Friday, July 19, 2013

farmer's market fridays.

When I think of seasons, I think of food. Ok, honestly, I think of food a lot. But really. Each season I declare my love for that period of time. Then the next season comes and I quickly divert my affections to the new one. Fall time makes me think of pumpkin pie, roasted sweet potatoes, and apple cider. In the winter there's so many yummy dishes to keep you warm-- soups, stews, roasts, and casseroles. When spring rolls around the light, fresh dishes like salads, pasta primavera, and pestos are more appealing. Then there's summer. When it's all said and done, I really do think I love summer food the most. The first tomato sliced fresh from a garden with salt and pepper. The squash and zucchini sautéed with onions. The blackberries that can be eaten by the handfuls or made into cobbler and topped with homemade ice cream. The peaches that make the best jelly you've ever tasted. The strawberries that just need to go in a pie and served with fresh whipped cream. I could go on and on…

One of my life goals is to have a huge garden that provides all of our favorite fruits and vegetables. I know eventually we will make it happen! There's just something about putting the work into growing your own food, knowing exactly what is or isn't on/in it, and then enjoying and sharing the product with your friends and family. Dustin and I have been blessed with family and friends that share the bounties from their own gardens. I think you can truly taste the goodness and love so much more in the "home-grown" foods than the produce you get in the grocery.

Every Friday in our town we have a Farmer's Market. I always love going to produce stands or markets. Not only are you supporting local farmers and vendors, but you usually get great products! The one here offers a nice selection of produce, crafts, flowers, and baked goods.

Last week I picked up some gorgeous zinnias. They lasted several days and added so much color and cheerfulness to our home! 

This morning I met my friend Hillary there. We both stocked up on some delicious local honey! If you have never tried fresh local honey, do it! You will never go back to the imitation stuff they have in stores-- which is typically a combination of honey and other syrups! When it comes to honey, get the good stuff and shop local! I also picked up some gorgeous sunflowers, fresh peaches, and yummy squash and zucchini. 

Speaking of squash and zucchini, you will want to use them in this recipe! Another one of my favorite summer dishes is Vegetable Pie. My Meme makes the best, but this recipe is pretty close to hers! I made this pie yesterday for lunch when some of my dear friends, Rhiannon and Violet, came to visit me. Last minute, I decided to make a homemade gluten-free crust. It wasn't that difficult and I'm glad I did! The recipe for the crust came from The filling recipe was adapted from Trisha Yearwood's recipe in this month's issue in Better Home's and Gardens.

Vegetable Pie

For the crust: 
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
- 1&1/4 cup gluten free flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 - 4 tbsp ice cold water

Pulse the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture begins to come together and form small pea-shaped pieces. Pour in water a tablespoon at a time until the dough begins to stick together. Remove the dough and form into a ball or disc. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. After the dough has chilled, remove it and place it on a well floured surface. Roll the dough out to fit your pie plate or baking dish. Line the dish and create a pretty edge if you feel inclined to do so. 

To blind bake your crust, place wax paper over the dough and fill with dried beans. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes. Then remove the wax paper and beans, poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork, and bake uncovered for 10 more minutes. Then your crust is ready to fill! 

*Note: I had never made a homemade crust before and I was kind of nervous about it. But it wasn't very difficult! If you are in a bind or don't want to make your own, you could easily use a pre-made crust from the store. On the simplygluten-free website, there are several tips, hints, and explanations! Go check it out for more information about crusts. The instructions were really easy and helpful. I didn't follow all of them because I'm a bit of a rebel like that, and thankfully the crust still turned out pretty tasty. A

For the filling: 
- 1 tomato, peeled and sliced
- 1 zucchini, sliced thin
- 1 squash, sliced thin
- 1/2 onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- basil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat oil and garlic in a skilled on the stove over medium heat. Add onion, squash and zucchini. Salt and pepper to your liking. Cook for about 15 minutes until vegetables are tender. While vegetables are cooking, combine mayonnaise with the cheeses and a bit of pepper and basil. Spread a thin layer of the cheese mixture on the bottom of the crust. Next layer the sliced tomatoes, then add the cooked vegetables. Top the vegetables with the remaining cheese mixture and extra cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes. Allow time to set before cutting into slices. 

