Thursday, March 29, 2012

Our Hope Endures by Natalie Grant

I ran across this song the other day. I'd never heard it before, but it resonated with me.

"For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Romans 8:24-28).

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

"There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off" (Proverbs 23:18).

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him" (Psalm 28:7).

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).

"Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging" (Psalm 46:2-3).

"Praise to God for a Living Hope
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:3-9).

"Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold" (2 Corinthians 3:12).

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12).

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

"God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf" (Hebrews 6:18-21).

Our Hope Endures by Natalie Grant

You would think only so much can go wrong
Calamity only strikes once
And you assume this one has suffered her share
Life will be kinder from here
Oh, but sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

How do we comprehend peace within pain?
Or joy at a good man's wake?
Walk a mile with the woman whose body is torn
With illness but she marches on
Oh, 'cause sometimes the sun stays hidden for years
Sometimes the sky rains night after night
When will it clear?


Emmanuel, God is with us
El Shaddai, all sufficient (repeat)
We never walk alone
And this is our hope

But our Hope endures the worst of conditions
It's more than our optimism
Let the earth quake
Our Hope is unchanged

Tomato & Pesto Chicken

Jeremy and I tried this recipe for dinner last night, and it was delicious! We made some changes to the original recipe (of course!), and it turned out great. I'm getting to be a pro at forgetting to take a picture, when we try new recipes. I'll try to get better at that. The main differences between the original recipe and what we did... we cut the recipe in half, we used chicken thighs instead of breasts, and we cut the broccoli and chicken into small pieces. Anyway, this is a dish that we'll definitely make again.

Tomato and Pesto Chicken
Adapted from

4 oz dry penne pasta, uncooked (4 oz = 1¼ cup)
Hunt's Tomato & Pesto Chicken
1½ cups small fresh broccoli florets (we used a 9 oz package of frozen broccoli)
1 Tbsp olive oil
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces (we used thighs)
½ can (or 7.25 oz) Hunt's® Diced Tomatoes, undrained
½  can (or 4 oz) Hunt's® Tomato Sauce
¼  cup soft cream cheese spread
8 tsp refrigerated basil pesto

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
    • If using fresh broccoli florets, add for the last 2 minutes of cook time.
    • If using frozen broccoli florets, steam in microwave (then we cut the broccoli up to be in smaller pieces) and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add chicken; cook 3-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Add undrained tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover.
  6. Simmer 5-8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in centers (165°F).
  7. Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm. (not sure how necessary it is to remove chicken at this point... we cut it into bite-size pieces, rather than leaving the chicken thighs/breasts whole)
  8. Add cream cheese to sauce remaining in skillet; stir until cream cheese is melted completely.
  9. Stir in pesto; simmer 2 minutes to thicken slightly.
  10. Drain pasta.
  11. Add pasta, broccoli, and chicken to skillet; stir together.
  12. Serve.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sea of Faces by Kutless

This is such an encouraging song. How wonderful to be reminded that God always has time for each of our lives. He sees, hears, and loves each and every one of us. Among all of the people and chaos of this world, we can always be assured that He sees us... He loves us. And what a beautiful gift that is!

Sea of Faces by Kutless

I see the city lights all around me
Everyone's obscure
Ten million people each with their problems
Why should anyone care

And in Your eyes I can see

I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
Lost in a Sea of Faces
Your body's the bread, Your blood is the wine
Because you traded Your life for mine

Sometimes my life it feels so trivial
Immersed in the greatness of space
Yet somehow you still find the time for me
It's then You show me Your love

And In Your eyes I can see
And in Your arms I will be


If only my one heart
Was all you'd gain from all it cost
Well I know you would have still been a man
With a reason
To willingly offer your life

[Chorus] (repeat)

Just one in a million faces

Breaded Pork Chops

I can't actually remember where I found the original recipe that inspired this dish, but I do know that it ended up as a combination of the original recipe and me tinkering with it (partially because we were only cooking a few pork chops). And, they ended up delicious!

