Wednesday, June 19, 2013

four ingredient stuffed peppers.

Today marks Day 3 of "7"... I am not going to post frequently about "7" for a couple of reasons: 1) I don't want to burn anyone out. 2) I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on myself to document the whole thing and miss the whole point. But I wanted to share some realizations I have had the past couple days, as well as a tasty recipe! Honestly, there are moments that I want to call it quits. For example, when I walked by the bakery in Kroger today and smelled the aroma delicious baked goods filling the air, I definitely wanted to throw in the towel. I experience a similar feeling when I look at the coffee maker on the counter and can almost taste the hot, rich java. But that's what this month is about. Sacrificing. Eliminating. Avoiding over-indulgence. Focusing on The One who fulfills every need.

I have also had very special moments. In those rougher instances, I'm allowing scripture to be my solace. As it always should be, regardless of the situation. I am thanking God more for the little things. Again, an act that should be constant no matter what, but honestly not always the case. The cool, refreshing lemon water. The giant, fluffy clouds that suspend in the sky. The text from a dear sister-friend about meeting up the next time I am home. The deliciousness of simple recipes. In just three days I am noticing more of these "small" things and gaining a greater appreciation for them.

Obviously with the focus of this month being on food, I am much more aware of my tastes changing. To say that my mouth doesn't water when I think of a huge plate of fettuccine alfredo covered in parmesan would be a lie. And a huge glass of sweet tea sounds heavenly. But I have noticed a greater awareness of the simple flavors and textures of the seven foods I am consuming this month. I am a huge fan of sauces, herbs, and spices. In fact, we have two cabinets designated for each of these in our kitchen. While I do miss the sweet, floral taste of honey and the smokiness of cumin, it is amazing how delicious dishes can be with simply salt and pepper. Our plan when choosing our foods was to pick ones that could be cohesive and versatile. Trying to come up with different meals with our foods has been fun and interesting. I catch myself thinking of different ideas throughout the day... "Kirby could make breadcrumbs and coat her fish for a different texture... I could make meatballs and cover them with diced tomatoes with chili peppers..." I think that going back to basic, simple recipes and ingredients highlights the true flavors. Tonight's meal turned out to be one that will be reused--both as is and with some additional ingredients in the future. But for only four ingredients, I couldn't believe how tasty this meal was. Dustin was completely honest with me before we ate supper. "Babe, I've never been nervous to eat anything you've cooked until now" were his exact words. Quite frankly, I was nervous, too. I haven't ever made stuffed peppers before and every recipe online had way more than the ingredients I would use. But I tried it anyway and they turned out great!

Stuffed Peppers: "7 Style"

1 pound ground beef 
3 or 4 bell peppers 
1 small can of tomato paste
A few handfuls of fresh baby spinach
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brown the beef in a skillet. While beef is browning, slice the tops off of the peppers. Remove ribs and seeds, being careful not to tear the sides of the pepper. Place peppers in a baking dish. Salt and pepper the inside of the peppers to your liking. Once beef is browned, stir in tomato paste until combined. Add some water if too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in spinach. Spoon the mixture into the peppers. Bake for one hour. 

*Notes: I did not measure the amount of salt or pepper I used. I typically taste as I go. Also, I added almost a can of water (simply filled the tomato paste can) when I noticed the tomato and beef mixture was rather thick. I spooned some extra tomato juice on top of the peppers as they were cooking. After cooking, the peppers still had a bit of crunch to them, which we enjoyed. But you would need to cook them longer or possibly cook them some before adding the meat if you prefer softer peppers. Depending on what extra ingredients you add, you could easily stretch this recipe to fill several peppers. Also, be sure to choose peppers that sit up well in a baking dish or use a dish with high sides. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did. 7 AND husband approved = success! So if you ever want a super simple supper, try these stuffed peppers. Of course, add your own flavors. But I encourage you to try it with basic ingredients first just to really taste the goodness of using whole foods. Taste and see. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

seven foods.

