29 January 2016

Skinny Taste Crockpot Soup, YUM

*Disclaimer: I DID NOT take this picture. You could probably already tell since the quality of my pictures are not nearly this great. However, I loved this recipe SO much that I have to blog about it even though I devoured my soup before taking a picture. So here you go, a picture to go with a recipe that I did not take, nor create. From scratch.*

Hello! I cooked this fabulous soup for dinner the other night and it was SO good. Very full of flavor, light and weight watchers approved. I took the original recipe from Skinny Taste, my favorite. But I ended up doing some changes, I'll note those in italics below. Main change was that I used ground turkey and not beef. 

Beef Turkey, Tomato and Acini di Pepe Soup (Instant Pot, Slow Cooker + Stove Top)

Servings: 6 • Size: 1 generous cup • Points +: 6 • Smart Points: 5
Calories: 249 • Fat: 8 g • Carb: 23 g • Fiber: 3 g • Protein: 21 g 
Sugar: 4 g • Sodium: 593 mg • Cholesterol: 49 mg

Ingredients: 

1 lb 90% lean ground beef/1 lb 93% lean ground turkey
1- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrot
28 oz can diced tomatoes/2- 14.5 oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
32 oz beef stock/32 oz vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
4 oz small pasta such as Acini di pepei
grated parmesan cheese, optional

 In a large nonstick skillet, saute the beef and salt on high heat until browned, breaking the meat up into small bits. Add the onion, celery and carrots and saute 3 to 4 minutes. 

Transfer to the slow cooker along with the tomatoes, stock and bay leaf, cover and cook low 8 hours.

 Just before it's ready cook the pasta on the stove according to package directions. Add the pasta, stir and cook according to package directions.  

So good, cook it!! I'm sure the turkey/beef change would do something to the point value but I'm honestly just too lazy to calculate it for you ;) 

24 January 2016

Snow Day!


Friday we had our first snow day of winter! I wasn't particularly excited about this snow day since I was scheduled to be off work anyway :(  

We woke up to probably 6 inches of snow. It was so pretty! I took a walk down the street around lunchtime since I needed something from the pharmacy and I wanted to grab a couple things from the grocery. Snapped these pictures while I was out... it was such a pretty day!! 

Now we wait for it to all melt, I really don't like the melting. The ugly dirt mixed snow remnants on the side of the road make me sad. Anyway, happy Sunday! 

23 January 2016

Paul Prudhomme, Round 3...


What do you do on a snow day!? Make that dinner you've been talking about making but really needed a day to do so :) 

Enter Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Gumbo. We started this bad boy around noon yesterday! First step, making a homemade seafood stock. And if you follow me on snapchat you are so lucky because you got to see the whole process, state to finish!!! :) 

So shrimp stock made, roux made, add your sausage, shrimp, oysters and crab and you've got a delicious gumbo, perfect for a cold, snowy evening in. 

Seafood Gumbo

Ingredients:
2 cups chopped onions
1 ½ cups chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
Seasoning mix (see recipe)
¾ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup flour
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 ½ cups seafood stock (see note)
1 pound andouille smoked sausage or other, such as Polish sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 pound peeled medium shrimp
1 dozen medium to large oysters in their liquor, about 9 ounces, or canned clams
¾ pound crabmeat (picked over; see note)
2 ½ cups hot cooked rice

For seasoning mix:
2 whole bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Preparation:
In medium-size bowl, combine onions, bell peppers and celery.

Prepare seasoning mix.

In large heavy skillet, heat oil over high heat until it begins to smoke, about 5 minutes. Gradually add flour, whisking constantly with a long-handled metal whisk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until roux is dark red-brown to black, about 2 to 4 minutes, being careful not to let it scorch or splash on your skin. Immediately add half the vegetables and stir well (switch to a spoon if necessary). Continue stirring and cooking about 1 minute. Add remaining vegetables and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Stir in seasoning mix and continue cooking about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic; stir well, then cook and stir about 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, place stock in 5 ½-quart saucepan or large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Add roux mixture by spoonfuls to the boiling stock, stirring until dissolved between each addition. Bring mixture to a boil. Add andouille and return to a boil; continue boiling 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes more. Add shrimp, undrained oysters and crabmeat. Return to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and skim any oil from the surface. Serve immediately.

To serve as a main course, mound ¼ cup rice in the middle of each serving bowl. Spoon 1 cup gumbo over the top, making sure each person gets an assortment of the seafood and andouille. For appetizer servings, serve half this amount in a cup.

Note: Seafood stock is available at high-end food stores and larger supermarkets.

Seasoning mix:
In small bowl, mix all ingredients well.

21 January 2016

Happy Birthday Megan!

We celebrated my sweet friend/sister/cousins birthday this past weekend in Hot Springs. It was so much fun! Spent the day at the races (we did awful!) and finished it up with a nice meal at the Porterhouse downtown. Such a fun, perfect Saturday! 

