Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

This is such a simple recipe, but so very delicious! 

Awhile back, I was really wanting some Tomato Basil Soup, 
but not loving the idea of stewing tomatoes, etc.
 So this recipe is my very simplified version. 
Yes, I am aware that it is not 100% homemade. 
I know that some people might look down on that, but with our crazy schedule, 
we are looking for ease and deliciousness.
If you want to stew the tomatoes, go for it! More power to you!

So, without further ado, here you have it, this week's recipe!

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

2 cloves garlic
1/2 T olive oil
2 cans (10.5 oz each) Tomato Soup
3/4 c. sour cream
3/4 c. milk
1 T. dried basil

Mince garlic, making sure to get it very small.
In a medium soup pot, sauté garlic in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes.
You will smell the garlic as it releases it's flavor.
It's very important to not burn the garlic, as it would become bitter.

Stir together tomato soup, sour cream, and milk. If you want your soup thinner, add 1/4 c. more milk.
Pour into pot with the garlic and stir.
Stir in basil.
Let simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until heated through, stirring occasionally.

We like to eat this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. Super delicious!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Finger Painting Genius

Date night this week found us at home with two blank pieces of paper, four tubes of finger paint,
 a little music, and some inspiration.

We had a Tuesday date night instead of our usual Friday
since Brad is down in AZ interviewing for summer internships.
I miss him terribly, but we are really hoping to be in AZ for the summer,
so at least it's for a good cause.

I digress.... back to Date Night.

In case you can't see the computer screen well, 
I was attempting Van Gogh's Starry Night.
Brad was shooting for De Vinci's Mona Lisa.
With Finger Paint.
Pretty intense stuff for our lack of artistic ability...

This was SUCH a fun date! We loved trying to mix colors to get what we were going for. 
We loved just being able to talk and enjoy each other with a simple night at home. 
Plus, we already had the finger paint, so this was a totally free date!

We are pretty proud of how our designs turned out. 

To spark you memory,
The actual Mona Lisa:

And Brad's rendering:

I would say he nailed it! Just look at that half smile!

The actual Starry Night:

And my rendering:

Perfection, no?

Haha. Like I said, we had a really great time,
despite our lack of great artistic skills.
There is something really great about feeling cold, squishy paint on your fingers.
And when it's finger paint, can you really go wrong??
We would definitely recommend this free/cheap date to all. 

We have quite a bit of finger paint left, so you'll probably be seeing a round two...
Portraits, perhaps?
We are definitely open to suggestions.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cookin' For Two: Santa Fe Penne

Well, let me tell you... actually measuring things was a bit difficult for me! But I tried... 

I first stumbled upon a recipe for something like this at my mom's house. 
She had cut it out of a magazine or something, and I thought that it sounded good. 
She said she made it once and really didn't like it. 
But I loved the idea of a southwest flavored pasta dish... 
so I set to work and came up with something we really like!

Santa Fe Penne

2 or 3 chicken breasts
3 c. dry Penne of Rigatoni pasta (Depends on what I have on hand. Both taste great!)
salt and pepper to season
1 medium onion
1-14oz. can green chiles
1 1/2 c. salsa (Good salsa makes a world of difference)
1/4 c. sour cream
1t taco seasoning (optional)
1 can corn
1 1/4 c. Mexican Blend Cheese

Cut chicken into bite size pieces.
Season with salt and pepper (I used garlic salt on this. I just like the flavor a little better).
Cook over Medium High heat, rotating as necessary, until juices run clear, about 10-15 min.
I don't want to question if my chicken is done. I like it a little browned just in case.
Plus I think it has a better flavor that way.

While the chicken cooks, boil your water to cook the pasta.
(Seriously, guys? You want me to measure the water too....? Well, I guess I'm a work in progress...
6 cups? I really don't know... enough to cook the pasta).
Add some salt to the water and just a tiny bit of oil so that the pasta doesn't stick.
When the water starts boiling, stir in the pasta. It's also best to stir the pasta during the first minute
of cooking so that it won't stick. Cook according to package directions, probably 12-14 minutes.
When cooked "al dente,"drain pasta and return to the pot.

