Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Reflection

It’s funny how food can bring back a rush of emotions.

One Friday morning, as I sunk my teeth into a squishy, little pao de queijo, I was flooded with memories of my time in Brazil. They came rushing back, vividly filling my mind.

I’ve eaten pao de queijo actually many times since I’ve been home, but ‘tis the season to reflect on the path our year has taken us. The holiday and New Year season has a way of resetting us. We find ourselves reminiscing and remembering the mighty moments of our year, considering and contemplating what we want to do differently moving forward.

The weight and magnitude of this past year hasn’t let me go yet and makes me wonder how I can move forward to something greater after so many pivotal, life-changing events. Throughout the year I’ve reached peaks of joy, valleys of sadness, precipices of fear, and mile-markers of accomplishment and celebration. All to a degree that I’ve never before experienced.

Getting engaged to the love of my life.

Securing my first job.

Translating for a dear friend’s medical emergency in the countryside of Brazil.

Getting baptized, surrounded by my church family in Austin.

Trying to love and encourage the prostitutes, children and homeless of crackland in Sao Paulo.

Moving out of my parent’s home.

Being humbled beyond belief by Brazilian culture, language, lifestyle…everything.

Learning firsthand that my Savior truly has no boundaries to His awesome love and grace. He cares intimately for the orphan, the unloved, the used, the broken, the marginalized, the hurting, the weak.

God has shown me time and time again this year that His care for us goes beyond just the mighty mile markers in our lives. He cares for us in the minute, mundane moments of our day-to-day life. He can use us even when we feel useless and weak. I rejoice that God was willing to use me when I could barely communicate, to love and serve in Brazil.

Though this was a year never to be forgotten, I pray that God would do far more than I could ever ask or imagine in each and every year from now on. And I believe He will do this because He is the God that created the heavens and the earth, who parted a sea for the people he loved, who made bread rain down on the hungry, who gave children to an unloved barren woman, who healed a lame man because of his faith, who was willing to part with his only son, let him experience the most humiliating scorn and death possible, so that he could have a personal, reconciled relationship with the people he created. This is not a God far removed. He is involved, and He wants you to let Him be involved in your life.

Let us not forget God’s beautiful gift during this busy season. As you remember your year and look forward to the next, pray boldly and put your trust in Him.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. My faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” – Oceans by Hillsong

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole

I have to admit, whenever I see a menu item or recipe that includes sweet potatoes, I get super excited. They are one of my absolute favorite comfort foods. I love making sweet potato fries, baked sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato hash, and of course Thanksgiving's beloved sweet potato casserole. I mean who doesn't love things smothered in toasty marshmallows??? But really the sweet potatoes in this dish are so masked by sugar and butter that you can hardly taste them! I wanted to make a casserole that would enhance the beauty of the sweet potato, not annihilate it completely. This casserole is a wonderful marriage of sweet potato loveliness and bacon-pecan topping. This recipe is delicious. Hands down. If you were planning on making sweet potato marshmallow-covered casserole this Thanksgiving, forget it. 

Go back to the store. 

Get these ingredients. 

Make this casserole.

Everyone will be thankful you did. 

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole
Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

4 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
10 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (use gluten free if needed)
1 cup raw pecans, roughly chopped (save several whole pecans to place on top)
1/3 cup salted butter, melted
1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1-2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped (optional)

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Poke a few holes in the sweet potatoes and bake for 1 hour or until soft and tender. When the sweet potatoes are cooked, slice them in half and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, make the topping. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Next, add the brown sugar, flour, pecans, butter, cayenne, sage and rosemary (if using) to a bowl and mix to combine. Break the fried bacon into pieces and stir into sugar/flour mixture.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
  5. Peel the skins away from the flesh of the sweet potato and add the sweet potato to a large mixing bowl. Mash well. Mix in the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, milk, butter, eggs and bourbon until fully combined.
  6. Pour the sweet potatoes into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle the pecan topping over top of the sweet potatoes. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the pecans are golden. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Beer Braised Chicken Tacos with Apple-Pomegranate Salsa