I raved about "7: an experimental mutiny against excess" in my "bookworm" post. The premise of the book is to eliminate excess and combat materialism/over-indulgence. Jen Hatmaker shares the seven areas of her life that she is addressing: food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress. After sharing the book with one of my dear friends, Kirby Green, she proposed that we do the experiment together. The day she called, I had an idea that she may suggest we do the food month of seven together and honestly, I was hoping she would. When I read it myself, I had all these plans of starting each month but without the accountability I kept giving excuses for why I shouldn't or couldn't. So after a week of contemplating and praying about it, we both thought that a month of eating seven foods would be a great journey for us to embark on together. We both have our reasons for starting-- Kirby is going on a mission trip later this summer and this is a great way to prepare and focus on her purpose for serving. I have never really fasted before and I using this as a way to overcome excess and over-indulgence. My pantry/refrigerator/freezer can be overflowing yet I will catch myself complaining of "nothing to eat." Ridiculous. I watched a documentary a few weeks ago that reported if the entire world consumed as much food as Americans do, there would need to be four planets the size of Earth in order to provide enough to feed each person--and this documentary was a few years old so I'm sure that is even more by now!

Before I go any further, I want to say that by no means am I posting this as a way to boast about what we are doing. This is just to share our experience and hopefully encourage you to look at your own life and see ways that you can fight your own battle against excess. We are not trying to come across as holier than thou, seeking praise, or anything of that nature. Just simply sharing. Take it or leave it. Hopefully you can take it, try for yourself, and share with people you know as well!

So our plan is seven foods for four weeks. Kirby knew I would be all over the food lists and menus so I  made suggestions on what we should eat. We need protein, carbs, and fats. Also, I wanted to make sure that we were having foods that we actually enjoy. So our lists are as follows: For Kirby--Fish, Yogurt, Bread, Apples, Avocados, Spinach, and Sweet Potatoes. For me--Beef, Eggs, Avocados, Tomatoes, Peppers, Spinach, and Potatoes. We will use salt, pepper, oil, butter, and lemon juice to season/flavor our foods. Water will be our go-to beverage.

Our poor sweet husbands are being good sports and semi-participating. Dustin doesn't care for tomatoes or avocados so he chose dairy products and carrots to replace them. Also, he considers ranch dressing to be a dairy product, so that made the cut. Kirby told me that Tyler included Oreos in his list! I'm just thankful that they are putting up with us! The next month without coffee, chocolate, sauces, herbs/spices, etc will be interesting to say the least!

So Day 1 is over... We have both sent texts and called with our grocery trip details, menus, food pics, and complaints. I'm so thankful for Kirby's encouragement and for holding me accountable-- especially when I want to break into the spice/sauce cabinet! Our heads are aching from coffee withdrawals and our bellies are still growling from the lack of all day snacking that normally happens. But we know that these small pains are nothing compared to the hunger others experience.  We pray and know that God will reveal more to us about Him and ourselves during this time.

breakfast: potatoes w/ tomatoes

lunch: spinach, tomatoes, bell pepper, avocado w/ olive oil & lemon

supper: tomato marinated steak, mashed potatoes, & tomatoes w/ spinach
We both pray that it is an eye-opening experience that allows us to see how blessed we truly are as well as find more ways to appreciate how God provides for us. So here we go! Four weeks. Seven foods. Countless prayers. Let's do it!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

breakfast cookies.

So after this post, I am going to try to refrain from sharing every single one of Shauna Niequist's recipes. I realize I'm being redundant since I have praised her writing and recipes in nearly every one of my posts. But homegirl can write and cook. Which means I love her. Which means I want to tell everyone about her so they will love her too. Bottom line, read her books/blog and try her recipes.

After reading Bread & Wine I wanted to run drive to Kroger and buy every ingredient needed to make all of the recipes she included. I really believe I will love each one. But since that would be busting the budget--and I'm the Budget Police this month--I found one that included mostly ingredients that we already had in our pantry. Plus, who doesn't love cookies for breakfast!? She credits this recipe as being an adaptation of Nikki's Healthy Cookies, from Heidi Swanson's blog: Got to give credit where credit is due. (I hope everyone else remembers the old Sawyer Brown song that just came to my head... if not, look it up...)

