Saturday, June 29, 2013

DIY lemon coconut sea salt scrub.

It's been about two weeks since my last post, and much has changed since then! We are in our new house!!!! Hardwood floors, new appliances, gas stove, huge backyard (I'm talking big people, like 1/3 acre!), lots of space, which is probably my favorite thing. Being in a house is so different from an apartment (different, but soooooo much better) and I am so in love with it. We have been here a grand total of 3 days, and I just told Tucker today that I never want to move! So thankful.

me in our "office". :)

Currently, I am blogging from our "office" which is really just the front bedroom, with a desk, a big red loveseat chair and a large mirror sitting on the floor. I've been in here a good part of the day, catching up on my blog reading, Youtube video watching, etc. While on Youtube, I visited Essie Button's channel (if you don't know who Essie is, please go here. You will forever be changed.) and I came upon a video of a DIY foot scrub that she made with sea salt. It's summer right now, and my feet are pretty rough thanks to being in tennis shoes alot of the time, being on my feet more than usual in the past few weeks, and just from overall not putting the time into caring for them. Even though I deviated a bit from the way that Estee made her scrub, I think my version works just as well. All the ingredients are natural and work really well for dry skin. I love my scrub and since I have made it, have used it both on my feet and hands. It is wonderful and easy to make and cheaper to make then most scrubs in stores. I'll try to guesstimate the measurements of my recipe, but really, I just kept adding until I felt like the consistency was what I needed. 

DIY Lemon Coconut Sea Salt Scrub

**I used this on my feet and hands, although I'm sure you could use it all over your body. I would be careful to use it on your face because the sea salt can make this scrub pretty abrasive. So, if I were to use it on my face, I would probably use granulated sugar instead of salt.**

Combine about 1/3 to 2/3 cup sea salt, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1 good squeeze honey, and juice of 1/2 a lemon in a bowl, or mason jar. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Should feel like a scrub, so not too oily, but not just salt grains. Scrub on feet or hands, rinse, and make everyone in your house feel your smooth skin! 

Let me know if you try out this recipe! I am thinking of trying out coffee scrub next so if I do, I will be sure to post about it. 

Happy Scrubbing!  xo

Monday, June 10, 2013

my most favorite chicken recipe. ever.

My family and I went to dinner this past weekend. We went to an amazing Ethiopian food restaurant in the city and while there talked about food. Of course. My sister and I, being twins, always like to compare ourselves to each other. Everyone else does too, coincidentally. We don't just wear our hair curly. One of us normally wears it curly, and one of us normally wears it straight. One of us really likes caffeine, the other doesn't drink caffeine so much. One of us loves to read literature and murder mystery, while the other loves Redeeming Love. We are very similar, but also tremendously different. When it comes to cooking, we both love it (similarity) but Tiffanie loves to cook.  I prefer baking. My finesse, if you will, is with baking. Which doesn't always make sense to me because baking is a typically precise, routinized practice. 

My husband  loves to say that I "never measure anything", which in some sense, is totally true. 1 tbsp vanilla equals a good sized splash into the bowl. 2 cups of chocolate chips equals the whole bag. Recipe calls for 2 medium bananas, ahhh... two large ones won't hurt. I do not, however, guesstimate on baking soda, flour, sugar, or baking soda. Those things, typically, make or break your recipe, and they are measured out for a reason. Hear me peeps, DO NOT GUESSTIMATE these. It will not end well. 

All that said, when it comes to cooking, I tend to stick to the simple side, to be safe. A good roast vegetable, a yummy salad or soup, and a good cooked protein. I love my crockpot for cooking meat, and the hubs is teaching me how to grill, but still I prefer the sugar, spice & everything's nice. But, there is one chicken recipe that makes my little heart happy. Because it's basically like baking. Flour, egg, bread crumbs, minimum 10 minutes to make. Super easy, yummy, and reliable. Just the way I like my recipes. 

Breaded Chicken Cutlets
from Dinner A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach, 2012. 

For chicken: Pound four boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Set up your dredging stations: a rimmed plate with two lightly beaten eggs, a plate with a mound of  flour (salted, peppered, and dry mustard-ed if you have it), a plate with a huge mound of bread crumbs (or Kellogg’s corn flake crumbs, or panko). Dredge your chicken pieces first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the crumbs. Sauté each breast in olive oil over medium-high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes a side. Serve with asparagus sauce and regular ketchup if you must.

