Thursday, April 26, 2012

Keen for Quinoa Part II

As promised, here is another delicious quinoa recipe to try for dinner. This recipe was a bit time consuming (it took about an hour), but so worth it. Though John still prefers a "real" burger, he loved this one too!

Sweet Potato Quinoa Burgers
The original recipe came from The Naked Kitchen (aka clean eating!)

I served my quinoa burgers in a toasted pita, with sweet potato fries (recipe below) and green beans.

Makes 10 burgers
1 can (15 ounces) no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
            3 cups cubed sweet potatoes, peeled (about 3 regular sized potatoes)
            3/4 cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
            1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
            3 cloves garlic, minced
            1/2 cup cooked quinoa
            1 tbsp olive oil
            heaping 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats 
            2 tbsp roasted sunflower seeds
            1/4 tsp sea salt
            fresh black pepper to taste
            1 tsp cumin
            1 tsp oregano
            1 tsp chili powder
            1/4 tsp cayenne 
            1 tbsp hot sauce 

  1. Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water and bring to a boil on the stove. Add the sweet potatoes and lower the heat to simmering.  Let the potatoes cook for about 20-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool. Once your potatoes have cooled use a fork to mash them. You want them mashed but not creamy.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, in a large mixing bowl add half of the black beans and mash them with a fork. Add the rest of the beans and the remaining ingredients. Stir until just combined.
  3. Form the mixture into 10 balls.  Each burger should be about 1/2″ thick. 

  4. Heat a grill pan over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray or tbsp. of oil. 
  5. Place patties on grill pan and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until golden brown.
These burgers will keep in the fridge for 5 days. Simply let the burgers cool, place them in a sealed container, and stick them in the fridge. You can also store them in freezer bags in the freezer for up to 6 months. To reheat, place the burgers on a baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees until they are heated all the way through

Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 4
2 sweet potatoes (or 1 large one)
Sea salt
Ground black pepper
Olive oil

Preheat over to 425 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut lengthwise into fry shapes. Put them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through, or until they start to brown and turn a bit crispy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Work/Life Balance- Is there even such a thing?

This is the question that Michael Hyatt addresses in his most recent This Is Your Life podcast episode, "Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?".

I'm mentioning it in my blog because during the podcast he answers a question that I called in asking:
"To be good at anything, it seems I have to give one hundred percent. 
How can I do this and balance work and life?"

If you've ever wandered the same thing, listen to the podcast here... and be sure to listen to a few minutes from the end because my question is the last Michael addresses!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Keen on Quinoa

Remember a few weeks ago when I was singing the Pina Colada song and celebrating Atlanta's warm weather? During Crazy for Coconut Week, I posted a quinoa cereal recipe that got a few of my friends asking about quinoa. 

Q. What is quinoa? 
A. To quote a World's Healthiest Food article, "Quinoa is an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked... Quinoa was once called 'the gold of the Incas,' who recognized its value in increasing the stamina of their warriors. Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids."

Q. How do you pronounce it?
A. KEEN-wah 

Q. Why is it good for you? 
A. As mentioned above, quinoa is rich in protein, with all nine amino acids. It is especially high in the amino acid lysine, which helps with tissue growth and repair. It is also a very good source of manganese, magnesium, folate, and phosphorus.

Q. What other quinoa recipes do you have?
A. Glad you asked! Here a couple recipes below, enjoy!

Quinoa Tabbouleh
I love this recipe from Cooking Light! I added garlic and cayenne but the rest is the same. See the pictures below for my serving suggestions.

Serves 5
1 3/4 cup water
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup coarsely chopped seeded tomato
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped cucumber
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped green onions
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Dash of cayenne 

Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with fork. Stir in tomato and remaining ingredients. Cover, let stand for 1 hour. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions

Serve tabbouleh over a salad. Drizzle balsamic vinegar if desired. 
Serve in a toasted pita pocket with hummus, yum!

Check back again this week for another tasty quinoa recipe that you can serve for dinner!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A leopard print toothbrush and dirty dishes... It's the small things

What are the most memorable parts of your day?

