Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year’s Eve Book Exchange Party

Today was a beautiful day, unusually warm for December 31st, but we do live in the South, so the weather is slightly unpredictable any time of the year. Around noon, I drove out to a dear friend’s new home in Tryon, NC. What a beautiful drive! Their new home is a quaint English cottage built of stone over 100 years ago! One look at the place and I immediately felt refreshed, like I had stepped into a piece of Jane Austen’s world.

There were a dozen or so close friends gathered together around two tables, sharing warm bowls of chili topped with sour cream, cheese, corn chips and chopped black olives, along with salad, veggies, hummus, and an assortment of sweet treats and hot coffee.

The culmination of the day, of course, was the book exchange. There was everything from spiritual memoirs to learning to live a simple, from scratch lifestyle, biographies to Jane Austen with zombies, classics to children’s literature. As far as I know, every one walked away with a book they liked. Can you guess which one I brought? That’s right, Made From Scratch.

We finished the day with board games and more coffee paired with a beautiful carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and black walnuts, prepared by an artisan chef at a local bakery in Tryon! The hostess and I sat at the dining room table, chatting of God’s grace and direction and living simply as we sipped our coffee and tried to resist the urge to grab a second piece of carrot cake.

I ran by the grocery on my way home to pick up a few things I had coupons for (Organic Girl lettuce and all-natural half-and-half) – the coupons expire today, so I had to get them in! Then I came home, straightened the house, and I plan on reading a little more of my current book, The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball, before turning in early. Tomorrow, we have a 9 AM coffee social at church, followed by morning worship at 10 AM and nothing for the rest of the day. I like Sundays that begin in worship and end in rest.

Happy New Year! Enjoy the Journey!

Weekly Recipes and Meal Plan

This Week’s Basket from Milk and Honey Organics included Cucumbers, Bibb Lettuce, and Tomatoes from Hurricane Creek Farms, Regional Collard Greens, Carrots with Tops, Green Onions (aka Scallions), Fancy Braeburn Apples, Bananas Tangelos and Tangerines, Russet Potatoes and Crimini Mushrooms! It was a beautiful basket! (I love how this week’s picture turned out too!)

This Week’s Meal Plan (powered by PepperPlate.com) includes all kinds of warm dishes as well as some simple favorites, including a twist on the traditional Southern Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas for New Year’s! The tradition stems back to an ancient Jewish custom that included eating symbols of prosperity, including black-eyed peas, leeks, beets or spinach, dates, and bottle gourds (in the squash family) at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year.

When Jews arrived in the United States in the early 1700′s, they came to the Southern state of Georgia, where non-Jewish farmers adopted the symbols of prosperity around the time of the Civil War. But the Georgian farmers added pork to their greens and beans for flavor. Teri Green wrote an article called “A Tasty Tradition: New Year’s Meal Means Good Luck, Good Eats,” in which she writes, “The peas, since they swell when cooked, symbolize prosperity; the greens symbolize money; the pork, because pigs root forward when foraging, represents positive motion” (Montgomery Advertiser, Jan. 2, 2009). Who knew?!

Some of the Recipes from This Week’s Meal Plan:

Merry Christmas!

I’ve heard the Christmas story and celebrated the birth of Christ my whole life. Every Christmas we put up a nativity in the living room as part of our celebration. But this year, through sermons and testimonies and readings, I have come to appreciate the Christmas story in a new way, with a new perspective.

Here’s a sermon that Pastor Brooks preached a few weeks ago that got me started. He went through II Chronicles 28 and Isaiah 7-9 and gave the backstory of the prophecy of a Savior. At that time, the people were misplaced, distraught, and grieving over the loss of many men and children who had been killed during a time of captivity. It was at this low point, that God told Isaiah to tell His people that a baby was to be born who would be their “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), their “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) – God WITH us! He had not left them alone.

I also saw the perspective of what Mary and Joseph went through. It took a great deal of faith on Joseph’s part to trust God (and Mary) when his betrothed announced that she was pregnant and she hadn’t done anything wrong. It took faith on Mary’s part, as she was young, scared, and had all kinds of changes happening to her body that she was unfamiliar with, not to mention the scorn the town must have placed on her for being pregnant and unwed.

