Meal Preps with Olive Oil

I feel most at ease when I have prepared and thought out meals for the week with this diet. It is difficult to do things on a whim, because nutritional values are really taken into account. There isn’t a quick way around most meals, and it seems that maybe, despite how cumbersome it can be, that is one of the big positives to this diet. It makes you think about what you are putting into your body.

For the most part, I can do fine with no salty snacks around. If you have followed my blog for a while, you might have noticed that sweets are more my thing. Bread is Shane’s weakness. In general, we both love food, and we love a variety of it. So when he and I wandered into our local olive oil store, we were in for a tasty surprise.

The Enchanted Olive sells olive oils, balsamic vinegar and white balsamic vinegar. You can get just the normal, non-flavor infused ones, but I promise they still pack a punch. Or you can get ones that are infused with a rainbow of flavors. Currently, I am obsessed with my recent purchase I made when my mom came to deliver to me my new Hoosier cabinet. I told her we had to go to this shop, and she wasn’t disappointed, walking away with several oils and teas herself. My purchase from that day is now my newest obsession in the kitchen, I got the cara-cara orange and vanilla white balsamic vinegar, the coconut white balsamic vinegar, and the Persian lime infused olive oil.

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These flavors all mesh so well and are so fresh tasting; they are very inspiring for these cold winter days, bringing to mind bright beaches rather than the sepia tone, cold nature outside. So I planned out four meals using all three of these robust flavors that would be keto friendly.

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Citrus Prosciutto Salad

  • Two cups coarsely chopped lettuce of choice
  • 8 oz can of artichoke hearts, rinsed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped baby tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 2.25 oz can sliced black olives
  • 2 oz prosciutto
  • Bunch of basil, coarsely chopped
  1. Tear prosciutto into smaller pieces
  2. Combine above ingredients

For the Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons Persian lime infused olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cara-cara orange and vanilla white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Shake together in jar dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad

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I included tilapia fillets, sautéed in the lime oil for about two to three minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Then I drizzled those with the coconut white balsamic vinegar. In the other two meals, I used salmon, sautéed skin side up in the lime again for about three minutes before flipping and finishing the cooking in my preheated oven for a few minutes at 450 degrees. The salmon were drizzled with the cara-cara orange and vanilla white balsamic vinegar. Now I have four keto-friendly meals awaiting me in my refrigerator for this week!

 

Keto Diet Snack

The truth is, I never figured I would walk into one of those weird fad diets. One that had you eating coconut and almond flour willingly, cooking with ghee, or containing the words “gluten free”. It is funny what you will do for those you love though, and Shane and I started our journey with the ketogenic diet after repeated, long lasting gout attacks that would practically cripple Shane.

In the middle of summer, we began and stuck to a keto diet. We did so pretty well for about four months. Heading into the holidays, we weened off of it and still ate healthy, but Shane admitted to feeling better when on the diet, and he was the reason we were doing it in the first place. So, we are weening ourselves back on, which is difficult to do during the holidays, going to peoples houses and eating what they serve. We almost always come across I am sure as picky eaters and often times, if headed to my moms, I will redirect the menu to include things such as bacon wrapped asparagus and side salad instead of just sweet potatoes, beets, and cornbread.

Honestly, when you first undertake this diet, it can be pretty depressing. I am being totally honest, I wish I could say after a week, I stopped craving sweet things, but I didn’t. I just really love sweet things, and stevia is not the same tasting. There is no, “Oh, just use natural honey instead!” or “But, maple syrup is a safe sweetener!” Sweets are pretty much out of the picture, and that pretty much even means fruits. About the only thing that saved Shane and I the first time around was that I do genuinely love spending time in my kitchen, so I was getting to do a lot of that on this new diet plan.

You begin to figure out things that work for you. You find favorite recipes, and because your body is craving correct fuel, we have yet to grow tired of these favorite recipes that I often make once a week, like our chicken breast pizza in the crockpot, of course no bread like substance included, and our venison crustless pizza in the crock pot. On occasion, we stumble into a snack that is delightful, and this is one that I wouldn’t even hesitate to bring to a party.