Most days aren't filled with job promotions, meeting the love of your life, or traveling to foreign countries.

But for me, all of my days are filled with opportunities to appreciate my favorite parts about my job, be thrilled when I meet the love of my life at the door when he gets home from work every day, and recognizing the beauty even amidst the brokenness in our city.

When you are aware and intentionally finding small graces during what could be an unmemorable day, suddenly each day is a new adventure.

The key part is to recognize the small graces... appreciate the little things in life.

Today as I was brushing my teeth, I realized that is was an unexpected opportunity for gratitude. Not only because I'm thankful to have had braces and dental insurance, but because of my toothbrush. If you've known me for any length of time, you probably know that I love pink. And leopard print. Well about a month ago, John was running errands for us, and I asked him to pick up a toothbrush for me. He brought home the one below. It's a small joy but a daily reminder that my husband cares about and knows me well enough to buy me a hot pink leopard print toothbrush.

The hot pink leopard print toothbrush that John brought home for me.
 Another example was after John and I had company, and we made a huge mess in the kitchen cooking dinner and making breakfast. After pancakes and eggs that morning, we both had to be places, so I rushed out the door. When I got home, I found the sweet note John left me below.

The note John left for me: "I love you baby. Please leave these for me to do."

What's going on in your day where you can pause and notice small joys that are happening around you?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write love on the tablet of your heart

Whenever I listen to the latest podcast on leadership or read a blog post on personal growth, a common theme pops up:
To accomplish big goals, write them down.

It's not enough to dream big (though this is a start); you need to show commitment. The act of writing down your goals makes them come alive. It also allows you to look back on them and have others to hold you accountable on your progress toward your goal.

We are meant to experience with all five of our senses. For me, the act of writing makes the ideas that I have become memorable. When I write - particularly in my journal, with pen and paper - I feel the pages in between my fingers. I see the colorful cover of my journal. I smell the ink from my pen. I hear the etching of the ink on the page. All of these experiences imprint my hopes, dreams, prayers onto my mind and heart, rather than letting them float aimlessly without taking shape. 

In Proverbs 3:3-4, we are told:
"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; 
bind them around your neck; 
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success 
in the sight of God and man."

Even here, we see the connection between mindfully writing values and seeing them come to life.  

When John and I got engaged, we were so excited to write our names and date of engagement in Wheaton College's Bell Tower. Not only is it a tradition for Wheaton students, but it was a memorable way to record our engagement.

Now that we are in the process of renovating a house, we wrote Bible verses and phrases on the studs and beams to etch them into our foundation. We intentionally wrote our purpose for the house to welcome all who come into our home and that we recognize that everything is a gift from God. Writing, even though the words will be covered by layers of sheetrock and paint, will cause us to remember these blessings.

"The Lord our God we will serve and his voice we will obey." -Joshua 24:29
"Not one word has failed from all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant." -1 Kings 8:56 
May all be welcomed and blessed who enter this home...
In the upstairs bedrooms, which will eventually be kids' rooms:
May our children know the love of their heavenly Father.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lessons from the first 6 months of marriage

On Sunday, John and I will have been married for 6 months, so I thought it would be appropriate to reflect a bit on the start to our marriage.

But first of all, big news: John and I are buying a house! It's in our same neighborhood in east Atlanta- Grant Park- and only a few blocks away from the apartment we are in now. We love this area and are thrilled to settle here permanently.

The house was originally built in 1910, and now it is being renovated from top to bottom. John and I came across it at the perfect time to make all of the decorative selections - granite, tile, paint colors, cabinets, etc. - so it's been a lot of fun.

What does this have to do with marriage?

While walking through the house (see pictures below- you need a lot of vision to see a finished product!) it struck me how similar the bare walls are to my heart.

Before marriage, I felt all put together (most of the time!) and metaphorically painted and decorated.

