Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Pinteresting Wednesday!

I am currently on self-imposed bed rest due to a silly cold, so I figured I would participate in The Vintage Apple's How Pinteresting Wednesday. I know I could use some happy pictures in my life today!

Link up here!

Source: via Jessica on Pinterest
Source: via Jessica on Pinterest

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving in Review + 6 months!

First I want to thank all of you for your sweet comments on my last post. It really meant a lot to me!

I will say we definitely had a great Thanksgiving! It was so good getting to spend more time with Matt's family and to be a part of their holiday. It was full of relaxation and good food, so I can't complain too much! We went the delicious traditional route-- turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, casseroles, pumpkin pie, etc. Unfortunately I don't have many pictures-- my camera battery died halfway through the trip. :( 

But know that we did have a great time! 

And I must add that today marks our 6 month anniversary! I know-- not long to be married but hey, it's longer than some celebrity marriages! Plus, I think it's fun to celebrate the little milestones along the way. So last night we went out to dinner and watched "Arthur Christmas." [Cute little Christmas movie, BTW. Highly recommend it] It was good to have a nice date night!

Yay wedding!
Now we just have a few more weeks to go before Christmas! One lit review to edit, one stats test to take, 6 more classes to attend, undergrad papers + finals to grade, and then done with my first semester of grad school! Crazy...

Hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving as well! Answer me this, can you believe it's almost December? 2011 has FLOWN by!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fall Challenge #13- Lemon Chicken

First, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Now it is officially Christmas season. Expect a Christmas decoration post soon :)

Earlier in the week I made this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Life with the Edwards. If you haven't read her blog, go-- she is so sweet! Anyway, I had been meaning to make this recipe for a while and I'm so glad I did-- very delicious and not too difficult to throw together!

Lemon Chicken from here
-5 tbsp olive oil
-3-4 lemons, depending upon your slicing skills. I used 4
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-3/4 lb green beans (you can use fresh, I used 3 cans of whole green beans, drained)
-8 small red potatoes, quartered. Or more, if you want.
-4 chicken breasts
-Lemon pepper seasoning I didn't have this on hand, so I used herbes de provence seasoning and it was delicious!

-Preheat oven to 450 & spray a baking dish with cooking spray

-Reserve one lemon for juicing and slice the others. Lay the lemon slices in a single layer on bottom of dish
I need to work on my lemon-slicing skills
-In large bowl (I used a gallon size bag), combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper

-Add green beans and toss to coat, then using tongs, remove beans and arrange them on top if lemon slices
I liked using the plastic bag-- easy clean-up!

-Add quartered potatoes to olive oil mixture and repeat. Arrange on inside edge of dish on top if beans [it will give your meal this fancy-from-a-magazine look haha]

-Place chicken in olive oil mixture, toss, then place chicken in dish

-Sprinkle whichever seasoning you're using on top of dish
Ready for the oven!
-Roast for 40-50 minutes. If necessary, remove chicken and continue roasting potatoes/beans. [I roasted everything for 40 minutes and it was done]
Yum! Also, look at how pretty that is?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A different holiday season

As a lot of you know, this is our first holiday season as newlyweds, which means learning how to split the holidays with our various families. This Thanksgiving, we'll be spending time with Matt's family. At Christmas, we'll be with my family then driving 10+ hours for Matt's family Christmas celebration. So much driving, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is just another one of those weird adult things you have to get used to-- not always being with your family. It's the first Thanksgiving I haven't been with my immediate family. There are some personal matters going on right now that also make it harder. One of those things where I just want to go home to my mom and dad. 

Yesterday was one of those days. I was sitting in church, a place where you should feel free to be real. Say what's going on, that you are in need of prayer, of hugs. But I wasn't. I instead avoided those I knew.I was afraid of drawing too much attention to myself in a large congregation where I know only a handful of people. I didn't want to start telling someone what was going on, not being able to hold it in anymore, and just... you know... start the ugly cry. 

As for what's going on, I know most likely it will be OK. Regardless God is in control, I know that. Most of the time I do feel at peace with it. But I have a history of anxiety issues, and sometimes it really gets the best of me. At those times I need to talk to someone, for someone to calm me down. But when I most need that, I instead turn inward until I can't take it anymore, drag my husband to my car and release the demon that is the ugly cry on him and he has no clue why. Poor Matt. Thankfully, he's experienced at this kind of thing. 

I then proceeded to look at one-way airfare so I could go see my parents, albeit briefly, before Thanksgiving. Due to it being the week it is, airfare was of course prohibitively expensive so no seeing my parents. 

Anyway, suffice it to say this will be a different holiday season. Things aren't always the easiest emotionally/spiritually. I love Matt's family and I'm excited to spend Thanksgiving with them, don't get me wrong there. I just have this child-like instinct to want to see my parents, spend the holidays with them, and be there for each other during this time. 

I guess that's a part of growing up, learning to depend more upon God first, my husband second, before your parents. So much balancing to be learned. 

