Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Wedding Dress Went to Goodwill

Our friends were coming to town a few days after Christmas, so Dave and I wanted to tidy up the place since we hadn't been home all weekend and then some. I left my sweet husband a honey-do list, and he honey-did. I came home to a lovely, clean apartment after working the day after Christmas. As I sat down to unwind with my guy, I realized that this box that we had by the door was gone. In my mind, I knew that that box contained both things to keep and things to purge. Well, in my things to keep list wedding dress!

I failed to communicate to Dave that I hadn't sorted through the box yet, and since he was on such a roll with cleaning and stuff, he decided to take a car load of stuff to the local Goodwill. Needless to say, I had a meltdown for fear that i'd lose my wedding dress to someone who wouldn't understand why it meant more than the normal amount to me. Our wedding photographers pursue to inspire forever, covenant, and "Don't Give Up" into the couples' marriage for whom they photograph. They have each couple pick something on which they want to write the word "prevail." In our case, we picked my dress. We would have picked the treehouse, but we weren't sure how realistic it would be to always have that with us wherever we would end up. Who knew that Sharpied fabric would become to dear to me.

Now the only thing I could see was my dress wadded up in a sad ball-- a needle in a haystack post crazy Christmas donations. Dave zipped out the door as soon as I confirmed that my dress just got handed over to unknowing strangers and drove back to see if he could get it back. When he got there, there were different people working and no one recognized him from the earlier drop off and vice versa. He came home--hands empty. The manager told him that they would keep an eye out for my dress (which was for whatever reason really hard to believe). That began the just-in-case grieving process--tears flowing.

I kept on telling myself, "If it's meant to be, i'll get my dress back." I, along with a few friends, said some prayers, and hoped for the best.

Friends, beyond good news!! I don't have to just remember my dress by way of photos. I can keep it and show our kids and maybe even our grandkids one day. Thank you Goodwill for your goodwill. They called Dave to let us know that they'd come across the bag with my dress, in a box, in a pile. Thank you, love, for making it your mission to get that back for me. I love, so much.

That...was a close one.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brittle-icious: An Easy Toffee Brittle Recipe

Buttery, flaky, nutty, chocolatey goodness. Yeap, that is what you get once you've completed the easy steps for making this toffee brittle. I found this recipe on one of my favorite sites which I frequent on an almost daily basis and adapted it just a smidge. Darling Magazine is not only one of my favorite websites, it's also now one of my go-to magazines and movements because of their mission. Lady friends (and gentlemen too if you'd like), you have got to check it out if you haven't already.

Now to get to these beauties: 

 (Adapted just a bit by me)

- 2 sticks of butter
- 1 cup of sugar (white or brown)
- 12 oz of chocolate (a bag of choc. chips)
- 1 cap full of vanilla extract
- 40 saltines (one sleeve)
- toppings (I used dark Almond Roca for one batch and peanuts for another)


Step 1 Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Place saltines on the cookie sheet.
Step 2 Melt butter and sugar over medium heat in a small pot, whisking a few times. When the mixture comes to a boil, add in the vanilla. Stir.  Pour it as evenly as you can over the saltines.
Step 3 Put the cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes.
Step 4 Take the toffee out of the oven and sprinkle chocolate over it. Spread with a spatula to cover. The chocolate should melt immediately, but if it doesn’t, pop it back in the oven for 30 seconds to a minute.
Step 5  Let it cool and then place the brittle into the fridge for at least two hours. Then, take the trays out and break the toffee up with your hands or with a serrated knife.

These made the best somewhat last minute gifts (not just for Christmas--they'd be great to bring to a party, potluck, etc...). They're dangerously tasty. Enjoy!

