"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Friday, April 29, 2011

Holy Guacamole!!

(Note that I am holding the chip with my toe thumb under it, so it will not be photographed)

As the days get longer, it is SO nice to be cooking dinner while the sun's still out. I can watch the kids playing in the backyard, enjoy the windows being open, and see the mountains out of my kitchen window. Making this guacamole reminds me of summer- when Wade is working in the yard until dinner time, and we eat outside for dinner. I will make up a batch of this and we'll all snack on it while dinner is cooking. We had a couple of summer-like days in the last few weeks (and a few WINTER-like days as well- crazy weather!) and it was on one of those warm evenings that I made up some guacamole!

Here's what you need:

  • 3 avocados - peeled, pitted, and sort of roughly smashed (I know, I know, that's not an official cooking term. Cut me some slack. I am not official :))

    • 1 lime, juiced

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup diced onion (I think red onion is especially yummy if you have one)

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • 2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced (or if you don't have roma, regular are fine, just squeeze most of the pulp/seeds out of them so they're not super juicy)

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional, but GOOD)

  • (I don't know WHAT is up with the funky spacing in the ingredient list. I tried to fix it like 5 times and it kept getting messed up, so I gave up.)

    So, just sort of put all of the above ingredients into a medium mixing bowl:

    (DARN IT!! The toe thumb snuck into the shot!) (For those of you who homeschool, note the "coin cup" for Saxon math in the background.....)

    Then just mix it up and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. I think it's best after 3 or 4 hours.

    ....if you can wait that long. :)

    I got this recipe from http://www.allrecipes.com/

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    My New Favorite Muffin- Strawberry Yogurt Chip!

    I heart these muffins.

    My boys love them too. Even Nicholas, who was skeptical because I said, "I tried a new recipe!" (That can sometimes mean "something may have gone wrong but act like you like it")

    ....he is the tough one in the crowd. He will try nearly anything, but will often take convincing first.

    I had some yogurt chips because I bought them for the Larabar recipe I wanted to test out. They are REALLY yummy! (I have future plans to make some homemade trail mix with them too....)

    So I tweaked my Strawberry Banana Muffin recipe and put more strawberries, no bananas, and the yogurt chips. Seriously delicious.

    I found the mini yogurt chips in the bulk bin section of my local health food store. :)

    If you can't find yogurt chips, I think white chocolate chips would be a good substitute!

    Here's The Muffin Recipe! I used 1 cup of chopped strawberries, and about 1/2 cup of the mini yogurt chips.


    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Larabars- Two Recipes, Four More Flavors......

    I can't believe how easy it is to make Larabars. And how much cheaper the make-your-own versions are!!
    I have been watching my grocery budget much more carefully, and it's really handy to be able to make something that I used to buy regularly and save money! Plus, I love having these bars at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, when I would really like to be eating some Red Vines, or an Almond Snickers Bar.

    .....I really wish I could be one of those people that was truly horrified at the thought of eating red dye #6. Or the type that was disgusted by the food at McDonald's.

    .....but alas. I am not. I LIKE red dye.(Or at least I like the foods that are made with red dye) I LIKE McDonald's.

    It's sort of like most things- you have to keep on making good choices, because the bad choices come readily when you're not paying attention. Darn it.

    Anyhow..... now, added to the Larabar arsenal....

    Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie

    Peanut Butter Cookie

    Apricot Almond Yogurt Chip

    Apricot Almond

    The best part is that I bought MINI chips- both semi-sweet and yogurt- and only added 1/2 tsp of the chips to each bar! I made half the recipe with chips and half without. The chips added only 10-12 calories per bar- but made them SOOOO yummy and treat-ish!! I LOVED the bars without the chips too!! The Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie was my favorite of this bunch!

    So here are the things you need to make 4 of each recipe. (If you want all 4 kinds, each recipe will make 2 plain, 2 with chips) For detailed instructions on how to make the bars, see this post on Larabar making 

    For the Peanut Butter Cookie:
    • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
    • 3/4 cup pitted, roughly chopped dates
    • pinch of sea salt

    If you want to add mini semi sweet chocolate chips, do so after you've shaped the bar. Evenly sprinkle 1/2 tsp on top of the bar, and, using the saran wrap, gently press them into the top. I suppose you could mix them into the bar, but I wanted an even amount of chocolate on all the bars and I didn't want to use a lot.

