In constant pursuit of coffee and Christ

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Best Ever Vegetable Soup

I love the fall. The changing leaves, bon fires, snugly blankets, fuzzy socks, and soup. While my garden didn't produce the massive tomato crop I was hoping for, I was able to can several jars of the red stuff. So, when my husband looked at me the other night and asked "what's for dinner, babe?" my taste buds went straight for tomato soup, which quickly evolved into the best ever vegetable soup I have ever made.

This soup is hardy, flavorful, quick, and easy to make, as well as meat free and inexpensive.

Can you say, WINNING!

Back before Ben and I started dating, we were exchanging e-mails (yes, we are that old), during which he dedicated an entire message to trying to impress me with his cooking skills. To the best of my memory (oh, how I wish I would have saved those messages!), his email went something like this:

"After my run I decided to make dinner. Soup sounded good so I threw some together and I must say, it was quite tasty"

OK, I'm sure there was more to his message than that, but this is the part that has stuck with me these thirteen years. His cooking skills impressed me then, and impress me still.

One of the most important things when making soup is allowing enough time for all the flavors to meld together. If you don't have at least an hour, don't make soup from scratch. Ever wonder why soups taste so much better after they've sat in the cooler overnight and have been reheated? It's because all of those wonderful ingredients spent the night together and got to know each other better. This soup is no exception to the rule, though straight from the fresh pot was "quite tasty" too.

This recipe fed my family of three for several meals so feel free to cut it in half or freeze the remainder :-)

2 quarts canned tomato 
(diced, halved, whatever your preference)
2 quarts water
(I like to fill the empty tomato jar to make sure I have all the flavor)
1 can three bean blend - drained 
(black, pinto, kidney)
1 can black beans - drained 
3 cups green beans*
2 cups kale*
1Tbs basil
1Tbs parsley
1Tbs black pepper
1Tbs onion powder
1Tbs garlic salt
1Tbs sea salt
1/2 medium yellow squash**
1 head broccoli**
4 carrots**
4 stalks celery**
12oz Tricolor rotini  

**Fresh (seeded/diced)

In a large soup pot, combine all ingredients except the pasta. Bring to medium simmer until carrots are just tender. Add rotini, lower heat and allow to slow simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. 

Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan and Romano cheese. 


See, I told ya it was easy ;-) 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oatmeal Dinner Rolls

With the holidays coming up, if you're anything like me, you're starting to compile your special recipes.

I stumbled upon this recipe several years ago while looking for something to make for Thanksgiving. My mom had stacks of recipe books, catalogs, etc. and I sat on the dining room floor and sorted through all of them. Finally, I found a recipe I felt worth trying in an old Taste of Home catalog (click on link for original recipe).

Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday so I wanted my contribution to be meaningful, full of love, tasty, healthy-ish (it is a holiday after all).

I wanted to serve a little piece of me.

Not only are these rolls fun to make, they are delicious. There was not one roll left after our Thanksgiving dinner, a chef/bakers true sign of success. These rolls have been a Thanksgiving tradition ever since.

Through the years I have altered the recipe slightly from the original to better suite my personal preferences.

So, here it is, a little piece of my heart for you to serve to your family.

From my kitchen to yours.

Oatmeal Dinner Rolls


2C water
1C Quick Oats
3 Tbs Butter
2 1/2 Tsp Active Dry Yeast
1/3C Warm Water
1/3C Packed Brown Sugar
1Tbs Sugar
1 1/2 Tsp Salt
4 3/4 - 5 1/4C All Purpose Flour

In saucepan, bring water to a boil; add oats and butter, cooking for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Add sugars and salt. Let oat mixture rest until lukewarm (about 20 minutes).

In a large mixing bowl combine warm water and yeast, stirring gently until all yeast is dissolved.
*Don't use hot water as it will kill the yeast

Add oat mixture to yeast and stir gently, then add 4C flour and combine until smooth. 
*Too much flour will result in a very dense roll. You can go up to 5C if you wish, but tread carefully
Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn dough onto floured surface and kneed until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
*Give your hands a quick douse in non stick spray to prevent the dough from sticking

Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to grease both sides. Cover and let rest in a warm, draft free, place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into balls ( bigger gets you more, smaller gets you less... you get the idea) and place in greased baking pan (round, square... you want them to just be touching). Cover and let rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until desired level of golden has been achieved.

