Mexican Chicken Quinoa Skillet

Cooking is an act of love.
My mama used to tell me this all the time. She cooked every night and I carried this desire with me into my marriage… then kids came. It’s not that my desire changed. The task of cooking and preparing a meal just became more difficult. I eventually had a heart-to-heart with myself and decided I had to come up with a game plan to cook meals for my husband and family.
This happened in two steps:
1  menu planning & meal prep
2  one pot meals
Let’s be honest – getting to the grocery store, prepping the food, and then cooking the meal is half the battle. Clean up is the worst part! With one-pot meals, the cleanup is a breeze, and this really speaks to my heart. Not only do I get to serve my family by way of cooking them dinner, but I also get to spend all that “would-be clean up time” with them! Win-win in for the mama books!
I used a skillet to cook this dish. You just need a pot or pan deep enough to hold the liquids that will eventually be absorbed by the quinoa. I’ve also made this recipe in a Dutch oven – my go-to for all things one-pot.

To get the rest of the recipe click HERE

My Top 5 Kitchen Gadgets

I am obsessed with my kitchen! This is probably because I love to cook…
Over the last few years I’ve added to my kitchen collection of gadgets so I’m going to list my top 5 favorites for you!
1.    Teavana holds my heart. I love a great cup of tea and as far as I’m concerned they hit it on the head with two pieces I can’t live without (I know I said 5 things but these two go hand in hand!). I love their PerfectTea Maker (when making tea for myself only) and the Breville One Touch Tea Maker (when making a few cups at a time). These two pieces do essentially the same thing, just in different quantities. For the Perfect Tea Maker I can make a big glass of iced tea or a cup of hot tea for myself. The Breville maker makes a much larger quantity. The Breville also boils the water, whereas the Perfect Tea maker needs you to boil before hand. Both are amazing pieces I use regularly!
2.    My Le Crueset Dutch Oven. This was the first major thing my husband bought me when we were dating. It is still one of my most used pieces in my kitchen. I have since then invested in many different Le Crueset pieces but I use my dutch oven at least 3 times a week… and it’s a piece that will outlive me so it’s fun to think my babies will cook with it one day!
3.    Our juicer. When I first thought about investing in a juicer I did a ton of research! I talked to friends, searched the internet, and browsed William Sonoma and Sur la Table until I was confident I found one I liked. My mother in law bought a slow juicer and I knew I didn’t want one of those (see my reasoning why here) so I finally decided on the Breville Juice Fountain Duo. It was quite an investment but I’ve used it religiously for a few years now and it works like a champ! I’m so happy with this purchase!
4.    Our Le Creuset Grill Pan. Seriously ladies we all need this! I refuse to grill (if you do grill, I strive to be more like you!) but I love grilled food. I am a stay at home wife for the most part so I feel that it’s the least I can do to have both a clean home, and dinner prepared when my husband gets home. This means no grilled food for us… until I bought this piece. I cook everything from veggies to fish to meats on it and best of all it transfers from the stove to the oven so I don’t have to dirty any more dishes! This pan does it all and I have been so impressed at how much it will do for me.
5.   Our Stacking Bowls. My mother in law gave this collection to us at one of my bridal showers and it is the most useful bowl set ever! It literally has every size you’d ever need and because it’s a set it all fits together perfectly making storing the set a breeze! I think this is just a staple for all kitchens.

