Bread and Wine

Shauna Niequist is a writer. She’s written three books, and I just finished up her most recent one called Bread and Wine

For whatever reason, I just  feel like Shauna gets me. She puts words to feelings I never could explain and has a way of digging deep into my soul and shedding light on places I didn’t even know where there.

If you know me, you know I love food. I love to eat food, make food, share food, hoard food. I can’t possibly be in a bad mood if I’m inside a Whole Foods or at a farmer’s market. I love sharing meals with people I love, or people I want to get to know better. I am 100% convinced that food binds people together in a way that no other experience does. This is what Bread and Wine is all about. Shauna calls it “life at the table”.

The book has about 20 recipes inside. She shares about each one in context of her life, and how the recipe came to be or made an appearance at a critical moment. The stories impart so much emotion to the recipe that I am pretty sure no matter what it tastes like, you’ll think back on the story and not be able to help but love the meal.

I keep recommending this book to people, forgetting that not everyone is as weirdly emotional and touchy-feely as I am. I want to say there’s a part of everyone who will enjoy reading this, but I honest have no idea. I just know I love her books. A lot.

I tried my first Shauna recipe last night for dinner. Her maple-baslamic glazed pork tenderloin. Even though we undercooked the meat (it was raw on the inside) it tasted wonderful. We grilled some garlic-y artichokes to go alongside the meat, and they went great together. I am NOT a seasoned chef by any means. (Hence the undercooked pork) But her recipes seem super easy to manage, with a lot of room to make it your own. In fact, she encourages creativity, and challenges you to change things up along the way.

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If you love food and Jesus and being in community, I think you’d like this book. It is an easy one, so get ready to gobble it up like you will her recipes!

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Happy cooking!

Caroline

 

Bye bye meat

For the two years or so, Josh and I have been on a journey to better health. Both of us grew up with very little boundaries when it came to what we ate, but happened to both be active in sports so weight was never an issue back then. At least until the “freshman 15” came to me with fiery revenge. We exercised, so that meant we were healthy, right?  I remember many days in high school of eating my beloved Chick-fil-a for THREE MEALS A DAY. A Fried chicken biscuit in the morning before school, a friend chicken sandwich AT school (yes, Chick-fil-a basically runs my home town) and then whatever my heart desired after Wednesday night church when my whole youth group would meet at the restaurant. This was combined with so much sweet tea it makes my teeth ache just thinking about it. What I wouldn’t give to have that metabolism back.

Since moving to Austin, I’ve been so challenged by the dedication of the people here to exercise and eat right. It’s hard to believe that a city dripping in queso and alcohol could actually be a motivation for me to cut back. Don’t get me wrong, we have had our major moments of gluttonous indulgence, but we are trying to take it one day at a time here, and see our health as a big-picture issue.

Eating less meat has been on our radar for awhile now. Seeing films like Food, Inc and Forks Over Knives has played a role in this goal, but I can’t say we have done much about until now. Josh had the notion recently to switch to a “whole foods, plant based diet” until Easter. Well, since that meant I couldn’t eat cheese or yogurt, I decided to counter offer with simply going vegetarian. We figured Lent would be a great time to try, since there is a definite start and end date, plus we can be mindful as we go about the process of our dependance on God and the responsibility we have to glorify Him with our earthly bodies. Josh reluctantly agreed to the compromise, and we have been meat free for 9 days now. This is by far the longest I’ve ever been without it, but I have to say that it has been surprisingly easy. We’ve been eating oatmeal or yogurt/granola in the mornings (typical), PB&J’s with fruit for lunch, and I’ve been trying out a bunch of meatless dinners I’ve never had the willpower to try. I’ve been completely blown away by how DELICIOUS some of these dinners have been. And I promise you that it’s not because of any cooking skills I might possess. They are foolproof! We feel so great after meals too. We feel so satisfied, without the nasty overstuffed sensation that tends to happen later.

Besides ridding our bodies of the hormones and excess harmful animal proteins and yadda yadda, I feel much less guilty about being the cause of many animals suffering in the world. Poor little cows 😦 I don’t intend on giving meat up forever, but I am temporarily feeling like a better human for cutting it out of my diet. Umm, except that statement alone makes me a terrible human…anyway…

Here are a couple great recipes we have found to be a wonderful vegetarian solutions in case you care to try them. You have my assurance that they are EXCELLENT.