    For the Apricot Almond bars, (thank you Caryl for the GREAT idea!!) You need:
    • 1/2 cup almonds (I used slivered blanched)
    • 3/4 cup roughly chopped dried apricots
    • pinch of sea salt

    If you want to add mini yogurt chips (I found these in the bulk bin section of my local health food shop) add 1/2 tsp to the top of the bar, using the saran wrap to gently press them into the top.

    The Apricot Almond definitely have a softer texture than the date-based bars, but when they're refrigerated for a few hours, they are PERFECT! I have been loving having the Cherry Pie Larabars in the afternoons for my snack, and now I have all of these new flavors to look forward to! I have been tossing one into my purse when we run errands, and it's nice to have something for myself or the kids if one of us gets really hungry!

    Have a great day!!

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Make Your Own French Bread Sandwich Rolls!!

    A couple people asked me to post the recipe for the sandwich rolls that I pictured in the Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Sandwich post

    These are the rolls:

    I basically just take my french bread recipe and, instead of dividing it in half to make two loaves, divide it into 6 portions to make sandwich rolls. You could even do 8 if you wanted, and if you are not as big a pig as I am. (It's ok, I know I am. I am not upset by this.)

    So it's a very basic, easy bread recipe! You need:
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 2 1/2 tsp yeast (or one package)
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 tsp salt
    • oil or Pam for the bowl
    So you're going to combine, in the mixing bowl of your Kitchen Aid, the water, yeast, salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Stir it up and let it set for about 5 minutes. It will get all bubbly and happy (Ok, ok, I have no evidence that the dough is actually happy. But it's BREAD DOUGH for crying out loud!! It SHOULD be happy!)

    Then you want to put the bowl on the mixer and attach the dough hook. Knead the remaining 2 cups of flour in, until the dough climbs the dough hook and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

    Knead for 4 or 5 minutes. Then, dump the dough out into an oiled bowl, turning over once to coat the top with oil.

    Let it rise for about 45 minutes, it will about double in size (the dough in the above photo had already risen). Then divide the dough into 6 pieces for larger sandwich rolls, or 2 pieces if you'd like to just make french loaves. I shaped mine into balls and put onto greased cookie sheets. (Oh, I also cut a few slashes across the top, for that "I am a professional baker" look.)

    Then let them rise again, for about 30 minutes (meanwhile preheat the oven to 400):

    Now, pop them into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. They will be nice and golden and sound hollow when tapped when they are done:

    These make great sandwich rolls, soup bread bowls, or if you shape them into larger loaves, great french or garlic bread. If you shape the entire recipe into one longer loaf, it winds up about the size of the loaves they sell at the market by the checkout in the paper bags. :)

    I have been thinking of trying this out with half whole wheat flour too, but just haven't gotten around to it yet!

    I got this recipe years ago from Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving 

    Happy baking!

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    When Life Gives You Lemons.....

    (Or better yet, your good friend Becca gives you MEYER lemons...)

    Make these Creamy Lemon Bars . Oh my word. They are good.

    That is all. Carry on.

    Ragnar Relay Race Report!!!

    Fun, fun FUN!!!! That's what I think about Ragnar Relay! I would do it again in a heartbeat!!

    To give a little background, it's a relay race that starts in Huntington Beach and ends in Coronado Island. A tad over 200 miles, and you run the race either in teams of 6 (an ultra team) or teams of 12 (what we did).

    So our start time was 8:00am in Huntington Beach. It was a BEAUTIFUL morning!!!!

    Here's our team! (Aren't we a good looking bunch?!)

    So, off we went! There were two vans, van #1 started the race, and van #2 (that's the van I was in) went to the first van-to-van exchange, which was in Corona. The van-to-van exchanges were called "major exchanges" and had areas to eat, sleep, and go to the restroom.

    When we got to the first major exchange, we checked in and walked around a bit. I was the first runner for our van, so I was anxious to be in the right place to be ready for the last runner from van #1. (That was my friend, Becca. She was always my person to look for! She did great!!!!)

