Thursday, October 31, 2013

Five Fall Flavored Recipes: Soups and Muffins

John laughs every Fall because as soon as Trader Joe's starts selling acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes by the bushel, baking pumpkins, and brussels sprouts on a stock I cannot contain my excitement. I love Fall cooking and flavors!

In honor of these delicious ingredients, here's some Fall recipes that I've made lately and that I highly suggest you should try out:

Apple Pie - Filled Muffins

John and I devoured these in about 2 days, so I suggest you double the recipe. They are THAT good. When you bite into them you get cinnamon apples in the middle. I followed FitSugar's recipe but used gluten free flour and almond milk instead. 

Pumpkin Muffins with Crumble Topping

As if the apple pie muffins weren't tasty enough, John thought these were even better... probably because they taste like dessert! I used the recipe from Cooking For Isaiah, a cookbook that I highly recommend even if you aren't dairy or gluten free.

Sweet Potato Soup with Bacon Crumbles

The day after I got my Cooking Light issue this month, I made this sweet potato soup. It was so easy but so good. I used my immersion blender which helped it come together quickly. 

Pictured Above: Roasted Broccoli & GF Corn Muffins
Roasting our broccoli was revolutionary. John wasn't a huge fan of broccoli before, but now he loves it roasted. Bon Appetit's recipe is my favorite. The corn muffins are from Cooking For Isaiah.

Chickpea, Butternut Squash, and Lentil Stew

Pictured with Pumpkin Muffins, recipe above.
1 white onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamon
Pinch of black pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup red lentils
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp sea salt
Fresh cilantro for topping

  1. Toss butternut squash with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and bake in 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until it's softened and done.
  2. While squash cooks, heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it starts to brown. 
  3. Add jalapeno, garlic, and spices (through black pepper) and stir to combine for about 1 minute.
  4. Add chickpeas, diced tomatoes, red lentils, and broth to onion mixture. Stir and turn heat to high until it starts to simmer. Reduce heat and cover until lentils are done, about 25 minutes. 
  5. Once lentils are done, add in butternut squash to pot and stir everything together. Season with sea salt and cilantro before serving.

Pumpkin & Potato Soup

In case you missed it on BeEmbraced a couple of weeks ago, this soup is another win for a Fall night.

I promise it tastes so much better than it looks in this picture!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2 years and 1 week, aka anniversary recap

I last left off mentioning our 2 year anniversary celebration plans, so here's the recap from a fabulous weekend:

On Friday, we headed to The Optimist for a 9:45pm dinner reservation, which was so worth the wait. The menu is centered around seafood (my favorite!) and is absolutely delicious. Fun fact: The Optimist was featured on the cover of September's Bon Appetit magazine as one of America's best new restaurants, and I can say that I agree!

On Saturday, we headed to our favorite donut shop, Revolution Doughnuts. They have the most scrumptious gluten free donuts on the weekends, and I love their coffee. John always gets a least 3 different donuts (non gluten free), such as the nutella-filled one, caramel and bacon, or raspberry.

We clearly love donuts, since I just made some gluten free ones for us recently. (FYI they are so good you'd never guess they were g.f.) AND I got John this cookbook as part of his gift. (The gift includes that I'll be doing the baking too! First up to try is the Raspberry White Chocolate Doughnuts recipe.)

The donuts I made a couple of weekends ago:
Double chocolate espresso (with Christmas sprinkles since that's all I had!)

We then drove to Calloway Gardens for a day of biking in the beautiful weather. Neither of us had been to Calloway, and it was a perfect afternoon of exploring the gardens, biking, and stopping for a picnic. They also had topiaries of college mascots in honor of football season, but sadly no Vandy Commodore!

View from our lunch spot
Tackling the Georgia bulldog 

That evening we had a bonfire with friends in our neighborhood and roasted s'mores.

On Sunday, John had planned for us to explore the Atlanta Botanical Gardens but we ended up wanting to rest since we were tired from all of the biking the day before. So we're going to postpone that gift for another weekend. Instead we went for a walk around Grant Park and threw the football and frisbee.

Tuesday was our 2 year anniversary! Many of you probably saw this picture on Facebook, but it's too good not to include here too. I couldn't have imagined that'd I'd be marrying John if you asked me at 9th grade homecoming. And yet now he's my best friend and love of my life; so very thankful for these past two years of marriage...

John and I exchanged letters (our tradition for holidays), and I made him a crossword puzzle to solve as part of my gift to him. The clues were inside jokes or memories from our years of friendship, dating, and marriage. It was really fun watching him solve it and remembering so many good times!

And yet this past year of marriage has been memorable perhaps more for what we've learned during trials. I think it's often our nature to forget the depth of our pain and despair during afflictions. It's easier to feel in control when we gloss over the hardships. Either I trick myself into thinking that I am to applaud for emerging from trials or I don't want to remember that adversity can overwhelm me.

So though our anniversary certainly was an exciting time of celebration, I also don't want to fall into the common social media trap of only presenting the glamourous parts of life.