This recipe is delicious and perfect for kiddos who want chicken nuggets, and you want to give them something "healthier" than a happy meal from McDonald's. And if you don't already know about Jenny's cookbook, plllllleasse do yourself a favor and buy it. It will make you want to cook, go to the farmer's market and make chicken cutlets. 

Dinner A Love Story book trailer. :)

Enjoy! xo

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

all about chia.

My husband and I are in the process of moving to/buying a new house, which has been, in the best sense, stressful. Lots of phone calls, runs to the bank, emails, etc. We are staying with my parents for a little while, and due to all the moving, running around, studying for my class, completing clinical prerequisites, my eating habits have been, not good. Terrible. Slightly horrifying. Chips, brownie sundaes, and bologna sandwiches have made a few dozen appearances. This morning I woke up craving two things: a good book and real food. I browsed Instagram and came across a picture of a chia seed pudding mixed with fruit compote. So I decided to make it today. I grabbed my bag of chia seeds, some almond milk, and some strawberries and went to work.

All I can say is OH MY LANDS, is this stuff good. The chia pudding takes a good 6 hours to form into it's delightful self, so I didn't actually get to try my concoction until about 3:45 today. But it was definitely worth the agonizing wait ( I am being a bit dramatic today--but I am not exaggerating how good this is.) Chia seeds are an amazing superfood that nature has provided us with, and normally I use them in smoothies, salads, and in breakfast cookies. It's a gelatinous seed, which acts like a "binder" and binds up all the stuff that gets left behind in our intestines. It pulls it all together and we pass it, so it cleans you out pretty well (but tastes way better than Metamucil or seaweed ;)

Make this for a yummy, slightly sweet breakfast with an egg or fresh fruit or pancakes. Or for a light snack, or for a sweet tooth midnight craving. No matter when you eat it, it is sure to satisfy. :)

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding with Almond Milk

Combine 2 cups Almond Milk (or coconut or regular organic milk), 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup plus 1 handful of chia seeds in a bowl. Mix well, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours to overnight, stirring every other hour.

Strawberry Compote

Combine 1 pint strawberries (or any berries, fresh or frozen), 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla over medium high heat. Let simmer until strawberries become soft, easily mash-able (word?) and the juice from the strawberries begins to thicken (15-20 min). Store in fridge until ready to serve over pudding.

Let me know how it goes!

Steffanie xo

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

because there are no words.

 An F5 tornado ripped through the city of Moore, destroying my old neighborhood, and my old elementary school on Monday. Everything was leveled. I had been at the Y, to wait out the tornado with my mom , since I live in an upstairs apartment. I went there to wait out the tornado, not even thinking about the path the tornado was taking. We were cleared to leave about 12 min after the tornado passed us, and I and my mom  left so that I could take her home. On the way to my parents house, the reality of what the tornado meant hit me. Trees were uplifted out of the ground and blocking streets; cars were turned over; ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars were racing to who knew where. The sky was a gruel, dark, grey, the kid of sky that scares you and warns you about what it can do. We made It slowly through OKC, and pulled into the back of my old neighborhood, hoping that we could use the old shortcut to get to the other main street my parents currently lived off of.

Words cannot describe what we saw. Houses were gone. There was wood and mud and tree limbs everywhere. Cars were piled on top of each other, on houses, and on the street. People were running everywhere, most heading in the same direction. My mom, knowing that I wouldn't be able to make it through by driving, told me to turn around and she would walk the 3 miles left to her house. I protested, obviously, but she was determined, so I let her go. To no avail, I tried to make my way off the street to turn around and ended up being blocked in a driveway by two cars and an ambulance, all who showed no signs of leaving anytime soon. I got out of my car, grabbed my phone and wallet and made my way through the damage. Turning the corner around what used to be houses, I saw the reason for all the frantic parents and crying kids. The school had been hit. And by hit, what I really mean is, demolished. There were people, firemen, policemen, soldiers, and paramedics everywhere. Kids were crying, moms were screaming and sobbing for their children. I was in shock. I had no idea how huge this tornado had been. I made my way, in my flip flops, over to the wreckage of the school. I found a frantic paramedic, told him I knew CPR and how to use an AED, and he told me to keep watch for anyone who was stable, or unstable and let him know. I talked to a few parents, kids, and teachers, all who were shell-shocked. I helped assess a few victims, talked to a pregnant woman who was buried under the rubble until she was taken to the hospital. The policemen eventually had all non-essential help move away from the rubble, due to a gas leak, and because they were beginning to find bodies instead of living people. I moved out of the way and called my husband. After a dozen tries, I finally got hold of him and began sobbing. The reality of the scene I was in the middle of hit me with a brutal force. I was scared, and alone and so desperately sad for the people around me. My husband and I made a plan to meet up and I began walking to our meeting point. After about 20 minutes, he called to tell me he couldn't get through the street we planned on meeting at, so I had to walk another mile the opposite direction to the gas station. I went to my car, passing several kids I knew from the school and also people I had grown up with at that school, got my purse and began walking.

