Monday, May 11, 2015

10 Minutes Cheese and Onion Enchiladas

     Mexican. It is my most favorite type of cuisine. I would probably eat it every day, if I could. I love spicy, flavorful food, and it fills the bill every time. I also love it because so many things are so simple to prepare.

     These enchiladas are *so* easy! I love to order cheese enchiladas at Mexican restaurants, but I could never get them quite right at home. So recently, I took to ordering them every single time we went to our favorite Mexican place and I discovered something: unlike most recipes I had found, theirs were never soggy, and they weren't swimming in sauce. And it hit me: I didn't have to bake my enchiladas! I would get better results, and faster ones, by skipping the baking! So that led me to put these together. You melt the cheese in the tortilla in a skillet, and top it with the sauce right before serving-resulting in cheesy, but not soggy, enchiladas with the perfect amount of sauce!

10 Minute Cheese and Onion Enchiladas
1/2 white onion chopped
butter for sauteing
8 corn tortillas (I used "super sized ones, that were about 6 1/2 inches across)
8 oz. Monterey jack or jalapeno jack cheese (depending on how spicy you want them), shredded
4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
16 oz. of your favorite green enchilada sauce

1. Saute the chopped onion briefly in a separate pan. The onions can be caramelized, if you like, but I only cooked mine for a few minutes because I wanted them to still maintain some texture. Set to the side.
2. While the onions are cooking, heat your sauce. Keep it on "low" while you cook the enchiladas.
3. Preheat the skillet on low, and add a *generous* 1/4 c. (or a scant 1/2 c., which ever way you would like to look at it!) of cheeses, using about 3/4 monterey jack to 1/4 amount of cheddar to the center of a tortilla. Place in the skillet. Add about 1 tablespoon of the onion in a line down the center.
4. I added 1/4-1/2 tsp. of water to the side of the skillet and topped it with the lid. Keep a close eye on it, all you want is for the cheese to melt.

 5. As soon as the cheese is melted, remove the tortilla, roll it quickly on  the plate and top it with sauce.
6. Serve with your favorite toppings-I can never resist sour cream!
     I only made one at a time, and it still only took me about ten minutes to make enough for our entire family (and Joel had three!). This is such a great vegetarian meal, truly no one even misses the meat. I added black beans and Spanish rice on the side-and some guacamole, which we ate before it made it in the photos.

      I was a little worried that because these were so easy they wouldn't be tasty-um wrong! Joel raved about them, and I will definitely be making them again-especially during the summer when I don't want to heat up the oven.

Linked up:
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

     I love to make candy. I prefer it to almost any other kitchen activity. Some people find it tedious, and others complain that it is hard, but I think it is one of the most rewarding foods you can make! People just don't get excited about veggies, or casseroles, or soups they way they do about candy! And they are almost always impressed when they find out you made it yourself. So, if you are in the mood to be complimented, or you want to surprise a sweet-lover in your life, make them some candy!

    I made these truffles for a tea we had at church recently. I wanted something that would appeal to the majority of women, and I have found that dark chocolate is (almost) universally loved! Since it is spring, and the tea was just for the ladies, I also decided that raspberry would be the perfect complement. Who can resist pink?

     The key to these truffles is the cream cheese. I won't sing the praises of that most delicious ingredient right now-suffice it to say, I love it! Throw that in with just a few other things, and you will quickly have candy that will amaze and impress all your friends. 

