Posted by: Lauren | March 6, 2011

pasta, pasta

Hi friends & fam! Ok, so a couple weeks ago my sweet friends, Renee, Amelia, and Cindy came over for one of our regular girls’ dinners, and I flopped on taking pictures of them. I wanted to take a group photo, but completely forgot, and so I only have some people pictures of the food and Amelia and I making pasta before the other two arrived.

Did you catch that? Maaade pasta. Amelia is a baller and makes homemade pasta. It was divine, as in, there were some leftovers that I offered Joe the next day, and I was secretly hoping he wouldn’t be able to finish it all and I could have some. My wish came true.


IMG_6332 IMG_6330 IMG_6331


It’s a long process, and that doesn’t even include the dough making, which Meals did before she came over. But rolling it out was rather relaxing. After it gets thin enough, it goes through the fettuccine or spaghetti cutter—we chose fettuccine.

The process was extra nice with music and fancy drinks.



Amelia also brought some vodka and Simple (I think that was the brand?) Cosmo mix. Delicious!

Right before Joe left I realized we didn’t have a martini shaker. So he came out with this:

IMG_6333 Worked perfectly!


So our meal consisted of fettuccine with homemade sauce, turkey meatballs (cheated with Trader Joe’s), homemade light wheat artisan bread, and a big salad.


I loved this pasta sauce recipe! Joe’s cousin, Elaine, sent me the recipe and it is so simple and so delicious. Especially the next day, I always love pasta the next day. The flavors in the sauce can mingle and I noticed it had more of a kick. She adapted it from a Joy Bauer recipe in a magazine.

Spaghetti Sauce (I cut this recipe in half, which would be like a jar of pasta sauce, and just eyeballed the spices. Next time I’ll make the whole recipe-the leftovers are delicious. I also added just a sprinkle of sea salt.)

2 lg (28 oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 onion chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
1 T basil
1 T oregano
brown sugar (1 T?)
red pepper flakes or tobasco

Sauté the onion in olive oil until soft, adding garlic the last 1 min. of cooking time. Add balsamic vinegar, cook another min. add tomatoes, spices (I use dried), pepper, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes or Tobasco sauce (be careful to not overdo the red pepper flakes if you don’t like spicy). I have also halved this when I only have 1 can of tomatoes.

Dessert was so simple, thanks to a Jamie Oliver app on Amelia’s phone.


  • vanilla ice cream
  • bananas
  • raisins soaked in rum
  • toasted almonds, chopped
  • whipped cream
  • chocolate sauce
  • dark chocolate shavings


In two weeks, Joe and I will be joining Cindy, our brother-in-law Brandon, and four others from our church to head to Manaus, Brazil for a week! It’s a short term missions trip with our church, where we’ll be working in the English Institutes and visiting children in some orphanages. I am so excited! However, we’ll be saying goodbye to Cindy as she’ll be staying there to work for 6 months! She is amazing– following God’s awesome plan for her life, and while it will be so sad to say goodbye for a time, I know this will be such a blessed time for her.



Image source

I get these Daily Bible Verse emails, and thought I’d share the verse and commentary. So encouraged by God’s Word and His grace!

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” – 1 Timothy 1:15-16

“What good news! Paul calls himself dysfunctional. This is not flowery speech or false humility but a true assessment. We are qualified to do amazing things for God because our qualifications are not based upon us, but God’s unlimited patience. Just like Paul, this understanding should cause all of us to give thanks and praise. When we get this truth we’ll stop placing barriers in front of ourselves that God never intended and God will get the glory! Hallelujah!” Dave Whitehead, senior pastor at



Posted by: Lauren | February 13, 2011

baby dominic

My brother, Steve, and his wife, Sara, had their precious baby boy, Dominic, at 1:04 a.m. on 2/11/11. How awesome is his birthday?! He’s 6 lbs. 11oz and 20 inches long, and absolutely adorable!

Joe and I have been an uncle and auntie with baby Madelyn and Samuel; this is the first on my side of the fam. We love our nephews and niece so much!


IMG_6281 Sara was a champ! Holy cow it was a tough delivery and she was SO strong and calm! I’m so impressed by her! She is one tough momma!


So proud of my brudder. He’s already such an awesome daddy. My mom is so cute–first grandbaby for my parents!




