Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oh Come Let Us Adore Him

Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Oh come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

For He alone is worthy,
For He alone is worthy,
For He alone is worthy,
Christ the Lord!

For soon You will be coming,
For soon You will be coming,
For soon You will be coming,
Christ the Lord!

Hands down--one of our favorite Christmas choruses. I was telling Dave the other day that this song need not be saved until Christmastime. I love the posture it causes us to take as the power of the words sink deeper and deeper into our spirits as we sing them.

As cheesy as the line has become since I was a kid, it couldn't be more true that He is the reason for the season. In the midst of the hustle and bustle that Christmas has unfortunately become for the masses , the coming before our Jesus in complete adoration is get-down-on-your-knees, perspective-bringing, getting-to-the-heart-of-it powerful.

Who knew that the "product" of such a beautiful, scandalous night would bring about the greatest rescuing gift that humanity would ever need to live in light, in love, wholeness and with great purpose? God did, and the Father loves His children so much that this is the only gift He saw befitting. That is just crazy to me--I CANNOT wrap my head around it.

I hope we can experience a deep gratitude, an overwhelming adoration, and an overflowing love towards our Brother, our Savior, our Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Holiday Snickerdoodle Recipe

Dave loves snickerdoodles, so I thought i'd make them (mostly to give away, but he was my taster :)).
I found a holiday version on one of my new favorite food sites. I ran to the grocery store to pick up cream of tartar and somehow it ended up OUTSIDE of my grocery bags, and then came home only to get back into my car to go back and get some. Upon getting home the second time around, I realized I had also forgotten the vegetable shortening. I was so over driving that I subbed another stick of unsalted butter for the vegetable shortening, and the cookies still turned out.

Again--another copied/pasted section to save time
(Ah! It's so ghetto, but girl's gotta do what she's gotta do):
One suggestion: They weren't as spiced as I would have liked them to be, so I would double the nutmeg, ginger, and the cloves. If you want your flavors to be a bit more subtle, I'd stick to the original recipe. 

Pretty Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I typically wouldn't venture out onto the Neiman Marcus website as I can probably only afford their shipping prices on small items, I really didn't think i'd find such a steal: their chocolate chip cookie recipe!

They're probably the prettiest chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. If you eat them right out of the oven, they're crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. If you let them cool, they're the perfect crispy chocolate chip cookies that'll soften just the right about dipped in coffee or milk.


(Sorry for the copying/pasting--it's Christmas Eve, and i'm just posting this while I wait to pull some other goods out of the oven. Time is of the essence. Dave is sound asleep, and i'm running around our house to get some last minute stuff done before our festivities begin.)

The only thing I did differently was my portioning of the cookies. I used about a round tablespoon per cookie (leaving two inches between the cookies on the baking sheets). The Neiman Marcus sizing would make really big cookies (great for favors!). 

This recipe does not yield 2 dozen cookies, especially if you're going by the size of scoop that Neiman calls for. I tweaked the size a bit. I like using a tablespoon measure and flattening it out (so not rounded), plopping those on the baking sheet, and then baking them at 325 for 15 minutes. This temp produces a chewier cookie. 


Cranberry Nut Bread Recipe

More DIY (in most cases at the Lucht household--BIY (Bake it Yourself)) Christmas gifts are strewn all over every surface of our home.

I decided to revisit a favorite that I made during Thanksgiving. This is a super versatile bread that makes for beautiful gifts. I did both full-sized loaves as well as mini loaves :). I found this recipe here.

(Yields one 8x4x2 loaf, 6 normal-sized mini loaves, or 4 larger mini loaves)
I usually double the recipe during gift-giving season to save on time...

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel (about 1 medium orange)
1 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

-In a bowl (I just use my stand mixer bowl), combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter (I added butter a tablespoon at a time) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (If using stand mixer, you might want to go in with your hands just to break it up evenly). Beat egg, orange juice, and peel; stir into dry ingredients until blended. Add the cranberries and walnuts.

-Spoon batter into your loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 65-70 minutes or when you can stick a toothpick in near the center and it comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, remove, and continue to cool on a wire rack.

If you want to make it just a smidge indulgent or add some "pretty" to an already pretty bread, you can make this easy cinnamon glaze:


1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp milk or cream

Whisk together confectioner's sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract and milk or cream. Add only enough cream to make a spreadable glaze.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe: Basic w/ a Twist

I've tried my share of chocolate chip cookies: some turn out too flat, too crispy, too cakey, etc... I think I finally found one that is juuuust right--thanks to The Pioneer Woman. These cookies turned out a little crispy on the outside and nice and soft on the inside.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that there are some additions that make these cookies that much better. Here are the "secrets" to this recipe's success:

(instant coffee granules, flax seed [I use pre-ground, so your body can actually get the benefits from it], a combination of milk chocolate and semi-chocolate chips)

(Yields 24 medium-sized cookies--36 if you make smaller cookies)
This is my adaption of The Pioneer Woman's recipe:

- 1 cup margarine (or butter), softened
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (heaping) instant coffee granules
-1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
- 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. In a bowl (I use my stand mixer for this), stir together margarine, brown sugar, and white sugar until well combied. Add eggs and vanilla and stir together.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, instant coffee, baking soda, flax seed, and salt. Add to wet ingredients in batches.
4. Stir in chocolate chips.
5. Drop balls of dough on a cookie sheet and make for 11-13 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and eat warm or room temperature!

