Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Delightful Kittens!

Blogging world, meet Firestorm and Selah, the two delightful kittens that Lukas and I got this summer. Since we got married last August we have been wanting kittens... both of us grew up with cats, and we both love the cute, cuddly animals. However, our first apartment did not allow pets, so we waited in anticipation for when we would be able to get our first pets together. As soon as we put down the deposit on our new apartment this summer we started looking for options for some little kittens to add to our new home.

And we stumbled upon these two: a fluffy orange and white friendly little guy and a tortoiseshell colored, sweet and affectionate little female.  They were actually part of two separate litters, but grew up together out in Arkansas country. We found them through a posting on Craig's List. Being the cat lovers we are, we picked them up and brought them home the day after we finished moving into our new apartment. Hmm, what comes first, unpacking all those boxes or picking up our new pets? Yep, the kittens won out! 

Selah (black and tan kitten, known as a tortoiseshell) is such a sweetheart. She loves being held and will usually stay in our arms as long as we hold her. I have never had a cat who enjoys being held as much as she does.

Firestorm (the orange and white kitten), as his names implies, is a bundle of energy. He's very friendly and loves to be around people. For that matter, both cats are very much people cats.

Being kittens, they of course love to explore and get into mischief. Lukas has started trying to hide some of our plants out of their reach because they keep trying to attack and bite off the leaves! Firestorm really likes playing with wadded up paper balls. And we get a kick out of watching them chase around a little red laser that we direct all around the house.

Of course, they're kittens so they have their time of romping around, but they also sleep a lot. They're so cute when they take their naps!

They find the strangest places to sleep sometimes! As you can see, Selah thought my TOMS shoe would make a nice place to rest.

The best is when they fall asleep in your arms though. Awww! In this picture, Firestorm found a cuddly spot for a nap in Lukas' arms. Even as I write this, Firstorm has jumped up on Lukas and is laying on his chest. 

They also like high-up perches (such as Lukas' shoulder)... or the kitchen counter tops. We're working on training them to stay away from those!

What about you all? Do you have any fun pet stories? As for us, we sure are having fun with Firestorm and Selah. They brighten up our days!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Arroz Chaufa: Peruvian Fried Rice

I have been immersed into the world of Peruvian cooking... thanks to my husband's family being missionaries in Peru. And, let me tell you, Peruvian food is tasty.

I used to think Lukas was biased when he talked about how great Peruvian food was. I figured that, having grown up there, he was just partial to it. This may be true, but I have since discovered firsthand how delicious Peruvian food really is. I have had the opportunity to try a variety of Peruvian dishes made by Lukas' family and in a Peruvian restaurant we found in Tulsa. We have tried making a few of these dishes at home, and I look forward to trying more in the future!

In fact, come to find out, Peruvian food has been rated in culinary circles as one of the top countries for unique cuisine. There are hundreds of dishes unique to Peru. The recipe below is for arroz chaufa, which is a Peruvian fried rice. This particular dish has significant Chinese influence, but with a bit of a Peruvian twist.

I still remember the first time I tried arroz chaufa. Lukas and his sister, Lynea, made the dish for me when Lukas and I were dating, and I remember them huddled in the tiny dorm kitchen attempting to make a culinary masterpiece. Cooking anything as a college student is always a challenge given the lack of cooking supplies and space, but they did a great job. Now Lukas and I can make this at home (thankfully, we have a little more space to work now in an apartment than we did in a dorm kitchen)!

Arroz Chaufa

  • 1 large chicken breast
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 large onion
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 square inches ginger root
  • 3 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Soy sauce
  • 3 green onions
  • 1-2 small carrots
  • 1/3 bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups rice (2 cups precooked)
  • 2 eggs
  • Optional: extra onion and several limes for topping


Start cooking rice. For two cups of rice, we cooked with 2 3/4 cups water in our rice maker. If you don't have a rice maker, you can easily cook it on the stove.

Cut the chicken breast into bite size pieces. Mince garlic and ginger root. Cut up onion into small pieces. Cook chicken, garlic, ginger and onion on the stove in a large pan, along with cumin, chicken bouillon, salt and pepper. You can also add a small amount of soy sauce at this point.

Cut up green onions, carrots and bell pepper. Steam briefly with a little bit of water to soften the vegetables. We just put the vegetables in the microwave briefly.

Add onions, carrots, bell pepper and peas (if the peas are still a bit frozen they will defrost quickly on the stove) to the meat. Add cooked rice to the mixture. Stir everything together. Add a little more soy sauce to flavor. Ideally, you want some soy sauce flavor, but not too much (so that you can taste all the other distinct flavors).