Christmas 2012

I didn't do the best job of documenting our Christmas gatherings this year, but there were plenty. We were in Simi Valley twice, Santa Clarita, Arleta, and Santa Barbara. There was no shortage of family, friends,  sugar, napping, catching up, or good conversations. Ever since Dave and I have been married, we've had the joy of getting to learn and celebrate the different expressions of family between our families.
What we used for our Christmas "card."
At my parents' house after the annual Christmas Eve service.
 My parents :).
 The Swedish Fish candy cane ornamented tree @ Sam's right before
we opened gifts with mom and sister-in-love.
Oh, aside from great family time, there were plenty of four-legged friends too!
(Pictured furry friend: Biscotti)

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones. 
Can you believe it'll be next year next week?!
Are you doing anything exciting? 
We're going to San Fran with some friends (yippeee!)--pictures to come :D.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Turkeys, Friends, and Babies.

Dave and I got the party started early this year--the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was actually our first official celebration. I work at a school where we teach English to international students, so many of them have neither heard of Thanksgiving nor experienced it. Needless to say, we wanted them to fill their bellies to the brim with turkey and all the fixings, so all of our campuses have the tradition of having Thanksgiving catered.  It was a hit! Our students went back for seconds and thirds and probably also learned a lesson in gluttony.

Our second Thanksgiving celebration was at my parents' house where the tradition of Mama Pham's egg rolls and Mom B's sweet potatoes and green beans were present. Dave and I spent two days at my parents just hanging out, going to bed late, and watching random TV shows as we don't have cable at our place (P.s. Have you ever seen the show Tattoo Nightmares?! So good!). We ventured out into the wild that is Black Friday later in the afternoon and hit up some stores. The lines were not long, and it wasn't as scary as it probably was hours earlier in the day. Oh, and an amusing side note: My mom showed me some baby booties she knitted and asked when Dave and I are going to let her make some of those for us. AKA "Have a baby already!"  No pressure...

Our third feast: We had a Friendsgiving celebration at our friends Amber and Chris' abode. They got married in May and have put in so much blood, sweat, and tears into making their house a home. It is such a blessing to be in the company of good friends (after not seeing many of them in forever!) and their good friends. At this stage in life, it's incredibly humbling to know that we have such special relationships with people who've walked through some of the most important stages of life with each other. And although we don't live close together, getting to share in what's going on in everyone's lives [like finding out that our friends Kelly and CJ are going to have a baby girl!!!!] is a privilege beyond words. Albeit transient in nature, our catching up feels like home. We had our fill of friends, food, and yes--fart stories (How is it that that happens whenever my friends and I get together?? Don't judge! :))

 Last but not least, we ended our Thanksgiving travels at our friends Ryan and Sherry's house to celebrate Ryan's birthday. We caught up with old friends, made new ones, and had a grown up sleep over. It is bizarre to be grown up, to sleep over at a friend's house, and to wake up in the morning and get to play with your friends' baby. Life is definitely different these days...

So in other words, we have SO much to be thankful for--our jobs, our families, our friends, laughter, and that fact that God is letting us be a part of such an awesome adventure with each other. I have the most amazing teammate, life-liver, and husband. So. Blessed.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones: Another Tweaked Recipe

This past weekend I had a serious sweet tooth, so I decided to get my bake on. I realized we were out of butter, but I was determined that there was a way to work around this without having to go to the store. I remembered that I have coconut oil, so I Googled butter/coconut oil substitutions. Lo and behold, it's a no-brainer! You just use the same amount of coconut oil as you would butter. Yay for easy conversions! This was actually an eye-opening experience because that means that I can use coconut oil in place of butter for any baked good--anything to make dessert "healthy" is right by me (use refined coconut oil if you don't want any of the coconut scent, albeit faint).

To be frank:
Milk makes me gassy.
Butter can give me love handles.
Milk-filled, buttery scones: all of the above.

Coconut oil and almond milk scones. Dairy and I don't get along too well, so almond milk has been an amazing substitute. Coconut oil has been used in our kitchen as well as in some of my skincare sessions (it's great as a makeup remover or a moisturizing mask). We stock up on these goods at Trader Joe's--really well priced in my opinion. Not only are they good for you, together they bake up some delicious edibles!