Basically, it's a difficult time right now. I'm excited about Thanksgiving and do have so much to be thankful for, but it's not perfect. I didn't feel right writing a happy, picture-perfect Thanksgiving-related post today, because that wouldn't be honest. Thank you, Joelle, for reminding me of the importance for honesty. 

I'm going back to editing papers now, so I'll leave you with this:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fall Challenge #12- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

I don't know about you, but once Thanksgiving hits, it feels like pumpkin season is out. Christmas just seems less pumpkin-y then its November predecessor, but that may just be my perception. Anyway, in honor of this last week of pumpkin being allowable in recipes, here is a DELICIOUS recipe for you. If you need a good last minute recipe for a party, bring these. Everyone will be thankful :)

These Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars are easy to make and neither the chocolate nor the pumpkin is overwhelming. They're very moist, so grab your glass of milk to enjoy these with! I also have to make a shout out to Matt who was a big help in making these :)

Edited to add-- Matt took these to a Thanksgiving party at his work and he said they were by far the most popular dessert option (of which there was a lot of competition)! Definitely one I will make next season!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars from here
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. With a stand or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix well. The mixture will look somewhat curdled. Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
3. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake bars for 35-40 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.
4. Cool bars completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Dry ingredients getting all mixed together
Adding vanilla + egg to the creamed butter/sugar

Adding the pumpkin-- this is the curdled look the recipe talks about
After adding the dry ingredients

Folding in the chocolate chips...
Spread into the pan and now ready for the oven!
So good!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Fall Challenge #11-- Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

I feel like the recipes I cook for my fall cooking challenge just keep getting better and better. This is absolutely delicious, pretty easy, and is great for those cold fall days. Speaking of which, we just had another cold snap, gone from highs in the 70s/80s to highs in the 50s/60s. We'll see if it stays that way. My guess is no.

Anyway, here is the recipe and the happy step-by-step pictures. Because I know you like them.

Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup
- 5lbs Russet Potatoes, washed but NOT peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 10 cloves of garlic (you can use whole, crushed, or minced; I used whole)
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 16 oz cream cheese (I used all lowfat)
- 1 TBS seasoned salt or all-purpose seasoning 
- Crumbled bacon
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Green onions

- Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasoning and chicken stock to slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
- Remove and puree the garlic cloves (if you used whole cloves) along with 1/2 to 1/3rd of the soup, and then reintroduce to the remainder in the crock pot.
- Stir in the cream cheese and allow to melt. Stir every 10-15 minutes until soup is well blended.
- Top with your choice of garnishes & serve!
Yields about 10-12 servings.

The ever-important and most time-consuming task of chopping the potatoes

That's just potatoes. Use a big crockpot :)
Everything else all mixed in

Starting the puree'ing process 

Look! More soup like!

In the process of stirring/mixing the cream cheese

Matt isn't the world's biggest soup person, but he really likes this, too. As I said, it is a great fall weather treat and it makes tons! We have two tupperware full of this stuff in the freezer waiting for later! It will stay good in the freezer for 3-6 months.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A video for you

Watch this. Please. You'll be so happy you did. The title? Silent Monks Singing Halleluia.

Have a happy Friday! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Living up to my name

My blog name, that is. Not Jessica. Not sure how to live up to that name. It just kind of is. Anyway...

I know my posts have been lacking in substance the past few weeks. It's just that there isn't much going on. Matt works, I write papers, read countless journal articles, do statistics, etc. On weekends, we tend to be lazy because we just want to spend quality time together. That makes for rather boring blogging material though. Except for my cooking. You do get to hear about that. [There is currently baked potato soup cooking away in my slow cooker as I type. Expect that post soon.]

In lieu of having current events to write about, I'm going to confess some things to you. How does that sound? I hope you said good, because that's what you're getting!

  • I can't use chopsticks. Seriously. I have tried, people have tried to teach me, followed by more attempts, always followed by failure. My only conclusion is something is wrong with my hand. 
    • Random embarrassing story: when I was in Las Vegas last March, we went to a Chinese restaurant. They saw me attempting to use the evil sticks of wood, and brought me out the training ones. You know, like these: 
Source/ Embarrassing, no?
  • I am one of those people. You know, the type that listens to Christmas music pre-Thanksgiving. I typically don't, but something was different about this year. Maybe it's because we put up our Christmas decorations as soon as we bought them. 
  • I don't drink carbonated beverages. I also stay away from caffeine. That does limit my beverage choices-- I have gotten many a strange look from baristas when I request a decaf coffee at 9 AM. But I figure I don't need the caffeine, so why start? I do make exceptions sometimes on the caffeinated beverages, but if I drink any post 3 PM, I cannot sleep.
  • Last night I watched "Sister Wives" on netflix, you know, the polygamy show. Dude. The social scientist in me finds it way too fascinating to be normal.
  • I like statistics. I haven't gotten far enough in my graduate classes to be doing the advanced stuff, but I'm pretty excited about them in my own nerdy way. 
OK, that's enough confessions for today. Can't scare away all my readers/friends/family! :P Have a great day!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Cooking Challenge #10- Baked Apples

OK so as soon as you finish reading this post, go buy some apples. Seriously. You will be very happy you did so you can make this. Oh, buy some vanilla ice cream to go with it. Why? 