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Salmon Cucumber Sliders

  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 8 oz smoked salmon
  • 1-2 avocados, depending on size diced
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Persian lime infused olive oil, available at places like The Enchanted Olive
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
  1. Mix mayonnaise, lime olive oil, and parsley until combined
  2. Top cucumbers with avocado, followed by salmon and finally a small dollop of mayonnaise dressing

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If anyone would like the nutritional break downs of this bite sized treat shown, I can take the time to do so. For the most part, I discovered I do better not tracking my macro’s like a mad woman. I have a sense of how much protein I should be having a day now and know if I am irritable or tired, often times that means I need a little more fat. Oddly enough, I feel like I can go much of the day eating very little, then a big dinner feels good, but Shane is the opposite, eating small all day and a small dinner.

Hot Buttered Rum

Recently, Leah and I took a trip down to D.C. and visited my other cousin, Carlie. Carlie has lived down that direction ever since college, and it was time Leah and I pay her a visit. We are fortunate to all be so close, I feel like I am the literal link in between them, Leah a cousin from my mom’s side and Carlie is from my dad’s. We all enjoy history, museums of all types, and food.

Leah and I got brunch one morning on our trip at George Washington’s place. It was cozy, all of Mount Vernon was festive, and the food was so delectable. There was one thing we were a little put out by though, when we ordered a hot buttered rum we were told that they were out of butter. Only under the understanding that this was an old-timey drink, we wondered how one could be out of butter.

Well now we know!

Leah was excited to send me a recipe for a hot buttered rum before Shane and I headed up to Connecticut for the New Year. It seemed simple enough, a stick of butter, three-fourths cup of brown sugar and various spices. Everyone was intrigued as we began to mix it up in my Kim’s pretty little bowl and soon we had “orders” to fill for various family members.

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When people asked Leah and I about it and where we got the idea to make it, we kept answering with, “It is a traditional holiday drink. They had it on the menu at Mount Vernon.” Suffice to say, we didn’t actually know much beyond that, but upon returning home, I actually found out more about the warm goodness that we stirred up for the family.

Unlike a hot toddy, this drink is a little more “American” because of the use of rum. More specifically, it is a little bit more of a New England drink because of their history with molasses rum and the rum trade.

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Meanwhile, having it served at Mount Vernon made sense as well because apparently in the American Heritage Cookbook it says the drink found it’s way into domestic politics in George Washington’s time. The rum mixture was used to sway constituents and influence votes. Fortunately, we made it to just enjoy, no ulterior motives.

Once our butter batter was in our mugs, we poured an ounce or two of black spiced rum, depending on what people wanted.

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Next was whistling hot water. We used approximately six or eight ounces. Here is where I later read that the whole idea of oil and water not mixing and the drink not having a very good visual appeal. Going into this little experiment with out having even thought of that, we topped our warm drinks with Kelly’s homemade whipped cream. Apparently doing that or a dollop of ice-cream can take away from that “oil versus water” look too.

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With a dash of cinnamon on top, the traditional drink was ready to serve with the wonderful desserts that made their debuts here and there in the kitchen.

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It was a drink that warmed you through and through. We discovered served with a spoon or stir stick would probably be best since the sugar tended to settle towards the bottom. It is well worth mixing up a double batch to keep on hand in your freezer or fridge for a cold winter day!

Hot Buttered Rum Butter Batter

  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • 3/4 cups of light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves, feel free to omit

Combine above ingredients. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator if you don’t use it all.

Hot Buttered Rum

  • 2 tablespoons butter batter
  • 1-2 oz of dark spiced rum
  • 6-8 oz of boiling water
  • Top with whipped cream or ice-cream to avoid seeing separation of liquids
  • Dust with cinnamon

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Rehearsals, Recitals, and Au Revoir’s

Spring is a crazy time for me as a dance teacher. Cleaning up dances is coupled with end of the year assessments; for myself, as the ballet teacher, I have to think back to the kid’s technical capabilities beyond the memorized dance. I don’t mind the rush really, it keeps me busy during May.

With every spring comes a  familiar goodbye as I say farewell to seniors. As familiar as this goodbye is for me, each year brings new faces and new personalities. My goodbye changes depending on the group, I give them parting words, and often cupcakes. The group of seniors this year was such a thoughtful group, and a group that didn’t include any that were going on in dance, but I wanted to encourage them to remain connected to creativity and to not forget the lessons that dance has taught them. My goodbye went as follows:

My last motivational speech to these seniors. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t have some sort of speech prepared; so this one is your farewell one, the one that I hope reminds you that you can do it, and you’ve got a great future ahead. But, it isn’t only for the seniors ears, because everyone of us wakes up daily with a choice: to live life to the fullest, or to just get by.