Grandmas and Auntie Kiki 🙂





I love when he holds my finger!!


Baby glow worm. Getting some light treatment for bilirubin/jaundice? Not quite sure what it all means to be honest!



In his little tanning bed. Hopefully he will be going home today.

God is so good!!! This baby is already such a joy and blessing!

Psalm 139:13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.”



Posted by: Lauren | January 23, 2011

apple crisp duel

So the Bears didn’t make it. 😦 Normally, I don’t really like football, but I actually got into it tonight, and it got me so nervous! After they lost, I thought, “Well at least I don’t have to go through that again in 2 weeks!” Hah-that’s the spirit!

I also ate my weight in potato chips, peanut butter m&m’s and apple crisp today….

I think I might start sweating the scent of cinnamon, sugar, and apples.

Seriously, one time I made granola at night, and when I worked out the next morning, I smelled the granola! I know, I know, it’s weird, but I swear! I just kept thinking, “Wow, I smell so good!”

Please don’t stop reading my blog…

Last night after going out to dinner with our friends (Hi Ashley!), we came back to have some apple crisp (from my box o’ cheap apples). I found the recipe for Maple-Walnut Apple Crisp, from Cooking Light. I made it before dinner, than warmed it for about a minute in the microwave when we came home. At first I didn’t think that I was really wowed by it, but when I went back for more later than night and really got it hot, I liked it a lot more. It has a great crunch to it from the oats and walnuts, and not overwhelmingly sweet.



Then today, when my parents, Katie, and Sam came over for the football game, I made Tina’s “BEST Apple Crisp,” which my family absolutely raved about. My dad actually said, “This is the best apple crisp I’ve ever had!” 🙂 I followed the recipe, except that I peeled my apples, just so that there was a more even comparison to yesterday’s peeled apple crisp. I really liked how easy this was to make! 



So my verdict? I liked them both! I can’t decide, but I think if I were to make this for a crowd again, I would go with Tina’s recipe. Joe agrees. 🙂

For dinner I made another crowd pleaser that you’ve seen before, Turkey Bean Stoup, in the slow cooker. I cooked some brown basmati rice on the stovetop and scooped some of that in a bowl before topping with the turkey mix and cheese.


I love how easy, tasty, and healthy this recipe is-full of protein from the ground turkey, pinto beans, and kidney beans, and lots of veggies like celery, onions, carrots, and diced tomatoes. Add some water, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, and salt, and you’re all set. And like I’ve said before, it makes a lot!

I hope you all have a great week. Jesus wants to walk it with us. That’s where my joy is found-in Him. When I think I can do things on my own, or I’m fearful, or fill-in-the-blank, I’m encouraged by the Truth of His Word. He deserves first place, not just because He’s God, but because He loves us so much and knows that we only find lasting satisfaction when He is at the center, because we’ve been created to know Him and walk closely with Him.

Zephaniah 3:17, "The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV)

“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (NLT)



Posted by: Lauren | January 22, 2011

cinnamon apple pancakes

I know. 3 posts. 3 days. There should be some kind of party or something.

Yesterday, I bought two huge boxes of discounted produce for $1.49. Um, are you kidding me?! I basically did leaps of joy in Caputo’s and ran to put back my green bananas and huge bag of oranges.


I felt like people were looking in my cart at my boxes of cheap produce, and I just felt so cool thrifty.

Now, obviously, not everything is in great condition, but the bananas alone were worth $1.49, and when they start to turn brown, I’ll happily peel them and place them in a bag for frozen bananas, which we go through like crazy, what with green protein smoothies, peanut butter banana smoothies, and banana soft serve.

The rest of that box was filled with oranges, bell peppers, 2 butternut squash, a squished tomato, and other random broken produce items. So I washed and cut up the bell peppers and placed them in plastic bags for the freezer, which will be great to have on hand for chili, stir fries, etc.


So I have great plans for that box of mixed apples as well. Starting with this morning, when Joe and decided to make cinnamon apple pancakes.




Note: that mug contains hot syrup, that’s just how we roll.


So everything may seem all cute and picture perfect. Well, let’s just say that I started off in the kitchen rather hangry and nagging Joe to pull up the recipe on his phone again. I mean, how am I going to make these things if I can’t see the recipe?!

Then, I flipped the pancake off of the griddler and onto the stove.


