Saturday, August 30, 2014

Slow Food

I've been devouring this book over the past few weeks. Immersing myself in the idea of a slower, more intentional way of life has been on my heart for a while. When I collapsed in a parking lot from a panic attack and had to spend the night in the ER while Jordan and I were engaged, it was a wake up call to start living differently. Since then I've been on a very bumpy, messy and grace-filled journey of learning to say "no" to the things that don't fill me up, and yes to what God is calling me to. 

It's hard. In a world that values the "bottom line" and self over others, it's hard to be others-focused, slower paced and not as accomplishment-driven. Especially for a girl who gets satisfaction from producing and accomplishing, it's just hard! I want to make strides towards a slower life though, day by day. One way I've been trying to cultivate this in our lives is by finding ways to slow down our food. 

Slow food became a beautiful thing to me, a lofty-yet-noble goal for my growing young family. Originating in Italy, the birthplace of pasta and old women who insist you eat more than your stomach can hold, the Slow Food movement is alive and well. The organization’s logo is a snail, and the explanation for their name is that it’s an ironic way of saying no to fast food— Slow Food means living an unhurried life, beginning at the table. Oxenreider, Tsh (2014-02-04). Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World  

I saw the value of slow food while I was in Italy and my heart longed for that culture to permeate my own busy American way of life. I craved walking the streets for fresh, only in season finds and meats hung outside for the picking. Fresh breads without preservatives and the beauty of knowing where and from whom your food was coming. 
Since I can't get the Italian markets to come to Texas, this morning I loaded the baby in the car and headed only 5 minutes down the road to a little elementary school to pick up our produce for the week. Here's a sampling of my bounty. I love the idea of getting my produce from local farmers and co-ops. I came home, put the baby back in her crib for a much needed 30 minutes alone and prepared my finds. Washed, chopped, and stored away in the kitchen. Later, I'll plan this weeks menu based on what we received. Last week I picked up pantry items and locally raised meat from my birth center's co-op and have been enjoying fresh almond milk, granola, spices and dinners from those pickings.  

Food that takes time to prepare. Patience and resourcefulness and then joy when you savor the food you've waited to receive. Food becoming more of a gift than a given. 

I'm currently sitting at my kitchen table, morning light streaming in, eating a fruit of which I'm actually not sure what it is, and soaking up the stillness before the day begins. A day filled with baby loving, cleaning, planning and relaxing with family. 

This is one small step for me. What small step can you take to create a more intentional life? 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pineapple Chicken Skewers with Sherry Reduction

Skewers are really one of the most versatile meals out there. It's perfect to pack in a summer picnic. Since the temps are getting a little bit cooler in the evenings here in Texas, I think we'll take these to our picnic this weekend with friends! They pack well and are simple to make. 

Feel free to change up the combination to whatever suits your taste! Have some bell peppers on hand? Chop them up and stick them on! I would have done the same if I currently had them in my kitchen ;) 



1/2 cup sherry cooking wine
4 tablespoons worcestershire
1/3 cup bbq sauce 
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt and pepper
1/2 a pineapple, chopped
1 onion, quartered
1 pound chicken tenders
Olive oil

Start by chopping your pineapple. I am not a pro at cutting them (so if you have tips, leave them in the comments!) so I always seem to have a little bit of flesh left on the skin when I slice it off with my large chef knife. Since I hate wasting anything in the kitchen, I use 'em up, like in this here recipe. Continue to slice pineapple down into bite sized pieces. Keep in a bowl and set aside. 

Alternatively, if you're lazy (like I usually am) you could buy the already chopped up pineapple that come in little containers at the grocery store. In that case, buy 1 cups worth and use a few in the marinade. 

To make your marinade, combine sherry wine, worcestershire, bbq sauce, garlic and some salt and pepper in a zip-loc bag. Swish it around with your hands from the outside of the bag, and drop your pineapple skins along with chicken tenders in the bag. Seal it up and place in the refrigerator for 10 hours. This could be something you do before you head off to work in the morning (maybe chop that pineapple the night before) and you'll be set to go when you get home for dinner. 

When you're ready to grill, peel the skin off your onion and quarter it. Remove chicken tenders from the marinade and slice in half on a cutting board. Sprinkle evenly with more salt and pepper. 