Breaded Pork Chops
Adapted from


2-3 boneless pork chops
1 egg
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup combination of saltines and breadcrumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Italian seasoning
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Garlic pepper (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
  2. Get 3 separate dipping trays lined up near the stovetop.
  3. Stir together flour and garlic pepper (optional) in tray #1 for dipping.
  4. Beat egg and milk together. Pour into tray #2 for dipping.
  5. Mix breadcrumbs, saltines, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning together in tray #3 for dipping.
  6. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic.
  7. One at a time, dust each pork chop into flour/garlic pepper mixture, then egg/milk mixture, then breadcrumb mixture. Cook in skillet (with oil and garlic) for about 5 minutes per side.
  8. Cook all pork chops at 325ºF for about 25 minutes (pork should be at least 160ºF on the inside - do not undercook).
  9. Let pork chops stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Show by Lenka

We watched Moneyball a few weeks ago... and loved it! I really enjoyed the movie, but this song really stuck with me. Enjoy!

The Show by Lenka

[Chorus 1]
I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze, and love is a riddle
I don't know where to go
Can't do it alone
(I've tried)
I've tried, but I don't know why

Slow it down, make it stop
Or else my heart is going to pop
Cause it's too much, yeah it's a lot
To be something I'm not

I'm a fool out of love
Cause I just can't get enough

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2]
I'm just a little girl lost in the moment
I'm so scared but I don't show it
I can't figure it out
It's bringing me down
I know, I've got to let it go
And just enjoy the show

The sun is hot in the sky
Just like a giant spotlight
The people follow the signs
And syncronize in time

It's a joke, nobody knows
They got a ticket to the show

[Chorus 1]
[Chorus 2]

Oh oh
Just enjoy the show
oh oh oh oh oh

[Chorus 1]
[Chorus 2]

Dum de dum,
Duh dum de dum
Just enjoy the show
Duh dum de dum,
Duh dum de dum
Just enjoy the show

I want my money back
I want my money back
I want my money back
Just enjoy the show (repeat)

Cinnamon Crisps

We made these one night for dessert. I accidently overcooked them a little, so they were a little more like cinnamon sugar chips.

When I was younger, my mom would make a similar thing... I think it was easier and tastes as good (or better). I'll go ahead a make a recipe for that (she always just made it... no recipe needed) - see below.

Recipe from


4 Tbsp butter
6 (6-inch) flour tortillas
2 to 4 Tbsp sugar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Heat the oven to 450º.
  2. Melt the butter in a large baking sheet in the oven, about 2 minutes.
  3. Stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Place the tortillas in the baking pan (they may overlap a bit), turning each once to coat both sides with butter.
  5. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over the tortillas.
  6. Bake the tortillas until golden and puffed in spots, about 7 minutes. (you may want to move the tortillas after a few minutes in the oven, especially if there is a lot of overlapping) * Do not overcook *
  7. Serve them warm - we served with honey drizzled over cinnamon crisp.
Mom's Recipe

flour tortillas
butter or margarine
cinnamon sugar

  1. Heat the oven to 350º.
  2. Cut each flour tortillas into quarters.
  3. Spread some butter on one side of each.
  4. Lay buttered tortilla quarters down on a baking sheet (overlapping just a little on some corners).
  5. Sprinkle tortillas with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Bake until hot and as crispy as you like. (to make them cinnamon chips, cook approximately 10-12 minutes - look for edges to curl and crisp up)
  7. Serve warm.
I suppose you could brush melted butter and add cinnamon sugar on each side of the tortilla quarters, then cook at 400º for 6-7 minutes. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Real Me by Natalie Grant

This song is so relevant to me. My sister has always told me that I'm an oyster... that I have a hard outer shell, but hold a beautiful pearl within. I've always had trouble opening up and allowing others to see the real me... In some ways, I've gotten better with this... but, in other ways, I've gotten worse at it.

Living with an invisible illness can make this even more of a challenge. I find myself guarding myself much more around a lot of people. Many people don't know how to be around someone that lives with pain all the time. So, they may ask, "How are you?" but they're really just looking for a quick answer (i.e., "I'm okay")... and that's what they normally get. It really drains my energy to try so hard to let some people see the real me, especially if I don't feel like they really care. It's hard to open up and pour out your heart to someone, and then nothing happen.