Fry two eggs in a separate skillet and chop into small pieces. Mix egg pieces in with the rice, meat and veggies.

And it's all ready to eat. If desired, you can squeeze several limes and mix with chopped onions for a topping for arroz chaufa. This is the typical Peruvian way to eat it; my husband loves it, but I usually skip that part--I think it has plenty of flavor without it. If you choose to make the sauce, just keep it in a separate dish from the rice, that way you can add it as desired. A little bit of the sauce goes a long way.

Enjoy this taste of South American cuisine!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Friendship Soup--Wholesome and Delicious

Spring is in full bloom, and I love it! In light of the warmer weather, it may seem a bit strange to be posting a soup recipe. While I agree that soup is more of a winter food, I do still sometimes make it even in the warmer months. And this is such a filling, wholesome and delicious soup that it is great all year round.
Friendship Soup is a soup I grew up on. It gets its name from the fact that it works great to layer the dry ingredients in a jar and give away as a homemade gift to friends. All they have to do is add the tomatoes, meat and water and cook! A family friend gave a jar of the soup ingredients to my mom year ago, and my mom has been making it ever since.

Since getting married, I have frequently turned to this soup for a staple meal option (Lukas loves it!) and have passed along the recipe to my mother-in-law. What I love about this soup is how filling it is, how delicious it tastes, and how healthy it is. It incorporates such nutritious and often-forgotten-about ingredients, such as lentils and split peas, and it has great Italian flavoring. And for someone who really tries to cook healthy foods (although I still can't resist making the occasional dessert!), this soup is a great option!

Look at that wholesome goodness!
Friendship Soup
1/2 cup dry split peas
1/3 cup beef bouillon 
1/4 cup barley
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/4 cup dried minced onion
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 cup uncooked white or brown rice
1/2 cup alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni
1 pound browned ground beef
3 quarts water
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes (or two smaller cans that are about 15 oz each)

Put all dry ingredients, except for pasta, in a large pot. Add browned ground beef, 3 quarts of water and the canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add reserved macaroni; cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until all is tender.

To give as a gift: Layer all the dry ingredients in a jar. Put pasta in a small plastic bag and place as the top layer of the jar. Include instructions for how to prepare the recipe and what ingredients they need to add. Would work great as a Mother's Day gift (not too far away), new neighbor gift, Christmas gift (OK, so might have to stash that idea away for a while) or a just-because gift.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thankfulness: Naming the Gifts, Living in Grace

When I first started blog, it was part of an endeavor to focus on the simple delights in life, seeing the hand of God in my life, and thankfulness in everything. It's about this pursuit to live life to the fullest in Christ. I certainly don't have it all figured out (knowing God is the journey of a lifetime), but by God's grace, I want to learn step by step what it means to walk with Christ and to know Him.

As I was starting up this blog, a friend told me that the theme of my blog reminded her a lot of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts and her blog, Intrigued, I decided to check out the site and ended up ordering the book. This book has turned out to be a profoundly influential one in my life. The subtitle of One Thousand Gifts sums up so well how I want to live: Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Ann says:

"'Wherever you are, be all there.' I have lived the runner, panting ahead in worry, pounding back in regrets, terrified to live in the present, because here-time asks me to do the hardest thing of all: just open wide and receive... This is where God is. In the present. I AM--His very name... 'Wherever you are, be all there' is only possible in the posture of eucharisteo. I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God." -One Thousand Gifts (p. 69, 77)

The theme of the book centers around the concept of eucharisteo, a Greek word that means giving thanks. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, which means "grace." And the derivative of charis is the Greek word chara, which means "joy." She talks about seeing God's grace in every aspect of our lives, and naming the gifts. It's all a very practical way of living out the "in everything give thanks" that God has called us to.

I resonate with Ann and her struggle to live fully in the present. How easy it is for my mind to mull over how I wish I had handled things better in the past, fear the unknowns of the future, or miss out on moments of today. "The secret to figuring out life: All is grace--because God is transfiguring all things for His glory," says Ann. I want to learn how to give thanks in everything. And in doing so, learn how to not be yanked back to the past or run ahead to the future, but to bloom where God has planted me, so to speak.