    This is Eric, an amazingly fast runner and the co-captain of our team, and his dad- his dad volunteered for 12 HOURS during the race!!! Awesome!!
    So my first leg was on the SART (a bike trail) through Corona. This leg was 7.3 miles. It was HOT! It was so great to see my teammates cheering me in at the end of the leg!!

    After a few more hand offs, we ended up in this pretty park in Corona:

    I took a few shots of our van- it looked really cute!! Kristin and Allie took care of the decorations!!

    As I was taking a photo of this van- which apparently contained "the most interesting team in the world" one of the team members came up! So I took a random photo with her!

    So after our next major exchange, we ate some dinner at Rubios, then headed to Fallbrook- the site of our next start. We were thinking our next legs would start sometime around midnight! We took our sleeping bags into the designated "sleep area" and tried to catch a few zz's. Yeah, sounds easy, but it ISN'T!! I was all keyed up and didn't want to oversleep, plus you can hear other runners pulling in etc. Karen, LeAnna, Eric and I had a BLAST though- we laughed it up and had a great time NOT sleeping!!

    So, I started my second leg from this exchange, around 12:45 am. It was a hilly leg, 8.2 miles (even though it was actually 8.7..... MEAN) but it was nice and cool, and I had a TON of fun running it!! Of course I had to fall down once. It's some type of rule I think. Until I fall down, it's not an official race. It was just a few scrapes, thankfully, so no harm done!! Bruises and scabs are attractive, right??

    After our night legs, we grabbed some breakfast and coffee at Starbucks, and headed to La Jolla, the site of our third and last major exchange!!

    It was gorgeous!!

    So after this last rest/recharge area, I headed out for my third and final leg! It was hot, 9.7 miles, and after an initial downhill, slightly uphill most of the way. It was TOUGH!!! I was SO SO glad to see my friends at the end!

    We headed out to keep ahead of Ron, who was running after me. He was speedy!!

    We got to wait for Karen in Mission Bay, right by the water, it was a beautiful, calm, relaxing place to wait for her to come in from her run!

    LeAnna in front of the bay!

    There was Karen coming in from her run! Several of the runners coming in from her leg had gotten lost, but she stayed on the right course! Way to go!

    So off we headed, to more exchanges.....

    That's Janet waiting to take the hand off from LeAnna!
    Then, finally, it was time for Eric to run us in to the finish!! He was amazing, SO fast, on his last leg! We were all waiting for him a hundred yards or so from the actual finish, so the team got to run in together! It was sweet!!!

    Here's Karen with the medal- the medals were AWESOME! Really big and shiny with a bottle opener cut out!

    Allie and I at the finish

    The finish line festivities! There was delicious food, a pasta bowl with fresh veggies, and each person got a beer too at the finish! There was a massage tent and a shop to buy race items.

    After the race, we all convened at El Torito to "spend" some of those calories we burned over the last few days!! It was fun to tell the jokes and memories we each had from the race!

    This may well have been one of my favorite races ever. There's a couple of reasons for that. First, it had two things I love- the team aspect, where you're encouraging and cheering for your friends and they're doing the same for you, plus the individual aspect- where you can push yourself as much as you want. Also, it was just FUN; navigating (even when the stinking directions told us to go to the wrong place and it got tense for a minute....) trying to get out of the parking lot gridlock (Ron had to go and direct traffic for a bit), trying to sleep despite the nearly constant sound of the port-a-potty doors being slammed, picking burrs out of our hair after NOT sleeping in the field, watching Peggy navigate through some pretty amazing U-Turns, eating more tortilla chips than any human should be allowed, trying to dry our sweaty, stinky shirts out between runs, shivering during the night while watching for our friends to come in.... seeing Eric, pedal to the metal, charging into the finish area.... it was a great experience. One I've smiled about over and over. We had a great team, amazing drivers, awesome volunteers........

    ....it was a good weekend. A great race.

    To find more information on any of the 15 Ragnar Relay events, held around the country, visit The Ragnar Website

    Skillet Gnocchi with Spinach and White Beans
    Green Salad