To those in my life that I feel truly do care and want to know the real me, I'm an open book. Many (not all) of these people are friends that I've made online since the accident. We have an unspoken bond because we're each dealing with illness and pain in our lives.

But, our Lord sees the real me... "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). I'm so grateful that He sees and loves the real me!

The Real Me by Natalie Grant

Foolish heart looks like we're here again
Same old game of plastic smile
Don't let anybody in
Hiding my heartache, will this glass house break
How much will they take before I'm empty
Do I let it show, does anybody know?

But you see the real me
Hiding in my skin, broken from within
Unveil me completely
I'm loosening my grasp
There's no need to mask my frailty
Cause you see the real me

Painted on, life is behind a mask
Self-inflicted circus clown
I'm tired of the song and dance
Living a charade, always on parade
What a mess I've made of my existence
But you love me even now
And still I see somehow

Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me
You're turning the tattered fabric of my life into
A perfect tapestry
I just wanna be me


And you love me just as I am
Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me

Rice/Tuna/Peas Casserole

My mom used to make this casserole for us... it's simple, quick, and great (especially on cold winter days and/or  when you're sick). We made it a couple weeks ago - so good! Of course, I forgot to take a picture (I'll try to remember next time I make it).

Rice/Tuna/Peas Casserole


1 cup rice
1 (10 ¾ oz) can Campell's cream of mushroom soup
1 (5 oz) can chunk light tuna in water, drained and flaked
frozen peas

  1. Cook rice on stove.
  2. Stir cream of mushroom soup into the cooked rice.
  3. Stir in tuna and peas (as many as you'd like - I love a lot of peas).
  4. Keep on heat until everything is warm - only takes a couple minutes.
  5. Serve hot.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Held by Natalie Grant

This song is so powerful! It always gives me goosebumps. What an amazing God we have!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11).

This song reminds us that there is no specific promise of deliverance here on earth. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people - that is the nature of life in a world filled with evil. We must remember that there is a much larger spiritual battle that we cannot even begin to understand. Thus, we feel that God abandons us and allows us to experience terrible loss... when He could easily intervene on our behalf. But, we cannot even begin to fathom God's point of view of the circumstances and losses - they're part of something much greater.

What we do know about God is that
  • He is good
  • He is holy
  • He is all powerful
  • He created us
  • He loves us unconditionally
  • He sent His only Son to live among us and die in our place
  • He accepted the blood shed by Jesus Christ as the price of redemption from an eternity in hell, once and for all
  • He allows each and every one of us on earth to lay claim to that redemption by confessing the name of Jesus
  • He promised us an eternity with Him in heaven
But, He didn't promise us heaven on earth. He promised that evil men would hate and seek to kill us... that persecution would be rampant... that the earth would crumble around us. He promised us that He would be coming for us, and that He will avenge us.

When bad things happen in our lives, when our hearts are broken and cold with grief, when we feel farthest from Him... we are called to remember that He never promised a life without heartache, but He has promised to be there. What comfort that brings to those who have placed their faith in God's promise of eternity - there is more to life than life here on earth. 

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4).

One day, we will experience pure joy and security without the presence of evil, death, and fear of loss. Until then... His arms are enough.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Held by Natalie Grant

Two months is too little, they let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling

Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We're asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair

[Chorus 1]
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

[Chorus 2]
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held

This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2]

If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait for one hour
Watching for our Savior

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 1]

Meatloaf Muffins & Sassy Mashed Potatoes

© 2012 Jamie V.
We decided to try out a few new recipes, and they turned out pretty good. I've never made meatloaf before, I've never eaten parsnips before... so this meal involved several firsts for me.

The original reason I chose meatloaf muffins was because we were looking for something to cook quickly, using some ground turkey that we had already thawed out. I didn't have any oats, so I used breadcrumbs. I didn't use parmesan cheese (I forgot... but we really like them without it). I used tomato sauce in the meatloaf, and then topped them with ketchup (I'll put more on the tops, next time I make these).