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
Makes approximately 36-40 candies

5 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 1/2 tsp. raspberry extract 
4 c. powdered sugar 
Red food dye or coloring
1 package (10 oz.) Ghiradelli 60% cacao bakings chips

1. Thoroughly mix the cream cheese and raspberry extract together. 
2. Slowly add the powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring each time until it is completely incorporated. 
3. If the mixture forms easily into balls, you may want to taste it to see if you want to add more raspberry extract. Be aware, though, that the flavor will intensify as the chocolates chill, so don't add too much. I felt that after 24 hours the 1 and 1/2 tsp. amount was perfect. 
4. Add your food dye if you like. I used gel food coloring (for cakes, etc.) so I didn't have to add much liquid to achieve the color I wanted. If you are using traditional food coloring, you may have to add more powdered sugar afterwards so that the mixture will be firm.
5. Scoop mixture out by level tablespoons, and roll into balls. Place on waxed paper and freeze for 10-15 minutes, or refrigerate for 30 minutes. Don't leave them in the freezer for too long, because if they actually start to freeze, they will expand once they are dipped and crack the chocolate, and it will make the extract "ooze". They will still be tasty, but they won't look as nice!
6. Melt the chocolate according to the package directions. (Basically, in the microwave at half power, in 30 second increments).
7. Working quickly, dip the candies using two forks, top with sprinkles or edible "pearls" if desired, and place on waxed paper to set.
8. Place in fridge to set. Once they are completely hardened, they can be placed in mini muffin liners to gift, and stacked. Keep them refrigerated!

    These were a huge hit! I based them on this recipe, but found the proportions weren't tasting right. So I changed them to suit myself. And of course, I had to make them into truffles. And dip them in dark chocolate! I love it when I can start with an idea and then really turn it into something that I love. And I love these! 

Linked up:

Thursday, April 30, 2015

"Donut" You Know I Love You Bridal Shower

     I've done quite a few showers now, although the greater portion has been baby showers. However, not to insult anyone, but a bridal shower is not that different. People have the same expectations: decor, food and presents! And it is always fun to celebrate, whether for a new baby or a new marriage!

 This was an especially fun shower to plan because it was for one of my sisters. She *loves* donuts, so it was an irresistible theme choice. She also loves pink and glitz, so we tried to incorporate those, too.
 The piece de resistance was the donut hole croquembouche! I shamelessly copied this one, from "O Happy Day".  I am so glad that I did! It was very dramatic-and while it was quite a bit of work (and a little on the pricey side, but it was cheaper than a big floral arrangement!) it wasn't exceptionally difficult. It did require FIVE boxes of donut holes, though!
 My sister's fiance was an absolute wonder and delivered four dozen fresh, beautiful, color-coordinated donuts at 9:30 am so they would be just perfect! I topped them off with little flags I whipped up out of washi tape and toothpicks.
I also added a little banner that I made from colored circles and skewers. I stuck that in the bride-to-be's favorite kind: maple bars! Putting the donuts in pretty dishes added a little bit of class to these rather humble treats. 

I couldn't resist adding a little "flair" and some sparkle in her honor. I set up a "sprinkle bar" and used an amazing sprinkle set I found at Michael's and put them in cute little dishes. 

 I also added an array of dipping sauces. Yes, I know that it looks like I spelled sauce "sause", but it really is just my not-fantastic handwriting! Surprisingly, people really enjoyed using the sauces and the sprinkles!

I finished the table with a handmade tulle skirt-it took me seven rolls of tulle, but it was lovely. I hung gold circle decorations I got from Hobby Lobby overhead. My mom bought the daisies to finish things off. 
I put together a little printable of Colossians 3:14, "Above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." and decorated it with a donut printable I got, again, from "O Happy Day"-what can I say? She has cute stuff!
   We had so many donuts they merited their own table, so we had a separate table for all the rest of the food. I set up a little candy station around this cute printable. (Because we needed more sugar!)

My sweet mom and aunt thoughtfully provided all the "not sweet" things. I don't even have it all pictured here! I put these cute flags on toothpicks and put them in the food, and then I used these printable donuts and glued them to skewers to put in the flowers.

More flowers with donut skewers, a picture of the happy couple, and this cute printable (Free! So great!) graced the drink station.

We (Did I forget to mention my charming co-hostess? My next youngest sister, Katy, is the other half of that "we".) bought these pretty sparkling lemonades at Trader Joe's. It was so nice to not have to re-package them!

