Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A little bit country and a little bit rock n' roll

I love the City where God placed us.  We live in a suburb of Austin.  I love where we live.  We live on 1.57 acres and it really feels like we are in the country when at home.  Yet, we can be into Austin in just a few minutes and explore all of the wonderful things the city has to offer.   It is exactly what I like--a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll!   We are in Austin very regularly.  On Tuesday, after choir last week, we decided to head to South Austin and do a little graffiti art/mural tour.  We first enjoyed some pizza at Home Slice and then strolled around and snapped some photos next to fun murals.

We love all of the fun murals in our city.  There are a LOT of them!  We last blogged about the fun murals and our visits to them here (click "here" for link) and here.   If you are interested in knowing where to find all of these awesome art installations, here is a good list of mural art around Austin, but it is from 2014.  There are a lot more today.  Here is a little tour of some of the murals we visited on Valentine's Day last week.

Located at S. Congress and Elizabeth Street, near the Hey Cupcake food truck.
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This one was funny to me.  I think neither one wanted to smile at this time for a photo, so the words on this mural were perfect!
I love this one!   It's located at the side of the "More Home Slice" Pizza shop.


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This one was appropriate--since it was Valentine's Day!  It's located at the side of Jo's Coffee on South Congress.
Then we visited the HUGE outdoor graffiti art park at Castle Hill.  We pretty much were camped out there the rest of the afternoon.  For those who aren't aware of this place, it is located at 1008 Baylor St. in Austin.  There are so many pretty colors at this park.  And anyone can paint anything.  There were several different pieces of art being created while we were there.   You have to be careful though:  because anyone can create art, there are some inappropriate words in some areas as well.  Thankfully, the kids were more interested in climbing all over the walls on the multiple levels than they were in reading all of the things written on the walls.  

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We met one of Luke's friends there as well.  The boys were walking at the top of this wall and I told them to wait right there for a moment while I snapped a photo.  They had no idea what was written below, but it is very appropriate for these 2 skinny boys!
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"Believe in the Good Things Coming"

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There are so many areas to climb!

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Lots to explore.
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cutie pattooti
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ATX Love!
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Happy Valentine's Day!

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There is art all over town here--in random places.  I just love it!  We are explorers of not only nature (and this city provides a lot of opportunities to explore that), but we also love city exploration.  And this city is just awesome for both!

At dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant (which happens to be a food truck), Patrizi's.  Abbey is "saluting" at this lovely "Salute" sign.






Monday, February 20, 2017

What We're Eating This Week

As promised, here is this week's "What We're Eating This Week."  I have been providing these blog posts for the past 5 weeks.  But, I am not really sure how useful the past couple have been.  So, I think this one will be my last unless I hear that many people are still using them.  Including this post, I have included 5 weeks of our family's favorite meals.  This week we are enjoying more of our family favorites:


Here is this week's dinner plan:

Monday:  Tacos!  I absolutely love tacos....and my love for tacos sort of spilled out onto my family.  We have tacos---either for lunch or dinner, at minimum, of once per week.  We are addicted and I blame it on our city of Austin!   Click HERE to see what I am talking about.  We seriously could eat tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner here.  Anyway, here is one of my favorite homemade tacos recipe.  I have used both grass-fed beef and chicken in these tacos and both are delicious.  If using chicken, make sure you dice it really small after cooking, or shred it.


Baked Crunchy Tacos With Grass-fed Beef, Spinach and Black Beans


12 Crunchy Taco Shells (using organic corn, whole grain is best!  I find these at whole foods)
1 1/2 C Black Beans Or One Can, Rinsed  (This isn't completely from scratch, but I actually prefer to use a jar of whole foods brand black bean and corn salsa in place of the beans.  This is the way I cook the tacos 95% of the time.)
1 lb. Grass-fed Beef
1-2 Tbsp of Coconut Oil
1-1.5 cups of corn (I use organic frozen sweet corn)
1 Red Bell Pepper, Diced
1-2 Tsp. Tumeric
1-2 Tsp. Cumin
1 Tbsp. Garlic Powder (or 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced)
1 Tsp. Black Pepper
1 Tsp. Salt
Organic Sharp Cheddar or Colby Jack Cheese, Sliced into small pieces. Or shredded
Spinach and Arugula to top (about two cups). (or avocado)


Preheat Oven to 350˚


In a skillet on low to medium heat, heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Add the corn and diced red bell peppers and a sprinkle of salt. Cook these until they just begin to brown, stirring every so often. Set aside.