It must have been hard to travel on the back of a donkey being at full-term in her pregnancy. I’m sure she felt every bump along the long, dry road.

And then, there must have been feelings of doubt and unbelief and fear as they could not find a room to sleep in in Bethlehem, but were instead forced to nestle down with the stinky, dirty, overcrowded animals in the inn’s stable. Joseph must have thought, “Don’t you understand?! My wife is carrying the Messiah! She’s 9 months pregnant, and you can’t find a few square feet for her to rest?!” But instead, he stayed with her and coached her through the pain of contractions and the stench of manure to bring forth the perfect Christ-child, Jesus. It took faith from both of them to trust in this baby as their Savior.

And then this baby Jesus didn’t stay a cute little baby in a manger. He grew to be a man, a perfect, sinless man, who would die for the sins of mankind, my sins, on a cruel and crude cross. Praise Him! Thank Him! And when you look at your nativity set, remember the journey His earthly parents went through, and the path He took from that humble stable to the humiliating cross, and know that He had you in mind the whole time. Trust Him! Love Him! For He did not stay dead. He arose! And lives triumphantly in heaven, preparing a place for each of us. And it will not be a humble stable, but palaces of grandeur, glorifying the God of the Universe!

picture found on LoveFaithBlogs.blogspot.com

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas Basket and Meal Plan!

This year’s Christmas basket included Granny Smith Apples, Sweet Potatoes and Yukon Golds, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Oranges, Green Beans, Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Onions.

And here’s this week’s Meal Plan (using PepperPlate once again):

The first recipe that came to my mind when I walked in the house yesterday and saw these beautiful Granny Smith Apples from my Milk and Honey Organics weekly produce basket was the Marcia Adams’ Granny Smith Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce! It’s a family favorite around the holidays and a quick dump cake that is delicious every time! The last time I made it, I used buttered ramekins, so each person got their very own apple cake and could put as much or as little caramel sauce atop as they liked. This cake would also make a beautiful homemade gift for neighbors or friends. If it doesn’t turn out exactly as beautiful as you would like, just drizzle some caramel sauce on top and pipe some whipped cream on it! (Yes, I confess, I have done that before.)

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of The Chew episodes. It’s a fairly new morning talk show on ABC featuring four chefs and a fashion stylist. It’s pretty funny, most of the time, and has a lot of good recipes. Here are a few that I saw over the last few weeks that would be great to feature this week’s basket in:

(Other Recipes from the Meal Plan can be found in past Weekly Meal Plan posts).

What will likely happen in my house (and perhaps yours), is that you’ll plan your Christmas Dinner as your main meal for the week and then snack and attend parties and family gatherings for the rest of the week.

Leftovers will likely be a part of this week’s menu for all of us, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be every bit as delicious as the feast itself. Enjoy plenty of  beautiful, organic produce this week! Keep it light and healthful and enjoy the time with family and friends even more than you enjoy the food! I hope you have a blessed and peaceful holiday season, full of family, food, and festivities!

Merry Christmas from My Journey to Lean!

I Corinthians 13 Applied To Christmas

A beautiful application of the love of Christ and the distractions, preoccupations, and false philosophies we often struggle with during the holidays. May this season of Christmas be focused on its original purpose: the celebration of Christ.

“I Corinthians 13 – Christmas Version”

“If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love, I’m just another decorator.

“If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love, I’m just another cook.

“If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love, it profits me nothing.

“If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

“Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.

“Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

“Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

“Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never fails.

“Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure.”

~Author Unknown

Weekly Recipes and Meal Plan!

This Week’s Basket included Garlic, Ginger, Ruby Grapefruit, Satsuma Mandarins, D’Anjou Pears, Kiwis, Jonagold Apples, BioWay Turnips with Greens, Parisi Green or Red Cabbage, Hurricane Creek Cucumbers and Tomatoes, and Parisi Lettuce and Sweet Potatoes (the sweet potatoes were an extra in my basket because I blog for M&H, plus I got a few extra kiwi and pears that aren’t shown). Needless to say, this was a really excellent basket this week!

I used PepperPlate.com to create the meal plan, once again. I’m liking this site/app more and more every time I use it!