Hello and welcome the year of turning 30th birthday celebrations!!! 

20 January 2016

Brian gone cajun


 Brian got the Paul Prudhomme Cajun Cookbook for Christmas and he loves it! He decided the first stab at cooking would be the Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo dish. You can find the original recipe HERE.

So we did... and let me tell you... cooking Paul's recipes is a marathon, not a sprint. A really long marathon. We've cooked two now and they take so. long. Lots going on in the kitchen. Brian made a super dark roux and the whole thing was delicious. I am not thrilled about all the frying going on here but I'm sure we can make an exception for once a month. Our next stab will be a seafood dish, I'm sure it will be full of butter but at least there will be not hot oil in the cast iron waiting to fry something. 

So here's the recipe if you are interested. And I do suggest making his rice, his way. It's pretty good! 

Chicken and Smoked Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Makes 6 main-dish or 10 appetizer servings

Ingredients
1 (3-4 pound) chicken, cut up
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic®
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped green bell peppers
¾ cup finely chopped celery
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil for deep frying
7 cups chicken stock or water
½ pound Chef Paul Prudhomme's Andouille (or any other good pure smoked sausage) cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Hot cooked rice (preferably converted)

Prepare
Remove excess fat from the chicken pieces.  Rub a generous amount of Meat Magic® on both sides of each piece, making sure each is evenly covered.  

Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl combine the onions, bell peppers and celery, set aside. 

 Thoroughly combine the flour with 1 tablespoon of Meat Magic® in a paper or plastic bag.  Add the chicken and shake until pieces are well coated.  Reserve ½ cup of the flour. 

In a large skillet (preferably NOT a nonstick type) heat 1½ inches oil until very hot (375º to 400º).  Fry the chicken pieces until crust is brown on both sides, about 5 to 8 minutes per side; drain on paper towels.  Carefully pour the hot oil into a glass measuring cup, leaving as many of the browned particles in the pan as possible.  Scrape the pan bottom with a metal whisk to loosen any stuck particles, then return ½ cup of hot oil to the pan.  Place pan over high heat.  Using a long handled metal whisk, gradually stir in the reserved ½ cup flour.  Cook, whisking constantly, until roux is dark red-brown, about 3½ to 4 minutes, being careful not to let it scorch or splash on your skin.  Remove from heat and immediately add the reserved vegetable mixture, stirring constantly until the roux stops getting darker.  Return pan to low heat and cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping the pan bottom well.  Set aside. 

Place the stock in a 5½-quart saucepan or large Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Add the roux mixture by spoonfuls to the boiling stock, stirring until dissolved between additions.  Add the chicken pieces and return mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping pan bottom often.  Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in the andouille and garlic.  Simmer uncovered until chicken is tender, about 1½-2 hours, stirring occasionally and more often toward the end of cooking time. 

When the gumbo is almost cooked, adjust the seasoning if desired with additional Meat Magic®.  Serve immediately over rice.
Copyright © 1984 by Paul Prudhomme