Smooth. A bad word may have been said. I apologized. Joe took over.

Cinnamon Apple Pancakes recipe found here.



They look pretty good, huh? Well, some were. They were a little undercooked, and I think I’m having issues with my baking powder. Some bites tasted metallic and I noticed a few clumps of white (the baking powder). I guess I’m not mixing the dry enough? I don’t know. The recipe is great though, they just needed a bit more cooking and I need to resolve the baking powder issue.


We topped them with more apples (microwaved with cinnamon for 30 seconds), some pure maple syrup, and a drizzle of peanut butter. Some bites, yum. Other bites, not so much.

Just tryin’ to keep it real around here, folks.

Any other pancake flops? Literally or figuratively? Just me?

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8



Posted by: Lauren | January 21, 2011

good for your heart

2 new posts in 12 hours?! Unreal. I was so excited to share with you this morning, so here I am.

The past few days I’ve been loving a hot bowl of oat bran, covered with fruit, peanut butter, and honey. Did you know oat bran was good for you heart? I’m sure you did. But I’m going to tell you anyways, I mean, this is my blog.

This sweet heart bowl (Thank you Aunt Kathy!) contains soluble fiber, which your heart likes, because it lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol. Some other good things about oat bran? It has 7 grams of protein for each cup of cooked oat bran, almost 6 grams of fiber (compared to 4g for oatmeal). I eat oatmeal all the time too, but sometimes I just like to switch it up! It’s also filled with minerals like iron, magnesium and phosphorus. It’s also good for your heart because it has the vitamin thiamin, also known as B1, which is necessary for your heart and nerves to function properly.

Thanks for sharing in our mini health class blurb of the day! Sources from here and here.


Oat Bran with Fruit, Honey, and Peanut Butter

  • 1/4 cup dry oat bran
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp chia seeds or flax seeds (optional)
  • dash of salt
  • few shakes cinnamon
  • little glug of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 banana
  • berries (fresh or frozen, I defrosted my frozen berries)
  • peanut Butter-love me some crunchy PB in this!
  • honey

In a small saucepan, place the oat bran, water, chia seeds, and salt. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed and it it is creamy looking (about 5-7 minutes). Add in as much cinnamon and vanilla you like, stir and pour into bowl. Place a spoonful of peanut butter on there, watch it melt and get hungry, add fruit, and drizzle with honey. Enjoy!


I recommend it with a side of this:


REALLY good for your heart.

Titus 3: 4-7 “But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life.”



P.S. You guys are so quiet, but would you pipe in with something? 🙂 Would you like to read more posts like this? A little bit of health knowledge thrown in the mix? Smaller, more frequent posts? I’m all ears.

Posted by: Lauren | January 20, 2011

new year, new recipes

Hi guys! I know it’s been awhile! Part of me can’t believe it’s been over a month since I posted something new, and another part of me feels like it really has been awhile. Anyone else ever feel like that? Like time goes by at warp speed, and yet it doesn’t? Hah, all that to say, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and a great start to your new year-we certainly did! God’s been teaching us so much this past month, and I think He’s got some exciting things in store, so I’ll be sure to share soon! (No, I’m not preggers.) I’m currently sitting on the couch completely stuffed from devouring Jenna’s Creamy White Chicken Chili.


This, my friends, is what you call a total crowd pleaser (in this case, crowd consisting of Joe and me, but still). So easy to make, such a great flavor, and very satisfying. Thanks Katie for my fun soup bowls!

I’ve got some recipes to share too!


Turkey and Oat Burgers

You may be thinking, “Oats? That’s odd.” But I assure you, you will never taste, feel, or see an oat in this burger while eating them. I passed this recipe on to a friend, and she made them twice already. We love ‘em!

Adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1.5 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup salsa (used Trader Joe’s fire roasted tomato salsa)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1.25 tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • sprinkle garlic powder
  • 1 egg

Mix all ingredients together and form into 8 patties. Cook on preheated nonstick sprayed griddle or large nonstick frying pan for about 6 minutes on each side.