The sassy mashed potatoes was just something that I saw one day on the Rachael Ray show. I didn't even know what a parsnip was. The show was talking about sneaking vegetables into dishes, so that kids will eat more vegetables... I don't have kids, but I have a problem getting enough vegetables into my diet (I just don't really like a very wide variety), so I thought it'd be worth a shot.

Overall, everything turned out very tasty. The meatloaf muffins were delicious! The sassy mashed potatoes were pretty good, but they need something because the flavor is very bland (we're going to at least use more garlic, next time we make them). When I had leftover potatoes, I melted some cheese into it... I think I liked it better that way.

Meatloaf Muffins
Adapted from here


1 tsp olive oil
© 2012 Jamie V. 
1/2 small onion, minced (we used 1/4 cup frozen minced onion)
1.3 lbs ground turkey or ground beef
1/2 cup breadcrumbs or oats
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (optional)
1 egg
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 cup tomato sauce or ketchup (plus some for the top)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Whatever other veggies you have on hand (onions, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, spinach, lentils…)

  1. Saute onions in a skillet with olive oil. Set aside (cool down).
  2. Heat oven to 350ºF.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  4. Press the meat into ungreased muffin cups (you should be able to get 8 to 12 out of this amount of meat).
  5. Top with tomato sauce/ketchup on each one. (we used ketchup on the top - we'll be more liberal with it next time)
  6. Cook for 30-35 minutes.
  7. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve two per person.
(Using 1 egg, 93/7 Ground Turkey, 1/2 cup of ketchup and dividing into 10 meatloaf muffins, the calorie count is about 110 per muffin)

Sassy Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from and

© 2012 Jamie V.

2½ to 3 lbs red or white new potatoes, washed and cubed (we used red potatoes)
2 (or more) parsnips, peeled and cubed
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (we only used 2, but will use more next time), crushed
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
black pepper
cheese (optional)

  1. Put the potatoes, parsnips, and crushed garlic cloves in a large pot with water, making sure that the water completely covers them.
  2. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, then cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally with a spoon.
  3. Test the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork; they should pierce easily and be tender, yet firm.
  4. Drain any remaining liquid and mash the potatoes with a potato masher until there are no visible lumps.
  5. Add the milk and butter and continue to mash until the potatoes are smooth and creamy.
  6. Stir in seasonings, and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until all the seasonings are completely mixed in. (stir in cheese - optional)
  7. Cover and serve warm.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas

I don't actually remember how I came across this song, but it struck me. It's so powerful (both the video and the lyrics)!

I tried to find some background on this song because it obviously stems from someone's very personal experience. This song was inspired by Rob Thomas' wife, who battled with an auto-immune disease. I think the song speaks to how difficult it can be to watch someone you love fight a battle - you don't know what to do to help them through it, so you just be there with him/her.

In the song, the man is trying to help a woman who is crying. He "don't know what [he's] supposed to do, so [he] sits down and [he] cries too," because her tears falling are as precious to him as diamonds. Neither of them know what to do to get through this struggle / battle, but he's trying to stay strong for her... even if there's nothing else he can do for her, he can be there with her.

I also think that there is a paralyzing fear in not knowing what to do... being frozen by helplessness is like being encased in ice.

I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it is for my loved ones (especially my husband, who sees me day-in and day-out) to see me (or even know that I'm) in so much pain, so much of the time. To watch someone you love so much constantly battle an illness that he/she can't control must be so painful. But, I'm so grateful for my loved ones. I'm so blessed that God gave me such an amazing husband. He loves me, and he takes care of me. I couldn't ask for a better partner in life.

Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas

Oh what the hell she says
I just can't win for losing
And she lays back down

Man there's so many times
I don't know what I'm doin'
Like I don't know now

By the light of the moon, she rubs her eyes
Says it's funny how the night can make you blind
I can just imagine

And I don't know what I'm supposed to do
But if she feels bad then I do too
So I let her be

[Chorus 1]
And she says ooh I can't take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can't help her now

[Chorus 2]
She's down in it
She tried her best but now she can't win
It's hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down, way down

She sits down and stares into the distance
And it takes all night
And I know I could break her concentration
But it don't feel right

By the light of the moon, she rubs her eyes
Sits down on the bed and starts to cry
And there's something less about her

And I don't know what I'm supposed to do
So I sit down and I cry too
But don't let her see

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2] 

She shuts out the night
Tries to close her eyes
If she can find daylight
Then she'll be alright, she'll be alright
Just not tonight

[Chorus 1]

[Chorus 2]

Ooh, I can't take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
But her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can't help her now

[Chorus 2]

I can't take no more
Diamonds on the floor
No more, no more, no more
Diamonds falling down (repeat)

I can't take no more
Diamonds on the floor
(No more, no more)
Her diamonds falling, all her diamonds
Diamonds falling down
I can't take these diamonds falling down

Fettuccine Alfredo

I decided to give this recipe a try last night, and we were quite impressed. Of course, I made a few minor adjustments. I absolutely love Fettuccine Alfredo, but I'm also trying to make sure we eat better. I was a bit unsure about trying a low-fat version of this creamy dish, but it turned out really amazing. We'll definitely be making this again soon.

Fettuccine Alfredo
Adapted from Cook's Country (found here)

Standard recipes contain 1½ cups of heavy cream, a stick of butter, and 2 cups of cheese. Many low-fat Alfredo recipes cut calories by switching out the cream for lower-fat dairy products such as half-and-half, whole milk, or evaporated milk. Instead, this recipe called for just 1 Tbsp of butter and 2 tsp flour) to thicken the sauce, without heavy cream. 

*** Make the sauce while the pasta water is heating up. Once the sauce is done, you should be ready to cook the pasta.

Low-Fat Fettuccine Alfredo

1 (9 oz) package fettuccine noodles

Alfredo Sauce
1 Tbsp unsalted butter 
2 tsp all-purpose flour
¾ cup heavy whipping cream (the original recipe called for ¾ cup whole milk and ¼ cup half-and-half)
¼ cup 2% milk
1 to 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp pepper
Pinch nutmeg (a pinch is 1/16 tsp)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot over high heat.
  2. Stir salt and pasta into boiling water and cook, stirring constantly, until al dente, 10-12 minutes.
  3. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta.
Alfredo Sauce
  1. Heat butter over medium heat in large saucepan until foaming.
  2. Whisk in flour into foaming butter until mixture is smooth and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk in milk, half-and- half, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and bring to simmer.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in Parmesan, and remove from heat.
After reserving some pasta cooking water and draining pasta...
  1. Return sauce to low heat, add ⅓ cup pasta water and cooked pasta; toss until evenly coated.
  2. Cook until sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Add more cooking water as needed to thin sauce to proper consistency and adjust seasonings.
  3. Serve hot.
The original recipe (using whole milk and half-and-half) ends up being much better for you than Traditional Fettuccine Alfredo... the above, adapted recipe would differ, but it's still healthier than the traditional.
Traditional Fettuccine Alfredo
Calories: 580
Fat: 43g
Saturated Fat: 27g
Cook's Country Low-Fat Fettuccine Alfredo
Calories: 320
Fat: 12g
Saturated Fat: 6g 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Everything I Need by Kutless

This song has been on my heart lately (I've been hearing it quite often during the little bit of time I listen to the radio). It's so beautiful... and so true. I'm so grateful to have a loving Father that will carry me through, when I can't carry myself. Sometimes knowing that is what gets me through each moment.

Everything I Need by Kutless

When every step is so hard to take
And all of my hope is fading away
When life is a mountain that I can not climb
You carry me, Jesus carry me.

You are strength in my weakness
You are the refuge I seek
You are everything in my time of need
You are everything, You are everything I need

When every moment is more than I can take
And all of my strength is slipping away
When every breath gets harder me
You carry me, Jesus carry me 


I need You
You are everything I need
I love everything about You 


Baked Kale Chips

We decided to try kale chips, in an attempt to have a healthy snack option and to include more vegetables in our diet. They've turned out great each time I've made them (I've made them several times... they're addicting). You have to be careful not to overcook the kale... but it needs to be crispy (if it hasn't cooked long enough, the kale is kinda chewy, and I don't care for it). There's a fine line between done and over-done, so keep an eye on them.