Juicing continued…

Juicing continued…
So as I mentioned yesterday I love juicing! I’ve noticed some major health benefits to juicing which makes the sometimes long process of juicing so incredibly worth it!
When I first started juicing, my mom was fighting cancer. I woke up every morning and made us both a big green juice. She loved it! She felt better throughout the day, was able to keep the juice down, it was easy for her to drink, and it was delicious even when chemo altered her taste buds.
During the last 2 weeks my mom was alive, these benefits changed to me as now it was about the only thing I could keep down. Juice is packed with so many nutrients and you will feel that benefit indefinitely! 
So rewind to the first week of my juicing adventure! I bought our juicer the day before I started a new position at work (which had nothing to do with me buying the juicer I just remember the timing). The first morning I juiced I felt great… then the next day came. I literally came down with the worst “cold” of my life. My poor mom had to wear a mask in the house because I literally looked like a small train ran my over! It was awful! Then comes the next day… I wake up with a million pimples. I have always had extremely dry skin and I’ve never dealt with acne so this was surprising to say the least. I didn’t even know what to do with a zit! At this point I’m still thinking I caught this awful monster from work or something but I would soon figure out my body was literally detoxing. At this time of my life I was running 6-10 miles a day and was in great shape so if someone looked at me they’d think I was really healthy. What they wouldn’t know is up to this point I had dealt on and off for many years with an eating disorder. I’m not going to get into this too much right now but I had a horrible body imagine and was about as unhealthy as could be. In fact my doctor told me to stop running because all things combined I’ll probably have a heart attack.
So after my gross phase of monster cold finally faded my body literally felt healthy! I could feel my energy level rise, my skin looked way better, and I had better hunger/satisfaction in my diet. Another thing I noticed was little things like achy joints, dry eyes, bloated tummy, swollen fingers all were greatly reduced! This was huge for me!

There is no way to possibly consume as many veggies and fruits through whole food as you do through juicing. On average, I will juice 5 zucchini, a bunch of chard, a bunch of kale, 2 cups of spinch, 2 apples, ½ grapefruit, and ginger (which is amazing for your tummy) all in one day! If I tried to eat all this I would be eating all day! Plus it tastes amazing! If you have any good recipes pass them along!

What We Eat

Since receiving my Miss Menu in the mail a couple weeks ago I’ve been so excited to use it! The first week I had it we were on vacation so this week was my real first week of use and so far I couldn’t love it more.
One big thing I noticed is I saved a bunch of money at the grocery store since I knew exactly what items I needed. I was able to buy for the entire week since I planned our meat meals according to the day I went to the store. I also saved a ton of time at the store since all my items were in categories based on how the store is run. So efficient I don’t know why I ever lived without this! Score 1 for organization!
Anyways, I thought I’d combine two days worth of dinners in this post. Tuesday night I made Cajun chicken and Andouille sausage gumbo and Thursday night I made jerk chicken. Both turned out delicious and both were first time recipes in our house! I was so happy they came out good because nothing is worse than spending a couple hours (and more than a couple dishes) on dinner and it going bad. Like I mentioned in an earlier post I am planning to cook every night for the next two weeks. Most of the recipes are new to us with a couple “oldies but goodies” thrown into the mix.
I don’t normally follow a recipe exactly. I like to look at them and get an idea for ingredients then cook by taste. Like my mama did! So these recipes are about as exact as I could get them but I encourage you to add a pinch more or less as you feel fit!
As a side note: Ryan said the jerk chicken is the best meal I’ve ever made… WooHoo!
Cajun Chicken Gumbo
4 cloves of garlic
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 andouille sausage
1 green bell pepper
1-2 stalks of celery
¼ lb okra
1 yellow onion
2 tbs butter (I use unsalted)
2 tbs all purpose flower
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tbs Cajun seasoning
½ -1 cup long grain rice (I use brown)
Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1.    Cook rice according to package, or I add 1 tsp unsalted butter to 2 cups boiling water, add rice, and simmer, covered, for about 45 min or until all water is absorbed.
2.    While rice is cooking, prepare other ingredients. Wash produce and remove chicken and sausage from fridge. Peel and mince the garlic. Remove the stems, ribs, and seeds from bell pepper and dice along with the celery. Peel and dice the onion. Cut off stems from okra and cut into small rounds.
3.    Make a roux. In a medium pot (I used a 5 ½ quart dutch oven), melt the butter on medium head. Add the flower and stir constantly for about 3 minutes or until deep golden brown.

4.    To the roux, add a drizzle of olive oil, bell pepper, onion, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently until vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes.

5.    Increase the heat to med-high and add the chicken breast, sausage, crushed tomato, cajun seasoning, okra, and about 2 cups of water (I add just under the 2 cup line worth of water). Season with a little salt. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer, stirring occasionally until chicken and sausage are completely cooked (I cover because I feel the meat is more moist but it will cook slightly faster this way).  Remove from heat.