We grilled some onions alongside to top the burgers-we highly recommend it. 🙂

We’d also recommend eating this for dessert:


Thanks to Pippi and Tim for my fun ice cream bowls! She knows me so well. This was just two bananas pureed in the food processor until creamy (no liquids), with a small spoonful of peanut butter, and at the end, I pulsed in some chocolate chunks. (In case you don’t read many blogs, I’m not the creator of this! It’s been around for awhile!) 🙂


Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

Joe and I really enjoyed this, and I believe our awesome friend Amelia did as well. Right Meals? So easy, comforting, and delish. Please, serve this with toasted sour dough bread. Dip, crunch, chew, savor. You won’t regret it.

  • 5 chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced
  • 3 large carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 3 red potatoes
  • sprinkle sea salt
  • generous shakes black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Shake of dried Rosemary
  • Shake of dried Thyme

    Place cans of tomatoes in slow cooker, then veggies, then chicken, sprinkled with minced garlic and seasonings. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

    Does raw chicken gross you out? Sorry. But layer like so:



    I love feeling all domestic and making things from scratch. This was my first time making apple sauce. We had some apples that weren’t all that flavorful to eat on their own and getting old (they were organic red delicious apples). This recipe is easy and super healthy as you can leave the peels on-where the fiber is. 


Homemade Apple Sauce

  • 5 apples, chopped (not peeled!)
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 packet of stevia (or 2 tsp. regular sugar)
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon (I didn’t measure and dumped in way too much)

    Cook chopped apples in lemon juice, water, stevia and cinnamon on medium high for 5-10 minutes. Transfer apples to a food processor and process until smooth.



It didn’t make a ton, which could partially be because I stood over the stove and kept taking chunks of apple out and into my mouth. Yum.



Homemade Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

I’ve been inspired to make my own PB cups after seeing different recipes on blogs for over a year now. You can feel so much better about these as you can make them entirely without sugar, and one is really quite satisfying.



Homemade Dark Chocolate

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 30 drops liquid stevia*

Melt coconut oil in a small saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir until smooth.

*If you don’t have stevia, you can just sweeten to taste with honey. All I do is add sweetener and keep taking little licks until it’s where I want it-which is probably comparable to 70% dark chocolate.

Homemade Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

1. Place muffin liners in 9 muffin cups.

2.Prepare dark chocolate as directed above, spooning a tablespoon in each muffin cup. Place in fridge until chocolate is set.

3.Then add a tsp of peanut butter to the center of each cup, and cover with another tablespoon of melted chocolate. Refrigerate until chocolate has set again.


Check out the giant tub of coconut oil! Love this stuff–so good for you, not only for cooking and baking, but for hair, skin, etc. (Obviously, don’t use the same container for your body that you do for your cooking! Ew, no?) I order mine from Vitacost which seems to be a good deal.

Do not make 12 cups-they turn out too thin, obviously I learned through trial and error. Stick with 9.


My first batch turned out looking rather ugly on top, not sure why, but doesn’t matter- we loooove these! Joe demolishes them, and he is a hardcore Reese’s fan, but loves my healthy dark chocolate version! That’s saying a lot! Several others have tried and loved as well.

This is Joe’s cute picture of my ugly first batch of peanut butter cups:


God has encouraged me so much with these verses-I thought they were so great for the New Year.

Isaiah 43:18-19 "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."



Posted by: Lauren | December 15, 2010

christmas cookie exchange

Warning: If you have a raging sweet tooth, are trying to exercise some sort of self control this time of year…or are just generally hungry, you may want to divert your eyes.

Otherwise, enjoy!

Katie C. brought Peppermint Bark Cookies


Peppermint Joe Joe Truffles from Katie O. (Peppermint Joe Joe’s are Trader Joe’s peppermint Oreos.) IMG_5221

Dough Balls from me IMG_5222

I also brought these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies from a recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (they’re called “Peanut Butter Oatmeal Rounds”. (Can I just say how much I love that cookbook? Thanks Gwen!)IMG_5224

Buckeyes from ReneeIMG_5225

Katie O. also brought these peppermint brownie “cupcakes”IMG_5226

Chewy Chocolate Cake Cookies from Amanda IMG_5227

Katie C. also brought Peppermint Crinkle Cookies IMG_5228

Lora brought Peanut Butter Kisses Cookies. What’s the official name for these?IMG_5229

Amelia brought pumpkin chocolate chip cookies IMG_5230





As you can see, there was no shortage of cookies up in here! We also got to love on sweet Halle with Kim as our host! To end the night, we shared all that God has been teaching us and working on us during our study of the book, “Lies Women Believe: And the Truth that Sets them Free” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. God has been teaching me so much and working on my heart and mind during the past few months of studying His Word through this book, and I can tell you that we highly recommend it!