The scones came out more tender and lighter than your traditional scone, which I loved! Dave was also a big fan of these fall-flavored morsels of awesome. After I get home from work tomorrow, we're going to drop off some early Thanksgiving scones to some of our neighbors. It may seem like a nice gesture, but it's also partially selfish. I don't want them too easily accessible even though they are a bit less indulgent than your typical scone :).

Give this recipe a try; I don't think you'll be disappointed!

(Recipe taken from here and tweaked by me)

For the Scones:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 cup and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
  • 6 tablespoons of coconut oil (in solid form)
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree 
  • 3 tablespoons almond milk
  • 1 large egg 
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can always reduce or add more to your liking)
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar 
  • 2 Tablespoons almond milk 
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (less or more depending on taste)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (less or more depending on taste)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and spray pan with cooking spray or lay down parchment paper.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Add the butter and mix with a fork until the dough becomes crumbly. 
  3. Fold in the pumpkin, milk, and egg. Form the dough into a rectangle on a lightly floured surface, making it about 4 inches by 12 inches. 
  4. Use a large knife to slice the dough into three portions. Cut an X pattern (four pieces) in each portion so you end up with 12 triangular slices of dough. Place on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 14-16 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
  6. While the scones are cooling, make the powdered sugar glaze by whisking all of the ingredients until smooth. 
  7. When completely cooled, drizzle the tops of the scones with the glaze (or you can dip them into the glaze if you'd like). Let the glaze set for about an hour before serving.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

No Knead Bread: A Simple Wonder

This was a first for me--homemade bread that isn't a quick bread (AKA banana bread, apple bread, etc...). I found this recipe on another blog and decided to give it a few tweaks and have my shot at bread making. Needless to say, I was pretty happy about the result, and the Mr. also approved!

This is one of the easiest recipes ever! The only catch is that you need time. You can't rush it, so I wouldn't recommend making this when you're looking to somewhat quickly curb a craving. The recipe is really simple; it's a great base, which means that you can add herbs, nuts, seeds, dried fruit or anything else to your liking.

For my first try, I decided to make two loaves--a whole wheat raisin walnut and a whole wheat rosemary loaf. I used all whole wheat pastry flour, which I think made the bread a bit denser than normal. It tasted great, but I think next time I'll do a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flour.

(Recipe taken from Bex a Diary and adapted by me)
Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf

3 cups all- purpose flour [I'd suggest using 2 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour]
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cup water 
additional flour or cornmeal
ceramic or pyrex dish with an oven safe lid (I used a cookie sheet as the lid)
[you could also use a dutch oven if you'd like]
whatever mix-in's you'd like (see directions for what I used)

1. Combine flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. Mix well. Add water to bowl and mix.
[For the raisin walnut: I added 1 tbs cinnamon, 1/2 cup raisins, and 1/2 cup walnuts to the mix; You'll want to put about a tablespoon of your dried flour mixture in with your raisins and walnuts before mixing it into the main dry mixture, so that they'll evenly distribute themselves throughout the loaf.]
[For the rosemary: I chopped up a few springs of rosemary and mixed it into the dough.]

2. The dough should be sticky and heavy. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 12 to 18 hours, at room temperature. 12 is good but 18 is better. 

3. The dough will rise a good bit and is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
4. Lightly flour your working surface and dump dough from bowl onto the surface. Sprinkle the dough with a bit more flour and fold it over on itself  2- 4 times. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes.
5. Working with enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and work surface, quickly work the dough into a ball. Coat generously a kitchen towel {not terry cloth} with flour, or cornmeal (I used a mixture of both). Place the dough seam side down onto the towel and dust the top of the ball with flour. Cover dough with top of the towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is nearly double in size and does not spring back when poked with your finger. 
6. 30 minutes before dough is ready heat the oven to 450*. Place a 6-8 quart covered pot in the oven to warm with the oven. 
7. When the dough is ready remove the pot from the oven and carefully lift the dough off of the towel and gently place into the dish. If it looks a bit messy don't worry, shake the pan a time or two to make sure the dough is distributed evenly. The dough will straighten out as it bakes, cover the pot and place it in the oven. bake with the lid on for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15-20 minutes--or until bread is golden brown. Carefully remove dough from pan and cool on a rack. 
*Note: I sliced the loaves once they cooked, and kept them in an airtight container in the fridge. Whenever you're ready to eat, just pop your slice into a toaster oven for a bit to get it crispy and delish.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-chia: No Cook Chia Seed Pudding