Taking cues from our pointe dance that is Star Wars themed, I’d like to share with you a quote from Star Wars that reads, “Your focus determines your reality.” So what is your focus? Is it on yourself, how you can be a better you, and what you can do with the time you have? Or is it constantly on others, what they are doing? How you can be like them? How to beat them? What they are thinking of you?

Ayn Rand, a woman who was a philosopher, playwright, and screenwriter, said, “A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.”

My goal has always been to give you maps and formulas for creativity so you can find it for yourself. It may not feel that way when we play improv games or I give you a number and tell you to find your own pathway to your next spot, but these are small steps into expanding your mind, your critical thinking skills and your own creativity. So what if your focus became creativity for yourself? Not how to beat others or to alter what they they of you, no, what if your focus was on creativity for yourself. I’m not just talking about art, dance, or literally making something. I’m talking about the type of creativity that helps you make your life what you want it to be. 

No matter your grade, your age, your place, take time to focus on yourself. What are you giving the world? Are you giving the world your best self? Sometimes, depending on the situation, you’ve really got to get creative to figure out how to give the world your best you, but you’ve got the key. You have maps, you have formulas from me, from other teachers and mentors, but it is up to you to follow them, mix them, or just simply to use them as a launching point for you. If you change your mind a dozen times trying to figure out how to give the world your best self, that is okay. 

You might find a friend in someone you never thought you would, you might find out you really like a new sport or activity, you might find yourself taking a course in college you didn’t expect to be interesting, and yet you find it fascinating; all of this is great! This might even change your central group of friends, your work out routine, or even your course of study in college, and that’s all alright if you are creatively working on being the best you. Take heart, seniors, it is estimated 75 percent of students change their major at least once before graduation. 

In the end, you have to wake up with you, and you have to fall asleep with you. What kind of day do you want to wake up to? What will be your focus? What will you achieve? What kind of week do you want to have? Month? Year? Life? 

Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

As I gave this little talk to them, they chowed down on some s’more cupcakes. The flavor profile was all there, but I had tried a new chocolate cupcake recipe, and they were way too dry. The chocolate cupcake recipe of mine that still takes the cake is my stout cupcake recipe that calls for some dark stout. In the end, the cupcakes looked great and the marshmallow icing was so fun! A perfect kick off to my dance summer!

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Greek Yogurt Strikes Again

This weekend we were promised rain, and by the percentage pictured on Shane and I’s weather app, it appeared as though that our whole weekend would be dreary and wet. That, fortunately, was not the case. It did rain, but we were able to get lots of outside things done. Up to two hundred trees got planted all around our ten acres ranging from winterberry to hackberry, and lot’s of flowers got planted.

Every time we wander around our property, we seem to discover something new. Or we at least take the time to enjoy something different than the time before. This time, we noted all the wild onion we had. Shane stated he enjoys gathering it while fishing on the Slippery Rock Creek to cook with the trout he brings home, but with no trout, the onion we picked was up for grabs.

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I wanted to make something fresh with the onions to munch on that matched my mood of felicity for springtime, and also use up some Greek yogurt. So after all the planting, I whipped up a healthy and delicious salad. This Cauliflower Cilantro Salad leaves the cauliflower uncooked and is great after a long day of planting things.

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A word of warning, don’t make this salad if you aren’t a fan of crisp cucumber, crunchy cauliflower, or the spiritedness of cilantro.

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Cauliflower Cilantro Salad

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 6 wild onions, sliced (or green onions)
  • 2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  1. Chop cauliflower into bite sized pieces
  2. Combine with halved tomatoes, chopped cucumber, sliced onions, cilantro and Greek yogurt

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Pink Ladies Cake

Still getting over this idea of buying enough for a small army when you purchase things at Costco’s, I stood staring at the hundreds of apples on top of our refrigerator. Okay, so it wasn’t hundreds, but it seemed that way. Shane and I generally eat healthy, and I am even trying to slip in healthier ingredients that are a little new to him, like Greek yogurt, but one area in which we both fall short is eating an apple a day. Personally, I would rather bake with the apples, and since we got them before St Patty’s day, I made a traditional Irish Apple Cake with them that was paired with a creamy custard drizzle.