Baked Kale Chips
Recipe from


1 bunch of kale
a few glugs of olive oil

  1. Heat oven to 350º.
  2. Tear kale into bite-sized pieces, avoiding the tough inner stalk.
  3. Rinse well in water and dry as best you can either in a spinner or on a towel.
  4. Pour a few glugs of olive oil on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet and add the kale. *
  5. Sprinkle with salt and toss gently to evenly distribute the oil and salt, being careful not to toss the kale out of the tray.
  6. Place in oven and bake about 10-15 minutes, or until the kale is crisp.
  7. Best if eaten warm but not necessary.
* I placed the kale into a mixing bowl (which I have a lid for), added some oil, closed the lid, and shook to evenly coat the kale with oil. Then I spread the kale out on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. The I sprinkled with a little salt and baked.

A variation to this recipe is to use a little garlic infused oil, or garlic salt.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Taco Seasoning

I've decided to try making some of my own seasonings... in an attempt to help remove MSG from my diet. We tried some homemade taco seasoning the other day, and it turned out pretty good! I gathered multiple recipes for the seasoning, and then used pieces from each one... so, below is the hod-podge mixture that I came up with.

This recipe is enough for 1 to 1½ lbs of ground beef or turkey (we used ground turkey). I saw somewhere that about 2 Tbsp of taco seasoning mix per pound of meat (can use more or less, depending on how spicy you'd like it to be). I'll probably end up making it "in bulk," once we try in with paprika (I'm not sure if I like paprika, so I didn't use any this time)... if I do, I'll be sure to update the post with the "bulk" recipe.

Also, Jeremy and I have been discussing whether it'd make a difference to just add the seasonings in with the ground meat, while we're browning it (rather than later adding water and the seasoning)... we might mess around with that some, too.

Taco Seasoning

© 2012 Jamie V.

1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1½ tsp ground cumin
(1/2 tsp paprika - optional)

  1. Mix all the spices together.
  2. Brown 1 to 1½ lbs of ground beef or turkey (cook off or drain the fat off).
  3. Pour about 3/4 cup of water in and add seasoning to meat. Stir to combine.
  4. Cook until most of the water has cooked off (approximately 5-10 minutes).
  5. Serve.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes

I made these pineapple upside-down cupcakes this weekend, and they were DELICIOUS! They were a bit labor-intensive for me (especially since I'm used to cooking cake from a box), but they were definitely worth it. I have a better "game-plan" for next time, though (I've included those changes in the directions below... hopefully that'll make things go a bit more smoothly next time).

Pineapple Upside-Down Cupcakes
Adapted from: Disney Family Fun Magazine

© 2012 Jamie V.


6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

© 2012 Jamie V.

6 Tbsp butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
6 maraschino cherries
1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks (can also use rings, tidbits, or crushed)


  1. Heat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir the ingredients with a fork until they're evenly blended.
  3. Place the butter and milk for the batter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts, then transfer the mixture to a small bowl to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the pine-apple topping. Into each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan, add 1/2 Tbsp of unmelted butter, then evenly sprinkle 1 Tbsp of brown sugar over the bottom. Place the pan in the oven until the butter melts, about 3 minutes.
  5. Halve each maraschino cherry, then chop up / crush pineapple tidbits of chunks (or you can cut the pineapple rings into quarters). Place a cherry half, sliced side up, in the center of each cup and spoon crushed pineapple on top (or lay a pineapple quarter on each side of the cherry half). Press the fruit gently down into the butter-sugar mixture, then set the prepared pan aside.
  6. (finish making the batter) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  7. Add the flour mixture (from Step 2) to the egg mixture (a little at a time, stirring to combine). Stir until the flour is fully incorporated.
  8. Add the milk-butter mixture (from Step 3 - a little at a time, stirring to combine). Stir well to combine the ingredients into a smooth batter.
  9. Pour the batter into the muffin pan, dividing it evenly among all the cups.
  10. Bake the cupcakes until they're lightly browned, dry around the edges, and pulling away from the pan a little, about 25 minutes.
  11. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.
  12. (after allowing cupcakes to cool) Use a butter knife to carefully loosen each cupcake from the edges and bottom of the pan, then place a cookie sheet over the top. Invert the pan, turning the cupcakes out onto the cookie sheet, then transfer them back to the rack to cool completely.
  13. Serve the cupcakes at room temperature.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Nutritional Information:
Per serving (one cupcake):
Calories 276
Total Fat 12 g (19% DV)
Saturated Fat 7 g (37% DV)
Cholesterol 66 mg (22% DV)
Sodium 194 mg (8% DV)
Total Carbohydrate 39 g (13% DV)
Fiber 0.5 g (2% DV)
Sugars 31 g
Protein 3 g (5% DV)
Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Flour Tortilla Casserole