Next, get a little station going with your skewers, chicken, pineapple chunks, and onion. Heat up a grill pan to medium-high heat, pour some olive oil over the pan and let it get hot, but not smoking. While you're letting your pan heat up, start assembling your skewers -- a slice or two of onion, pineapple chunk, chicken, repeat. Place on the grill and rotate evenly until you see grill marks on all sides. 

For the reduction, take the marinade and pour it into a large pan. Remove pineapple skins and discard. Bring it up to a boil, add a 1/2 cup of warm water and let it boil for at least 5 minutes. This will kill any of the germs from the chicken, but make sure to let it boil completely! Lower the heat and let it simmer for another 10 minutes until it starts to thicken up. 
Pour over skewers before serving and enjoy!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dinner: A Love Story

I have a love affair with Dinner: A Love Story. Last summer I was on Summer Project in Breckenridge, CO with a $30 gift card and a newly pregnant belly. As I browsed this quaint and eclectic store on Breck's Main Street, I tossed around the idea of a new scarf, an iPhone case, or anything from their adorable handmade children's section. Then I found, tucked away in the corner, a stack of about 10 cookbooks. My heart peeked up a little, kind of like a dog's ears do when they hear something interesting, and I started browsing. 

I immediately fell in love when I read the words "Dinner: A Love Story." Um, YES and Amen. An internal happy dialogue with the book begins: "Dinner. A love story? You're describing my life right now, book!" I thumbed through the pages and fell more and more in love. A gift card well spent, my friends.

Jenny Rosenstrach's NEW book "Dinner: The Playbook" comes out TODAY (!!!!) so in honor of this amazing day in history, here are my thoughts. For every friend who left a comment on insta inquiring about this book and who complimented the yummy food when you joined us for dinner, here it is.

Because I'm a lover of videos, here's Jenny's video explanation of the book //

Isn't she romantic about family dinner? Yet realistic and helpful all at the same time? In a world where you can download any recipe, I still appreciate the written word and see a huge amount of benefit in having a book to hold. You can write in it and take notes on each recipe, as I did, and it is something tangible to be passed down to the next generation. That's something you just can't do with a Pinterest board. 

Great Grandma Turano’s Meatballs

Jenny Rosenstrach wants to make family dinner a ritual in your home, and she does an incredible job both inspiring you to do it and giving you the practicals on how to get it done. It's definitely worth reading cover to cover. I first dug into it as if it were a novel, lusting over her scrumptious colored photography and relishing the peek into new motherhood I was about to embark on. I then went back through and cooked meal after meal, page after page, all the way through. I'll be honest, more traditional cookbooks turn me off. I really am only interested in a few things: breakfast, dessert and most importantly: dinner. When I want a recipe, it's almost always for dinner. Are you the same way? Where other cookbooks leave me lacking, Dinner: A Love Story delivers simple and authentic recipes that could happen in anyone's kitchen from the beginner to the pro. She also throws a few cocktails in there as well as tips and recipes for entertaining. 

Chicken Pot of our household staples

I felt challenged by Jenny to stock my pantry with spices I had never used before. She admonishes her readers to take the risk of buying those ingredients that would usually be a "page-turner" for you. You know we all have them, the ingredients we see that make us turn the page or click away from a recipe. I used to be just as guilty of this (and sometimes still am) when I see ingredients that just don't seem to fit into our daily cooking profile. I loved that she asserts that if we have these ingredients in our kitchen, we are more likely to use them, making our cooking more adventurous and allowing us the joy of the experience. This has been so true for me as I grow as a cook and expand the flavors we know and like!

For a good portion of 2013, this book was my dinner time inspiration, my reading material by the pool, and my guide for "nesting recipes" when my little one was born. I flipped through it's pages multiple times as I read it like a novel, cooked through it like a manual, and referenced it like a dinner encyclopedia. In fact I've used it so much the binding fell apart! It's safely bunched together on my kitchen recipe stand, as we just made Chicken Curry with Apples last week. 

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is learning the beauty of sharing a meal with the ones they love. Maybe you're new to cooking your own meals. Maybe you just ventured into preparing healthier options, or maybe you just want a book full of tried and true, real life recipes you can enjoy. Either way, this cookbook is for you. 