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We were able to share that cake with Shane’s dear grandma and an aunt, and I got to send home a quarter of it with my parents who came to see Riverdance with us St. Patty’s weekend. But after doing this traditional recipe, I was left with many egg whites, which I hated to waste, and a desire to make something new. I had a set of darling, seven inch cake pans from Christmas I hadn’t put to good use yet, so that St Patrick’s Day weekend, with all my dozens of Pink Lady apples, I experimented and came up with a sweet little cake I call my Pink Lady Cake with an Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Icing.

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It was that very same weekend we got the call about Scott. Shane’s loving sisters and their kids practically flew in for support, and this little cake that probably would have been shared with the chickens, got eaten up.

The week after we lost Scott, I so wanted to cook and bake. I wanted to make my husband food, Scott’s parent’s food, the sister-in-laws, anyone, as though to show my support and love for them and thanks for them in our lives. I found myself just drained though. Even having bought ingredients, I couldn’t pull together enough energy to do anything outside the routine of the day. In a small way, this little cake was a tiny little blessing hidden among tears.

There were lot’s of little blessings hidden among tears. Little signs people cared, to little signs that God cared. Sometimes we can get so lost in our sorrow, we forget that thing that is asked of us so many times: to give thanks. Even in the most dreary of all situations, there are still reasons to give thanks, and if you can cling to those little glimmers of hope, you will emerge out of the shadows of your valley and see the sun again.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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Pink Lady Cake with Old Fashioned Brown Sugar Icing

For the cake:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 pink lady apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 egg whites

For the icing:

  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 7 Tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with whisk until stiff peaks form, place in the refrigerator until needed
  3. In the same mixing bowl eggs were, using the electric mixer beat the softened butter until creamy, about two minutes or until white in appearance
  4.  Add the sugar, beat until fluffy
  5. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda in separate bowl
  6. Combine the milk and vanilla in yet another bowl
  7. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately into the butter and sugar mixture
  8. Add apples
  9. Fold in the egg whites to your now chunky batter, mix gently and do not over mix
  10. Grease four 7 inch cake pans, or two 9 inch pans, and pour the batter evenly into prepared pans of choice
  11.  Bake for 15-17 minutes in the 7 inch pans, or 20-25 minutes in the larger pans, or until the top springs back with a light press
  12. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, and continue to let cool on wire racks while making icing

Icing Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil
  2. Turn heat down so mixture boils gently, and continue to stir, cook for 7 minutes
  3. Let cool for 5 minutes
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon for  2-3 minutes, it will begin to thicken
  5. Place bottom layer of cake on cake stand or platter, work quickly to ice and repeat layers before the icing sets up and becomes unworkable
  6. A knife dipped in hot water can help smooth out icing to a desirable look

Optional, garnish with apple slices.

It was very moist, and was very sweet with that brown sugar icing. I thought through many types of icing that could be paired with the apple cake, but the caramel flavor of the brown sugar icing reminded me of summer. This was a fun cake to bake.

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Don’t shy away from the folding in of the egg whites. It feels like you are ruining a whipped creation you spent minutes spinning up, but it is necessary.

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At a certain point, your batter will look smooth again, besides the chunks of apples.

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I had been with my mom when she got me my 7 inch pans from T.J. Maxx. Their scalloped edge was adorable, so she got them for me for Christmas on the promise I would act surprised when I opened them. You definitely don’t need to search out 7 inch pans, two 9 inch would work, but the four layers on this cake was really playful.

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My biggest hiccup in this whole process was the fact that in our new home I am back to an electric oven. One of my pans of batter apparently wasn’t getting the same amount of heat as the rest so I had to leave it in the oven much longer. Oh, how I miss my gas oven.

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Healthy Stalemate

Mayo versus Greek yogurt

We have seven chickens. It is funny, because we started with many more, and for a while even held steady at nine chickens. But, now, seven is the amount we have wandering around our yard.

We also have raccoons.

We have a coop. The coop has a timer on the door. But raccoons and other wild life have taken their toll on our chickens, so we have seven chickens.