So the other day I was visiting my old stompin' grounds--good old LBC having brunch with some lovelies. My friend , aka kindred spirit, Temma brought a fruit salad delicately sprinkled with chia seeds. As soon as I found out what those curious little specks were, the catchy jingle I heard so often during my childhood came rushing into my mind: "Ch-ch-ch-chia!" And yes, they are the same seeds that we saw spread on in thin coats on terra cotta animals and Einstein heads.

Chia seeds in my fruit salad got me curious as to what else I can put them in. I found out that you can sprinkle them into yogurt, put them in smoothies, put them in baked goods, and toss them into salads. I read a few blog posts, and some peeps mentioned how they're reminiscent of boba when put into beverages. I'm more than happy to add some more healthy seeds (the other common one in our household is flax) into my diet: Chia seeds are a good source of omega 3s, dietary fiber, and protein.

I grabbed a bag of chia seeds at Trader Joe's and followed the recipe on the back. The pudding is super easy to make. It's not like your average pudding (you're probably thinking "duh"), and I can see how it could be an acquired taste for some, but I think it's fun and refreshing. I asked the hubs what he thought about it, and he said, "It's simple and subtle--and tangy from the strawberries." And you should know that his bowl is empty--seedless. Be creative. The pudding is really just an blank canvas.

(enough for 2 servings)
- 1 cup coconut milk (the stuff you drink--not the thick canned stuff you make curry with)
- 1/4 cup agave nectar (I used half of this b/c i knew I was going to stir in fruit; you can also use honey)
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- You can also flavor it with vanilla, cocoa powder, pureed fruit, or citrus juices (according to the bag the seeds came in). I decided to mix in fresh strawberries, and it was delish.


Combine all ingredients. Stir well. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Eat up.

(Please excuse the weird yellow lighting on the bottom right photo.
 It was late when the pudding finally set.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DIY Setting Spray

The lowdown:

I'm a sweat-er. This doesn't always help with the makeup staying in place.

My eyeliner always seems to smudge under my eyes, so I use any help I can get to keep it in place. I tried getting the hubs to give me a warning when I get a bit smeary, but I quickly learned that he doesn't say anything because he still thinks wifey still looks pretty when smudgy.

I'm a huge fan of setting sprays, (Mac's, Makeup Forever's, Urban Decay's) but I'm tired of spending 16-30 something odd dollars for them. They work wonders--making skin glowtastic and healthy.
Since I like my makeup to look as natural as possible (especially when the special occasion calls for fuller coverage), I like to have this spray on had whenever possible. All of this to say, I want my "face" to stay in place without spending an arm and a leg. After perusing a few DIY setting spray recipes, I've come up with this:

- Purified Water
- Glycerin*
- Rosewater Toner (optional)
(You can also use drops of essential oils; e.g. lavender/tea tree)
- 2 Vitamin E capsules
- Travel Size Spray Bottle
* Glycerin doesn't keep for too long, so you'll want to be sure to replace your batch every 2-2 1/2 weeks.


Using this will help you stay refreshed, dewy and fresh. If you need to touch up your makeup throughout the day, spritz some of this onto your face, so that powder or foundation go on smoothly rather than cake-y and uneven. Try it out, and let me know what you think :).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'm A Big Kid Now.

"We'd like to offer you a full time, salaried position."

Jaw. Floor.


I couldn't believe it! I've been a teacher (the only teacher) at the English Language Center in Santa Barbara since February. The school is growing slowly but surely, and the President decided to offer me a promotion to Head Teacher. I'll be teaching as well as overseeing the academic/curriculum development side of things. YOWZA. I've never worked full time before. I went straight into my MA after my undergraduate, so I haven't really had time for full time work. I had no idea that an opportunity would come up this soon. *Insert praise hands here.*

In any case, Dave and I feel so blessed. A little in over my head for the first few months in my new position, but blessed.