Next, brown the ground beef in the skillet. After the beef is browned, drain the oil and add the seasoning. I generously sprinkle turmeric, cumin and garlic powder (or throw in some fresh minced garlic while the beef is browning), salt and pepper and then add in the black bean/corn salsa (or beans) on low heat.


Line the shells on a 13x9 baking pan. Fill the shells by the spoonful until you run out of filling.
Top with cheese
Bake until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
Top with Spinach & Arugula (and sliced avocados)


Tuesday: leftovers


Wednesday: Quiche with a side salad


My favorite quiche is a combination of two other peoples recipes. I used the crust recipe from 100 days of real food found here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/quiche-with-a-super-easy-whole-wheat-crust/ . This crust is delicious and extremely easy. And, I often use the filling recipe from midwest living.com found here: http://www.midwestliving.com/recipe/casseroles/heirloom-tomato-and-onion-quiche For this recipe, I sub in a healthy flour, such as oat flour or 100% whole wheat flour. And, as I mentioned above, I make a homemade crust. The quiche recipe from 100 days of real food is delicious as well though. It is found in the same link as the crust link that I posted.


For our side salad, I always use greens that the kids enjoy, like baby spinach or spring greens. For them to enjoy it, it is important to add lots of fruit to it, as well as a delicious homemade dressing. The sweeter the better! (And it is easy to make naturally sweet dressings, such as my maple balsamic dressing mentioned a couple of weeks ago).


Thursday: Stir fry with a delicious homemade fried rice. For the stir fry, we use the 100 days of real food farmers market stir fry recipe as a guideline: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-farmers-market-stir-fry/ For the fried rice, I love this recipe that I got from the Sustainable Food Center after taking a healthy cooking class from them.  I took a photo of the recipe from the book because I don't have time to re-type it all.  I hope you can read it:


 Friday: There should be plenty of Thursday night's meal to eat as leftovers on Friday night.

Dessert/Snacks:

And in case anyone is interested, here is my absolute favorite brownie recipe.  It is so good and pretty much guilt-free.  I would almost go so far as to say these brownies are good for you.  The black beans add some good nutrients.  :-)  We love this recipe and it has been one of our go-to's for many years now. In fact, when Abbey asked for a chocolate cake for her birthday this year, I just used this brownie recipe as the "cake" and cooked them a little longer so they were more cake-like.  Then, I added some chocolate frosting, which was also her request.  She actually didn't know I used the black bean brownie recipe but said it was the best chocolate cake she had ever eaten!  This recipe is courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie.

Black Bean Brownies

Total Time: 15m
Yield: 9-12 brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well) (250g after draining)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder (10g)
  • 1/2 cup quick oats (40g) (See nutrition link below for substitutions)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave (or honey, but not for strict vegans.) (or increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup if not using stevia or sugar (listed next)) (75g)
  • pinch uncut stevia OR 2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup--We always increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup and omit the stevia and sugar)
  • 1/4 cup coconut or vegetable oil (40g)
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup chocolate chips (115-140g) (Not optional. Omit at your own risk.)
  • optional: more chips, for presentation

Instructions

Black Bean Brownies Recipe: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.) Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top. Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. If they still look a bit undercooked, you can place them in the fridge overnight and they will magically firm up! Makes 9-12 brownies. If you make this recipe, don’t forget to leave a review! The trick with these: serve them first, and then reveal the secret ingredient. In all the times I’ve served bean desserts, not one single person who didn’t know beforehand has ever guessed!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day is Not Just a Hallmark Holiday



Today I am re-writing a blog post I wrote 4 years ago, because it is still so true today.  And my love has grown bigger for these peeps even more today than it was back then.  I am sure back then I would have thought that would have never been possible.  Here it goes...