IMG_5245 IMG_5220 IMG_5223 IMG_5234

Check out how cute Halle is in her Christmas outfit!


Thank you to Katie C. for the above picture!

“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Ephesians 4:15



Posted by: Lauren | December 10, 2010


When I was contacted to join in a night of celebrating the culture of Mexico with the Mexico Tourism Board at Mexique restaurant in Chicago, I jumped at the chance. And then invited my husband along as well.

You see, we have a shared history with Mexico, beginning in 8th grade.

SCAN0193 copy Can you see us?

SCAN0193Oh yes. There we are.

No, we weren’t dating back then, but we were friends, and we had an amazing trip with our church’s youth group to help build a church and reach out to the people of Matamoros with Christ’s love.

Fast forward over 8 years later, and we travelled back to Mexico, this time as newlyweds.

Edited to add: That picture above in Mexico was taken exactly 8 years before the day we got married! Just realized the date of July 3rd!

Before I knew what a food blog was, I started snapping away at all the incredible, flavorful food we were eating.

IMG_2394 IMG_2296 IMG_1963 IMG_1999 IMG_2037 IMG_2113

IMG_2036 IMG_2114


So, all that to say, we love Mexico. And we want to go back. But for now, we enjoyed an amazing dinner at Mexique on a cold, snowy night in Chicago.


Earlier that day, I went to Mexique’s website and watched a video of Chef Carlos Gaytan tell the story of how this restaurant came to be. This was one passionate chef, and I was excited to sample his creations.


That night we were able to hear him tell about his story of growing up in Mexico with a father who hunted for game, and a mother who was incredibly creative at putting together amazing meals. He said that his friends who had money would always come to his home, although they had little, because his mother was such an amazing cook. Isn’t that beautiful?

That passion and creativity was passed down to Chef Carlos, who truly is an artist with his food, and puts together the ingredients of Mexico in completely new and unique ways.


The restaurant itself is minimalist, clean, and modern, and just as Chef Carlos’ desires, nothing distracts from the food. As he says, “art is supposed to be on the plate.”



I really enjoyed the simple art, warm lighting, and exposed brick. Oh exposed brick, how I love your urban coolness.


We toasted with a bit of Cava Champaign.


IMG_5338 Our first course was the ceviche, which was hands down Joe and my favorite savory course of the evening (and Joe’s favorite of all). Chef Carlos shared with us that this is not typical ceviche, it is not cured as most are, and I really appreciated the difference here.


Usually when I eat ceviche, I taste a lot of citrus (the fish is cured in that), but this had none. It was sushi grade tuna, lightly covered in a guacamole & heavy cream mousse with hints of spice from the chipotles, a slight crunch of red onions, and a clean finish of cilantro and ginger. This was so fresh and delicious, and started us off on the right foot. To the right is mango habanero galette, which was subtly sweet at first, with a bit of a chew, and then a nice spicy note hit the back of my tongue from the habanero. It was refreshing in a very interesting way!


With the second course I sipped on a tiny bit of red and got excited for some pork belly.




Chef Carlos explained that this pork was braised for four hours and covered in a hibiscus flower glaze. The meat was SO tender. I really enjoyed the full, smoky, spicy flavor of this dish as well as the different textures. And the explanation of the creamy corn underneath the pork made me smile: it’s cooked in duck fat and pork lard. I’m sorry, but how often do you get to eat food cooked in duck fat and pork lard? Fat doesn’t scare me, unless I’m biting into a big hunk of it in meat, and then I’m disgusted. I despise the chew. This had no chew, folks. It was delicious. Sadly, the mole didn’t win Joe and I over, despite it’s incredible 28 ingredients (including coconut!). Other guests at our table seemed to really enjoy it, however, so maybe we’re just not mole people? I also would’ve loved some fresh greens to go along with this and balance out the richness, but that’s just my veggie loving self.

With the third course I also had a few sips of this Cabernet Sauvignon (La Flor).