This is a great basic recipe to get creative with; you can add nuts, dried berries, etc...


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Look What Came in the Mail!

I absolutely love snail mail--hands down one of my favorite things ever. I checked the mail today and got not just one, but two surprises!

Our wedding photographers, Sarah & Rosina, sent us our wedding images :D! If you missed their blog posts from our wedding, you can see them here (Rosina's / Sarah's). (I'm practicing self-control and waiting until Dave gets home from work before I pop those discs in and relive our wedding day.)

Isn't their disc packaging adorable? Simple but with a touch of personalization and pizazz.

 Sarah also sent me a book called A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken 
as a wedding gift. She couldn't find another copy at her local bookstore, so she
gave us her personal copy!

We cannot thank Rosina and Sarah enough. They are very talented photographers & friends of ours who shoot with their hearts and have an eye for the special, real moments that their clients want to hang on to. Not only that, their aim in their business is to encourage couples to prevail in their marriages (amen!). Thank you, you two, for running far more than a photography business--thank you for investing your skills and talents into the life of your clients and always bringing a bit more of His love into the world.  You ladies are awesome.

We'll share some wedding photos with you as soon as we've gone through them!

Homemade Caramel Candy

These are rich little morsels of yum! I was inspired by some lovely ladeies (Ruthi & Becca) to make this as a holiday gift for friends and family. Dave's totally on board with me making gifts for Christmas, so that we don't break the bank. Instead of adding clutter (not to say that all gifts are guilty of this) to your loved one's houses, consider giving them something edible and made with love!

As I was perusing the web for a caramel candy recipe, I discovered that there are quite a few. Overwhelmed--I decided to settle on the one that was deemed a classic recipe from the Old Recipe Book. I chose to go with the "Melt in the Mouth Caramels," which is the first one on the website.

(makes about 2 1/2 pounds. this recipe yields quite a bit of caramel, so feel free to 1/2 the recipe if you need to)

1 cup butter or margarine
1 pound brown sugar (16 oz.)
Dash salt (I used about 1/2 tsp--Who doesn't love salt and caramel together?)
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I did 1 1/2)


1.Melt butter in heavy saucepan (important that it's a heavy pan).
2. Add brown sugar and salt. Stir until combined well.
3. Stir in syrup and mix well.
4. Gradually add milk--stirring constantly.
5. Cook and stir over medium heat until candy reaches "firm ball" stage on candy thermometer (245 degrees)--about 12-15 minutes.
6. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
7. Pour into a buttered 9 inch square pan. Cool and cut into whatever size you'd like. I like them to not be too big--maybe a one to two-bite piece. You can also roll them into thin little logs. Wrap in wax paper.

Split them up, package them however you'd like, and give your friends and family a little treat for the holidays.

As you can see in the pictures below, I wrapped some of them like a classic candy w/ the little ends and some other like a little box present. The ones w/ the ends are a lot faster to do, I think.

A few phone photos to brag about my helpful husband:

These candies aren't as intimidating to make as I had thought. I want to try making chocolate caramels next time.


Homemade Sloppy Joes & Crispy Baked Garlic Potato Wedges

Occasionally i'll get somewhat random cravings: Sloppy Joes fall under that category. While I was driving home the other day, I thought Dave would really to have some too, so I looked for a recipe that I could tweak. I don't like using red meat too often, so I used ground turkey instead. It's much healthier (way less fatty/lower in cholesterol) and still super tasty!

 (served here with baked garlic potato wedges--recipe at the bottom)

Turkey Sloppy Joes
Serves 3-4 depending on how sloppy your Joe is :
(recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman)


1 tablespoon butter
1 pound ground turkey (or ground beef if that's your preference!)
1/2 a medium sized onion
1/2 green bell pepper
2-3 garlic cloves (depending on how garlic-y you like your food)
3/4 cup organic ketchup
1/2 cup water
Worcestershire sauce (a few dashes--to taste) 
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
red pepper flakes (to taste)
salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional--i like the extra tang and body that it adds)
ground black pepper (to taste)
your buns/rolls of choice (I used whole wheat ones--Kaiser rolls are also popular for this dish)


1. Add butter to large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground turkey and cook until brown. (If using ground beef, drain most of the fat and discard)
2. Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until softened.
3. Add ketchup, brown sugar, chilli pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine, and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add tomato paste the the Worcesteshire sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
4. You can heat up your buns on a griddle skillet (I just throw them into the toaster oven).
5. You can also put cheese in your Sloppy Joe if you'd like (I know that's how the hubs likes his).