*Note: The recipe in the magazine also called for water chestnuts but my Meme never used them and I didn't have them. Also, depending on how small/large your vegetables and baking dishes are, you may need more or less of the vegetables. I probably could have added another squash or zucchini because mine were smaller. Also, I added basil to the recipe and just eyeballed it, maybe it was 1/2 tsp? The moisture of tomatoes make this dish kind of watery. Next time I will probably blot them with a towel for a bit. The thing about recipes is that you can experiment with them and make them you own. Keep notes on what works or doesn't and change them to your tastes! 

Do you like going to farmer's markets too? What treasures have you found at yours? What are your favorite summer dishes? I would love to hear from you! I hope you enjoy the goodness of summer produce and try this recipe! 

Have a blessed day! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

quiet mornings.

I'm definitely a morning person. My sweet husband is the exact opposite. Don't get me wrong--I enjoy my sleep, but that usually means that I am in bed at the latest by 9. Lame, I know--you can ask my college roommates. There is just something about the early mornings that I love. The quiet stillness in the house, the glow of the clock on the stove, the sun starting to wake up, the smell of fresh coffee floating in the air, the dew glistening on the grass, the coolness outside. Since we have gotten our two pups earlier this year, they help me get up even earlier. Sometimes, they are super excited and make the mornings not as still and quiet, but other times they can either go back to sleep for a bit or actually play quietly as they are doing now. One of the things I like most about the mornings is easing into the day by having time with the Lord. Just us. This hasn't always been a priority, but I'm so thankful for it now.

Yesterday marked the last day of "7". Thanks to Kirby for reminding me, because I had remembered the wrong day! Total blonde moment. For the last four weeks* we have each consumed only seven foods, while having water to drink. This "experiment" has been one that I have thoroughly enjoyed. While I am a huge lover of all things food-related, taking the time to get back to the basics has proven to be very beneficial both physically, and most importantly, spiritually. Physically, we eliminated those processed foods that really shouldn't be considered foods, which is always a great choice for your body. We also minimized sugar intake to only what occurs naturally in the foods we chose. This combined with appropriate portions, proves to be helpful for a healthy eating lifestyle. 

Note: I included the "*" after four weeks because we both have had our share of exemption meals. When we chose this timeline, we knew that different events such as weddings, work functions, family/friend get-togethers,  anniversaries, etc., would be happening. We never wanted to come across as high-maintenance, selfish, or anything like that. So there were times that we put "7" to the side so that we would be focused on our time with our family or friends. The first time we discussed the exemption meals, we were both concerned about not being "fully committed" but I think that was one of the lessons God was teaching us. We were fully committed to 7. But we are also committed to the relationships we have with others and want to put them before ourselves. That said, we also had times that we "practiced" 7 while with others because we felt lead to do so. 

Spiritually, this process has been a blessing. I prayed that God would use these four weeks to reveal things to us-- and boy has He! My quiet mornings with the Lord have become more dear to me than ever before. My appreciation for the little things is growing more and more. My reliance on scripture has grown stronger. Kirby shared a verse with me one day that was so perfect for this experiment: Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth and in chapter 12 he was sharing about the thorn in his flesh. In verse 9 he wrote-- But he (Jesus) said to me, " My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I'm not using this verse to complain about "7" or equate it to the trials/hardships that Paul and other Christians faced/face. However, it wasn't always easy to eat the same foods everyday. When we were having our weaker moments, we made sure to focus on the One who gives grace and power to the weak. We wanted this process to be about Him. Not us. 