I purchased this cookbook on my own, and was not compensated for this post. These are simply my honest thoughts in hopes that you too can benefit. *All photos taken from

Monday, August 25, 2014

Currently // Vol. Six

About back to school. This is the first year of my life where I haven't gone "back to school." The year after I graduated college I worked for my sorority and traveled the country with them. I went "back to school" that fall about 6 or 7 times attending multiple recruitments. Then the next year I joined staff with Cru and went "back to school" to meet hundreds of freshman as they moved into their dorms, joined sororities, and settled into their own college experience. Every year since then I've done the same, including last year when I hauled my pregnant butt to a quaint coffee shop off campus called The Whitehouse and had spiritual conversations with sorority girl after sorority girl. So good. 

But, I'm done with that season of life. Today many of my friends will hit campuses all over the country to meet students and build relationship with them. My news feeds are blowing up with the most precious back to school pictures of little ones. Mothers are sitting in empty or quiet(er) homes today for the first time in years. Part of me looks forward to the time when Rae will go off to school (or stay here and do school, who knows) and part of me dreads it. We've got some time :)

Nothing. It always sounds so darn good to have a movie date with Jordan but there is nothing ever good on Netflix! We only have basic TV channels and steal borrow my sister-in-laws Netflix. Last night we made homemade pizzas and plopped down on the couch to end our slow and restful (yet emotionally draining) weekend, ready to chill in front of a funny movie or TV show. We turned on Portlandia since we are headed to Portland in was ridiculous. We turned it off. Then we thought "Oh! The West Wing!! That'll be good!" No. 90's politics....just, no. Soooo we went to bed, haha. I know, we are so boring. 

That my tomato plant started producing again! Y'all I honestly don't know anything about gardening or tomato plants but my mother-in-law does. She told me that the tomatoes wouldn't produce anymore because it was too hot! I had tried everything I could to help them continue growing but they seemed to be at a stand still. Then this weekend I went out there to check on my herbs and there were like 6 tomatoes?!! I promptly pruned that sucker which had gotten really unruly and picked a couple tomatoes. I hope this lasts!! (No idea how long this will last....til winter? What do I do when winter comes? HELP)

What about you -- what are you currently thinking about, or up to today? 

Linked with A Mama Collective 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sweet & Citrus Baked Acorn Squash

To me, summer is personified in foods that are sweet and citrusy. When I think of soaking up these last days of summer, my mind drifts to pool side book reading enjoying a strawberry popsicle. A hint of sweet, and a splash of tart. Although often times we attribute these flavors to dessert, I wanted to recreate them in a summer inspired and filling main course.....

I'm over at My Cooking Spot today sharing a savory summer dish. Read the full recipe here. 

Happy Friday! 

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Photos by Josh & Kimberly Barnes

Thursday, August 21, 2014

9 Months

I absolutely love this age. Your sweet new squinty-eyed smile makes me burst into laughter and I love that gummy cheesy grin. You are talking furiously and with much conviction, which is also just hilarious. Your little eyes grow bigger and brighter when I talk back in your language. I think you like the conversation! 

Your little personality is showing more and more each day and it's so fun to be able to interact with you. You're a sassy little thing, and get very upset when you're not able to fully experience whatever it is you're going after. You want to be able to play with and discover absolutely everything and get the sass-look on your face if you can't figure it out. Squinted eyes, lips pursed all the way out and a low grade whine. It's the most precious yet scariest thing. A glimpse into your toddlerhood? Teen years? God help us. You are a little free spirit. You want to be free to roam and scoot (speedily I might add) all over the place. You have a deep affection for wires and love to gnaw on them (until I catch you of course!) 

You love music and think it's hilarious when we dance together. You love surprises and silly noises and loveeee when daddy kisses your neck. 

You're very inquisitive about the world around you. You are shy around new people though you will let just about anyone hold you. Holding you over our shoulder is still the surest way to calm you down. 

You are drawn like a magnet to: buttons, zippers, ribbons, jewelry and anything bright and sparkly! What a girly girl already! You said "mama" once and I've been trying hard to get you to say it again ever since. 

get after it, girl

hair brush = only way I got her to sit still for a few minutes to take pictures

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Perfect Afternoon Snack // Blueberry Citrus Smoothie

I've found that right around the 5 o'clock mark I'm in serious need of a snack. I've gone for the ol' chips and salsa, which in my opinion is a great pre-dinner-late-afternoon snack. On some rare but desperate occasions I've even made myself an egg burrito. (so basically two dinners?)