6.    Remove the cooked chicken and sausage from the pot. Slice the sausage and shred the chicken.

7.    Return chicken and sausage to the pot of gumbo and stir to combine. Add cooked rice. Divide gumbo between two bowls and enjoy!

Jerk Chicken
¾ cup of rice (I used same long grain brown rice from above)
1 can pinto beans
2 scallions
1 bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot or 2-3 medium carrots
1 green bell pepper
1 red onion
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-1 ½ tbs jerk seasoning
2 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs chicken demi-glace
1 lime
salt and pepper to taste

* William Sonoma has demi-glace but it is really pricey! I found “Better Than Bouillion” from Sprouts and thought it worked perfectly! Plus it’s a tenth of the price! Or you can made demi-glace from scratch but its a pain in the behind. 

1.    Cook the rice. In a small pot bring 2 cups water to a boil and add 1 tbs unsalted butter. Once boiling, add rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook about 45 min or until all water is absorbed.

2.    Prepare ingredients while rice cooks. Wash and dry produce. Drain and rinse pinto beans. Slice scallions at an angle. Peel and roughly chop garlic. Roughly chop cilantro leaves. Slice carrots into rounds (I didn’t peel the carrots, just washed but if you prefer, peel the carrots at this time). Dice the onion. Remove seeds and ribs and dice bell pepper.
3.    Season chicken with jerk seasoning and salt (I do this once my chicken is already in the pan by doing one side at a time. It doesn’t really make a difference I just feel its cleaner).

4.    In a large pan, heat olive oil and add the chicken (if you haven’t already seasoned do it now).

5.    Cook chicken about 3 minutes per side.

6.    Add onion, garlic, bell pepper, and carrots to the pan. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook until veggies are softened.

7.    Add tomato paste, demi-glace (or sub), pinto beans, and 1 cup water. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to med-low. Cover with a lid until chicken in cooked through.

8.    Divide rice between two bowls. Top each with a piece of chicken, half the sauce mixture, cilantro, and scallions. Serve with a lime wedge.

The New House

Making this house our home has had its ups and its downs. Ryan and I moved about an hour away from where we grew up last June of 2014. We spent 5 months designing our home and watching the building process before we moved and those last few weeks were some of the most stressful weeks… There were definitely a few moments where I wanted to give up on the process all together. Not only were we moving a little ways away, but also we were selling my mom’s home… the home that held such precious and tender memories for me. It was the home my husband asked me to be his wife in. Right there, down on one knee in front of our beautiful fireplace. It was the last home I will have memories of my mom in. A lot of good moments and of course the memory of her last day here… The day she met her Savior face to face. That day I held her hand as God called her home. What an honor it is to be her daughter.
Me with my precious mama about a year before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer
Our living room where Ryan proposed to me on November 20,2014
The night he proposed to me with this gorgeous ring
Selling the house was a decision to loose that precious link to my mom. But I knew that for the health of my marriage and future babies it was the best decision to make. We were up sizing from 1200sq ft to 4000 sq ft (holy moly I didn’t realize how much furniture we’d be buying). Literally my old living room fit entirely into our loft in the new house. My old living room is the size of a bedroom here! Plus it was a move we needed for our marriage. Having a house that was “ours” not just mine was really important. We tried from the very beginning to make sure the house felt like ours, but it was definitely an unsaid thought in the back of our minds somewhere that it was my and my mama’s house. So I knew I needed to be unselfish and we needed to move as husband and wife into our home.
This was my cute old kitchen
The new kitchen being built
The new kitchen the night we moved in (before we bought a kitchen table)

Designing our house was a small nightmare. It didn’t seem like the lady we were working with had her act together and in an already nerve-racking situation, this fact did not help us. Moving day was no better as I was slowly starting to panic leaving my home. I loved this little house so much and the emotional aspect made the home nearly invaluable to me. After all, it had only been a year since I lost my mom and about 6 months since Ryan proposed to me in front of our beautiful fireplace. I could still see those moments so clearly in my mind and I wasn’t ready to loose them. But needless to say it was too late to turn around so off we went… my parents in law, Ryan, the movers that didn’t like us, and 3 traumatized wiener dogs…Eesh! What a sight we were!
Needless to say moving made us all a little grumpy, haha!