Breakfast Cookies

3 large, ripe bananas
1/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Mash bananas in a large bowl and then add coconut oil and vanilla. Add oats, almond meal, salt, baking powder, and stir to combine. Stir in coconut, nuts, and chocolate chips. Form into 12 cookies (or more if you make them smaller). Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 14-16 minutes. 

Notes: Versatility wins again. If you don't like coconut, use more oats. If you don't like walnuts, use another type of nut or just leave them out! I would love more chocolate chips next time, just because I'm a chocoholic. I even threw in some raisins because we had them and I like to use up ingredients. I also added a dash of cinnamon because I like the flavor. I added some ground flax seed, too. I bet peanut butter would taste good in this recipe too! The possibilities are endless! This soft, moist cookie is simple, delicious, and healthy (as long as you don't eat the whole batch in one setting!). Enjoy! 

*Also, an app I have recently fallen in love with is called A Beautiful Mess. I meant to include this in the last couple of posts and I kept forgetting. It is 99cents in the app store but for someone who never purchases apps, it was worth it for the fun it adds to pictures! You can add text, borders, filters, and doodles to your photos. I love it and I bet you will too! 

Have a blessed day! 

Sunday, June 09, 2013


Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes. The Boxcar Children and Little House on the Prairie series were my first favorites. Then there was the Babysitter's Club series and The American Girl Doll books. I loved checking books out at the library. Oh, and let's not forget those lovely Scholastic Book Fairs at school--every reader's heaven. At the elementary school I attended we had the Accelerated Reader point program, where you had to take tests on the books you had read to earn certain points. I am not ashamed to say that I had the most points in my grade when I was in 4th grade! I think that you are either wired to be a reader or not--God definitely made me a reader! I love the words, the covers, the pages, the smells.. Okay, I'm sure you get the picture. 

I love curling up with a glass of tea and getting lost in the world of a book. The characters, time periods, and plots almost become a reality. When an author has the ability to make you feel like you are right there in the middle of everything, like an invisible character, that's when they have succeeded. I love traveling to a different era, country, or culture just through reading words. I am one of those compulsive readers, meaning that I can't just start a book and casually read it over a long period of time. I have to finish it as soon as possible. If that means staying in my dorm room all weekend in college to see if Bella chooses Edward or Jacob or if Katniss chooses Gale or Peeta, so be it. Or it may mean banning myself from buying books or reading books during my internship because it would consume my time. My love for reading isn't limited to fiction. I thoroughly enjoy reading scripture, Bible studies, Christian life application books, biographies, and cookbooks. If you are a fellow bookworm, here are a few of my must-reads, favorite authors, and to-read list... By no means is this a complete list... 

Some must-reads to add to your list...

Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine ( of Shauna Niequist's books): Sister can write. Each of her books are in essay form, which is different for me but I love it. As a fellow food lover, she incorporates cooking and fellowship into each book in a way that speaks to my heart. Her transparency and honesty about her feelings during different seasons of her life is so encouraging. Bread & Wine might be my favorite because she includes her favorite recipes. Her descriptions of the sights, smells, and tastes make you feel like you're living life with her. If you want a book that appeals to your senses and gives you even more appreciation for the little moments in life, read any of these. 

-7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker: 
When I first started reading this book, I was told it would change my life-- man, has it! Thanks to Jen, my thinking has been altered. In this book, she develops an experiment to eliminate excess in 7 areas of her life as a way of overcoming materialism. Each month for seven months she focuses on a different area-- food, clothing, possessions, waste, spending, and stress. As I was reading, I thought that she was crazy, radical, awesome, weird, and hilarious-- and I want us to be best friends. She has the guts to say and do what we are all afraid to/refuse to acknowledge-- that we eat/have/waste/spend/stress way too much! If you want a book that will rock your world, read this one. 