But, like our house now, I'm beginning to see what my foundation is like underneath the "decor." For instance, when the builders started ripping down the old walls, they discovered that the house had had a fire decades ago. Some areas should not have even been built on top of, and it's amazing the ceiling held.

That's like my heart- I'm uncovering charred areas that I didn't know existed. Weak spots that are beginning to crumble. A lot of people have asked me, "What have you learned most about John since marriage?" And honestly, I've learned a lot more about myself.

And that's not meant to sound selfish. Though ironically what I'm learning is how natural it is to first think of myself and my own needs instead of putting John first. In seeing insecurities in myself, I'm being stripped down to the studs, like our house.

But the beautiful part is that in marriage I am being rebuilt. John and I can solidify our shaky foundations together. In faith, we can start putting up new walls of a servant heart.

And that is why, though I see a lot of imperfections in myself as a wife, I am not discouraged. Instead, John and I are building a new life together. And the first six months have been focused on drawing the blueprints to ensure that the foundation of our faith is solid enough to build up a marriage.

Like designing our "new" house, the process of discovering who we are as a new family has been so exciting.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Contagious Commitment

I recently read a blog post by Greg Steely that summarized leadership as 
Courage + Commitment = Contagious

Essentially, if as a leader you are courageously doing all you can to lead and are fully committed to relationships with your followers, then these values will become contagious. However, I think one thing is missing from this equation: 
Without accountability, our natural tendency is to play it safe and slack on commitments. 

Accountability is not a very well-liked word, especially in business settings. It often evokes images of employers monitoring their staff's computers, requiring that time logs be filled out, and rigorously reviewing employees every quarter.

That description assumes a lack of trust and "Big Brother" feel. What I believe leaders need to implement is openness. And openness requires trust and vulnerability. What are some things that leaders and employees need to be open about? 
  • Where: Where are you headed, and what are your goals? What is it that you want to accomplish? Make sure you set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).
  • Who and What: What do you need in order to accomplish your goals? This can be resources, help from others, personal development, time, etc.
  • How: What is your action plan? Once you know where you are headed and what you need to get there, you must address how you are going to get there. 
  • Why: What progress have you made (or haven't you made) and why? As you're working through your action plan, what progress have you made? What areas are lagging behind, and why? Don't just diagnose issues, uncover the whys.
What are you committed to?
It is important for leaders to honestly answer these questions along with their employees. It's a two-way street. By assessing what is and is not being accomplished will help leaders see bigger patterns of work, relationships, and how things actually get done. Also, it's important for leaders to understand how they can help their employees be as successful as possible. Without asking these questions, leaders cannot recognize what connections, phone calls, or extra time could be of most use. 

And accountability does not just apply to work. In your life outside of work, what are your goals? Who do you want to become? Without regular discussions with a close friend, you'll most likely push to the side the necessary actions that will get you where you want to go. 

Accountability is about naming the actions that are important to you, and having someone be invested in your success along side of youThat doesn't sound "Big Brother-ish" to me. It sounds encouraging. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Daddy's kitchen

Last Friday was my Dad's birthday, and in honor of it I wrote a poem for him. Since he was my main inspiration for learning to cook - and since BeEmbraced includes a lot of my recipes - I thought I'd publish the poem here.

Dad giving my best friend, Alex, and me a cooking lesson in high school 

Daddy's Kitchen

Tiny footprints scamper
To her Daddy’s kitchen
Like kitty, fresh from nap,
And now weaving in, out,
And between legs
At the first sound
Of the tuna can opening.

Tiny feet arch, tip toe
Like in ballet class
To breathe in
The fragrance of Daddy’s hands –
Garlic, lemon, thyme…

15 years and tiny toes grow
Into high heels,
Clacking on linoleum floor.
First newlywed apartment
But space enough for
Garlic, lemon, thyme…
To pause at the chopping of carrots,
Inhale caramelizing onions and
Remember Daddy’s hands,
Preparing a gourmet dinner and
Simmering lessons of savoring
The homemade and heart-warmed,
Only enjoyed fully with family.

          Written by Steph Shackelford, 3/1/2012