Has anyone ever wondered how Valentine's Day began?  According to wikipedia,

St. Valentine's Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. The most popular martyrology associated with Saint Valentine was that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire; during his imprisonment, he is said to have healed the daughter of his jailer Asterius. Legend states that before his execution he wrote "from your Valentine" as a farewell to her.

This holiday has been around for a LONG time (literally, for over a thousand years)!  I know there are a lot of folks that say it is just another "Hallmark Holiday."  (Side note: I am totally okay with Hallmark taking over the holiday--I love the cheesy Hallmark movies about falling in love that the Hallmark Channel produces for Valentines Day.  Drew doesn't love that we have the Hallmark channel).  But in my opinion, it is just a great time to celebrate love.  Even if you don't have a boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse or significant other, isn't it fun to show other folks in your life how much you love them by surprising them with little treats, cards, flowers or gifts?  I love surprises!  I love LOVE!  I know that sounds so cheesy, but it is also so true! 

I also love this guy right here:

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He is my best friend.   We enjoy the same activities--whether it be hiking, doing crazy wedding dances (that you can see in this video:  https://youtu.be/fSKEE2vwSzY), exploring nature or the city, doing something active like playing sports, snowboarding or riding our bikes, or even just listening to music or shopping.  I love that he is competitive, like me.  We are literally soul mates.   Any free time I have, I desire to spend with him.  He is an amazing father and husband.  I am truly blessed.  I often feel that I truly don't deserve him.  


a photo of us doing our "first dance at our wedding".  Click here for a link to a video of the dance.  


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Drew is such a good daddy!

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He provides a good listening ear to all of us.  Especially Abbey and I--who are full of words that need to be heard!

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Sometimes I wonder why it took as long as it did for us to find each other.  There are so many years that I missed out on having him as my best friend and companion.  But, I know God's timing is perfect.  I think about how God has orchestrated each of our lives so that we would find each other back in 2006.  We needed to be exactly who we were at that moment in time when we found each other.  This meant that God intended a lot of experiences to happen in our individual lives, both good and bad, to shape us into what would be each others' soul mate.  Also, if we wouldn't have come together exactly when we did, there probably wouldn't have been a Luke and Abbey.  God had a plan and it was way better than I could have created myself.

Our dates are so extremely rare, but we are excited that we get to have a little dinner date this Friday night (thanks to a local church that makes this possible)!  I have no idea what we will do yet, but I know it will include some delicious food, and that is always good!  It really doesn't matter what we do though, because I will enjoy every single moment of it, cherishing the special time with the love of my life.

So, onto my other valentines--my children, Luke and Abbey.  It excites me to think about how God has a special plan for Luke and Abbey.  Someday, in a REALLY long time, I pray that they will meet their soul mates.  In the meantime, I am fine with Abbey thinking that Luke is going to be her prince.  and Drew and I will continue to smother them with love.

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Happy Valentine's Day to you and the love(s) of your life!  Don't forget to tell them how much you love them today!




Monday, February 13, 2017

What We're Eating This Week

As promised, here is this week's edition of, "What we're eating this week."  First, I want to share one of my favorite granola recipes:  peanut butter cup granola.  This is our go to for breakfast.  We usually eat it and some fruit. It is so good, that it feels like you are eating something very indulgent.  This doesn't last long at our house, so I double the recipe each time I make it.  It is quick and easy to make though.  I originally found this recipe on the "My Whole Food Life" blog, but I believe she removed it from her blog so she could include it in her cookbook.  Here you go:

Peanut Butter Cup Granola---THE BEST
Ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats (or replace ½ cup with seeds, etc.) (I usually double the recipe and do 5 cups of oats and 1 cup of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds or 5.5 cups of oats and .5 cup of seeds)
1/2 cup peanut butter (make sure the only ingredient in your peanut butter is peanuts or peanuts and salt, otherwise you will be consuming a lot of hidden sugar. Just read the ingredient label to find out. I just grind my own at HEB)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 T cocoa powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp  ground vanilla beans (I just use real vanilla extract)
2 T milk (you can use almond milk or whatever milk you like)