Unfortunatly, I was not impressed with this dish. I took a few bites of the steak and gave the rest to Joe, who thought it was great. I thought it was a bit chewy and lacked flavor. I did however, enjoy the potatoes and spinach, and the creamy goat cheese chipotle fondue was tasty, but I was left feeling underwhelmed with this dish. It takes a lot to win me over with a cut of meat to be honest.

But oh, what sweet deliciousness awaited me!


That my friends, would be one of the best desserts I’ve had.


Can you handle this warm, gooey lava of chocolate goodness? Or creamy pure vanilla ice cream atop a bed of fried cinnamon sugar dough?


I think not.


Chef Carlos has a fun spin on desserts. Since he doesn’t include “typical” Mexican fare such as enchiladas and guacamole on his regular menu, he has them on his dessert menu, in of course, a totally unique and delicious way. This chocolate tamale was unreal. I’ll take one more right now, please. Thanks.

Chef also explained that this chocolate comes from an amazing cacao plantation in the Tabasco region of Mexico.

Also finished the night off with baby sips of 100% pure agave tequila. It was warm going down with notes of vanilla and a hint of smokiness. You won’t find mixed drinks at Mexique, as they can conflict with the flavors of the food, and Chef Carlos knows the passion and time invested into quality tequila, and it is meant to be sipped, savored, and as an aid to digestion after a delicious meal.


And what a delicious meal this was.

I’m so glad that Joe and I were able to take part in such a fun evening. We also had some wonderful company at our table with Liz who is an editor at Plate magazine and has a fun blog with yummy Chicago restaurants and such, and Scott and Luis, who have a a great website if you’re looking to travel to Mexico.




Disclaimer: I was contacted by Ogilvy Public Relations to attend this dinner free of charge, however, all of my opinions are 100% my own.

Posted by: Lauren | December 5, 2010


Saturday morning I woke up to this:


So cozy, but Joe was working, so I bummed around and didn’t feel like driving in it, or rather trying to get out of the driveway.

So I made these:


Mama Pea’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Dough Balls. Joe was home by the time I made them, so he ate copious amounts of dough and thought it was delicious. I ate a bite once they cooled and was amazed at how they melted in my mouth. They are very rich! My sweets appetite has been totally off though, so just a bite to test was fine by me.



I’m so weird, sometimes I am a total cookie monster and can eat 7 cookies in a day (yes, did that a few weeks ago with these vegan Super Charge Me Cookies), and other times (very few) I make big batches of cookies and give them away and don’t even feel like one. Anyone else like this? I know, I’m weird.

Here are the changes I made to the Dough Balls:

  • replaced the margarine with organic butter
  • used 1.5 cups of white wheat flour instead of the mix of whole wheat pastry and all purpose (I didn’t have the whole wheat pastry flour).
  • used 1 cup semi sweet chips instead of 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup peanut butter chips (I only can find peanut butter chips with nasty ingredients, so I was fine with just the peanut butter in the dough).
  • I was able to get 2 dozen dough balls out of the recipe (it is a very dry dough that comes together when you mold the dough in your hand). I also baked them on parchment paper, because that stuff is amazing.

I’ll be baking some more and bringing them to a Christmas Cookie Exchange with my Bible study girls on Tuesday!

Earlier for lunch I made us a meal we’ve been loving:


Scrambled eggs, Dr. Praeger’s veggie burger (I just cut one in half for lunch, hence why you can’t see it under the pickle), baked sweet potato (wrapped in foil and baked at 350 for one hour in toaster oven), and salad with apple and peppers topped with Trader Joe’s Champaign gorgonzola dressing. Mmmm I love this meal! (We eat our scrambled eggs with organic ketchup and the veg burgers with mustard.)

For dinner I made a recipe that my Aunt Sharon sent to me, but had to make several changes based on what I had on hand. I’ll share her recipe, and my adapted one as well! It was deeelish!


Chicken Tetrazzini (my adapted version)

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 package sliced and chopped mushrooms
  • Cream of Chicken substitute*
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp each sea salt and pepper
  • 8 oz spaghetti, broken in half, cooked al dente
  • 3 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

*Cream of Chicken Substitute

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Melt butter in a skillet.

