I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Best Friday.

My family adores Christmas.  We go all out for it.  The season starts in October in our house, and although we love the gifts and decor and traditions, we've always made much of the fact that we celebrate because of Jesus.  I love advent.  And manger scenes.  And Christmas hymns.  

So it is easy to focus on the gift of the Messiah.  It's sweet and lovely and precious.  

It's a baby.  Everyone loves babies.

But over the last few years, we have slowly begun to transition Easter from a bunny-filled egg hunt to a celebration of something that feels dark and heavy and difficult to explain to kids.

Because it totally matters.

Last year, we did this, and my kids really loved the "tasty Jesus," but this year I decided I wanted to focus more on why we needed Easter.

We started by reading Romans 3:23.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

I showed them a dry erase board, and we talked about how even though it was pretty and white and clean, our hearts don't look like that on their own.  We have sin. 

Together, we made a list of some of the sins we know we fight: disobedience, anger, hatred, unkindness, anxiety...so many sins.  I used a black Sharpie to write our list on the dry erase board, darkening the clean white surface.

I gave them each a napkin and told them to get rid of what we had written.  They tried and tried, but no matter how hard they rubbed, they could not remove the stain of their sins.

So we talked about all the things we could do to try and fix our hearts, and I used a purple Sharpie to write over the sins.  We could go to church...and more church...and even more church.  We could read our Bibles.  We can even homeschool.  Again, they tried to use that to wipe away the sins.  Still, the iniquities remained.

I read Isaiah 64:6.

"...all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment..."

So we discussed all the righteous deeds we could do- all the things the world will tell us will make all of our sins okay.  I used a blue Sharpie to cover what we had written.  We can give away all of our things.  We can simply accept everything and everyone.  We can be kind.  We can be nice. 

We looked at our board and talked about how those sins we wrote were much harder to see now.  Attending church regularly and being nice can make it harder for others to see those sins.

But try as they might, even these good deeds simply could not remove our sins.  All their attempts to erase the words we wrote were futile.

We read Romans 5:8.

"But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

This is the gospel.  This is the purpose of Easter- as dark and sad and scary as it might seem, it is the best news.  God didn't wait for us to fix our own hearts because He knew we never could.  He sent us Jesus, who would die a horrible, painful death so that we didn't have to.

I used a red dry erase marker and boldly wrote "Jesus" over the top of everything we had already written, and I told the kids to see what Jesus did to our sins.

And as they wiped away the red, they saw a clean board beneath- because Jesus makes us clean in a way we never can do for ourselves.

As we celebrate Easter this weekend, I pray their hearts are cleaned and changed. 

And I pray they can see the good in Good Friday.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Cheese Danish.

As a kid, one of the things I always loved most about holidays was all the special yummy treats we got.  It wasn't an everyday occurrence for us to have homemade sweet breads, so when my mom made pumpkin bread at Christmas, it was always a happy treat.  Thanksgiving brought us mud pie- still my favorite dessert of all time!- and Easter gave us rice crispy treats or cookies and often both.

As an adult, one of the things I love most about holidays are all the special yummy treats we get.

But it's different when you're the one who has to actually make said treats.

Now I want something simple that has a big payoff.

This year, Easter is bringing us pastries.

Because yummy.

And easy.

This recipe took me a total of 23 minutes from start to finish, and with only a few ingredients, it really is a perfect Easter morning dessert...I mean...breakfast...

Here's what you'll need:
2 tubes of crescent rolls
8 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

I do want to start off by saying that if you are a pastry purist, feel free to substitute the crescent rolls for puff pastry you find in the freezer section of the grocery store.  (Or make it yourself if you're really ambitious...)  I made this recipe with both, and I opted to go with the crescent rolls for a few reasons.  Crescent rolls are so much easier to work with.  The puff pastry needs to thaw overnight in the fridge, and it required water to seal the edges and an egg wash to brown up all pretty like.  The puff pastry just required much more time and energy.  In the end, Bird genuinely loved both, so I opted to go with the easier option.

Start off with room temp cream cheese.  I microwaved mine for 20-30 seconds, but feel free to pull it out of the fridge the night before.  Cream it together with the sugar, vanilla, and egg yolk.

Be tempted to eat this without cooking it.

But don't do that because eggs aren't supposed to be consumed raw.

But I licked the spatula anyway.

Next, lay out the crescent rolls.  You'll actually connect two of the triangles to make a rectangle.  You'll get 8 total from the two tubes of dough.  Once the seams are closed up, spoon a good dollop of the cream cheese mixture on top.

Fold the ends up together and press to seal.  

What a yummy looking boat.

Bake at 400 for 12-14 minutes, just until browned.

You can dust these with powdered sugar, make a quick glaze from powdered sugar and milk, or eat plain.

If you're feeling a little plain Jane with these, before you bake them, spoon a bit of jam or chocolate on top of the cream cheese mixture.

Or nutella.

I used the Hershey's spread from the peanut butter isle, and my girls went nuts over them.

Ultimately, these are a great canvas to be creative.

Enjoy, and happy Easter!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Burst Tomato Pasta.

Oklahoma has been unusually mild this winter.

I'm talking 60s-and-70s-in-February-kind-of-mild.

It has been glorious.

But it has really made me long for spring so I can plant a garden.  Which I'm sure will make me long for summer so I can harvest my garden.  And of course, that will make me long for dinner time so I can enjoy my harvest.

Nothing I'm planting has me more excited than cherry tomatoes. My dad always grew them for me, and as an adult, I love cooking with them.  As I gear up for what I hope will be a bountiful harvest in a few months, I've been working on recipes I can use as go-to dinner ideas that will use my favorite Oklahoma crop.

Enter: This recipe.

This pasta is so good.  It's so so good.  It's so so so....good.  It's so good, in fact, that my husband ate a bowl of it and made me look away as he drank the rest of the sauce in his bowl.  

It's pretty simple, too, and it really only requires things I keep in my house all the time anyway.  And my kids will eat it.  So that's a big win for us.

Here's what you'll need:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp garlic salt, divided
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb of pasta (I used linguine this time)

First, you're going to saute your chicken in the olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper, and a tsp of garlic powder.

If you're wondering why my chicken is in bags, I had just pulled it out of the freezer.  I store my chicken breasts in those fold down sandwich bags when I freeze them.  It makes them much easier to use because it doesn't all freeze together into one big chicken popsicle.

Saute it until it's nice and browned.  Take it out, and chop it up.

As soon as you pull the chicken out, throw in the cherry tomatoes and cover the pan.  After you chop up the chicken, add that in with the tomatoes. Occasionally give the pan a shake.   You're ready to move on after the tomatoes all burst open.  

It.  Smells.  So.  Good.

From here, pour in the chicken stock and the rest of the garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning.  Bring the sauce to a boil, and add in just a small handful of cheese.  This will help thicken the sauce.  Boil it, stirring occasionally, until it's reduced by about half.  It will still be thin, but stick with me here.

Cook and drain your pasta, and pour the sauce over the top.  Add the rest of the cheese, and watch this delicious sauce coat your pasta.  

Stand back and wonder at what you've created.

Then get full.  Eat seconds.  Enjoy!

(We love this recipe as soon as it's finished cooking, but it's honestly better the next day.)