I want to start using this blog as one way of chronicling God's faithfulness and a tangible way of expressing thankfulness. Here are a few things I'm thankful for today, in no particular order:

* Rain watering the earth, bringing the new life of spring, and the thunder that accompanies it
* Quiet morning at home to relax
* Beautiful flowers on the table, a thoughtful gift from my husband
* Financial needs always met, sometimes in unexpected ways
* The cozy apartment we have been blessed to call home these past seven months
* Mercies new every morning, learning to trust His grace for my struggles and shortcomings
* Delicious, homemade granola for breakfast
* A godly, committed and loving husband, precious gift from God
* Encouraging words from my mom
* A job where I get to sample delicious, gourmet coffees

Care to join me on this journey? What are you thankful for? How can you practice eucharisteo today?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Peanut Butter + Chocolate = Scrumptious

It's been way too long since I've updated this. My intention is to be more consistent for my readers, so my apologies. It's been a busy several weeks. However, I hope it's been worth the wait because today I'm featuring one of my very favorite dessert recipes--a recipe that combines two very good things: peanut butter and chocolate.

And really, how can you go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate? Both ingredients are amazing, and when combined together they are just--wow. These peanut butter bars, complete with a chocolate topping and peanut butter glaze, are definitely a crowd-pleaser and a tantalizing feast for your taste buds.

These are one of my tried and true recipes. I made them for my husband's birthday--the first one we celebrated together, back when he was my boyfriend. Lukas jokingly said I was trying to "fatten him up." Lukas is not a big dessert eater and yet he loves these peanut butter bars. I also made them for one of the first meals I cooked for my in-laws after Lukas and I moved into our new apartment. And I served them to family and friends at a game night we hosted recently. They are always met with raving reviews.

Peanut Butter Bars
Base of the bars
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup milk

Cream butter and sugars for the base of the bars, blend everything else in. Put in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes.

While it is cooking, gather the chocolate chips for the topping and blend the glaze ingredients together (you want the glaze to be fairly thick, but also at a consistency where you can drizzle it onto the bars). After removing the bars from the oven, sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Let stand 10 minutes. Drizzle with glaze.

Let cool (at least most of the way) before serving. They will keep their shape better this way. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Paella: Delicious Spanish Cuisine

Join me for a walk down memory lane and let me share a wonderful Spanish dish that I tried while studying abroad in Spain three years ago and recently decided to recreate in my own kitchen.

I spent a four months studying abroad in Seville, Spain (Sevilla as the Spaniards would say) during spring semester 2009. I still think nostalgically about that beautiful city, filled with art and historical sites almost around every corner. What a special opportunity it was to spend that time there, immersed in a culture so different from my own.

Sevilla was definitely a pedestrian city, and we walked just about everywhere. One Saturday, my roommate and I decided to wander around to some local shops and try a Spanish restaurant. Our meal of choice was the famous Spanish dish of paella, a sauteed mix of rice, vegetables, spices and meat or seafood. It was delicious and one of my favorite foods in Spain.

I was so excited when I found a recipe for paella in my Taste of Home cookbook. This recipe takes some time to assemble, but it's fairly straightforward and is well worth the effort. The original recipe was too big for just my husband and me, so the recipe below is my modified, halved version. It makes about 5-6 servings.

  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1-1/4 cups uncooked long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (or equivalent in canned tomatoes)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

In a large saucepan, combine the broth, rice, onion, half of the garlic, salt, turmeric, pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in large skillet, saute the green pepper, green onions, parsley, thyme, hot pepper sauce and remaining garlic in oil for 2 minutes. Cook until green pepper is crisp-tender. Add tomatoes and peas; heat through. Discard bay leaf from rice mixture. Stir rice into vegetable mixture and keep warm.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook chicken in lemon juice. I also added a little olive oil. (The recipe also called for shrimp, which I left out because it is not necessary and I don't usually have it on hand. However, you can add it if desired.)

Once cooked, add meat to rice and vegetable mixture.

We served the paella with some garlic green beans on the side. Yum!

Buen provecho!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Crockpot Cooking: Shredded Beef Tacos

We were given a crockpot for a wedding gift, and I've been looking forward to trying it out for a while now. Last week I finally got around to doing so. I think my husband can attest to how excited I was about cooking in it for the first time--pretty sure I talked about it quite a bit! For my first endeavor in crockpot cooking, I decided to make a recipe that I got from my mom: Shredded Beef Tacos. They are delicious and unique from other taco recipes I've tried.

This recipe makes enough for at least 10-12 tacos, if not more, depending on the size of your roast and how full you fill the tortillas. The roast I used was about two and a half pounds. My husband and I have been taking leftovers to work with us for lunches, but leftovers are also supposed to freeze well if you want to save some for later.

After I successfully made my first crockpot meal, my conclusion is this--I love crockpots and can't wait to find more ways to make use of this great invention. It was wonderful to come into our apartment when I got back from work to the wafting smell of slow cooking roast. And the best part was actually eating the tacos!