These are fine options but most days I don't want anything too heavy that it ruins dinner only an hour or two later. The good thing about a liquid snack is that it fills you up quick and gives you nutrients but (and maybe this is actually not so great) it doesn't fill you up for long. So when I blend up a smoothie I don't have to worry if I'll be hungry enough for dinner soon. :)

Enter the smootie. The trusted smoothie. It's gotten me through many "I'm starving and don't know what to do!!!" moments of pregnancy and motherhood. Oh who am I kidding, it's gotten me through more than that. 

This easy smoothie filled up half of my large mason jar. So.....let's call that 8 ounces?

What you'll need: 

1 cup frozen banana slices
1-1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
a handful of spinach
1/2 cup frozen blueberries 
1 tablespoon orange juice (fresh squeezed)

Throw your sliced bananas into a blender, pour about a cup of almond milk (you can add more later to thin it out a bit if needed), blueberries, spinach and about a tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice. 

This is such a healthy and delicious snack, I just had to share. And come on, what could be easier than a smoothie? The blender practically cleans itself too once you're done. 

The bananas sweeten this smoothie up just enough for me, and I love the hint of orange too! I hope you enjoy!

what my 5 o'clock looks like. 

What does your afternoon snack look like? 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Currently // Vol. 5

Creating // 
Some sewing things, like this headband in the picture above that I repurposed last night from some old sheets of mine when I was a baby. I'm also working on a table runner and waiting on the burlap to come in for it ::giddy:: 

Wrestling // 
With the need for simplicity and rest while not having a lot of time in this season of life. I'm feeling like the days go by in a blink while I have a million things swimming in my head constantly. I'm definitely in need of some time to declutter my heart.

Thankful //
For my hubby wearing Reaghan in the boba carrier while I went grocery shopping! I cherish weekends where we get to spend time together, so even going to the grocery store was an opportunity to make a chore into something fun. It was pretty great hearing him boldly say "I'll carry her!" as a way to serve me. So very thankful for him.  

Enjoying // 
Weekend walks with my husband and Rae. The mornings have been just cool enough to walk around the neighborhood, and it's been some of my favorite times. I love the conversations Jordan and I have when it (feels) like it's just the two of us. Rae is completely calm, totally absorbed in the world around her, and we just get to talk and enjoy each other. We've found some beautiful neighborhoods near ours with lots of trees and it's been sweet to enjoy them. Do you have a favorite weekend tradition?

Linked up with A Mama Collective

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Strawberry Tiramisu

I had a miniature vacation in Central Market this weekend when my husband dropped me off to go wander around and find something for dinner. I got a few (surprise: Italian) things and am hoping to post the recipe for that soon. But what I really needed at Central Market was their savoiardi cookies. I can't find them anywhere else. 

Savoiardi, or "lady-finger" cookies are used in tiramisu. They are airy with a light amaretto flavor and a sprinkling of sugar on the top adding a bit of crunch. They soak up moisture wonderfully, making them perfect for this dessert. Traditional tiramisu is made with espresso, cream, marscapone, chocolate and liqueur. 

When I spent a summer in Italy, I prayed that I would make a friend who would share her grandmother's recipes with me. A tiny little prayer in my heart became a reality when a friend and I ran into Sara at one of our favorite cafes. We became fast friends and invited her to come over to our apartment and cook dinner with us. She not only accepted, but came early during her lunch break to make this dessert with me. It is her grandmother's twist to the original and is absolutely divine. 

1 package strawberries
1 medium tub ricotta
2 small tubs marscapone cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package savoiardi cookies 

Slice strawberries thinly and set aside. In a separate bowl mix ricotta, marscapone and sugar together until there are no lumps. Fold sliced strawberries in with a spoon. 

At the bottom of a large serving bowl, create a layer of savoiardi cookies. Pour milk over slowly until just covered. Layer cheese mixture on top of the cookies, smoothing out with a rubber spatula. Follow by more savoiardi, milk, cheese mixture, etc. until finished. 

Sometimes it helps to have a visual....cookies, milk, cheese mixture, repeat. 

Let stand in the refrigerator for 4 hours. 