15 January 2016

Good Read

A friend on facebook posted this article from the Washington Post the other day and I wanted to share. I enjoyed the read and I'm happy I found it. 
I have so many happy, fun memories of growing up in the Episcopal Church. Attending youth every Sunday night, participating in scavenger hunts and food drives. I served on the state "Youth Commission" for the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas. We planned and staffed every camp at Camp Mitchell, aside from summer camps. I love Camp Mitchell. I took Brian there early in our dating life, we even discussed the possibility of getting married in the chapel there, follow THIS LINK to see if for yourself. Camp Mitchell will always hold a special part in my heart for the fun times and friendships I made during middle school and high school. One of which was the one who shared this article. 
My favorite take away from this article is this paragraph:
You can get a cup of coffee with your friends anywhere, but church is the only place you can get ashes smudged on your forehead as a reminder of your mortality. You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve. You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water. You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.
Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.’
Bass reverberates through the auditorium floor as a heavily bearded worship leader pauses to invite the congregation, bathed in the light of two giant screens, to tweet using #JesusLives. The scent of freshly brewed coffee wafts in from the lobby, where you can order macchiatos and purchase mugs boasting a sleek church logo. The chairs are comfortable, and the music sounds like something from the top of the charts. At the end of the service, someone will win an iPad.
This, in the view of many churches, is what millennials like me want. And no wonder pastors think so. Church attendance has plummeted among young adults. In the United States, 59 percent of people ages 18 to 29 with a Christian background have, at some point, dropped out. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, among those of us who came of age around the year 2000, a solid quarter claim no religious affiliation at all, making my generation significantly more disconnected from faith than members of Generation X were at a comparable point in their lives and twice as detached as baby boomers were as young adults.
In response, many churches have sought to lure millennials back by focusing on style points: cooler bands, hipper worship, edgier programming, impressive technology. Yet while these aren’t inherently bad ideas and might in some cases be effective, they are not the key to drawing millennials back to God in a lasting and meaningful way. Young people don’t simply want a better show. And trying to be cool might be making things worse.
You’re just as likely to hear the words “market share” and “branding” in church staff meetings these days as you are in any corporate office. Megachurches such as Saddleback in Lake Forest, Calif., and Lakewood in Houston have entire marketing departments devoted to enticing new members. Kent Shaffer of ChurchRelevance.com routinely ranks the best logos and Web sites and offers strategic counsel to organizations like Saddleback and LifeChurch.tv.
Increasingly, churches offer sermon series on iTunes and concert-style worship services with names like “Vine” or “Gather.” The young-adult group at Ed Young’s Dallas-based Fellowship Church is called Prime, and one of the singles groups at his father’s congregation in Houston is called Vertical. Churches have made news in recent years for giving away tablet computers , TVs and even cars at Easter. Still, attendance among young people remains flat.
Recent research from Barna Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network found that 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one, and 77 percent would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium.” While we have yet to warm to the word “traditional” (only 40 percent favor it over “modern”), millennials exhibit an increasing aversion to exclusive, closed-minded religious communities masquerading as the hip new places in town. For a generation bombarded with advertising and sales pitches, and for whom the charge of “inauthentic” is as cutting an insult as any, church rebranding efforts can actually backfire, especially when young people sense that there is more emphasis on marketing Jesus than actually following Him. Millennials “are not disillusioned with tradition; they are frustrated with slick or shallow expressions of religion,” argues David Kinnaman, who interviewed hundreds of them for Barna Group and compiled his research in “You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith.”
My friend and blogger Amy Peterson put it this way: “I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘relevant.’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”
Millennial blogger Ben Irwin wrote: “When a church tells me how I should feel (‘Clap if you’re excited about Jesus!’), it smacks of inauthenticity. Sometimes I don’t feel like clapping. Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion — not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it.”
When I left church at age 29, full of doubt and disillusionment, I wasn’t looking for a better-produced Christianity. I was looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity: I didn’t like how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were being treated by my evangelical faith community. I had questions about science and faith, biblical interpretation and theology. I felt lonely in my doubts. And, contrary to popular belief, the fog machines and light shows at those slick evangelical conferences didn’t make things better for me. They made the whole endeavor feel shallow, forced and fake.
While no two faith stories are exactly the same, I’m not the only millennial whose faith couldn’t be saved by lacquering on a hipper veneer. According to Barna Group, among young people who don’t go to church, 87 percent say they see Christians as judgmental, and 85 percent see them as hypocritical. A similar study found that “only 8% say they don’t attend because church is ‘out of date,’ undercutting the notion that all churches need to do for Millennials is to make worship ‘cooler.’ ”
In other words, a church can have a sleek logo and Web site, but if it’s judgmental and exclusive, if it fails to show the love of Jesus to all, millennials will sniff it out. Our reasons for leaving have less to do with style and image and more to do with substantive questions about life, faith and community. We’re not as shallow as you might think.
If young people are looking for congregations that authentically practice the teachings of Jesus in an open and inclusive way, then the good news is the church already knows how to do that. The trick isn’t to make church cool; it’s to keep worship weird.
You can get a cup of coffee with your friends anywhere, but church is the only place you can get ashes smudged on your forehead as a reminder of your mortality. You can be dazzled by a light show at a concert on any given weekend, but church is the only place that fills a sanctuary with candlelight and hymns on Christmas Eve. You can snag all sorts of free swag for brand loyalty online, but church is the only place where you are named a beloved child of God with a cold plunge into the water. You can share food with the hungry at any homeless shelter, but only the church teaches that a shared meal brings us into the very presence of God.
What finally brought me back, after years of running away, wasn’t lattes or skinny jeans; it was the sacraments. Baptism, confession, Communion, preaching the Word, anointing the sick — you know, those strange rituals and traditions Christians have been practicing for the past 2,000 years. The sacraments are what make the church relevant, no matter the culture or era. They don’t need to be repackaged or rebranded; they just need to be practiced, offered and explained in the context of a loving, authentic and inclusive community.
My search has led me to the Episcopal Church, where every week I find myself, at age 33, kneeling next to a gray-haired lady to my left and a gay couple to my right as I confess my sins and recite the Lord’s Prayer. No one’s trying to sell me anything. No one’s desperately trying to make the Gospel hip or relevant or cool. They’re just joining me in proclaiming the great mystery of the faith — that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again — which, in spite of my persistent doubts and knee-jerk cynicism, I still believe most days.
One need not be an Episcopalian to practice sacramental Christianity. Even in Christian communities that don’t use sacramental language to describe their activities, you see people baptizing sinners, sharing meals, confessing sins and helping one another through difficult times. Those services with big screens and professional bands can offer the sacraments, too.
But I believe that the sacraments are most powerful when they are extended not simply to the religious and the privileged, but to the poor, the marginalized, the lonely and the left out. This is the inclusivity so many millennials long for in their churches, and it’s the inclusivity that eventually drew me to the Episcopal Church, whose big red doors are open to all — conservatives, liberals, rich, poor, gay, straight and even perpetual doubters like me.
Church attendance may be dipping, but God can survive the Internet age. After all, He knows a thing or two about resurrection.