Shredded Beef Tacos
  • 2-4 pound Roast
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • Adobo Seasoing (2-3 tsp)
  • 2 cups black beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1-2 cups frozen corn

Place roast in a the crockpot. (You may want to trim off some fat first--I was able to get a much leaner cut of meat by doing this). Sprinkle Adobo seasoning and taco seasoning packet on top, as well as black beans, corn and salsa. The recipe calls for 2-3 teaspoons, though I didn't really measure it out--just sprinkled until it looked like the top of the roast well well coated. For those of you who have never used Adobo seasoning, it's a wonderful spice combination including salt, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and other spices. You will probably not find it on the aisle with the rest of the spices; I found it on the Hispanic food aisle. It's one of those hidden gems that you might not find if you don't know what you're looking for. (Extra tidbit about Adobo seasoning: It also makes great seasoning on top of baked tilapia if you want an additional use for it.)

Cook all day on low--about 8-10 hours. It's well worth the longer cooking time--it came out really tender and moist and fell apart when I shredded it.

When meat is done, transfer to a large pan and shred with two forks. Mix meat back into sauce in crockpot.

Serve on tortillas with sour cream and cheese. Yum!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Berry Cream Muffins

Cooking is a simple delight for me. There is something immensely satisfying about combining a variety of ingredients and ending up with something tasty to eat. And the things you can come up with are endless!

After getting married last summer and now having an apartment of our own, my love for cooking and spending time in the kitchen has really taken off. There is something really special about having my own kitchen, doing my own meal planning and stocking the kitchen with the ingredients I like or want to try. I have found a whole new world in searching for recipes and finding creative ways to make meals, pastries, desserts, side dishes, etc., as well as trying old tried and true recipes that bring back nostalgic childhood memories (I had a mom who is a great cook to set an example for me!).

The recipe below is for Berry Cream Muffins. I found the recipe in my Taste of Home cookbook, which my grandma gave me as a Christmas gift about a year ago. 

These Berry Cream Muffins, I must say, are now one of my all-time favorite muffin recipes. They are very moist and flavorful, and they are great to have with a bowl of cereal for breakfast, as a snack or even as a dessert. I made these today, and when my husband, Lukas, walked in the door, one of the first things he did was comment on how good the house smelled. When I told him what I had made, he wasted no time in doing a little dance to the kitchen to sample the freshly baked goods, which was followed by many "Mmm's." :)

Berry Cream Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup fresh or frozen raspberries, blueberries or blackberries
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
½ cup vegetable oil
½ teaspoon vanilla

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add berries and toss gently. I have tried this recipe with blueberries, raspberries, and as shown in this blog, a mix of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. They all turned out delicious. 

Combine eggs, sour cream/yogurt, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. The recipes turn out well with either sour cream or a flavored yogurt. Today I used a raspberry yogurt, supplemented with a little bit of sour cream to get the full cup specified by the recipe. Either way, the yogurt and/or sour cream makes these muffins delightfully moist!

Fill greased muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-22 minutes. This recipe makes about 12 muffins.

Optional Streusel Topping: 
You don't have to do the streusel, but I've always included this. Really, who doesn't like a sweet, crunchy, cinnamon topping on the top of a muffin? For the streusel, mix 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons quick cooking oats, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Cut in 2 tablespoons cold butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins before baking.

And there you have it. One of my very favorite muffin recipes! Happy baking!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Journey of Delight

Simple Delight.

That's the theme of this blog, which may sound a little obscure at first, but to me these two words are ones of great significance. My husband, Lukas, first started using the phrase and it’s one that has stuck with me. The words “Simple Delight” have to do a lot with what with what God has been teaching me. They are a description of the kind of person I want to be, and by the grace of God, it is an area in which I hope to continue to grow. 

I like how Jim Elliot put it “Wherever you are, be all there.” It’s about having a simple contentedness in a busy world. A commitment to thankfulness no matter what the circumstances. A commitment to learning to rejoice in all things and see the good in things, even when things are difficult or challenging or seem less than ideal.

I don't want to miss out on the simple delights of life. A sunrise. Going on a walk. Spending time with a loved one. Making my apartment homey and inviting. The satisfaction of making a delectable meal or dessert. Simple creative outlets. Putting my best foot forward every day at work. Laughter. The little and big blessings that make up life. The blessings that are so easy to take for granted or miss if we’re not intentional. It's too easy to waste precious moments worrying, analyzing the past, contemplating the future, or getting frustrated with challenges. This shouldn’t be! I want to live life to the fullest!

So what will this look like for a blog? The idea is to fill this blog with things that inspire simple delight in me, whether a recipe worth trying, the beauty of nature, decorating ideas, or musings about life. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. What are simple delights in your life? I hope you’ll join me for this journey.

Photo by Anna Keagy