Remove and let cool on wire rack.

** Try adding some cinnamon to your dough or sprinkle some cinnamon sugar over them just before baking

ENJOY! :-)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Social Media Part 1 - Our Weekend Without

I remember my very first day on The Facebook (as it was originally called) back in 2004. I was greeted by a very two dimensional blue and white page with designated areas for your profile picture, about me section, and the ability to connect with students from your university as well as select others. You were not permitted access without a .edu email address. Everything you could possibly imagine doing on The Facebook could be accomplished in under five minutes - and that was if you were really bored and needed to stretch your time. Soon I was connected with over 500 students, all of whom I knew personally through a shared class or exchange of an originally overpriced, underused, text book. There were no hours spent scrolling through the news feed, no games to play, etc. just a clean and simple way to connect with other students.

The Facebook 2004

Ahhh... back when life was less complicated. 

Today I not only maintain my Facebook account (they dropped the "The" back in 2005, probably because nobody ever said it) but also spend time on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Snapchat. I am almost always involved in one or more of these forms of social media. Now, I will say, that it is not always for personal reasons but because I am a Scentsy consultant and rely heavily on the involvement of others.

Family time is precious in this household. Rarely do we have an entire weekend with no commitments. When we realized how little Ben would be home for the month of September, and how hectic all of October was destined to be, we decided to set an entire weekend aside to just be "us".

As Friday approached I started thinking of how nice it would be to have as little distraction as possible for our family weekend. After checking to see what Ben thought, we agreed that we were going to un-plug from all social media starting Friday afternoon. We let our friends and family know that all communication would need to be via phone and then completely un-installed social media from our lives. 

Friday night was football night! Ben played TE/DE throughout his high school years so deciding to attend the homecoming game of his alma mater was a give in. While at the game we were completely focused on being together, letting our little man be as involved as possible in all that was going on.

Barrett on the field with daddy 
We walked a few laps, reminiscing about our high school days and how much we've missed the field. I attended every game I could, sitting in the same general spot on the bleachers and at half time enjoying a sour apple blow pop. 
Sharing momma's sucker 
Not only was this our sons first football game, but his first taste of halftime tradition.

Saturday we left Bear with grandma and headed off to one of my most favoritest places, Cedar Point.

The Gatekeeper

Without the distraction of social media, we talked the entire drive, both ways. In place of browsing through news feeds and pictures while standing in line we talked, we stood in silence observing everyone else being "together alone" or "alone together" or however you want to phrase it when nobody is paying attention to anyone else because they're staring at their phones. For an entire 15 hours we only looked at our phones to check up on our boy or for directions to Starbucks. 

The Mantis
Sunday after church we ran home to grab our sweet boxer girl, Sydney, then off we went to our favorite orchard for apple picking, Branstool Orchards. Barrett was able to pick his own apples, with some help from daddy, and we all enjoyed the perfectly sunny day.

My little family 

Bear and the first apple he picked

After an entire 48 hours (plus a few on Friday) without any of the distractions we have come to welcome into our lives, I can honestly tell you that we did not miss social media at all, and I don't think it missed us either. 

Monday came and with it the re-installment of social media to our lives. We aren't on nearly as much as before our sabbatical, and I intend to keep it that way. Now when Ben gets home from work our phones are placed on a shelf, where we will check them from time to time. Instead of being so concerned and giving so much attention to what's going on everywhere else I want to be fully present here, in my home, with my perfect little family. Don't worry, I'll still be bombarding your news feeds with pictures and video of my son and random facts about our day, just not as often. 

In the weeks since our little experiment we have made great sides in removing ourselves from being as dependent upon social media and even television (we don't have cable, just Netflix and Hulu and are still parked on the couch way too often!). The difference has been so refreshing!

Ben and I have decided to replace our TV time (normally about an hour after the kiddo is asleep) with craft time. I am trying my hand at wine bottle art and he has taken to stippling. We make tea, sit at the kitchen table, put on some music and let the creative sides of our brains take over. Conversation is fluid as we bounce ideas off of the other and will pause randomly to sing along to one of our favorite songs.

Even if you're not into arts and crafts, even if Football and amusement parks aren't your thing, I encourage you to "un-plug" for a day, or three. Be fully present in your here and now.

Who knows, you may just like it.

Messy fun is the best