Crispy Baked Garlic Potato Wedges
Serves 2:

2 medium sized baking potatoes (our 3 smaller sized potatoes)
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder 


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cut each potato into 12 wedges (6 if they're smaller potatoes) and place into large bowl.
3. Put oil and put spices into bowl and mix well--coating all the wedges.
4. Bake for 25 minutes, flip the wedges, and bake for another 20-35 minutes (Depending on your wedge size) or until crisp.

Easy Roasted Chicken (& wine sauce)

When I first started cooking in college, chicken was always a go to. The thing was though--more often than not, my roasted chicken was dry. This is, by far, the easiest most delicious recipe for roasted chicken. Because it's a non-recipe recipe, you can be as creative as you'd like once you get the basics down:

Recipe taken from (Chow) with some tweaks:

For the chicken:

I didn't have Cajun spice mix, so I just used salt, pepper and some chili powder. 
You can add whatever you want. The chicken is your blank canvas!

Wine Sauce:

Thanks, for making this recipe almost fail proof and super delicious!
Dave and I enjoyed our roasted chicken and wine sauce with cilantro quinoa and roasted veggies:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our Friday Nights


For the last few months (even before Dave and I were married), we have been going to Santa Barbara right after Dave gets off of work in Agoura Hills, so we can get there and set up on time for the Friday worship and prayer gatherings w/ SBHOP. It's a lot of driving for us, but it's been such a blessing to be a part of something where we get to worship with some of our good friends,  get to know so many amazing people who are passionate about their city, encounter God, and freely worship our Jesus. 

Songs on the video:

#1: "Crags & Clay" --Gungor
#2: "Always" --Jon Foreman
#3: "Alive" --All Sons and Daughters

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Interview in PJ's, a messy bun success, & an eruption of dance.

Our last two days have been spent partially in Santa Barbara. On Tuesday, I went out there for my second interview with one of the directors from the ELC (English Language Center). Their main locations are in Boston and Los Angeles, but they're re-opening a school in Santa Barbara where i'm hoping to get a job. 

A quick recap: I had an interview in November, about a week before Thanksgiving and it was to take place over Skype (I know, right?! It was a first for me, too). Well, since there's a three hour time difference between Boston and CA, I decided that for my 8AM interview, I'd be partially PJ'd. I wore a blouse and blazer up to (where my interviewer could see me) and my comfiest, most worn in PJ bottoms. Well, as it turned out, I didn't have to get dressed at all (you know what I mean)! We had to reschedule that interview, and my first round actually took place over the phone. 
Thankfully, I got a second interview. I was excited about this one because it was going to take place in person in Santa Barbara. To prepare for my interview, I got my teaching portfolio together and updated it with my new last name :)

When I was getting ready, I decided to try my hand at a messy bun. Any of you lady friends out there know that these are a hit or miss. Fortunately on this momentous day, it was one for a successful messy bun :)

If I get the job, the commute will be a bit brutal:

Made a quick stop to my favorite coffee shop on State Street (they hand stamp every cup!) 
for some chocoate chai:

Got to the language center and had my interview take place in an unfurnished room, 
so it kind of felt like I was being interrogated:

On Wednesday night, Dave and I ordered Thai food, ate it really quickly, and headed back out to Santa Barbara for a friend's CD release party (Mac Montgomery and the Family Band). You can now get their album on iTunes. They are a talented bunch, and their love for Jesus is so apparent. What was a foot-tappin' CD release party was also a time of beautiful worship that ended up in an eruption of dancing :).

"No one else can like you like I love You, Lord because I was made unique in Your heart; 
I was made to bring You joy."

Christmas has visited our home: trees, crafts, and an ugly thing.

Looking for our REAL tree :)!!

(We found it! It's just the right size for our humble home. This picture
is misleading. The tree is, in fact, taller than me.)

I got so excited that I went to put the ornaments up right as the tree got into its stand,
but then the hubs kindlyreminded me that the lights needed to go on first.
He was a dear and put them up while 
I made us some warm deliciousness.
 I repurposed some decorative wrapping from our wedding, 
and turned it into some DIY ornaments.
 Simple bows made from a lace table cloth that I thrifted (also leftovers from wedding decor)
 little plaid bows and sweet little ornaments we got at Target

 my favorite one :)
 and i love our lights! they're tiny little round ones
Our tree all dressed up!

And for some more cost effective decor...
...the paper garland!

So this picture really has nothing to do with our home,
but it made me want to go to an ugly sweater party...
I keep being reminded of how blessed Dave and I are, and it truly is overwhelming.
I'm beyond excited to spend my first Christmas married to my best friend, to celebrate with
family and friends, bake up a storm, and just enjoy this year as it comes to a close 
(I cannot believehow quickly it zoomed by).

Oh, come let us adore Him!
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