(I forgot to take pictures, but it's pretty simple, so I know you can do it!)
1. Chop onions and sauté in 1T olive oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. More if you like, I like to keep a little crunch in the onions for this dish.
2. Add can of green chiles to the onion and let cook for about 2 more minutes.

3. Stir in salsa and sour cream and let it heat through (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.
4. Add taco seasoning, if desired. When I have really good salsa, I don't add the taco seasoning. When I am out of homemade salsa and use whatever I have on hand, I add the seasoning to give it a little flavor. You're call.

Pour sauce over pasta. Stir.
Stir in corn and chicken.
Stir in cheese until completely melted.

Not the prettiest picture, I know... I'll work on my food photography. But it is really yummy!
Brad really likes this. I haven't made it all that often, but it's pretty much a no-fail recipe.

And cooking is always more fun when your handsome husband does the dishes after!

Love Him

If you try it, let us know what you think!
It's a simple recipe that is quite family friendly. It has a little bite to it, 
and depending on your salsa, 
I guess it could have quite the bite. 
But it is really yummy! I made this for my wonderful in-laws who don't love pasta dishes, 
and they really liked it!
So we think you will too. 
Give it a try, and let us know what you think!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Our Perfect Valentine's Day

Oh Valentine's Day. 
I know what you're thinking. You don't need a special day to express love. 
You should express love every day. 
And you're right. 

But there is nothing wrong with doing something extra special and extra fun every now and again. 
And Valentine's Day gives you a good excuse!

Our first Valentine's Day together was absolutely perfect. 

I kinda failed on the romantic breakfast front... school has been CRAZY! 
I had to wake up early and take a test. 
We had been up SUPER late doing homework.
So it was just our usual toast while running out the door to work and class. 
But I am graduating in May, and Brad will be out of his first year which they say is the worst, 
so here's to a Valentine's breakfast next year!

After I got off work, I came home to these beauties

Oh how I love them!

And, Brad had vacuumed, swept the kitchen floor, 
and washed some jars that I had left soaking in the sink!
The man knows what his wife wants! Seriously, it was the best gift he could have given me.
He went to school later than usual, giving up precious study time to serve me.
I am amazed with him.

I had my kids at school make Brad some Valentines to go along with a tie bar I got him. 
Our favorite was the boy who wrote
"Kailei loves you so much, that she would love to be on her death bed with you!"

Then, we were off to a romantic lunch/early dinner at La Jolla Groves. 
If you haven't been there, please go! 
Just look at this beauty!

Romantic atmosphere, amazing food, and the man I love?
Yes, please!
We enjoyed beating the crowds and enjoying our time together without feeling rushed.
Lunch is definitely the way to go on Valentine's Day.
After eating, we spent some time walking through The Riverwoods
and just being happy to be together. 

Then, we hopped in the car to head south to Mount Pleasant to spend the evening with my Grandma, Aunts and Uncles, and some cousins to watch...
The Wheel of Fortune!!

It was so fun to watch it with our family and relive the whole thing! We filmed over 6 months ago, 
and we were so nervous during it that we had forgotten some things! 
It was a lot of fun to watch and great to be with family. So glad they invited us!!

We got to spend the night at Grandma's house so that we wouldn't have to trek it back late at night. 
It was good to spend some time with her and we played some games and shared a delicious breakfast
before coming back north. 

In all, it was a wonderful day together.
Brad is truly the love of my life, and I am so grateful for all he does for me and for us.
I can't wait for all of the Valentine's Days to come
and for an eternity ahead of us!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cookin' For Two

I love to cook. I love to bake. I love trying new things in the kitchen. 
The problem is, I don't really follow recipes. 
So if I try to make something again, it never turns out quite the same. 
Sometimes the second time is even better, sometimes... not. 
Brad will say things like "That was SO good! Too bad we'll never eat it again!" 
He's only joking, but it's totally true. I don't measure things. I don't remember which spices I used,
 and if I do, I don't remember how much of each, etc.
So, in an effort to document my kitchen adventures, I am going to post a recipe here each week. 
It will be a bit difficult for me to get those measuring cups and spoons out, and let me warn you... 
these won't be your normal recipes! But it could be a whole lot of fun! 