We get five eggs.

Having seven chickens means we get five eggs a day. If you are following, this would imply we have two roosters. That sounds right by all accounts, but when you look at our seven chickens, only one clearly stands out as a rooster. He is a fine rooster, black and white with a long graceful tail.

We have a second rooster, or what we think is a second rooster. The second rooster, or at least the other one we think is a rooster, is an easter egger. Though we are fairly certain he is indeed a he, he never crows or does anything that a rooster does. But, we also only get five eggs.

We get three more eggs daily than we really need. As a baker, that is fine by me. I have baked something almost every week since coming back from our honeymoon. But somehow, even when we give eggs away, we seem to be swimming in them. So my dear husband hard boiled a dozen eggs all at once. That is almost a half a dozen too many hard boiled eggs, so this started the great greek yogurt verses mayonnaise stand off the other day.

Aware of my baking habits, when Shane suggested, before we went to the grocery store, that we needed some sort of mayonnaise to create egg salad with all of our hard boiled eggs, I said we ought to use Greek yogurt instead. If we always have baked goods around, we have to balance it out with something healthy, right?

Now let me set the scene for this debate, Shane and I were in the gym. I feel like if you say the word mayonnaise in the gym, you will be struck by lightening. Okay, so maybe you won’t get struck by lightening, but the gym owner was standing right next to us at his desk, and I feel like we lose points or something by mentioning mayonnaise in the gym. I have often replaced mayonnaise with Greek yogurt, being used to the substitution, mentioning it seemed natural and like a way to gain back those ten health points we lost saying mayonnaise out loud in front of the gym owner.

So began the stand off.

Shane was sure he was going to get me to break down and agree to mayo and I was sure I could convince him otherwise. After all, we had just gone to Costco’s, a new experience for me, might I add, and picked up a lifetime supply of Greek yogurt. It was probably that fact that helped me win this stalemate. Also, the gym owner saying Greek yogurt worked I think helped.

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Healthy Egg Salad

Yeilds: enough for about four sandwiches

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, shredded with a cheese grater
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons dried dill
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

  1. Shred eggs into a bowl big enough to fit remaining ingrediants
  2. Add yogurt, celery, dill, mustard, and garlic powder. Mix until fully combined
  3. Slap on some bread!

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In the end, I don’t miss mayo drenched eggs, I really enjoy the Greek yogurt substitute. Shane liked it too. Even his brother got to try a sandwich of it, and enjoyed it as well. Fresh dill would make this even more appetizing, but with all the snow this week, I’ll have to keep dreaming about my future herb garden.

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Long Weekend

After a long weekend, and an even longer week in the cold with a cold, some comfort food was needed!

Last weekend was the weekend that my dear cousin, Leah, was able to come and see Shane and I’s humble abode. I was so excited to show her around, take her for a walk and point out where we want this and that, and just when you would least expect it, winter set in again. Snow upon snow fell the entire time she was in, staying indoors almost the entire time is what happened instead of tours of the property. She braved the cold with Shane’s friend, Scott, to see The Mills, but beyond that, we held up inside. This turned our weekend into a board game and Pirates of the Caribbean marathon, and it was actually really fun and for the most part, relaxing.

Unfortunately for me, the build up to the weekend of hosting Leah, visiting the Carnegie museum for their Museum After Dark series, one of my favorite weekend activities by the way, and having a game night with lots of friends over, left me and my less than great immune system run down, and I was easy prey for a cold. So right after I got over one round of antibiotics for my lymph nodes before Leah came, Leah left, and as I was saying goodbye to her, I was saying hello to a cold. I began drinking hot tea, taking zinc, and eating cough drops with echinacea like it was my job. Alas, teaching is my job, so I had to push through the sore throat and continue to use my voice.

Tuesday I was lucky enough to have a night off of work, and I thought what would be better than some comfort food for dinner? I am not one to make a more noodle based Italian dish, but sometimes spaghetti hits the spot. I had one jar of homemade tomato sauce from someone, I am guessing a sister-in-law, and some noodles left over from another skillet dish I had made, and of course we had venison on hand; with all of this, I set to work creating some zesty meatballs for dinner.