The coffee area was a little more plain, but this donut garland made it a little more fun! We also added colorful dots to the coffee cups to jazz them up a little. 

I made a crepe streamer backdrop for the gift table. I also made the little banner with the happy couple's names on it. So many people did such a great job with their wrapping-and clearly appreciated the donut theme.

I, of course, had to match mine, too! Another appearance of those darn adorable "O Happy Day" donuts! I put together a little breakfast in bed set-hence the tray.

My co-hostess provided the inflatable donut-it was just too fun to pass up! We put these little gold stands and some plants in the seating area.

My tasty treats! I think the sprinkles really took it to the next level, don't you? The delicious quiche and sausage balls were made by my aunt and grandmother. We also served tasty mocha punch.

We had to make sure the bride-to-be coordinated so Katy picked up these adorable donut charms and chains at Hobby Lobby. Our mom had one, too!

We packaged up washi tape wrapped votives and candy for "thank-you" gifts. We decorated the favor table with confetti with the bride and groom's names (Party City!) and I used this cute printable and some circles on skewers (It needed a little something and I was short on time!), too. The extra donuts were for guests to write messages to the couple for keepsakes. It was our version of a guestbook.

In all, I had a great time helping to put this together. It is always so wonderful to be able to bless your family with something you really love doing! "Donut" you love it when a party comes together? I "dough"!

Linked up:
"Thrifty Thursday" at Living Well, Spending Less

Saturday, April 11, 2015

To Carson, On Your 7th Birthday

Dear Carson,
         It is crazy to think that I have been writing these "letters" to you since you were two. That tiny, spiky haired little guy seems a long way away now. I don't think you are the only one who has changed since then, either!

     It is funny to think that we "get to know" our kids, but that is the truth. The longer I am your mom, the better I know you. And I will admit: that sometimes scares me. Mostly because you are like me in so many ways. You hide that you are sometimes anxious under a tough exterior, but I see it in your eyes-you can be overwhelmed by new situations and you flounder some when a curve ball comes your way. But you are so much braver than I was! You are slowing finding your footing-and realizing that fear doesn't have to be a permanent fixture in your life. You get a little angry and can occasionally shut down when you don't know how to face a problem; I understand. But I always want to remind you-Jesus is with you! Nothing is too hard for Him.

   And this year, you have really seen how prayer works. So many things that we have been pleading with the Lord for have come back a resounding "Yes!". After months of praying that God would "give Baby Gracey a new heart" you got to hold that answer to prayer in your own hands.
Even at your young age you realize that it doesn't get much better than that. You are learning that God not only listens, He cares so much more about you than even your dad and I can-and that's a lot!

    You are learning so many other things, too. You will still tell people you "can't read", but you can, and you do it really well. You are always afraid of making mistakes, but you need to be a little easier on yourself. You can't do it all perfectly the first time! (Another trait you got from me.) You took Spanish this year at co-op and *loved* it. You love science, too, and right now you vacillate between the career choices of scientist and tow-truck driver. (Mostly because you still want to be just like your dad!) You go on and on about the experiments you do in class and you have replicated several of them for me at home. You always want to share your excitement about the new things you are learning. The latest is telling us all the facts you are hearing about Japan and China in your Asian studies class. We will soon be experts!

    You are making friends, too, I think mostly because you have so many amazing leadership qualities. At church, at co-op, or even just in the apartment complex, you always are heading up a group of kids.  You know everyone's name, and their apartment number, or who their parents are. You really pay attention to the details and I think that's why you make such a great friend. 

   You are a pretty great son, too. You really wanted everyone to wear superhero shirts on your birthday-it was hilarious that you planned everyone's outfit. You also remember everyone's likes and dislikes in the family-colors, food, movies, music. You love to listen to the same songs as your dad and me (which can be pretty drastically different) and you always remember the words. I introduced you to "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins this year-and it was so fun to hear you ask me to play it again. That's a song I grew up with!