As we pulled up to the new house I knew we made the right decision and couldn’t have been happier to start the rest of our lives in this house. We were all unpacked the day we moved in and we owe our parents a huge thank you for that! As the weeks went on we started to realize the reality of buying a brand new home. It hasn’t been “broken in” and is so new and not to mention, white! The lack of character and color started to get me down from pretty early on. I wasn’t working and felt like the list of projects piling up around me was getting overwhelming.
One weekend Ryan and I really tried to tackle a few of these projects and from there on out we were unstoppable. We knew that the hard work and time spent on our house was time well spent. It was all paying off!
We started with a painting the office and the niches in our living room. This little bit of color made a world of difference! We bought a couple pieces of furniture including a coffee table and dining room table set which helped the rooms not seem so bare. We had bought a new couch before we moved in for the downstairs living room and I finally felt like the rooms were coming together. The house was feeling more like a home. 

Painting the niches in the living room added just enough color for now… Until we get all the “common” areas painted by a professional    
We were able to host Christmas last year at our new house for Ryan’s family which I was super excited about as my mom used to always host Christmas. Because of this, we painted a few more rooms and I had a good excuse to buy a couple fun decorations. Our house looked to pretty all festive for Christmas. To be honest, we haven’t taken down our tree yet! We keep saying each weekend we are going to do it and “haven’t had a chance.”

I just loved out house all decorated for Christmas!
The projects that are currently on our “docket” include my office/craft room upstairs (which I will post on when that is done), painting and adding wainscoting to our dining room, and painting out downstairs guest bedroom. We will end up hiring someone to paint the main areas of our house as we have really tall ceilings and our entry way is 2+ stories tall. It’s just more cost effective to have them done correctly with the right equipment rather that trying to DIY it all. We are also in the process of designing a patio in the back yard, which I’m really excited about! We are hoping to start that project around September of this year. Anyways, anyone that owns a house knows it’s a never-ending list of projects so I’m sure our list will only keep growing. But for now we are having so much fun adding our stamp on this house!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing…” Isaiah 43

My Kitchen

My weekend officially started Saturday afternoon (woohooo!) and naturally I couldn’t be happier to have this last day before work tomorrow! We had a ton of work to do around our house this weekend but decided to take yesterday “off” and spend most of the day walking around antique stores and ended up seeing American Shooter (amazing and intense movie!). Since we bought our home last June (I will post on that huge project this week) we have been spending every free second on projects. We were able to design our home as it was a new build and this came with many pros and some cons that we weren’t necessarily expecting… but I will touch on that this week.
Overall we couldn’t be happier and love this big ol’ house we call home. I absolutely love to cook and consider it such an act of love to cook for my husband and our families! So of course the kitchen is my favorite room of our house and it’s been such a joy of mine to really settle into this space and make it ours. The day we moved, the kitchen was all unpacked (with help from my step-mom and mother-in-law) and in proper working order… it is my perfect space! 
The kitchen on the night we moved in… so much has changed and been added making me fall more in love with it everyday.

Love this cute cutting board my brother-in-law and sister-in-law got us for Christmas! Matches our wiener dog towel!

Our new little coffee (&& tea) corner of the kitchen.. I love this little space!

One of my favorite parts of our kitchen is the connection I feel with my mom when I’m in it. She was such a homemaker and absolutely loved to cook. I’d always be so amazed because I could open the pantry and see nothing to eat and 10 minutes later she’d have a delicious meal made. I know it gave her such joy and I’m so grateful for the memories I have with her that revolve around the kitchen. In fact, one of my last memories with my mom was her showing me how to cut a pineapple… random, I know, but so so special! Isn’t it awesome when something so simple is such a huge reminder of something so sweet?!