I made this based on a casserole that my mom used to make. We guessed on the measurements, but it ended up being pretty good. I forgot to take any pictures of it (the one below is from a different website, of a different casserole), but it looks similar to what ours looked like before we put it in the oven. I'll try to get some photos, next time we cook it.

Flour Tortilla Casserole

Photo from here

6-8 soft taco sized flour tortillas (we used whole wheat), each cut into fourths
1 can (10.75 oz) cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can (12.5 oz) chicken (or you could use cooked, shredded or cut up chicken)
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
less than 1/8 tsp pepper
cheese (I think we use approximately 6 oz grated cheese)

* I'd like to try it with some diced tomatoes and/or minced onions, too. I think there are quite a few ways this recipe can be changed and still be delicious (type of meat, cheese, tortillas, seasonings, etc...)

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Cut flour tortillas into fourths.
  3. Combine cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chicken, and seasonings.
  4. Spread a very thin layer of the chicken mixture along the bottom of a baking dish (we used an 8"x11.5"x2" glass baking dish).
  5. Lay 1/3 of the flour tortillas (in fourths) down to make a single layer of tortillas.
  6. Spoon and spread a layer of the chicken mixture.
  7. Sprinkle cheese (we love cheese, so we were pretty liberal with the amount we used) over the chicken mixture.
  8. Continue to layer (Steps 5 through 7) - we had 3 layers of tortillas total, ending with a layer of flour tortillas, a very thin layer of the chicken mixture, and lots of cheese.
  9. Bake (uncovered) approximately 30 minutes, the cheese will all be melted and you'll see the chicken mixture bubbles some.
  10. Let cool 5 minutes.
  11. Serve.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata

I love chicken piccata, so I decided to try this recipe out. Jeremy really liked it, but I thought it was a little much. I think I'd prefer to have the pasta (with sauce) and a piece of chicken with very little seasoning OR the marinated / seasoned chicken with a plain pasta (even angel hair pasta). It may just be that I'm overly sensitive to strong flavors, so this dish is just too much for me. But, it does offer us some good options that we can change up to more of our liking.

Creamy Grilled Chicken Piccata
Adapted from

* requires several hours to marinate before cooking


© 2012 Jamie V..
Juice of 1 lemon (3Tbsp)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp basil or oregano
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (we had thick chicken breasts, and they were difficult to grill without getting too done on the outside - next time, I think we're going to butterfly the chicken breasts before we cook them)

2 cups dried penne pasta
2 Tbsp butter
Juice of 2 lemons (6 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
2 tsp dried basil
2 Tbps capers (we didn't have any capers)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Combine first 6 ingredients and mix well.
  2. Place chicken in a plastic container and pour marinade over chicken.
  3. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. When ready, grill until done. (we don't have an outdoor grill, so we just used our George Foreman - I brushed a little olive oil over the grill plates just before placing the chicken on)
  5. Allow chicken to rest for a few minutes and then slice into strips to serve over pasta.
  1. (while chicken is grilling) Cook pasta according to directions (10-12 minutes).
  2. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
  3. In same sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  4. Whisk in garlic and lemon juice.
  5. Pour in half and half (or heavy cream) and whisk until hot.
  6. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add the parmesan cheese, basil and capers, and heat until cheese is melted. Check the consistency of the sauce and add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary.
  7. Toss in pasta.
Serve in pasta bowls with grilled chicken on top. Sprinkle with more parmesan if desired.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chicken & Dumplings

We tried this recipe the other day, and it was DELICIOUS!!! You can follow the link to find the original recipe, but below includes the changes / adaptations that I made. We'll definitely be making this again!