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a small sauce pan, heat up the peanut butter, milk, maple syrup and applesauce on med. heat until the peanut butter has melted.
Add the wet to dry.
Spread mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Pull the baking sheet out and move the granola around a bit.
Place back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
Serve with milk or sprinkle over plain yogurt. I actually just eat it plain and dry and LOVE it!  If you are feeling extra feisty, you can sprinkle a few chocolate chips in, but I never have because I like it as is.

Here is this week's dinner plan:

Monday:  Jessi's Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I love recipes that begins with the names of one of my friends.  :-)  You know those recipes are the best!  My friend Jessi brought this soup a couple of time to our family when I was going through chemotherapy treatment.  Of course I asked her for the recipe, because it is amazing!  And, there are always plenty for leftovers the next day.

Jessi's Chicken Tortilla Soup
For this recipe, a lot of things are optional – like how many vegetables you want included vs amount of chicken, it’s pretty difficult to mess it up.  Just be sure if you choose all the larger quantities that you have enough of the spices – it’s easy to add those to taste.  I usually just work with whatever I have in my pantry or fridge! I also freeze it and heat it up when I need a quick meal.
  • Heat large stock pot over medium/medium low heat with olive oil or 2 tbsp butter
  • Add 1 large can or 2 small cans chopped green chilies
  • Add ¼ to ½ of small onion, chopped
  • Add about 1 lb of chicken breasts or tenders, cubed and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Add chopped bell peppers of choice - green, red and/or yellow
  • Continue stirring mixture
  • Add 1-2 cups of organic corn
  • Add 1-2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed (if you are lazy, Ok to just keep in liquid too)
  • Add 1 large can diced tomatoes (about 24 oz size can)
  • Possible spices to add before adding chicken stock: 1.2 cup chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 chopped jalapeno or Serrano pepper, 2 tablespoon chili powder, freshly chopped garlic, a dash of cayenne pepper for heat ...or more to taste! ·
  • Add 1 quart of chicken stock
  • Cover and bring soup to a boil
  • After boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken meats desired taste and texture (can be as little as 20 minutes or as much as throughout the day)
  • To serve: Crack tortilla chips, shredded cheddar and/or Monterrey jack cheese, chopped avocado, squeezed lime juice...all to taste!

Tuesday:  Leftovers: which is perfect for Valentine's day--it means less time in the kitchen for me and less cleanup, which equals more time with loved ones.   Our Valentine's Date will be on Friday night this year.  :-)

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing: SO GOOD! A rainbow of power veggies with a flavorful homemade dressing. 390 calories. | pinchofyum.com

Wednesday:  Thai Chopped Salad

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing

Author: Pinch of Yum
Serves: 6
Ingredients
For the dressing:
  • ⅓ cup canola oil (We replace this with olive oil. We don't use canola oil for lots of reasons that you can read about here:   https://draxe.com/canola-oil-gm/).
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons white distilled vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste (I just use fresh ginger)
  • a squeeze of lime juice
For the salad:
  • 16 ounces frozen shelled edamame (you will want to use organic edamame to avoid GMO's which are non-organic soy products).  If you don't like edamame, we have also used peas instead or beans.
  • 5-6 cups baby kale(or any greens you want)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 green onions
  • ¾ cup cashews (if you can find them, Trader Joe's Thai Lime and Chili Cashews are the bomb)
Instructions:
  1. Puree all the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust to fit your preferences. Transfer to a dressing jar and rinse the food processor out for use later.
  2. Cook the edamame by boiling it for 3-5 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Drain and allow it to cool. Meanwhile, slice up the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro leaves, and green onions into thin strips or shreds.
  3. Place the cooked edamame in the food processor and pulse 5 times to get a minced texture. Transfer to a bowl and repeat the same process for the cashews. Toss the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro, green onions, edamame, and cashews together until well combined. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently a few times, and serve immediately.
Notes:  The salad will stay fresh longer if you store the dressing separately from the salad ingredients, tossing them together just before serving.

