the dry mixture until mixture resembles fine pebbles. Store in a Ziploc in the fridge.
When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat oven to 350 F. Remove casserole from the fridge and sprinkle crumb mixture over the top. (If you're using fruit, sprinkle on before the crumb mixture.) Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture. Bake 1 hour or more for a firmer, less liquid texture.
Scoop out individual portions. Top with butter and drizzle with maple syrup.

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman 

Friday, April 11, 2014

life lately

It has been a while since I updated here about what is actually going on in my life so here's an overview of some of the fantastic things the Lord has been doing since last year!  (I'm sorry this post runs so long, there's just a lot to catch up on!)

In November I officially accepted the position of girls ministry associate at First Hurst. Since then I've been working alongside the student ministry staff to develop relationships, plan events and work towards in depth discipleship for our students. I have really loved getting to learn from the fantastic leadership and to work with the students. I even taught on a Wednesday night about the gospel and Frozen! :) 

My holidays were crazy and included a lot of work, the flu and then hosting Christmas in my one bedroom apartment. I'm so grateful that my parents made this year special. Even without extravagant gifts or meals, their presence made my little space feel like home! 

After an absolutely insane day barista-ing on Christmas Eve, we attended the midnight candlelight service at church, showering peace and perspective all over my weary heart. 

Thankfully I had Christmas Day off so we enjoyed brunch, bowling and the annual event where I force my family to watch It's a Wonderful Life.

In January I taught two sessions at the SAGE girls conference in Tyler! I am so blessed to be part of the SAGE team, which equips women to effectively lead girls and creates fabulous events for girls to come together and learn more about Christ and who they are in Him.  (BTW if you're in Central or Southeast Texas check out the website ASAP for awesome events coming up near you!)

In February we held a brunch and clothes swap for the girls- which was super fun! I'll be sharing more about this soon because it was truly a labor of love! It combined my absolute favorite things- Jesus, thrifty fashion, iced coffee, waffles,  and pink + gold. 

In March I was able to leave my barista job to fully focus on school and ministry. Although it makes budgeting much much tighter, I am so grateful for the extra time to do classwork, actually sleep all night, do much needed household tasks like laundry and grocery shopping, and to rest in the Lord. I really enjoyed my time at Starbucks and love all of my coworkers, but I am so glad to be able to fully pursue these passions the Lord has placed in my heart! 

 Over spring break, I visited my love in the valley and hung out with Kerrie and Wade in Mexico for a couple of days! I will share more about this later but it was just such a refreshing week, relaxing with David's family- thrifting, puppy sitting, eating delicious food, getting to know his sisters better- and watching God at work in the colonia with Kerrie and Wade!

After Spring Break, Annie came and spent the week before Hope Spoken with me! Although I was basically just working and doing homework all week it was so fun to have her here.

I  began sharing about my weekend at Hope Spoken and will definitely share more later :)

And this past weekend, we wrapped up Youth Ministry Lab, a conference to train, equip, and refresh anyone who works in student ministry. YML is hosted by my school (swbts) and planned and organized completely by grad student volunteers. This year I was a committee chair and took on a lot more responsibility. At the end of the weekend, though, seeing so many student pastors, girls ministers, wives, volunteers and even student leaders walk away refreshed and challenged made all of our hard work worth it! I'm a huge supporter of this event. It was such an effective training conference for me when I was serving as our full time student minister, and I'm grateful that now I have an opportunity to give back!

Whew! I think that just about catches us up on what's been going on over here. It's good to be back, y'all!

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