Buon Appetito!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Simple Bruschetta

One of my absolute favorite easy meals (snack, appetizer, side dish) is bruschetta. Pronounced bru-skeh-tah. It's easy to throw together and flavorful with a bit of sweet from the tomatoes and tart from the balsamic vinegar, and a kick from raw garlic. The crunch of the bread paired with the tender tomatoes is like Heaven in your mouth. And don't you love how colorful this is? Eating colorful food always makes me feel better ;)

Serves: 2-4 

1 French baguette
5-6 roma tomatoes
1 package yellow cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove
Olive oil
About 10 leaves of basil
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar

Slice baguette in half then lengthwise with a serrated knife. Place on a grilling pan (or an outside grill if you have one!) until they show grill marks. Do this on both sides. 

Drizzle a good quality olive oil on the bread. Good olive oil is usually produced in Italy and will have a green tint to it. While the bread is grilling, chop roma tomatoes in four slices and toss in a bowl. Grab a handful of the yellow cherry tomatoes and cut in half, throwing them into the bowl as well. Mince garlic and add to the bowl along with enough olive oil to coat everything. Season generously with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to allow all the flavors to come together.

Chiffonade some basil leaves... 

Stack. Roll. Chop. sprinkle over the bruschetta and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. 

Serve immediately and enjoy.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dad's Spaghetti Sauce + Kitchen Essentials Giveaway!

If you're just stopping by, it's Italy week at Gather Around Our Table and I'm sharing some of my favorite Italian recipes with you! Let me tell you, we had this meal for dinner a couple of nights ago and my mouth is watering just re-typing the recipe. 

A couple weeks ago a friend sent me a text with a request that I post a spaghetti sauce recipe on the blog. I haven't really attempted my own, and to be quite honest I have no reason to. 

At my dad's 80th birthday party (yup, you read that right) all his sweet friends and family stood up and read letters to him recounting all the fun they had through the years over a few beers and most importantly surrounding my dad's cooking. I can't stress enough how sought after this man is for his cooking! Requests come in from all over the country for this guy's corned beef and cabbage, baked ravioli, and of course this famous spaghetti sauce. 

You guys, the recipe's not even hard. If we were really living in Italy, maybe he would have grown his own tomatoes and canned them all then made a fresh pot of sauce. But we don't, so I'll let you in on a little secret, he cheats with the canned stuff...gasp... And it's freaking delicious. 

I wouldn't lie to you. The old man has paid good money to ship this sauce all frozen up in packages to family across the country. It's crazy talk. Okay, here's the recipe before you faint in anticipation. 

This recipe makes a huge batch, enough to serve 12, so invite your entire family like a good Italian or just freeze the rest for future meals. It makes a great go-to dinner in a pinch.


Olive oil 
1 medium white onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Small box of sliced mushrooms
1 pound  ground beef
1 pound mild italian pork sausage 
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 (28 ounce) can tomato purée 
1 (15 ounce) can diced whole tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 bottle of Chianti wine (Ruffino is a good brand)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar

Pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, set to medium low heat. Add onion, garlic and sliced mushrooms and sauté until soft.

Add ground beef to the same pot, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Remove pork sausage from the casing and chop into 1 inch pieces. Add chili powder, stirring to combine with everything, and continue to cook until browned.  

Pour in tomato purée, chopped tomatoes and tomato paste.

Take 1/4 of a bottle of good Chianti wine and use it to wash out the remaining tomato purée from the can. Add to the mix.

If using fresh herbs, rinse and dry them, remove the leaves from stems and chop them up finely. Add to the sauce. If you are using dried herbs, rub between your hands to bring out the flavors of the spices before placing in the sauce.

Add the sugar and salt and pepper to taste, and bring heat to a medium simmer. Check to make sure the heat is not too high so the sauce wont scorch. Continue simmering for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally

Check for taste and add seasonings as desired. 

We served ours over a bed of spaghetti squash, but this sauce is delicious over your favorite pasta, in a baked lasagna dish, with ravioli and sopped up by warm french bread. 

Giveaway time! I'm a brand new contributor for My Cooking Spot, along with some other amazing women. We all got together and wanted to share our love for cooking by giving away a 51-piece Kitchen Gadget Set! 

I am so honored and excited to be sharing recipes with them each month. Hop on over to MCS for my twist on teriyaki chicken legs and don't forget to enter below for these kitchen essentials. 

my cooking spot

Below are the contributors who helped put this giveaway together. Check out their inspiring blogs and see all the amazing recipes these ladies have to share.

Contributors - Clockwise
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