Those 3 cloves of garlic pack a spicy garlicky punch, so if you don't love garlic, use less.

Thursday:  Leftovers:  I may also make one pot garlic parmesan noodles to go along with it.   It is basically like a delicious, quick and easy macaroni and cheese. This isn't something we make all the time, but is a "sepcial treat" for the kids.  We make sure to use good quality noodles, like spelt or whole wheat, or even a gluten free option like quinoa noodles. Recipe found here:  http://damndelicious.net/2014/10/11/one-pot-garlic-parmesan-pasta/

Friday:  Our Valentine's Date:   dinner out!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Drew and Abbey's First Daddy Daughter Dance

Drew and Abbey went to their very first daddy daughter dance last night.   I signed them up for it about a week ago.  Abbey has been so extremely excited all week.  At Lego club on Thursday, Abbey was talking to all the other moms about the dance, so very proud that her daddy was taking her.  Because we had talked so much about it at lego club, as we were leaving Abbey asked, "Mommy, when I get home do I get to go to the daddy daughter dance?"  "No honey, it's not until tomorrow," I said.  Then, she responded, "So when I wake up in the morning do I get to go to the daddy daughter dance?"  "No," I said, "you get to go after dinner."  "Well, can we lay my outfit out when we get home?"


It has been the thing she is thinking about most this week.  Yesterday we had planned on seeing the new Lego Batman movie at 10:30am. So, we finished our schoolwork and headed over that way, only to realize that they moved the first showing of the day to 1:20pm.  The first showing there was only $5, so we wanted to make sure we saw it.  The movie theater happened to be by the Disney store at the outlet mall, so I told the kids we could go look inside.  They had a very big sale and we found a couple of the costumes for the kids for dirt cheap.  Abbey picked the Black Widow Costume.  As soon as she got home, she had to put that costume one.  For just a few brief moments, she deviated her thoughts away from the daddy daughter dance.


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It wasn't long before that costume was off though and she was ready to be transformed into a princess.  I love the precious moments with her--there are so many, but as I am curling her hair we get to have lots of sweet conversations.  Yesterday afternoon when I was curling her hair was no different.  She was so excited for the dance, that she put her dress on a couple of hours early and promised not to get any of her dinner on it.  So, we went ahead and curled her hair as well.  While I was curling it she said to me, "Mommy, it's kind of like I am going to my wedding, right?"  "And daddy is my prince."  This girls just melts my heart with her sweet words in her tiny little voice.

Anyway, she was ready early for the dance.  So, she spent a good while waiting for daddy to get home from work.  She just looked so precious, so I had to get the camera out and sneak around and capture some photos of her.


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Then, I convinced her to let me take some photos of her all dressed up out in the front yard.


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The dress has excellent "twirl-ability".

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The dress is a hand-me-down from her cousins, and is totally Abbey--Sparkles on top, flowers on the bottom, with a wonderful skirt for twirling.

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It was time to go inside, eat dinner and wait for daddy to arrive.


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They had a great time at the dance last night!  Here is a little video that Drew took of Abbey dancing.   Also, here are a couple of photos he took at the dance.






The video is a little dark, but I think you can tell Abbey had fun!

Luke and I also had fun on our little date while they were at the dance.  It was his pick, so we had cupcakes at Sprinkles in the Domain and then we went rock climbing.  He is my little climber, and he knows I love climbing as well, so this is something we both really enjoyed!


Yummy cupcakes!
My little guy is just the sweetest!  He is going to make an awesome husband for someone someday.  Until then, I get to date him!  I love having the one on one time with the kids.  The kids don't get much time apart, since we homeschool.  They also don't get time alone with me or Drew very often.  So, in my opinion "dating" our kids is important--it gives them that special one on one time.

A fun evening was had by all last night!