Who knows? This might mean a relocation to Santa Barbara. Dun dun dun--or would the Jeopardy jingle have been more appropriate?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

A quick post as we're en route to LAX to leave for our quick trip to San Francisco!! I'm so excited to be going to one of my favorite cities with my favorite guy. He won us this weekend trip by being the top salesman at his work last month--I'm a PROUD (and very thankful) wifey.

 I finally found a oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe that I'm happy with. The cookies don't come out flat, and they stay chewy! I adapted some recipes and found the combination that got some pretty good reviews :)

(they're much prettier in natural lighting, but i baked these at night)


1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I used half apf and half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp instant espresso/coffee (optional--i find that it accents the chocolate chips)
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 345 F
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture until blended. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Drop heaping spoonfuls onto baking sheets.
3. Bake for 12 minutes Cool, and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Banana Recipe #5: Peanut Butter & Banana French Toast

This past weekend, Dave and I got to enjoy a lazy Saturday. We slept in and ate breakfast for lunch. Because we still had so many bananas, I decided to incorporate them into something breakfasty. I had seen peanut butter banana french toast before on some diner menus and wanted to give them a try. I found and adapted a recipe that was inspired by one of Bobby Flay's:


Serves 2
-4 slices of bread (I used whole wheat)
-peanut butter
-two small bananas or one large one, sliced
-2 eggs whisked together
-juice of an orange or 4 tablespoons of ready-made orange juice (I used fresh orange juice, so I also added some of the zest)
-a pinch or two of nutmeg (I used about 1/2 tsp)
-a pinch or two of cinnamon (I used 1 tsp)
-a pinch of cayenne (I used about 1/4 tsp)


Make two peanut butter banana sandwiches.

Whisk egg mixture together, and dip both sides of your sandwich in the mixture.

Place sandwich on a heated iron skillet or non-stick one that has had a small pat of butter melted on it. Allow to brown for 60 seconds or slightly longer on each side.

To garnish, you can sprinkle on powdered sugar and maple syrup. You can even use honey if you'd like.

I served this up with a few orange wedges, which compliments the orange juice that's already in the french toast and also cuts through the richness a bit. 


Monday, March 5, 2012

Banana Recipe #4: A Smoothie For Champs

As it's the 4th installment of the banana recipe series, I'm getting a little tired of baking. This is a bit of a stretch as bananas aren't really the star of the recipe, but they do play a big part in the texture and taste of the smoothie. This smoothie might seem a bit intimidating, but it's a berry-banana meets a green smoothie. It's tasty and really good for you. Feel free to experiment with your ingredients. The sky's the limit with these green(ish) smoothies.

(Yields two large glasses or 4 smaller glasses)

-1 12 oz can of coconut water
-1 1/2 cups water (more or less to your taste--how thick or thin you want your smoothie to be)
-1/2 cup frozen strawberries
-1/2 cup frozen blueberries
-1/4 cup frozen mangoes
-1 large banana
-2 big handfuls of collard greens (no stems)
-1 handful of spinach
-2 Tbl ground flax seed
-2 Tbl ground pysllium husk
-juice of half a lemon
-If you want the extra creaminess, you can add a 1/4 cup of vanilla or plain yogurt

Place everything in a blender and let it do it's thing until everything's blended and smooth. Drink up. (By the way, these are super filling!)

Banana Recipe #3: Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

OK, before I mislead anyone to the point of no return. I need to preface that these cookies aren't what most would consider a cookie. If you've ever had a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie, you'll know what I'm talking about. These are more cake-like in consistency; they're more like muffin tops (the delicious kind--not the kind you see peeking out over too-tight jeans). These have been preggo-friend-tested-and-approved :).



-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
-1/2 cup granulated sguar
-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark)
-1 large egg
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (I used two for more banana flavor)
-1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
-8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (you can also used coarsely chopped chunks)
-1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted


Preheat oven to 375 F. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.
Put butter and sugar into the bowl, mix with hand mixer or in a stand mixer on medium until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla; mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Add in banana. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts. 