-The Savannah Series by Denise Hildreth Jones (and really any book by her):
This series about a mother/daughter relationship is hilarious. Each of her novels take place in a Southern location which I absolutely love. The Savannah series is much more lighthearted, but some of her other novels have more serious themes and plots. I also love how she incorporates her faith into each book.

Some of my other favorite writers include...

- Beth Moore
- Karen Kingsbury
- Nicholas Sparks
- Kathryn Stockett
- Jodi Picoult
- Meg Cabot
- Sarah Young
- Francine Rivers

Some of the "to-read" books on my list...

- Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger
- A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by Sophie Hudson
- One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
- Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle
- Jane Austen's classics (I know, I should have read them all by now...)

What are your favorite books? Which authors captivate you? Which ones are on your "to-read" list? I would love to hear from you! 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

bittersweet changes.

Several changes have occurred since my last post. Dustin and I have moved from our first home in our hometown in the Bluegrass to the Land of Lincoln (Kentucky to Illinois, for those of you who are unaware of the states' nicknames). Our move was because of a recent career change that Dustin experienced. He graduated from the University of Kentucky and has worked as an electrical engineer for a few years now. When the opportunity to pursue another career path arose, and after many prayers and discussions, we decided that accepting a new job with Monsanto as a district sales manager was the direction God was leading us. This decision was not an easy one to make-- the majority of our family and friends live within a 40 minute radius of our previous home. In fact, Dustin had lived on the same road for all of his life! Our new area is only an hour and a half to two hours from most of our family now, which really isn't all that bad compared to the distances others experience. But for two home-bodies, it was a leap of faith!

The moving process has gone well! We are beyond thankful for not only this opportunity, but the support our family and friends have given us. Our parents have helped us so much through their encouragement, advice, guidance, and physical labor. Some dear friends came and helped unpack the day we moved and many others have built us up during this bittersweet time. We so appreciate the prayers! We know that God has plans for us and that they are GOOD!

Our puppies Chloe & Callie in the front window. They alert of us of any movement outside! 
On Sunday we visited a new church, some of our parents came for a visit and helped unpack. We were able to set up some of our decorations and things that help make a house feel like a home. I don't exactly know how to describe my style. I love a lot of vintage-y/classic things like milk glass, cross stitch, old books, monograms, family hand-me-downs, etc. Dustin is a hunter, which I fully support and love about him, so that means we have some antlers, fur, and feathers in our house. I also like pops of color and modern patterns/pieces as well. Basically I guess I have an eclectic taste. Dustin made the comment that none of our furniture matches--which it doesn't. But I like it that way. They go together because they don't match. If that makes any sense.

Dustin's mom shared this ecard yesterday & tagged us-- so true! 

I love homemade artwork and decorations from travels! 

Dustin's great-grandmother Hayden's china. I'm so thankful to display it!

I love lighting candles to get a home-y feel & a yummy smell! 

The Curtsinger family Bible & history book and a pig my Nana gave me.
Yesterday we hit up the ice cream shop in town. We LOVE ice cream! While there are boxes that remain unpacked, walls that still need decorating, and the town that needs to be explored, I am thankful for this new chapter of our lives. I know that it all won't happen in a day, but over time.

Dustin's chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cone!
I recently read a book that I mentioned in my first post, Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. In her book, she highlights various points in her life that were bitter and sweet-- moving, traveling, miscarriages, losing jobs, pregnancies, spending time with family, cooking for friends, etc. One of my favorite lines from the whole book is, "When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow." This is a great reminder to be thankful in each season of life. Any sweet time is a gift from God and we should praise Him. Any season or change that is difficult, we must also cling to and praise Him in the bitter circumstances. In my quiet time this morning, I was reading in 1 Thessalonians. In the fifth chapter, Paul writes that we should "Be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (verse 16). God knows I need reminders of the same theme or lesson! I love when I read or hear reminders of the things He is teaching me. I know that these are not the only changes we will experience. My prayer that we will face each one with joyfulness, a prayerful attitude, and thankfulness. Have a blessed day!