This Week’s Recipe Ideas:

Other recipes on the meal plan can be found in the Recipe Archives on the Milk and Honey Organics blog. Here’s the recipe for the Turkey Feta Meatballs and Tomato Caper Pasta (an original favorite of mine). Enjoy!

And here are some tips on Turnips and their Greens! (I recommend storing them separately in air tight containers or bags.) I hope you enjoy some delicious produce this weekend!
My weekend will be spent finishing up last touches on Bryan’s Christmas gift and hopefully getting Christmas cards in the mail (fingers crossed)! Oh, and I plan on posting a giveaway on the blog soon!!! So stay tuned! How do plan on spending your weekend?!

23 and 1/2 Hours: What is the Single Best Thing We Can Do For Our Health?

This presentation is less than 10 minutes long and worth the watch by Dr. Mike Evans (@docmikeevans). Will you join me and take this challenge?!

Holiday Pizza Pizzazz

Tonight’s pizza was an interesting combination of ingredients that turned out to be fabulous! It reminded me of Ina Garten’s Sausage Cranberry Stuffing for her Roasted Turkey Roulade.

I started with our homemade white wheat sourdough crust and prebaked that for 5 minutes at 425F. Then I drizzled the crust with some black raspberry vinaigrette (2 parts organic black raspberry jam, 1 part blueberry red wine vinegar, 1 part organic olive oil – whisk together over low heat until evenly combined).

For the toppings, I used cooked, crumbled sausage along with goat cheese,  caramelized onions, thinly sliced granny smith apples, chopped fresh mushrooms, chopped pecans, dried cranberries and fresh cilantro. Then I baked it for another 8-10 minutes at the same temperature, until the crust was golden and the cheese was just beginning to brown. Wow! I will definitely make this again! It was delicious! The crust was thin and crisp, the vinaigrette, cranberries and apples added a nice, sweet tang that paired beautifully with the creamy goat cheese and fresh nuttiness of the pecans. I think I’m craving another piece just writing this post!

What crazy toppings have you put on your pizza that gave it some pizzazz?!

One Busy Week in Review

Tis the Season for holiday hecticness! I’m almost done with Christmas shopping. I have a few more small items I want to get Bryan, but other than that, I think all I have to do is finish wrapping gifts and tucking them under the tree! It certainly has been a busy time, ever since we got back from our little mini-post-Thanksgiving-vacation in Tennessee. I haven’t had a lot of time to post, so let me share a semi-brief recap.

Let’s start with last Friday. A dear friend and coworker, Grace, is moving away soon, so a group of us got together and had a sushi lunch at Murasaki downtown to celebrate and wish her well in her new endeavor.

That night, I started decorating for Christmas. I pulled out all the Christmas China and stemware and started setting up the dining room.

 Saturday was a wonderful day! Bryan came home from work around 9:30AM (my night shift man) and we decorated the Christmas tree! It’s a sky blue, white,  and copper/brown theme this year, and of course we always hang the little wooden bear ornaments.

I attempted my first batch of homemade English Muffins, using Simply Life’s recipe. They turned out pretty good. I used white wheat flour instead of the recommended combination of whole wheat and all purpose, and my yeast was a bit old, so I added a little extra “for good measure” and I also think the heat on my stove was a little high for the griddling process, so they were slightly different from the recipe, but they were still tasty. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture.

But since those had to rise twice, I decided to make some Pomegranate Orange Scones using ingredients from last week’s basket. They were so good!

I even got a “retweet” from the recipe’s creator, Gina @runtothekitchen.

I bought a white tablecloth for the dining room and two cranberry red taper candles for the crystal candle holders we got at our wedding five plus years ago (not shown). And I put up the mini tree in the dining room with all of my “produce” ornaments. Yes, there’s a little chef’s coat that says “Bon Appetit,” one of my favorite sayings, and all kinds of hand-crafted ornaments from Poland in the forms of fruits and vegetables! I found them at Sur La Table last year, my mom bought several pieces for me for Christmas and I bought several more in the after-Christmas online sale. Now, that’s my kind of tree!

There’s even a precious little garden gnome with his own produce wheelbarrow!

I found a special treat in the Christmas decoration boxes this year that I had forgotten about from last year. Tucked neatly under the tree skirt was my set of Christmas pint glasses that I purchased last year on after-Christmas clearance! I love the gold lettering, even if they do have to be hand-washed.