Because you'll want to make this:

As part of my fall cooking challenge, I baked Simple Baked Apples. Seriously, that's its name. And my brother helped me, so that was fun :)

Baked Apples
  • 6 apples - peeled, cored and sliced<---I used red delicious, they were the only ones I had on hand and it turned out amazingly
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves <--- skipped this, didn't have cloves
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts<---- skipped this, we don't like nuts in our desserts!
  • 1/2 cup whole milk <--- used skim and didn't feel like we were missing anything

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 2 quart casserole dish, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir spice mixture into apples until evenly distributed. Fold in raisins and walnuts. Spoon into prepared dish. Pour milk evenly over apple mixture.
  3. Cover dish with aluminum foil to retain moisture. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until soft and bubbly. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Don't be like me and cut yourself while doing this. It makes all the other steps very complicated
A comment on AllReipes suggested putting the slices in a gallon size bag to mix the seasonings-- so easy!

My brother's hairy arm, not mine, I assure you.

Look! All mixed!

Pre-baking-- you will want to cover it with aluminum foil to retain moisture

And served, a la mode. 
This is incredibly easy and so delicious. Tastes like the perfect fall dessert and I couldn't recommend it more! 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mini life update

Here is proof that I can post something unrelated to food! Yay!

So what have we been up to lately?

Well last night, Matt and I may or may not have purchased Christmas decorations from Hobby Lobby. What? They were 50% off! Hard to pass up on that when we're having to start our own little collection of holiday decorations. We got one of those little 3 ft trees (perfect for the apartment!), some lights, a star, tree skirt, some cheapo ornaments, a pillow, and a shelf figurine thing. Pictures to come closer to Christmas :P

Source ; not our tree-- this is at the Grand Floridian at WDW, but  just to get you in the Christmas mood :)
The shameful part in all of this is that we umm... put the decorations up last night. Again, we couldn't resist. Our apartment is all nice and festive now. To celebrate further, I listened the Michael Buble's Christmas album on Spotify and drank hot tea while finding research articles for grad school. Basically, it's been a very relaxing morning :)

In other news... work is work and school is school. I can't believe how close it's getting to the end of the semester! In about a month, I'll be done! What stands in my way? One research paper, one lit review, and one test. That's it. [Oh, and the work for my prof, but that's it's own thing.] Of course they are all due the week immediately following Thanksgiving, which constrains the length of our holiday travel. 

Last night we made another amazing dessert (think warm apples coming out of the oven, seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon, on top of vanilla ice cream) so I will definitely have to post that soon. And then you should make it. ASAP. Go buy some apples in preparation, k?

Woops, I mentioned food. Sorry about that. Anyway, I hope all of you have a great Thursday! Almost done with the week :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Cooking Challenge #9- Skinny Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese is just one of those amazing comfort foods, especially on cold days. Texas is having it's typical yo-yo weather patterns (seriously, today- high in the 50s, two days from now- high in the 70s), but having baked mac & cheese is still fantastic! Add in the fact that it is reduced fat + broccoli makes me very happy!

Source; because my pictures never look this good
This is my ninth recipe in my fall cooking challenge, for those of you keeping track.

Recipe source: Skinny Taste

Skinny Baked Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese


  • 12 oz high fiber elbows like Ronzoni Smart Taste
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp light butter [I just used 2 tbsp light butter]
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup fat free chicken broth
  • 8 oz (2 cups) Sargento shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets (I used pre-cut bag)
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • cooking spray

  • Directions: 
    Cook pasta and broccoli together in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions for al dente (or slightly under cook 2 minutes). Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 375°.

    In a large, heavy skillet, melt butters. Add onion and cook over low heat about 2 minutes, add flour and cook another minute, or until the flour is golden and well combined. Add milk and chicken broth and whisk, raising heat to medium-high until it comes to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce becomes smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

    Once the sauce is thick, remove from heatadd cheese and mix well until cheese is melted. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, add cooked macaroni and broccoli and mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish. Top with grated cheese and breadcrumbs. Spray a little more cooking spray on top.

    Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs golden.

    Melting butter... highly exciting!

    Sauteing the onions
    Milk + flour + onions boiling

    Adding the delicious cheese

    All melted, now waiting for the pasta + broccoli to finish cooking
    Almost done...

    Mixing it all together

    Before going in the oven...

    Source; and again, let's pretend that this is my finished product

    I highly recommend this dish-- fairly easy and very tasty! Plus it makes a lot so we were able to freeze half of it for later.