I think an appropriate name for these meatballs would be “What Ever I had in My Cupboard Meatballs”, but they are spicy. So to keep things simple, these meatballs with a kick will be labeled just that. They came out so juicy and flavorful, I am glad we had extra, so we could enjoy them in a sandwich! For those of you who shy away from venison, recipes like this leave you wanting a second serving.

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Meatballs with a Kick

Yields: About 30, Bake time: 15 minutes

  • 2 lb ground venison
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, I used garlic herb
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 garlic clove coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Kneed together the ingredients until just mixed, don’t over work it or it won’t be as tender
  3. Roll into 1 inch meatballs and place on parchment paper evenly. Unlike a baked good, these won’t expand, so you can fit all of them on a large cookie tray
  4. Bake for 15 minutes

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It honestly couldn’t get simpler, or tastier. If you aren’t a fan of the spice from the red pepper flakes, add less or none at all. There is definitely enough flavors from everything else that they can stand on their own with out the red pepper flakes. Clean up is a breeze with the parchment paper too.

 

Blue and Orange

Reminders of thankfulness

With so many incomplete rooms in our home, I like keeping the dining room table looking neat and like we could sit down at it. So Friday as Shane plugged away at work, I opened a box marked “Katy’s Ceramics”. To be completely honest, none of the stuff was great. It was from a summer semester I took of it, and though I was making good stuff, on some the glaze didn’t work out, running and sticking to the kiln, while others had little stones in the clay that popped big chips in my finished pieces.

So the decorating of the dining room table actually began when I flipped over the beautiful table runner gifted to me at my shower to the blue side and set it on our table. It needed something else, so I got out a lovely ceramic bowl someone else got me, being it was so lonely, off I went to the “Katy’s Ceramics” box. Pitcher after pitcher, tea pot after teapot got pulled out, and I played with them all until I came up with the ones that would stay, I added height and texture with some metal bowls, another gift, then added the bright pops of orange. Yet another gift I might add.

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I went to bed that night feeling pretty pleased with my table that looked like it belonged in a home where two people live, so the next day I woke up energized and let Shane sleep in as I made some Frangelico French toast. This list of flavors added to the egg soaked bread may evoke some thoughts of the holidays, but we enjoyed it on a regular, old March saturday just as much.

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Frangelico French Toast for Two

  • Four slices of hearty bread
  • 3 eggs, or as needed
  • 1 Tablespoon Frangelico liquor
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla butter flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Whisk the eggs together and the remaining ingredients
  2. Dip and cover the bread in the egg mixture, transfer to greased, heated pan and cook until no longer runny, and bread bounces back with a soft press

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After a hearty breakfast and a nice visit from my sister and brother in law, we headed up to their property to pick out logs for our closet. We have many grand plans for our walk in closet, and we actually got really good headway on this project. I think we tackled that “to-do” list better this Saturday and Sunday, we worked together well, and even got to the painting step.

All weekend I was reminded again and again of how grateful I can and should be. I got to make our dining room table look inviting, and only had to purchase some blue flowers to finish the look I was after, we got to go pick out logs from our sister and brother in laws property, in turn, helping them clear some trees, and we patched and painted walls. In the end, we figured out where Leah would be staying when she came to visit. All of this got me smiling and excited, from the blue and orange center piece I made to the newly painted closet. Shane joked and said, “Are you happy because we finally went and picked out logs.” Yes, that made me happy, but more than just happy, I was thankful we could. I think thankfulness precedes real happiness.

Had I just been happy over the logs, the happiness would’ve faded when we came back and I realized the logs really just added one more thing to our over crowded basement. Had I just been happy over the paint, I would’ve quickly lost that bounce in my step after realizing we would need another coat. Had I been hinging my weekends happiness over dressing up my dining room table, it would’ve faded when I looked up at the dark, burgundy walls surrounding my bright little table.

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I love verses about thankfulness. Some tag it in on the end, like oh, and be thankful. But I am going to include one that says in what ever you do to be thankful. I like that, because as I sit here at my dining room table, I am thankful for every piece of flawed ceramic’s, for they still look beautiful, I am thankful for each and every thoughtful gift that adds colors and textures to my home, and I am thankful for all the relationships behind each one of those gifts.