To start out, I thought I would share how things work out in our kitchen.
 I figure there are a lot of people out there just like me! 
When I first got married, I only knew how to cook for 5 or more people! 
I had no idea how to cook for just two of us, and there isn't a whole lot of help out there for 
how to cook great things for two. Now before you get too excited, I often still cook for 4... 
even with just 2 of us. This is mainly because Brad would much rather take leftovers for lunch 
than a sandwich. For the first couple of weeks, I didn't know that and I would go to get something 
out of the fridge and it would be gone, but all of the lunch meat and bread were still there. 
As soon as I realized that, I just made a bit more for dinner, 
and it actually ended up saving us more money. 

As newly married people, we are definitely on a budget. 
We are both still in school and living on one pretty low paycheck plus a couple of piano lessons. 
So pinching pennies counts. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. 
So what my wonderful momma taught me is even more valuable than I had originally imagined. 
Here's how it works: plan meals for two weeks at a time and only go shopping every other week. 
You will spend less money simple by shopping less frequently. Milk lasts at least two weeks. 
Buy some green fruit so that it's good for the second week. Most veggies will last that long. 
You probably won't be able to have bananas for two full weeks, but hey! 
at least you get them every other week. If you absolutely need something, 
you can run to the store again, but try not to. 
Check on what is on sale that week, and plan your menus accordingly. 
If a staple in your home is on sale, stalk up so that you don't have to buy it when it is more expensive.
Buy at least one or two things that can go into food storage. 
Even though you don't have a ton of extra money, you can slowly stalk your shelves 
and you will be blessed for your obedience. 
Seriously, I am talking just an extra bag of rice or two cans of whatever veggie is on sale.
Grab a gallon or two of water. Whatever you will use and like to eat in an emergency.
Start small. It's okay. It grows!

I keep a calendar of what we will be eating on the fridge. I make note of "extras" that I need to pick up at the store that I might not get off the menu... Brad also writes me cute notes! Lucky girl...

Then, I make my shopping list every 2 weeks
Buy only what's on your list. I can't go to the store when I'm hungry... I buy more. If I stick to my list, we have exactly what we need, and I don't go over budget. Now sure, ever now and then I will notice
a sale that I didn't realize before I went to the store and I will get something extra... but not much.

And then, stick to that menu! Avoid cravings for take-out pizza or laziness in not wanting to cook. 
Plan so that on your busy days, you can stick something in the crock pot or
plan something simple that can be thrown together quickly. 

So, does it work? All I can tell you is my experience. 
I usually spend about $55-$65 on groceries every two weeks. 
There are 14 days x 3 meals/day x 2 people, or 84 meals in two weeks! 
That comes out to 65 to 77 cents a meal! 
Even less when you consider that some of those things are going into food storage. 
You can't eat off of the dollar menu for that little, and you get way better food! 
Now, I understand that we probably could spend less than this.
I'm not a crazy coupon lady.
I use them, but not extensively and I don't buy 10 newspapers to get them.
I don't go to a billion different stores. 
We eat well.
I suppose if we had to, we could eat ramen for 25 cents a day... but we don't. 
So this might not work for you, but for us, it's good.
We like to eat a balanced, relatively healthy diet. 
And we do it on a budget. 
We also don't eat stake and prime rib. We're somewhere in between.
I think that lots of you are in-betweeners too,
and I hope that this little post and our upcoming recipes will help you. 
They are simple, family friendly dishes, and I think that they are things that most people will like. 

And let me tell you, I love making something that Brad really enjoys. 
I love when he asks for something specific ("that one dish... with the chicken... and the corn...?").
I love that he is eating well while going through law school instead of living on Cup-of-Soup.
(Not that there is anything wrong if you are doing that... do what you gotta do!)

I am excited to share some of my "recipes" (even to write them down!) and hope you enjoy them!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Choose to be Present

Our society is so technology dependent, it's almost scary. 
We can't seem to do anything without snapping a picture and uploading it to Facebook, Instagram, tweeting about it, etc. Don't get me wrong. I love social networking sites in moderation
Brad and I are really far from our family and friends, and it is a great blessing to be able to 
keep up with them, see their pictures, and read about what is going on in their lives. 
But moderation is the key in everything. 
I fear that social networking can become an addiction. 

You've all seen it. We are all guilty of it sometimes. 