     I could go on and on, but instead of writing it all down, I am just going to keep trying to tell you and show you and your sister every day how much I love you and how amazing I think you are. Your presence in our family never ceases to be a reminder of how God gives such great gifts, even when we are so undeserving. Here's to having an awesome year being 7. I love you.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Freedom of Easter


     In case you ever wondered, I do not "plan" posts for holidays such as Christmas and Easter. However, it has always been important to me to spend a lot of time thinking about and reflecting on these oh-so-important Christian dates. If I had to classify it, this time spent merely pondering is probably my most important way of preparing my heart, along with praying. I pray that the Lord will open my eyes to something new, a different way of thinking about a particular aspect, or just a completely fresh idea. I detest it when you hear someone complain about hearing the "same old Bible story"-if they don't seem familiar, yet still surprising, honestly: you're doing it wrong.

    So, this year, I have been mulling over "the Easter story". I hesitate to label it as such, because it is really a whole bunch of stories all woven in together. And you can't really start with Palm Sunday and get a full picture. In some ways, you truly do have to go all the way back to the beginning-as in "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". (Genesis 1:1) That may seem a bit extreme, but I am always totally enamored of the fact that every single verse in the Bible points to one thing: Christ, and His redemption of us.

   But I'm blogging here, not writing a book (maybe someday, Lord willing...) and so I will tell you what keeps coming up in my thoughts this year: Easter, even more so than the 4th of July, is about freedom. Glorious, unfettered, life-altering, beautiful, costly freedom.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Romans 8:1-4 (NIV)

    Jesus died so that *I* could be FREE. And I should live my life in such a manner as to honor that sacrifice. If  I believe that the American soldier, hero of our nation and symbol of our country's hard won liberty, deserves to be honored,  how much more so the One who gives me the most real, true, form of freedom that can never be taken away and literally not only affects my life but also my soul after death?

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

     We would have found it strange, after the great men of the Revolutionary War fought all those battles, if they had decided to leave all the laws of our country exactly the same as before and continued to pay tribute and taxes to the their previous master. What would have been the point? Yet, that is exactly what I do when I refuse to exercise the freedom I have in Christ. When I drown in worry, or fear, or doubt, I am again submitting the the slavery that held me captive before He rescued me. I am bowing down the masters of sin and self that held me captive. I am not only refusing to acknowledge His great sacrifice, I am doing the opposite: I am saying it is a cheap, worthless imitation that doesn't hold the power for everyday living.

   That may seem like a harsh thing to say, but it is the truth.

"Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son." 1 John 5:10

   If I do not live my life in such as manner as to prove that I am free-free to trust in the grace of Christ, free to follow His leading in my life, free to use my gifts to glorify Him, free to believe that He will give me the strength that I need, then I am saying that I do not believe that He really has the power to set me free. And that is the testimony that God has given about His Son.

"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." 1 John 5:11   

    Isn't the greatest fear death? Isn't that truly what is the most binding, enslaving, terrorizing thought for all of humanity?  I am afraid that I have to make my life happy, and worry about how to make it perfect and satisfying because deep down I have not dealt with my real fear: that this life is all there is. That death will be the end, or worse yet, that death will be continual, for isn't that what hell is? Death that never ends? But I DON'T HAVE TO FEAR DEATH! See, in the Romans verses above it says, "through Christ Jesus [we] are free from the law...of death".

   Hallelujah! We are free! He has set us free, and it is a magnificent freedom, fully capable of making the most drastic, 180 degree, death-to-life changes. His death gave us amazing freedom. And all I want to do is to live in a way that honors that. To use my freedom to fully glorify and honor Christ with all that I am.

   So this Easter, I will celebrate my freedom in Christ. I will remember His sacrifice that not only can change my life, but has, and will continue to do so as long as I acknowledge that I am completely at liberty to depend on Him to be everything I need and guide me. I can rest secure and having peace, knowing He has overcome the world, and won my complete freedom.


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