My husband finally found me, and we walked another mile or so, to his car. I was covered in mud, sore from walking in flip flops and couldn't stop crying. We came home to no water, and packed some bags to go stay at my in laws. I took a shower there, watched the news, drank a huge cup of strong tea, and went to bed, exhausted. I slept for maybe 2 hours that night.

Since Monday, our water has come back on, the internet is working again, I have my car back, and I have slept a lot. But none of that is making me feel better. Because yesterday, I found out that a nine year old boy who I had worked with when I worked at the Y had been killed in the tornado. He was one of the 10 children, all mostly 3rd graders, who had passed in the tornado. They had two more days left in the school year, and then they would have been free for the summer. To swim, as we all know kids love to do, eat lots of junk food, and spend the days with their friends. I know that for Nicholas, he would have spent his days at the YMCA, swimming, going on field trips, inevitably sunburned with way too much sugar in his system, with his friends. But that isn't going to happen for him now. It makes me so desperately sad to know that too. Because I loved my childhood summers. And I love summer at the Y. Trips, summer camps, swimming, the library, friends…those are the makings of a good summer. And that sweet nine year old boy won’t do any of those things anymore.

I know, that eventually, we will all start to feel better about this. Maybe better isn't the best word, but we will all come through this. Lives will return to normal, and people will move on. But today, I don’t care about moving on, or staying strong, or being brave. Today I am sad, sad for Nicholas, and his family; sad for those who lost their homes and pets or relatives; sad for the children who only such a short time, who will never get married, or have kids of their own. Today, I am going to be sad for them. And I’m going to pray because I cannot face this without my Savior.

Please pray for Nicholas’ family, because nothing is worse than losing a child. A house can be rebuilt, a car can be replaced, but a child, a baby, can never be replaced. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

cookies. they make the world go 'round.

Hello all! Today I want to talk cookies. I love cookies. I love the chocolatey, gooey, crunchy and chewy combination and in the next few weeks, I will be posting three of my favorite cookie recipes. One is from the book that I keep referring to, over and over, another from my favorite cookbook, and another one that I found online. Here we go, cookie number one!

Cookie #1: The Gaia Cookie

This cookie recipe is from Shauna Niequist's new book, Bread & Wine. I have posted recipes from her book before, and this cookie is one of my absolute favorites. It's semi-healthy, delicious, filling, and perfect with a big cup of coffee. I made these cookies this morning, and ya'll, my apartment has never smelled better. This cookie has quickly become a favorite and I know you all will love it!

Ingredients:1/2 pound butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour 
1 1/2 cups oats 
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut (I used coconut flakes)
1 cup walnuts (I used slivered almonds because that's all I had on hand)
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped dates, raisins, dried cherries, or cranberries or any combo

To make: 
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cream together butter and brown sugar. 
Add eggs and vanilla, and mix well.
Add flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and mix well. 
Add coconut, walnuts, chocolate chips, and dates or other dried fruit. Mix until combined. 
Drop tablespoons of dough onto a cookie sheat lined with parchment paper, 8 per sheet. Refrigerate for a few minutes so the dough doesn't spread out too quickly while baking. 
Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden.

Makes 2 dozen cookies. 

**A few notes: I didn't use any dried fruit, because honestly, I didn't want to go to the store and get it. I used white and dark chocolate chips, slivered almonds in place of walnuts, and used coconut oil instead of butter. (1 cup coconut oil = 1/2 pound butter). They turned out delicious! And the coconut oil makes the cookies a teeny bit healthier, which helps justify eating one for breakfast. One, or two. ;)

Make these soon. They'll make your home smell delicious, and your family will love you for them. Serve with a big cup of black coffee or strong black tea, or a glass of cold almond milk.