Stacked Roasted Veggie Enchiladas 

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ingredients:

1 poblano chile, cut into matchsticks
2 red bell peppers, cut into matchsticks
1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 small sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, halved and slivered
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
3 T heat-safe oil like grapeseed or coconut
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups homemade or store bought salsa/pico de gallo
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 2 big handfuls)
9-10 corn tortillas, halved (try making homemade tortillas!)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a cheddar-Monterey Jack blend)
sour cream and thinly sliced scallions (green onions) for garnish, if desired

directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet.

Place poblanos, red bell peppers, cauliflower, sweet potato, onion, and corn kernels onto cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the cumin and minced garlic over top. Add a generous pinch or two of salt and black pepper, then use your hands to mix everything together. After everything is coated well, spread the vegetables evenly in the pan. Roast for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender and begin to brown in spots. Stir or shake the pan every 10 minutes for even roasting. Remove pan from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Prepare an 8x8x2 or 9x9x2-inch square baking pan with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, stir the cilantro into the salsa. Spread 1/4 cup of salsa into the bottom of the baking pan. Add a layer of tortilla pieces, to completely cover the salsa. Top with 1/3 of the vegetables, a handful of spinach, and 1/3 of the cheese. Make a second layer of tortilla, salsa, vegetables, spinach, and cheese. Top with with a layer of tortillas, salsa, vegetables, and cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Let it sit for 5 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of sliced scallions.

Mushroom and Wilted Greens toast with a Fried Egg **Great for lunch!

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Ingredients: (serves 2)

2 slices whole wheat or multigrain bread

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms, any variety
4 cups chopped greens, such as kale or chard
1/2 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

-Toast (using your favorite method) the bread and go ahead and arrange each one on its own plate.

– In a medium sized skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until faintly shimmering. Add in the minced garlic and saute until soft but not brown – 1 to 2 minutes. Add in the mushrooms, stir to combine and cook until they begin to release water. Throw in the chopped greens and stir again to get everyone mixed up. Stir in the bit of mustard and allow the greens to cook until tender but not mushy – 2 to 3 more minutes.

– Meanwhile, heat a small skillet with about a half a tablespoon of butter, and crack an egg onto the melted butter once the pan is nice and hot. When the egg starts to separate from the pan and can be flipped, flip it over, keeping the yolk in one piece. Cook for another minute or so until both sides a slightly brown and the center is still runny. Repeat to make a second fried egg.

– To serve, divide the greens mixture into two and top the toasted bread with it. Place the egg on top of the mixture. Season with a bit of fresh ground pepper and serve immediately – the joy of this is the runny egg so be speedy in serving & eating it.

Thanks so much to Running with Tweezers and Perry’s Plate for coming up with such great options for  us to try!

What are you guys giving up for Lent? This is my fist year every practicing the tradition so I’d love to hear if anyone else out there is doing it!

Cheers!

Caroline

Thanksgiving 2012

I love Thanksgiving. Always have, and always will so long as I have a face to stuff full of food. This year, however, I was faced with the incredibly daunting task of actually cooking. Like, all of it. By myself. Yikes. But after 2 weeks of planning and 2 days of cooking, I can officially say with a sigh of relief that everything turned out okay. I was extremely confident that  one or more of the dishes I was planning to make would be a disaster. It happens to me all too often, especially with things I’ve never made before. Turkey scared me to death. Gravy gave me nightmares. Ok, maybe not that far, but you get the idea. Here is the menu I came up with last week.

Everyone else dips Oreos in white chocolate for their husbands for dessert right? Oh, just me? Well I will not apologize . They were a gift to Josh for standing in line at the store for an hour for me when I needed an emergency pie crust Wednesday night. He’s a saint, really.

About the pie crust though…What the HECK are people talking about who say it’s easy? By the time the oven was pre-heted and I was supposed to be pouring my filling, my dough-covered fists were shaking in the air and curse words were leaving my lips in a loud voice. I never want to make pie crust again…Until I forget about how terrible it was. Which shouldn’t take long.

Anywhoo, here’s everything. It was delicious and so fun to put it all together on my own and watch my husband and his dad chow down. It is a joy to serve them and a blessing to even have a kitchen to cook in. Amen.