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him

To-Do’s and New Goals

Week two at home and Shane was actually called off to work again. This left me alone with my list of things to do and Jagger. Most of these “to-do’s” are everyday things, that, if not kept a handle on, would spiral out of control. Laundry, dishes, and we always have dishes to do with no dishwasher in this house, and vacuuming. I admit, I may be a little obsessed with vacuuming, but we have mostly carpet, a hairy dog, and I like running around in my bare feet and don’t like crunching on his kibble he somehow gets everywhere. “To-write” is not necessarily on my “to-do’s”, but it gives me a welcomed break between scraping off wallpaper borders and vacuuming up papery messes, filling in holes, and doing more dishes.

I love lists and I love deadlines. I thrived in college because of this; I would get a list of things to do at the beginning of the semester from some professors and I would begin on papers right then so that when crunch time hit, my day was still my normal day. Now I write my own lists, some last a day, some a month. Goals I set aren’t “get this paper done a week before it is due” anymore, most often they have to do with work and often art call deadlines. Generally, I can be organized enough to get a goal done once I set it, and that is a pretty big deal considering how distracted I can get.

A common goal we both have, though I think I have a little more drive to get it done, is our closet. If it were up to me, it would’ve been done yesterday. Meanwhile, I am pretty sure Shane could go on living the rest of his life with his clothes being in the dining room closet, but I would like that place that keeps our clothes organized, out of site, and all together. I like that lists help me, or us, get organized, and I like to have completion date goals, but I can’t get so distracted by the goal that I lose site of the people around me, and am I still being kind, using love, and being patient? Things will get done, and I shouldn’t compromise relationships just for a goal.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Now my goals are different, and my “to-do” lists are different. They are evolving and including another person. So when someone asked me if I feel settled at my new home yet, I don’t. Not quite yet, and this isn’t a bad thing or a negative reflection on me or Shane and I as a couple. I am just still figuring things out.

With this in mind, Shane and I decided the closet was the first doable project, and while he was away, I got started on things. When I told my mom about the project, she suggested I set the deadline of my cousin Leah coming to visit to finish our closet by. Well, we only have one more weekend then she is here, so I don’t think that will be happening, which is slightly frustrating, as I would like it done ASAP. This is where that whole idea of patience comes in again, only this doesn’t feel like a little moment, like the whoopie pie moment, this feels like a big, all consuming thing. I have to work extra hard to remind myself, it will get done, don’t worry about tomorrow, just keep pushing forward.

Thankfully Shane and I each have an especially helpful family. Both sides are willing to pitch in and help out where ever, when ever. That meant that Saturday, before the men’s game feed at our church, my parents came up to help out in the closet. We knocked down walls took screws out, and really made some decent headway. At the tail end of their help, I began cooking our late lunch which included a venison skillet dish, orange smothered chicken breasts with gorgonzola cheese, lots of Jiffy spoonbread, and of course raspberry whoopie pies. Now the skillet dish made enough to feed a small army, and I automatically made double of the corn bread dish, and this all turned out to be a good thing as more family and friends descended to see our new home and eventually head off to the game feed right as the late lunch was ready to eat. We all ate together and enjoyed listening to kids giggle and got to explain future plans for our home.

This has taught me one valuable home make over lesson. Always have food. I can’t for a moment get hung up on my own expected deadlines for projects when, in all reality, we are doing an okay job fitting in filling in holes and tearing down walls between both of our jobs, and we are so fortunate to have family willing to come over and help in their free time. One way I can show my gratefulness to those lending a hand is by making food. To solidify this point, last night while I was at work, Shane’s brother came over and helped hang up closet things in another closet in the house and they ate the last of the corn bread and chicken.

So this morning I cooked up a hearty skillet dish with ham and turkey kielbasa. It may not be one for looks, as the white kidney beans didn’t hold their own too well, but it certainly is colorful with all the carrots. Because our beautiful 14 inch cast iron skillet doesn’t fit in our fridge too easily, I transferred it to this casserole dish to store until we eat it for dinner. If I am away at work again, and people come over to help, it is a one dish meal that will feed a small group of people of 4-6.

Skillet Cassoulet

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 oz turkey kielbassa
  • 8 oz fully cooked ham, cubed
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15 oz can white kidney beans
  • 1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil, add in turkey kielbasa, ham, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and cook until vegetables are tender
  2. Stir in beans, tomatoes, thyme and celery seed, simmer until heated through. Add pepper

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