Going out on a date, but checking your phone when it buzzes. Maybe even checking FB/instagram/etc.
Being in a room full of family but texting your friends. 
Putting in ear buds to listen to music instead of participating in the conversation.
Playing games on a smart phone instead of paying attention in class or even at church...
Checking status updates all day instead of going out and creating memories with those people.
Sitting by your spouse, but both on different devices, connecting with different people.

The list could go on.

This morning, I read a wonderful article on lds.org about technology use that really got me thinking. You can read the entire article here, but I will be sharing some parts along with my reaction.


Keeping Safe and Balanced in a Google-YouTube-Twitter-Facebook-iEverything World

By Jan Pinborough

10 Signs of Digital Overload

1. Slipping away from activities with people to check e-mail or social networking sites.

2. Checking the same sites repeatedly within a short period of time. 

3. Spending little time outside.

4. Finding it hard to complete a task such as writing a report without 
frequently breaking away to check e-mail or unrelated websites.

5. Spending little time in face-to-face interactions with friends.

6. Going online or using a digital device when you feel stressed 
or want to avoid an unpleasant task.

7. Family members spending most of their time at home in separate rooms 
interacting with screens.

8. Frequently using digital devices to entertain a child instead of talking, singing, 
playing, or reading with him or her.

9. Checking the computer first thing in the morning, or getting up 
during the night to use digital devices.

10. Spending long stretches of time surfing for content, often viewing 
content that is inappropriate or borderline.

10 Ways to Cut Back

1. Check and answer e-mail only once or twice a day, at scheduled times.

2. Use social networking sites only at scheduled times and for a set number of minutes.

3. Practice a “digital Sabbath”—setting aside one or two days each week to “unplug.”

4. Leave your cell phone in another room during time with family or friends.

5. Call instead of texting.

6. Invite children to help search the house for supplies that can be used in nondigital activities: children’s books, board games, art supplies, and equipment for outside play.

7. Organize a talent show, art show, or service project with family or friends.

8. Use Internet-blocking software to keep on task while working.

9. Limit recreational surfing; watch TV and videos selectively and intentionally.

10. Keep a gospel-centered perspective, using technology                                                                to uplift yourself and people around you.

Technology can be a great blessing when used correctly. 
It can also become an addiction without us even knowing it, or a distraction from more worthy tasks. 
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with social networking, googling interesting facts, etc. 
I am just encouraging all of us, me included, to make the best choices when it comes to technology.
 For example, I really enjoy reading my family member's blogs and status updates to keep up 
with them and what they are doing. I love to read blogs that uplift and inspire me. 
I have learned that if I read more shallow blogs that I feel a desire for more worldly things, clothes, etc. I know myself and I know that those don't make me feel good, so I steer clear. 
I love that we can use the internet to learn more about the gospel, do family history work, share truths, find great ideas, and encourage one another. I love that through the internet, I can still keep up 
with my beloved friends in Argentina and companions from all over South America. 

I don't love that last night (and most nights), after hours of homework, I chose to "de-stress" 
by checking Facebook instead of choosing something more substantial. 
I don't love that I feel almost a need to look at the new ideas on Pinterest every day, 
but rarely actually do any of the projects that I find. 
I don't love that I sometimes avoid doing homework or house chores 
by first reading some article on the internet. 

I am choosing today to limit my internet use. I am choosing to be present. 
Specifically from this list, I am going to check my emails only once a day. 
I am going to post things that only uplift and inspire. 
I am going to limit and schedule the time that I spend on the internet. 
I am going to get on the internet with a specific purpose and get off once I have done what I had decided to do. I am going to turn off the music in my car and instead enjoy the beauty around me 
and ponder during my drive home. I will take breaks from homework with uplifting activities 
instead of mindless internet surfing: playing a quick song on the piano, walking outside for a couple of minutes, stretching, etc. (This one is really major for me. With all of my classes being online right now, I use a lot of internet, and it has been easy to make my breaks online breaks. I really want to get away from the internet in those breaks, give my eyes a rest, and then be able to get back to work).
 I will still use social media to connect with family and friends who are far away, 
but choose to make memories with those close by. 

What do you do to control internet use?
 I would love to hear your ideas!

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