UPDATE:  My husband and I have been making this recipe a lot, since we first tried it. But, I only just realized that I've been putting A LOT more dry dill into the dumplings than the recipe calls for. It calls for 2 Tbsp fresh dill -or- 3/4 tsp dried dill weed... I'd been using 2 Tbsp dried dill weed!!! Everyone we've ever made it for thought it was delicious, so we never thought anything of it. I think that 3/4 tsp is way too little, for our taste. So, I've since started using 1 Tbsp dried dill weed (I don't have to buy it quite as often now, LOL). They're still so delicious!

Also, if you have pickier eaters or someone that doesn't like or can't eat dill (and/or peas and carrots), it's so easy to just make some (or all) of the dumplings without the dill / dill weed. Just follow the recipe directions as normal from steps 1 through 6.

STEP 7: 
  • All dumplings withOUT dill:
  1. Simply leave the dill / dill weed out, when you're mixing the other dumpling ingredients.
  2. Continue on to step 8.
  • Some dumplings WITH dill & some dumplings withOUT dill:
  1. Mix all of the dumpling ingredients together, EXCEPT for the dill.
  2. Continue to step 8. 
  3. Scoop in the number of plain dumplings that you'd like to have.
  4. Stir the dill [Note: you may need to adjust the dill measurement accordingly] into the remaining dumpling mix.
  5. Continue to step 9, by scooping the dill dumplings into the simmering liquid.
  • If the person eating dumplings withOUT dill also does NOT like or eat peas and carrots, you can still do this dish! (believe me, it CAN be done!)
  1. Once you've completed step 6, scoop some of the goop+chicken into a separate saucepan (heat at medium-low).
  2. Scoop in the plain dumplings, cover, and simmer (step 9).
  3. Add the dill to the remaining dumpling mix.
  4. Continue on to step 8 (stir peas and carrots into the pot).
  5. Continue on to step 9, now scooping the dill dumplings in.
We may also, try to see about making the dish with EXTRA gravy! We'll just see, since I'd have to figure out the added measurements for the butter and flour (since this is kind of a delicate matter that needs to be the same proportion to each other) and chicken broth...

Adapted from

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield Serves: 4

© 2012 Jamie V.
3 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, cut into 1” pieces (or 1/2 to 1 cup frozen minced / diced onion, or 3 Tbsp dry minced onions)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
1 can (14.5 oz) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 lbs (uncooked) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2” pieces (we might cut the chicken up into smaller pieces next time)
1 package (12+ oz) frozen peas and carrots (we might use more veggies next time)
[Optional: celery (cut into pieces, mix in, when add the chicken to the pot)]

3/4 cup (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp dried dill weed -or- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill [OR can make plain dumplings withOUT dill]
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk (can use up to an additional 2 Tbsp milk, if needed)

  1. In a Dutch oven (or a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid), heat butter over medium. 
  2. Add onion and thyme. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft (~5min raw, ~2min frozen). 
  3. Add 1/4 cup flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. 
  4. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly; season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Stir in celery into pot, if desired.
  6. Nestle chicken in pot; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make dumplings [see ABOVE for variations]: In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3/4 cup flour, dill, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. With a fork, gradually stir in 1/2 cup milk to form a moist and soft batter. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of a spoon. (Add additional 2 tablespoons milk if too thick.) Set aside. 
  8. Stir peas and carrots into pot. 
  9. Drop batter into simmering liquid in ~10 heaping tablespoonfuls, keeping them spaced apart (dumplings will swell as they cook). Cover, and simmer until chicken is tender and dumplings are firm, 20 minutes. 
  10. Serve.