Recipe from Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist. Page 210-212. Zondervan, 2013.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

on the menu: White Chicken Chili

Photo Credit:
Let me be honest. I am not a fan of beans. I haven't ever liked them. But I kind of sort of maybe a teensy bit, like white beans. I do not love them, but I do not detest them as much as other beans. Black beans? Forget it. Baked beans? No way. Refried Beans? Who in their right mind likes mushy brown beans?! No. I am not a fan of any bean other than white. So when I found a chili recipe without all the mushy, black, brown beans, I rejoiced. My husband loves chili, so I wanted to find a healthy version of chili he loves so much. Now, this chili is more like a soup but still delicious and perfect for cold, wintery days.

This recipe is from Shauna Niequist's new book, Bread & Wine. (Have I mentioned how fantastic this book is?!) The recipe is super easy, super healthy, and super adaptable. And super delicous. If you live in Oklahoma, make it tonight, because apparently we are having severe winter weather tonight. In April. :) Cause, ya know, that's how we roll.

White Chicken Chili
Serves 6
from Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist, pg. 110, Zondervan, 2013.

1-1.5 pounds chicken: breasts, tenders, or boneless skinless thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces. Cook in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add one container of salsa, preferably fresh. Or green salsa.
Cook until chicken is almost cooked through, about five minutes.
Drain all 4 cans of beans. Add 2 cans as they are, and mash 2 cans with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon, then add them.
Add four cups of broth.
Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but, really, the longer the better.

Serve with cilantro, wedges of lime, sliced avocado, shredded cheese, chips, sour cream, and salsa.  I will warn you, however, that sometimes what began as a thoroughly virtuous soup becomes a very large meal consisting mainly of cheese & chips with a very occasional bite of soup. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.

**I prepared the chili slightly differently. It was Sunday, and I wanted to let all the flavors blend and simmer and bubble together nicely, so I put all the beans, broth, and salsa in my crock pot. Boiled the chicken, shredded it, and added it to the chili. It turned out deliciously!

Monday, April 8, 2013

On Bread & Wine


Let me just start by saying, I am so excited about this post. Extremely excited. Over the top, over the moon excited. Get the point? Good. Let's do this.

In 2009, I was recommended to read Shauna Niequist's book Cold Tangerines by a writer friend. I remember the year clearly because I read the book the summer before I was due to start my first year of college. I read Cold Tangerines in a week. I gobbled it up, marked my favorite chapters, read and re-read chapters. Shauna's writing inspired me to be better, be honest, be a little more open to people. She has a true gift and since that summer of 2009, I have been a huge fan of Miss Niequist. That being said, I am so honored to have been able to read her newest book, Bread & Wine, early and to have the chance to blog about it. I, along with you all, will be buying my copy tomorrow, on its release date and I cannot be more excited to do so! :)

Bread & Wine is a book about life and community around the table. What happens when people let down their guard, open their front door, and let people in to their lives. It's about peace and grace and kindness to yourself. Laughter, love, faith and the things you can experience if you just people into the scarier parts of your life. We were never meant to live in this world alone and I know so many people who are trying and failing to do life that way.  We were meant to comfort each other, and love each other. And Bread & Wine tells you just that.

In Bread & Wine, there is an amazing array of recipes sprinkled throughout the book. White chicken chili, sea salted toffee, breakfast cookies, maple balsamic pork tenderloin, just to name a few. And so far, the ones I have tried have been fantastic. Seriously simple to make, and so delicious. My husband, who is not picky at all, has loved every one I have made. They're simple, delicious and huge plus for me and my hubs, healthy. They can be adapted, changed, and easily interpreted into something that is suitable for your family or party. (Trust me, though, they are great the way they are). This book is now my go-to. For a lesson on shame or determination or forgiveness, Shauna's words never fail to teach me.

Shauna has once again made me realize why I am such a big fan of hers. Bread & Wine is amazing. Beautiful. Honest. Fun. Clever. It's a like a mini cookbook, mixed with life lessons and stories and people you would hear at a really comfy coffee date. Or, ironically, after a long, delicious dinner; the kinds of stories you hear after the wine is gone, the candles are low and the everyone's hearts and bellies are full. Shauna's writing is brilliant and Bread & Wine will inspire you. 

I reccomend books all the time, especially ones that hit home with me, so I am telling you people, buy her book. Pick up a copy, have some post its and a pen by your side, and read it. Study it, learn the recipes and open your front door. Call a friend or two, pop open a bottle of pinot noir, make some salad and bread, and get to know the people God put in your life. Love them, and cook for them, and get them to your table. You will be so glad you did.

For more information on Shauna and her previous books, head on over to her pretty new website! :)

Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine.
Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.

She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac.

Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.