I say these things not to boast about our relationships with the Lord or what we have done, but to share with you a bit of how He has worked in our lives the past four weeks. Also, I again want to encourage you to try your own process of eliminating excess.  I encourage you to have a "Council" whether that is one or more people for mutual accountability and encouragement! I've been so thankful for Kirby's tests, calls, photos, & prayers! If you haven't read Jen Hatmaker's book, I recommend it. There are six other chapters about the areas of her life that she eliminated excess. Maybe you would feel more comfortable with one of those, or maybe you want to go through the whole process. Maybe you feel like a month is too much. Try a week, or a few days. Or make up your own experiment of avoiding over-indulgence. Maybe you are not interested in 7 at all, and that's ok, too. Whatever you feel lead to do, pray that God will reveal what He would have you to do. I believe that when we pray for God to lead us and work in us, and then we constantly seek Him and His will, He will do just just that. 

Have a blessed day! 

Monday, July 01, 2013

stop & consider.

Happy July, y'all! There's something about the start of a new month that gets me excited. I really love newness in general. (The hubs would probably have some clever comment to interject right now, but I'm not talking materialistically at the moment!) The start of new seasons, beginning a new week, beautiful sunrises that mark a new day full of new mercies, the fresh new page of your planner that is waiting to be filled with events and happenings. This is the newness I love. A fresh start. Another chance to do better than the day, week, or month before.

the beginning of life: beautiful killdeer eggs
another "new" start: our herb garden is sprouting!
Throughout the "7" experience I have been trying to be more intentional about my gratitude-- to others, and most importantly, to God. In this fast paced, always connected world, it is so easy to overlook those  simple moments that really mean so much. This weekend Dustin and I were able to get home for a quick visit. Although we didn't get to visit everyone as we would have liked, we did have some special moments with some of our families. My mom and I got manicures-- one of our favorite special treats. We had supper with our parents and Dustin's brothers and I believe the entire restaurant was educated on the "awesomeness" of Lebron James! We celebrated Father's Day with my dad and granddaddy, and were able to visit with family members that aren't always in town when we are. When you sit down around the table with people you love and share stories, memories, and laughter-- life is good. We were able to spend some time with Dustin's grandparents as well. Dustin and his papa talked about guns, combines, and all kinds of manly, guy stuff and y'all I loved being right there with them. I couldn't tell you a single thing they said, because it was all way over my blonde head but I was so thankful to just experience that sweet moment between a grandson and his papa. I always tell Dustin I could listen to his papa read the phonebook because he just has one of those awesome narrator voices. Even though I didn't really contribute much to the conversation, I was so glad to witness it. Family time is the best time in my book.

I have a DaySpring Planner and my favorite part of it is that each week has a verse at the bottom of the page. I love the constant reminders from scripture each time I check my schedule or add something to it.  One of the verses that has stuck with me is: Stop and consider God's wonders {Job 37:14}. The context of the verse is that Elihu, a young man, is giving some words of wisdom to Job, a man who faced many tests and trials. But how applicable is this verse regardless of whether we are low in the valleys of life, or high on the mountain tops? As I said earlier, we are in a fast paced, connected world. Which can be wonderful at times, but don't you think that there's a chance we are missing out on blessings that we are given because we are too busy updating our Facebook status or uploading a photo on Instagram that we spent 5 minutes editing on A Beautiful Mess? *I am totally speaking to myself right now because I am so guilty of having my iPhone attached to my hand at all times. And by the way, I think social media is fabulous but I think we can miss out on those face-to-face relationships because we are glued to a tiny touchscreen.*

So my goal this month is to stop and consider God's wonders, and then thank Him for them. Ann Voskamp, a Christian author and blogger, has a Joy Dare, where you literally list 1000 gifts from God. There is even a free app where you can log photos of the gifts. While I am making an effort to be more connected face-to-face, I do appreciate this way to archive these gifts. I found an journal I hadn't used and plan to write them as well. I've mentioned before that I need double reminders! I love the greater awareness and appreciation for the beauty in the simple things.

my gratitude journal

So would you join me in aiming for an attitude of gratitude? God's blessings are all around us. We must only take the time to stop and consider