Use a teaspoon and scoop rounded teaspoons onto your cookie sheet with about 1 1/2 to 2 inches between the cookies. Bake the cookies, rotating the sheet halfway through, until golden brown and just set (about 12-13 minutes). Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes; let cool completely on wire racks. 


Adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe

Banana Recipe #2: Chocolate Banana Bread

On to recipe #2. The banana brownies were a hit: I brought some to my students and sent some off to work with Dave to share with his coworkers. The feedback was that they were nice, dense in a good way, and not too sweet--just sweet enough.

I still had a bunch of bananas left to use up so I decided to look for a banana bread recipe but with the chocolate factor pumped up a bit. I found one for chocolate banana bread on this site:
(I usually bake at night and there's no natural lighting. When I wake up, I barely have enough time to get ready, so I just snapped a shot really fast with my phone.)

-1 3/4 cups flour (You can also do a combo of APF & whole wheat flour [1 cup APF & 3/4 whole wheat]
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-2 large eggs, lightly beaten
-1 stick butter, melted & cooked
-3 ripe bananas, mashed well
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Mix together the flour, coco, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Stir the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla together. Carefully fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips (and walnuts or pecans if you're using them).

Pour into a greased loaf pan (I just use Pam cooking spray). Bake at 350 F for 55-65 minutes until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Let cool before serving.

[You can also store this in the freezer.]


Banana Recipe #1:If Brownies & Banana Bread Had Babies [Banana Brownie Recipe]

A week and a half or so ago, I went to my friend's son's 4th birthday party. It was Curious George themed, and there were monkeys, bananas, and men (OK, only one man--Micah's daddy) in a yellow suit all over the place. While the kids were leaving one by one as they had tired themselves out from the bounce house and experiencing their imminent sugar crash, my friend was trying to clean up and do other post-party musts. Since she had bought a plethora of bananas and didn't know what to do with them, she handed me two huge bunches. I could have just frozen them to make smoothies or do the typical banana bread, but I got the urge to try a series of new banana-related recipes. 

Recipe #1 came as the result of me having a craving for chocolate and bananas. I figured that there was no way I was the first person to think of banana brownies, so I googled the recipe and sifted through a few before deciding on which I one I wanted to try. 

I saw a few four-star recipes but then stumbled on a state-fair winning one that seemed like it'd be the one; I was right. They're delicious--like a fine marriage of fudge, brownies, and banana bread.  

(I realize the picture's not the best one to post, but it's the only one I took of this brownie. If it makes up for anything--that stuff you see smothered all over it is Fresh & Easy's roasted banana gelato :)).

Thanks to Gloria's state fair winning recipe:

-5 oz semi sweet chocolate (or a little less than 1 cup chips)
-1 oz bittersweet chocolate (or 3 tablespoons chips)
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
-1 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark--didn't have any light)
-2 large eggs
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 of a small banana (I added a whole large one, so you can actually taste banana)--well mashed
-3/4 cup sifted flour
-1 Tbl unsweetened natural cocoa powder
-1/4 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter, add an extra pinch)
-1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
-1/2 cup lightly toasted chopped pecans (I used walnuts)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray cooking spray on only the bottom of an 8x8 inch metal pan. 

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium low heat, then reduce heat to low and add 5 oz and 1 oz of chocolates. Cook and stir over low until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes.  

Mix flour, cocoa, and salt together and set aside.

Combine sugar, eggs, banana in a separate bowl--stir until combined. (Using a fork for this makes it pretty easy)

Add chocolate mixture to sugar, egg, banana mixture--stir until combined.

Stir in dry ingredients just until combined.

Fold in that last 1/2 cup of choc. chips and nuts. Bake 35-40 minutes. Check it at 35 minutes.

Cool before cutting. 



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Psalm 23 [and then some]: The Legit Shepherd.