I would like to extend a special thanks to Paula Deen for her KILLER turkey recipe, that didn’t even involve brining or frying or basting or anything else that terrifies me. I used Pioneer Woman’s mashed potatoes that have a whole package of cream cheese to make them oh-so-yummy. The cranberry sauce was the easiest thing in the world, thanks to Rachael Rae, and the green beans and “no fail gravy” were from her website as well. Gotta love all my besties at food network 🙂

So this year I am leaving this holiday with a deeper appreciation for all the people who have ever cooked a meal like this for me. I’m thankful that my Father-in-law got to share the day with us. I’m thankful that I’m healthy and get to be in school and that I’m loved by an amazing husband and my wonderful Heavenly Father. I could truly go on for days…

What a wonderful day.

New foods!!

Though, as usual, I should be studying…I felt the need to share with you 2 recipes that really made an impact on my life recently. They just really…inspired…and…blessed me. Okay enough.

I made my first soup of the fall this week since we’ve been getting some much cooler weather here in Texas. It was a first for me, and I was a little hesitant because it is a crock pot meal. These tend to turn out kinda soggy and just…meh. But this one rocked my world. If you love tortellini as much as I do, you should give it a try.

It looks like Dis.

Creamy Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup

Ingredients:

1-1 1/2 – 2 ounce envelope white sauce mix
4 cups water
1-14 ounce can vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1- 7 or 8 ounce package dried cheese tortellini (about 2 cups)
1-12 ounce can evaporated milk
6 cups fresh baby spinach leaves or torn spinach
Ground black pepper (optional)
Finely shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)Directions:1.Place dry white sauce mix in a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Gradually add the water to the white sauce mix, stirring until smooth. Stir in broth, mushrooms, onion, garlic, basil, salt, oregano, and cayenne pepper.

2.Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

3.Stir in dried tortellini. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 1 hour more or high-heat setting for 45 minutes more.

4.Stir in evaporated milk and fresh spinach. If desired, sprinkle individual servings with black pepper and Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.

The other new recipe I tried recently exceeded my expectations like the first one did. I thought “baked chicken tenders…mushy bland chicken breasts that I can cover in bbq sauce when I eat them. Sure, why not?”
But they were actually REALLY crunchy and delicious! Just make sure you have an ovenproof wire rack (mine is an oven proof cooling rack from Sur La Table) to cook the chicken on. Oh, and off-brand Corn Flakes do wonders in this recipe. They seemed to really make em’ extra crunchy.
As for the mac and cheese, BEWARE! The recipe calls for WAY too many bread crumbs. I won’t say I didn’t gobble it all down despite this defect, but it would have been a lot better with less…uh…topping.
It looks like dis.
  • Ingredients: 
  • FOR THE MACARONI AND CHEESE:
  • 1 cup Dry Macaroni
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • ½ teaspoons Onion Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 2 cups Grated Cheddar Cheese
  • ⅔ cups Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
  • FOR THE CHICKEN TENDERS:
  • 2 cups Corn Flakes
  • ½ teaspoons Seasoned Salt (or Regular)
  • ¼ teaspoons Pepper
  • ¼ teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 whole Large Egg
  • ¼ cups Milk
  • 1 pound Chicken Tenders

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

First, make the macaroni and cheese. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cook the macaroni in boiling water for about 4 minutes (it should still have a bite in the middle). Don’t overcook it because it will continue to cook it in the oven.

Meanwhile, combine in the blender the milk, flour, onion powder and salt and blend well. Once the pasta is done, drain off the water and pour the pasta into a bowl. Add the milk mixture and cheddar cheese. Stir to combine.

Divide the mixture between two 10-ounce ramekins (it will seem like there’s too much liquid, but you’re okay). Sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs over each ramekin and drizzle the butter on top. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes.

While the macaroni and cheese bake, start working on the chicken fingers. In a large Ziplock bag, combine the corn flakes, seasoned salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Crush the corn flakes and mix well with the spices. In a small shallow bowl, beat the egg and milk together.

Next, dip each chicken tender in the egg and milk mixture, then drop it in the bag with the corn flakes. Shake to coat each chicken tender with the corn flake mixture. Place the chicken tenders on a greased wire rack that you’ve placed on top of a baking sheet.

The chicken tenders will take 25 minutes to cook, so put them in the oven when 25 minutes time remain for the macaroni and cheese.

Serve the chicken fingers with your desired dipping sauces and the macaroni and cheese on the side

NEXT: SCARF DOWN LIKE A RAVAGED ANIMAL! (only in our house)

Enjoy these recipes, and the rest of your weekend folks!