After a day full of decorating (and cleaning up from decorating), Saturday ended with a dinner of Chicken Lentil Soup with my friend Shannah, and some coffee and scones. I love hanging out with like-minded friends (and including coffee with fellowship is always a win).

Sunday started with going to morning service with Bryan at Heritage, followed by teaching 2nd grade Sunday school. This week’s lesson was on the Trinity and Unity of God. That afternoon included some fellowship and a time of rest for me.

Monday night, I had lunch with a new friend Tami from church. It’s amazing how God can bring people from different backgrounds together to have such a special bond in Christ!

Monday night, I had the privilege of attending a ladies’ banquet at Locust Hill Baptist Church and hearing Gracia Burnham share her testimony of God’s grace through being a missionary in the Philippines, being captured, being rescued the same day her husband was killed, and walking in faith while raising her children without him. I remember praying for their release back when I attended a small Christian high school in Ohio, and tonight I had the pleasure of meeting Gracia and shaking her hand. She took my hand and hugged my neck, and graciously agreed to let me share her story on my blog. She truly lives up to the name Gracia, as she walks in grace towards her fellow mankind, even sharing the Gospel with her former captors! And I pray for those in attendance who do not know Christ, that they will remember the words they heard and trust Him alone for their salvation.

Tuesday night was Bible study. We served a baked potato bar and salad bar, which is always fun. And we discussed topics relating to confrontation, edification, and our obligation for accountability among fellow believers.

Wednesday night was Shepherding Group. We love our Shepherding Group at Heritage Bible Church and are thankful for how the Lord is knitting this diverse group of believers together in His Name and for His Glory! Bryan and I went out for a quick date night dinner before Shepherding Group for a little “us time” in the middle of this busy week.

Thursday night was my office Christmas party. In the last couple of months, our good friend Dave joined the team, working in IT, so it was fun to have him and his wife Rachel with us at the party this year. I thought the food was great, the decorations were well done, and overall, it was a good time had by all. We left early, since Bryan had to work, but it was just long enough to have a nice meal, mingle for a bit, and relax with friends. Plus, it’s always fun to have an opportunity to get dressed up a bit.

Friday was our Sunday school Christmas party (no, not the 2nd graders – our adult Sunday school that we’re apart of when we’re not on rotation to teach – the LifeBuilders class with Pastor McCormick). What a refreshing time to catch up!

On top of all this is full-time work as an Executive Assistant, plus blogging here and for Milk and Honey Organics, trying to keep the house clean, laundry done, and yard in decent shape, and still see family and friends, all while staying sane.

Next week shouldn’t be quite as busy, but it is a busy time of year for sure. We’re looking forward to welcoming our brother-in-law James home from Afghanistan and seeing family for Christmas!

Oh, and one more exciting thing for me over the past week or so was having some very positive feedback on Twitter from my posts using PepperPlate.com as a Meal Planning Tool! Check out what they had to say:

Today was filled with fellowship with my friend Gina, running errands, hanging out with my sister and her boys, babysitting the neighbor kids so they’re parents could wrap up Christmas shopping for them (this included making shortbread press cookies and gingerbread and teaching them to play Blokus, along with much laughter).

I hope you had a fun-filled week and are beginning your preparations for worship tomorrow. Good night!

I hope you had a wonderful time

Weekly Meal Plan and Recipe Ideas

This Week’s Basket from Milk and Honey Organics included Granny Smith Apples, Satsuma Mandarins, Jumbo Sweet Yellow Onions, Pomegranates, Celery, Bananas, Carrots, Ataulfo Mangos, Silver Dollar Mushrooms, Hurricane Creek Lettuce, Kem Radish Microgreens, Parisi Farms’ Beets and White Sweet Potatoes.

I am so excited to try the Satsumas! They’re a type of mandarin or orange, and a variety I have never had the privilege of tasting prior to this. And, of course, I love beets and sweet potatoes!

Here’s the meal plan I created using PepperPlate.com. I have to say, the more recipes you add, the easier it is to meal plan. You simply go to the planner tab and type a word (like “beets”) and every recipe that has that word in the title pops up for you to select the recipe you want.

And here’s the list of recipes:

Bon Appetit!!