You know that thing that happens when you read a verse or passage for the however-many-nth-time and you STILL go, "Whoa!" Well, I had one of those moments again. I love them because it shows that God is God of great depth, and the revelation of His word does deep work in our souls.

I was going through a chapter in a book I'm reading called The Good and Beautiful God--specically a chapter on God's generosity. The soul training exercise for that chapter was to meditate on Psalm 23 throughout the course of the week. As I started, I would just recite it as is. A few days went by, and then my meditations on the chapter became a bit fuller--a bit weightier.

Here's what a I got a few days in--my extra somethin' somethin's are in the [ ]'s.

The Lord is my SHEPHERD, I shall not want [because He gives me everything I need];
He makes me lie down in green pastures [because he wants me to REST]
& leads me beside still waters [because He wants me to know His PEACE].
He restores my soul [because only He can do that work in me].
He leads me in the right paths for His name's sake [and because He's a righteous God and cares about my character and my heart].
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil for You [PERFECT LOVE] are with me;
Your rod and your staff comfort me [because I know that you discipline and guide me out of LOVE]/
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies [because You are greater than them and you fight my battles].
You anoint my head with oil [because you KNOW who I am and know my worth].
My cup overflows [because you are a GENEROUS God].
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life [because you watch over me and are after my good],
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever [because You desire a relationship of MUTUAL delight with me].

The whole passage is powerful, but this time around--the line that hit me the hardest was, "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever [because You desire a relationship of MUTUAL delight with me"].
He, the God of the universe, delights in me and is utterly delighted when I delight in Him. If that isn't an overwhelming, hard-to-wrap-your-head-around thought, I'm not sure what is. Amazing, I tell you. His love his amazing. The deeper realization that I know a good and beautiful God is a reminder that I'm forever in a good and beautiful relationship. Talk about generous, right?

P.s. If you have some time, I really recommend the book I'm going through. The main premise of the book is to have us replace the false narratives we live by with Jesus' narratives--replacing our wrong-thinking with freeing truth. The book's even greater if you have some friends you can read through it with.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fail Proof Chicken Soup Recipe

As I was typing in the title for this post, I was brought back to all of those Chicken Soup for the ________ Soul books I used to read when I was in Jr. High--OK, and parts of high school. Do you remember those? There's no point in denying it; I used to really like them--a sucker for heart-string-tuggin' stories. Oddly enough, my memories of all of those include my mom buying them for me from Costco. Random.

Anyways, I've been meaning to post this recipe for a while now. Ever since work's picked up, the stand mixer and the crock pot have kind been put on the back burner (sorry, I couldn't help myself). Dave and his friend went mountain biking today, so I had some time to cook and bake.

I was craving soup, so I went to my go-to recipe. Eating chicken soup always reminds me of eating bowls of it as a kid because it was one of my favorite dishes that my mom would make. Now that I'm a married lady, I've been working on finding a recipe of my own (so that my mom's chicken soup will always be my mom's chicken soup :)). This recipe is SO easy to make, and the sky's the limit as far as what you can to put in it. There's no science to it; it's really a few shakes of this--a few shakes of that. I find myself adding new things almost every time. This is a great use-whatever-i've-got-in-the-fridge (or pantry) recipe.


-1 whole chicken
-1 bay leaf
-64 ounces of low-sodium chicken broth (I always end up adding water to make more broth, so add as much as you need as you go--also a good idea for next-day consumption)
-1 large onion, diced
- 1 leek, cleaned well and sliced (optional)
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-3 stalks of celery, sliced
-3 carrot, peeled and chopped
-3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
-1 bunch asparagus, chopped
-1 can of kidney beans, drained (you can use whatever beans you enjoy)
-1 can of corn, drained
-1 cup of frozen peas
-lemon or lime wedges
-cumin (a few shakes--so precise, right?)
-dried oregano ("")
-dried thyme ("")

(Again, do not feel as though this is a set-in-stone recipe. It'll taste good even if you don't have everything listed above. Take creative liberties! Some other suggestions: lima beans, diced potatoes, garbanzo beans, green beans, tomatoes, rice, orzo, quinoa, spinach, other greens, etc...)