What this past year has shown me, however, is the growth that happens during difficult times. Through John's health issues (which he's fully healed but still undiagnosed), my anemia, making difficult decisions to postpone trips, and trying to be patient while growing my business, God is shaping us for His purposes.

And I am so grateful for a best friend-husband that journeys through the ups and downs with me. Together we have learned the importance of rest and what it means to abide. It is through experiencing these seasons together that we rejoice in triumphs and are beginning to learn what it means to dig in and welcome growth during unexpected difficulties.

John proposed after we'd been canoeing in the Florida summer, midday heat. One thing he said to me was that he wanted us to enter into our engagement real - sweat and all - because we'd be doing all of life together, not just the dolled up and glamorous parts. How thankful I am for a husband who desires to "be in the arena" of life with me because it makes our victories in Christ so much sweeter.

Friday, October 11, 2013

76 Years of Marriage, a 2 Year Anniversary & other stories

A couple of weekends ago, John and I headed out to St. Louis for my friend Alex's wedding. The ceremony and reception were both so intentionally planned, including washing each other's feet and having an open prayer time during the ceremony, and fostering authentic conversations over delicious food at the reception.

Alex and Will's commitment to God, each other, and their community was evident throughout the weekend.

Yet one moment in particular stood out to me.

When it was time for the homily, Will's 98 year old grandfather stood up and said, "Well, you can all breathe easy now because I made it!" He then proceeded with an incredible homily, and with his wife present in the crowd, he spoke of his experience from 76 years of marriage. In a concise yet comprehensive and compelling sermon, he expressed how God rejoices over marriage because it reminds us of our covenant with Him and the ultimate wedding feast to come.

I can't do his words justice, but just the image of him proclaiming - and living out - the powerful impact that marriage can have made a huge impression on John and me.

The newly married couple! (Barefoot from washing each other's feet.)
Will's grandfather is clapping on the left.

With the bride! Fun fact: Alex wore her mom's wedding dress.
"My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." -Colossians 2:2-3, 6

The grandfather's words were a wonderful reminder to us as John and I celebrate our two year anniversary next Tuesday.

John has been sending me clues throughout the last couple of days of what he has planned for us tonight and this weekend:

Harriet is in reference to Harriet The Spy, a book and movie that I loved growing up; so much so that I even had a spy-themed birthday party one year. My best friend and I also used to walk around the neighborhood with our composition notebooks and magnifying glasses, recording clues and working on solving neighborhood crimes, like: Why are there footprints in this abandoned lot? or Who opened the neighbor's front gate? Very serious business.

John and I love donuts (gluten free ones for me, of course!), and tonight we're heading to The Optimist for a very special dinner celebration. I'm excited to see what other plans are in store for us this weekend!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Leaves changing, Lives changing

On Saturday, I reclined in the wicker chair on our porch, enjoying the sunny, beautiful, Atlanta Fall weather and reading a good book. Yet do you ever feel like it's hard to fully enjoy these moments? Your mind keeps running to things that you should be doing or what you need to get done today. I often feel like I'm "wasting time" when I am not fully productive. 

Then the One Thousand Gifts Devotional that I read that morning hits me: 
"Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away... Life is so urgent it necessitates living slow... Time to laugh long, time to give God glory and to rest deep and to sing joy." 
Every day this past week I have been watching how the leaves outside of our kitchen window change. Every day a little more green becomes red. It's stunning to awaken each morning to a noticeable difference from the day before. 

The view out of our kitchen window

This color change is continual, yet I don't notice the change throughout the day. It's only when I've stepped away and return to the window after overnight hours do I see the difference. 

How true this is for our lives. During a season we're in, it's hard to see the ongoing growth. It's only after you step back and examine the whole do you begin to notice the different shades appearing in your life. 

It's only in intervals of repose that we notice. 

The definition is telling: "Repose. Temporary rest from activity, excitement, or exertion; a state of peace; in art, a harmonious arrangement of colors and forms, providing a restful visual effect."

In intervals of temporary rest from excitement, we enter a peaceful state and are able to appreciate the arrangements of colors and forms in our own lives. 

What shades of your life are taking on new colors and forms that you can't recognize in your busyness? Are these transformations that you want but haven't taken the time to appreciate? Or are they changes toward an undesirable direction that have happened unintentionally? 

Take deliberate rest today to examine, notice, correct, and give gratitude for the beautiful colors in your life. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

7 Recipes Roundup

I have lots of things to update on the blog, such as seeing John Mayer in concert and attending Alex's wedding in St. Louis! But since I haven't put any recipes up lately, I'll start with that.

Here's the line-up:
Granola Bars
Green Smoothie
Sweet Potato Salad
Chicken Sausage Pizza
"Fried" Sole
Roasted Salmon
Pumpkin Soup

Kitchen Sink Granola Bars, inspired by The Paleo Mom recipe

I call these the kitchen sink granola bars because I basically put everything but the kitchen sink in them. Adding nuts to these would be good as well, but I was using seeds as the main focus for this recipe.