14 January 2016

Another Christmas Post...

Because I really wasn't ready for it to be over! I did finally take down my decorations, like 4 days ago. But you know.... I've told you this before, Christmas really didn't end until last week. 

I guess I could reference me to me? In THIS POST I explained Advent.... 
Advent comes from the Latin word for "arrival" or "coming." It's the period of time that we prepare for the birth of the Lord. Advent starts 4 Sundays before Christmas-- that's when our Church puts out the "advent wreath" which is composed of 5 candles.. 3 purple, 1 pink and 1 white. The candles are lit each week of advent, a new Sunday... a new candle. On Christmas Eve the church will light the white candle (in the middle) which represents the life of Christ. "The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow."
The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year. Advent is a time of joy and preparation for Christmas. Then on Christmas Day, Christmas begins and lasts for the next 12 days... This year until Sunday, December 6th. That 12 days leads us to "Epiphany" which is the day the wise men made it to the baby Jesus. 
That's what I wrote back in 2013 on this exact blog...  so yeah, December 6th... I squeezed about 4 more days out of the happiest time of the year. But anyway, the point of this post is really to showcase those adorable door hangers at the top. LOVE. Right? 

And I'll leave you with one more, possibly the last Christmas picture... just because I think it's funny. 


11 January 2016

C-Pot Deer Chili

A month or so ago, I went home for lunch and started thinking about what to make for dinner. I went through the fridge, cabinets, even the freezer to find something. Nothing. I couldn't come up with anything, we were totally out of food. And it was a Tuesday... I just can't make myself go to the grocery store on Tuesday. 

You know usually when you want to find something, you start searching again trying to convince yourself that you have SOMETHING?! So I looked again and paused on the deer meat in the freezer. I started thinking, I guess I could lay it out and by the time it thaws I'll have a plan. But usually thawing stuff doesn't work for me. 

I thought, crock-pot... what can you do for me? Enter the idea of chili. We usually make turkey chili... like on the reg during the fall and winter. You can refer to THIS POST for my recipe. Shockingly, my husband loves this chili and requests it. It makes so much and we can eat on it for a few meals. So I threw together the deer chili with things we had around the house, based on what I could remember from the recipe. It was good. I don't remember being blown away but figured it was super easy, I didn't have to go to the store and Brian complimented it. Score. 

So Sunday night while I was cooking dinner I figured I would put together a crock-pot meal for Monday (today). Again, the simplicity of deer chili came to mind. This time I think I perfected it. It was soooo good tonight. Like SO GOOD. Brian told me 10 times... that's a big deal! The flavor was great... try it! You could use ground turkey or beef-- or deer meat! 

Crockpot Deer Chili

1 package deer meat, can be frozen
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 can rotel tomatoes 
1 can black beans (Add later) 
3 TBSP chili powder
1 TSP dried oregano
1 TSP dried basil 
1 TBSP sugar
A few splashes of hot sauce
1/2 diced onion
1/2 diced bell pepper 
1 cup chicken stock (your preference) 
1.5 TSP garlic salt
A few pinches of sea salt 

I am so bad at measuring things.. I usually just throw a little here, a little there. So some of these are open to interpretation/personal preference. 

Throw all of the above ingredients in the crock-pot and cook on low, for really however long you want. I add the beans about 15 minutes before serving. I can't remember the reason behind this but my favorite chef, Vivian Howard, told me this via her show A CHEFS LIFE

Serve with cheese and fritos. It's really good. I think the game changer in this chili is the fire roasted tomatoes. I get mine from Kroger for like 69 cents a can. I use them in SO many recipes. They are so good. I even use them to make salsa. I can't find a picture because I think they just changed the packaging. 

Good luck! Try this easy meal!!
XOXO

06 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the Johnston Family!! :) 

We had a really great time ringing in 2016 with friends. Our friends Scott and Holly came in to stay with us from NWA. We took our first Little Rock uber ride to join friends George and Caroline for a fabulous dinner. Brian and I ever made it up until midnight (!!!!) 

Spent the whole entire next day laying around and watching football with friends. Looking forward to 2016 and all the fun exciting things that it holds! Cheers! 
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