-Heat the olive oil in the pan. Saute the onions, leeks, carrots, & celery for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Throw in a few shakes of oregano, thyme, and cumin so those spices open up by the heat of the olive oil. Add 1/2 a tsp of salt into the mix (you'll add more later). Throw in the rest of the ingredients into the pot. Bring everything to a boil, and then let it simmer for an hour to an hour and a half (until the chicken is cooked through). Once cooked through, pull the chicken out and shred (I use two forks to get the job done). Once shredded, place the meat back into the pot. At this point, you'll want to taste your soup. Add salt a little bit at a time until you get the flavor you want. To serve, top with some cilantro, a squeeze of lemon or lime into each bowl, and some freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy. Trust me--you will.

P.s. If you're like me and don't have large (5 qt+ dutch oven/pot), you can cut the chicken down to smaller pieces and cook the soup in two pots. You can place the wings & legs into one pot and the rest of the chicken into another. Divvy up the veggies and stock, and you're set. You should be able to combine everything into one large pot once the chicken is shredded.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Celegrieving: A Luchty Update

Oh my goodness! It's been a while; I've been MIA on this blog ever since I started working again. The last blog before this one was a reflection after my first day of class.  Today was the last day of our session (four weeks have FLOWN by); brownies were given, and hugs and goodbyes were exchanged. It was after today's class that I came up with a new word: celegrieving. I'm celebrating a good first run at the ELC, but I'm also grieving the leaving of my first batch of students (I've also been celebrating the fact that I've gotten to teach again and grieving my lack of sleep throughout the last four weeks.)

Here's a brief pictorial synoptic highlight of what we've been up to in the last few weeks:

What Dave did when I was on Amber's bachelorette weekend--he went on a solo wilderness trip in Ojai:
Dave's been itching to take me on a backpacking trip of sorts, so I'm sure there will be pictures of the both of us doing something like this in the near future.

Some shots from an AMAZING trip to San Luis Opisbo with some of Amber's fave gals for her bachelorette trip:

 A seriously good looking bunch, right? Amber's well loved :)
 The bride-to-be and I:

Some of the dishes we've been eating:

green smoothies:

tofu tacos:
stuffed shells:
charbroiled oysters to celebrate our 4th month being married:) :
banh mi: 
so-not-healthy-but-so-good banana chocolate chip walnut bread:

spaghetti squash with homemade sauce:

My students:
The classroom after I got my goodbye hugs:

Some funny/unfortunate classroom blunders:

-I baked brownies for my students. I miscounted, so I didn't realize that when Dave and I ate one, I'd be one short the next day for my students. Luckily, two were willing to share. Whoops.

- Because they were my first bunch, I wanted to write them each a little note of encouragement as a little goodbye memento. I somehow dropped one of my notes at home, so one of my students was left cardless--looks like snail mail is my best bet.

- I left class one day to realize only afterward that the side zipper on my shirt was only half-zipped.
The not-so-fun, but definitely character-growing aspects of my job:

- I had to teach 4 different levels of students in one class, so sometimes I felt like I was losing my marbles. I'm not even sure how I kept my grammar straight while managing all of my students'.

-I look young (and am younger than some teachers and sometimes even younger than some of my students), so my students sometimes see me as a buddy and not an authoritative figure. That can be taxing, but I've learned that communicating honestly with my students helps with that a bit. Building rapport with my students, especially with the demographic I work with, is HUGE.

-I'm learning what it means to be stern...graciously. 

The blessing:

-I have a husband that is so supportive and proud of me, who will sometimes make breakfast for me before work or get up just so I can get a hug before I leave.

-I have to commute quite a ways every day, but at least it's a pretty drive from Camarillo to Santa Barbara.

- A few new students have enrolled for the next session, so I still have a job :)

-The job I've been given is a constant reminder of how our Papa--our Father always wants us to be in a posture of learning. I want to model life-long learning to my students by living that out.

Wow. So thankful.

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