Makes 16 squares
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I used sweetened because that's all Trader Joe's had)
1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup oats
1 Tbsp. flax seeds
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
Pinch sea salt
Couple dashes of cinnamon 

  1. Grease an 8x8 pan with cooking spray, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk eggs, honey, salt, and cinnamon together until completely combined.
  3. Combine all dry ingredients. Pour egg mixture over top and mix to combine until everything is well coated. 
  4. Pour into pan and press down with a rubber spatula to even everything out. Bake for 18 minutes or until edges start to slightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool for an hour or so. Cut into squares or just break off as much as you want at a time like I do!

Green Pear Smoothie

Looks gross but it's delicious, pinky promise.

Serves one: Blend together half of a chopped pear, handful of green grapes, half of a frozen banana, half cup of frozen spinach, 1 Tbsp. chia seeds, 3 Tbsp. vanilla hemp protein powder, and enough almond milk to get everything blended together. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Salad

I made up this recipe during our North Carolina weekend getaway based on what ingredients I happened to bring with us. It turned out surprisingly delicious!

Serves 2
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (the size of cheese cubes)
1 Tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 small onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced (keep in seeds if you want it spicy)
1/2 can, drained and rinsed cannellini beans
Cumin, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
Garlic salt seasoning, to taste
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

  1. Toss sweet potatoes with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and roast in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. When potatoes are the consistency of french fries, remove from oven and toss with sea salt and pepper .
  2. Caramelize onion in olive oil while sweet potatoes cook.
  3. Add in red pepper, jalapeno, beans, and remaining spices after onions have cooked for 10 minutes.
  4. When potatoes are done, mix everything together and serve over a bed of arugula. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on top of salad.
Chicken Sausage Pizza

There's not much of a recipe here; I just wanted to give you another idea for a quick, yummy meal. I make gluten-free dough using Cooking For Isaiah's recipe. John uses Trader Joe's pre-made dough. We then top with pizza sauce, onions, tomato, spinach, mushrooms, and Trader Joe's chicken sausage. We add garlic and herbs to the top, and John adds cheese to his. We cook them according to the directions. Easy and delicious!  

"Fried" Sole with Dill and Side of Lentils

Serves 2
1/2 cup gluten free (or regular) flour 
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
4 small sole fillets
Relish: 1 tomato chopped, 3 green onions, chopped, sea salt, pepper, dill, lime juice, and olive oil

  1. Combine flour with spices. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. 
  2. Dredge fish with eggs, then coat with flour mixture. 
  3. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil to coat. Add fish fillets and cook 2 minutes per side. Add extra oil in between fillets. Repeat until all fillets are cooked.
  4. Combine relish ingredients and serve on top of fish. 
Lentils: Cook lentils according to instructions. While lentils cook, caramelize an onion. Add in two cloves of minced garlic and mushrooms once onions start to brown. When lentils are done, add to onion mixture and stir in spinach, ground pepper, a few dashes of red wine vinegar, and a squirt of lime juice.

Roasted Jalapeno Salmon with Broccoli, inspired by Bon Appetit

Serves 4
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 skinless salmon fillets
1 jalapeno, sliced into rings (we kept seeds in)
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. drained capers
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
Juice from a half lime, divided
Zest from a half lime, divided

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss broccoli on a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
  2. Rub salmon with 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Push broccoli to edges of baking sheet and put salmon in the middle. Roast for 10 minutes, or until salmon is opaque.
  3. While salmon roasts, combine jalapeno, vinegar, pinch of salt, capers, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, pepper, chives, and zest and juice from a 1/4 of a lime
  4. When salmon is done top with remaining lime juice and zest. Serve jalapeno mix on top of salmon.
Pumpkin, Potato, and Kale Soup, inspired by FBG's recipe

I love Fall vegetables, so I was super excited to make this soup this week! And it didn't disappoint! I served it with gluten free corn muffins (using a mix from Williams-Sonoma).

Serves 6

4 c peeled and 1½-inch cubed baking pumpkin
 (4 cups = about 1 pumpkin)
2 russet potatoes, 1½-inch cubed 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced
 and divided
Dried herbs, to coat 
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

2 red bell peppers, coarsely chopped

4 c low-sodium chicken broth
5 dashes cayenne pepper
3 c chopped kale 
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Chop vegetables, making sure to keep them all the same size. Place pumpkin and potato in a large roasting pan and toss with oil, 2 cloves garlic and herbs. I used dried oregano, dried Italian seasoning, dried savory, and sea salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes, uncovered. 
  2. Add remaining vegetables to roasting pan except carrots and kale. Then, roast for another 20 minutes, or until vegetables are starting to brown.
  3. Remove pan from oven and put roasted vegetables and stock in a large pot. Add the cayenne pepper, black pepper, and a dash of salt. Stir everything together. Heat over medium-high heat until soup starts to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add chopped carrots, kale, 1 garlic clove minced, fresh herbs, and cook over medium heat for another 10 minutes.

I hope you're able to enjoy some of these recipes! And be sure to check back soon for updates on our weekend adventures!