3. Saute onions, mushrooms, and celery just until tender.

4. Add wine, allow to cook for a minute, then add soup, milk, stirring to blend. Cook until mixture thickens somewhat.

5. Add parmesan and chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

6. In the bottom of a lightly greased 13×9 baking dish, scatter cooked pasta.

7. Pour soup mixture over pasta and top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.

8. Bake 25-30 minutes.


Aunt Sharon’s Turkey Tetrazzini

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 or more stalks of celery
  • 8 oz linguini, broken in half, cooked al dente
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chopped turkey breast
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or dry cooking sherry)
  • 1 cup extra sharp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • sauteed mushrooms or jar mushrooms (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Melt butter in a skillet.

3. Saute onions and celery just until tender.

4. Add soup, wine, milk, and cream, stirring to blend. Cook until some of wine evaporates and mixture thickens somewhat.

5. Add cheddar cheese and turkey.

6. Add salt and pepper (sauteed mushrooms if deisred).

7. In the bottom of laightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish, scatter pasta

8. Pour soup mixture over pasta and top with Parmesan cheese and panko crumbs. Bake 25-30 minutes.


YUM! I always loved it when my mom made Turkey Tetrazzini growing up. This a definitely a “comfy” meal to have in the wintertime.

Some more comfy food:

This sad picture does not do this dish justice! My Aunt Kathy gave me this slow cooker calendar that has some awesome recipes in it. This one was called “Football Bean Serve” but I think I’ll call it…

Turkey Bean Stoup this serves 12, but it didn’t last long around here! I’m sharing my adapted recipe:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2-3 cups diced carrots
  • 2 15-oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 or 2 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed (I used one)
  • 2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin powder
  • <1 Tbsp. sea salt (calls for 1 Tbsp, I used just shy of that)

1. Brown turkey with onions in a skillet over medium heat (I added a little EVOO). Add celery and carrots and cook until just wilted. Place in slow cooker.

2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.

3. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours (I cooked it for 6 hours).

4. Serve over cooked brown rice. Serve with sprinkled cheese on top if desired.

This is a keeper recipe that everyone will like, serves a crowd, and is so easy! It isn’t chili, but it isn’t soup, so we’ll go with stoup a la Rachael Ray.

I bulked up some pasta sauce with eggplant sautéed in olive oil with garlic, spinach, and roasted plum tomatoes. I love hearty, veggie heavy pasta.


I’ve made this soup several times this season and people really enjoy it, and it couldn’t be easier. I made this at my sister’s and I told her, “It looks pretty plain, but I think it tastes really good.” Then she took a bite and was amazed and was so impressed with how flavorful it is. I think the onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil is key.

Easy Vegetable Soup

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and pepper
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 32 oz organic chicken broth
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1/2 or 1 cup cooked brown rice, or 1/2 cup minute brown rice

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat until soft, then add chopped carrot and cook for several minutes. Add frozen vegetables and salt and pepper and cook several more minutes.

2. Add chicken broth either cooked brown rice, or I had a box of “Minute Brown Rice” so I added 1/2 cup of that directly. It is partially precooked, so it won’t absorb the broth like uncooked brown rice would, and it cooks in just 10 minutes. Enjoy!


Isn’t Katie’s centerpiece pretty? It was from a wedding. 🙂


I love my sissy and Joe and I love hanging out with her and Sam. Katie and I are usually in sweats on these comfy cozy nights…


I found this photo on my camera that Joe took of K and my feet. Thought it was funny.


After about 7 years, Joe and I got new glasses…nice little break for our contact wearing eyes.

Or you can just call us 4 eyes.

Oh and check out Joe’s Christmas colors. I won’t deny that that was done on purpose.

He’s cute.


Sam made deeelicious bbq pepperoni pizza.


I made this tasty quinoa dish for Joe and I for lunch last weekend when we were so busy raking, cleaning up the attic, decorating, and hanging the lights outside. It was so easy and fast.


Greek Quinoa

  • 1 cup quinoa (cooked to package directions)
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • Chopped plum tomato
  • Sliced pepperoncini peppers
  • Feta cheese

Combine and enjoy!

I don’t care for savory things for breakfast, but I love eggs for lunch and dinner. One day for lunch I sautéed purple cabbage, carrots, peppers, and frozen peas and corn in butter with some salt and pepper and enjoyed these veggies with 2 over easy eggs and hot sauce.


Look at those colors!


Healthier Eggplant Parmesan

This may be healthier, but it is just as tasty as the original! I baked the eggplant in a similar way to these Zucchini Chips with the help of a recipe from Eating Well.


  • 2 medium sized eggplants, sliced 1/4 in thick
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • sprinkle of mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place parchment paper on baking sheet.

2. Whisk together eggs and water. In a separate bowl, combine panko, breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper.

3.Dredge eggplant slices in egg and panko mixture. Lay on parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake for 15 more minutes.

4. In a 13×9 in baking dish layer sauce, eggplant, sauce, eggplant, sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

This is just as good as the fried version!

Saw this on sweet Heather’s blog for some Elvis inspired waffles, specifically peanut butter waffles with grilled bananas and bacon. Um, yes. Go here for her recipe and links.



Cinnamon Roasted Nuts recipe adapted from here

  • 4 cups mixed nuts (I used 1 cup almonds, 1 cup pecans, 1 cup walnuts, and 1 cup peanuts. I’ve also made these with a bag of mixed nuts. I would’ve added cashews! They’re delicious in this!)
  • 1 egg white or 3 Tbsp liquid egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Place parchment paper on jelly role or baking sheet.
  2. Lightly beat the egg white; add vanilla extract, and beat until frothy but not stiff. Add the nuts, and stir until well coated. Mix the sugar, salt, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the nuts. Toss to coat, and spread evenly on the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in the preheated oven, stirring every 20 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool, then store nuts in airtight containers.

My momma gave me this ornament. It’s a favorite. 🙂


As is this one from Aunt Kathy.


IMG_5208Are you feeling all comfy cozy where you live, or just bummed that it’s cold? Try and focus on the positives of winter!

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4



Posted by: Lauren | November 27, 2010

thanksgiving 2010

Thursday morning started out with an intense class at the gym, and coming home and watching some of the parade with Joe. I did a little baking and cooking before heading out to my Uncle Vito and Aunt Kathy’s (who live like 2 minutes away).

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Carrots


(Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper. Baked at 375 for 50 minutes.)

I’m so thankful for an amazing family and friends, good health, and not just delicious, nourishing food, but the fact that I have never known true hunger and have never had to worry about how I was going to get food on the table. Oh, you guys, we are so blessed! Let’s never take that for granted! Gratefulness is always something I need to work on-sadly, I find it way too easy to take things for granted or to complain. And like I said the other day, I’m most grateful to know the God who is love, the Giver of all these gifts, the One who gave His Son to die for me.

Thanksgiving was a good day.


Katie and I love tiiiny things, including tiny beer steins.

It was so fun to have Joe’s younger sister Anna with us as the rest of the fam was out of town and she had school and work. There was some Catch Phrase and Mario 64 thrown in, which was obviously awesome.

IMG_5109 IMG_5076 IMG_5079 IMG_5080 IMG_5082 IMG_5083 IMG_5089 IMG_5090

IMG_5108 IMG_5088

I didn’t get one of U. Gary, A. Michelle, and Sam, and we missed Sara who was taking care of patients all day! 😦

There was so much delicious food! Brussel sprout casserole, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, veggies with bacon, stuffing, roasted veggies, balsamic roasted broccoli, turkey, gruyere Champaign cauliflower, and Grandma’s Jell-O molds. IMG_5093 IMG_5094 IMG_5095 IMG_5096 IMG_5097 IMG_5098 IMG_5099 IMG_5100 IMG_5101 IMG_5102 IMG_5092

Grandma always makes her Jell-o molds! 🙂

And the desserts! My mom made those chocolate chip bars which are unreal. There is an Oreo crust and then she added peppermint extract to the condensed milk, and there were pecans, shredded coconut and chocolate chips on top. They were inspired by a recipe my Aunt Sharon sent, but Mom couldn’t find the mint chocolate chips so she substituted with the pep extract and they were perfect. Homemade coconut cake and Katie’s gingerbread pumpkin trifle were amazing as well!

IMG_5069 IMG_5110 IMG_5111 IMG_5112

Random, but has anyone seen those American Airline commercials with the military girl in the airport?! Oh man, I just started crying, I kid you not. Thankful as well to live in this country, with brave people and families who make sacrifices for us, and the gift of living in a country where I am totally free to write and share about my faith. We are blessed.

“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 2:6-7



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