TACOS. Little did I know that when I moved to Austin, that my world would be so rocked by tacos. Growing up in Seattle, tacos aren't really a thing. Looking back, it almost makes me laugh that we used to eat tacos on a crunchy shell. They were simple, and ALWAYS the same. Crunchy corn tortilla shell, taco flavored ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato. Now, these tacos are great, don't get me wrong, but I just had no idea that tacos could be more than that! Thanks to the culture of tacos here in Austin, I have been educated on this glorious staple. Breakfast tacos are now a regular part of my week. Thanks to Torchy's Tacos, Taco Deli, and the numerous taco food trucks in Austin, I now know that it's ok to load up my tacos with ingredients like fried avocados, kimchi, peaches, peanut butter, and a million crazy hot sauces. This recipe may sound strange to you considering the combination of ingredients, but I promise you, it was super tasty. Your taste buds will thank you.

Beer Braised Chicken Tacos with Apple-Pomegranate Salsa
Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more or less to taste
salt and peper
1 (12 ounce) beer (I used a seasonal blue moon)
1/2 -3/4 cup enchilada sauce (homemade or store-bought)
8 warmed flour or corn tortillas, for serving
sharp cheddar cheese + cotija cheese, for serving
guacamole or avocado, for serving
Apple-Pomegranate Salsa
2 honeycrisp apples, finely chopped
arils from one small pomegranate 
1 jalapeño, seeded (if desired) + chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice from 1 lime
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)

  1. Add the chicken to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Add the garlic, minced chipotle chilies in adobo, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, brown sugar and a pinch of both salt and pepper. Toss well to combine, making sure all the chicken gets coated in seasonings.
  2. Heat a large brasier or dutch oven over medium high heat. Once hot, add the chicken and sear on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side. Reduce the heat slightly and pour in the beer. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, make the salsa. Add the chopped apple, pomegranate arils, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and maple syrup sauce to a bowl. Toss well to combine, taste and adjust if needed. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
  4. Once the chicken is done cooking, remove it from the pot and shred with two forks. Meanwhile reduce the sauce that is left in the pot down to about 3/4 of a cup. Add the shredded chicken back to the sauce in the pot and toss. Now add the enchilada sauce and continue to cook about 2 minutes or until warmed through. 
  5. To serve, add the shredded chicken to a warmed taco shell. Top with cheddar, avocado and then the apple salsa. Sprinkle with cotija cheese and chopped cilantro. Happy taco eating!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus

I've recently had an obsession with hummus and have literally been eating it daily for the past two weeks. Combine that obsession with my already prevalent obsession with pumpkin, and you get pumpkin hummus! This recipe is definitely for the more adventurous type. The pumpkin, chickpeas and chipotle chilies combine to make for a delightfully smooth and smokey hummus. 

Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus

One (15 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Half of one (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, chopped
clove garlic, grated
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp of sweet / smokey paprika
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds), for serving
Chips, naan, apple slices or other foods for dipping

  • Combine the chickpeas, pumpkin and olive oil in a food processor and puree Until smooth.
  • Mix the chilies with the garlic, honey, cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, oregano, chili powder, paprika and salt and pepper. Stir half into the mix chipotle hummus, and add the remaining to the top of the hummus. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepitas seeds before serving.
  • Serve with chips, crackers, or other foods naan for dipping.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkin Apple Pie

I bet you saw the title of this post and thought "SAY WHAAAAA?!? Pumpkin and apple pie?!?"

It's true.

Two of THE BEST pies ever. Become one.

Soooooooooo, now I have saved you from never having to make the hard decision of choosing between pumpkin or apple pie at those holiday gatherings. OR, look like a fatty (my choice) and take a slice of both pies. This recipe is genius and will most definitely be rocking my world for a long, long time! Watch out holiday parties, here I come, armed with a pie that is going to blow your mind.

Pumpkin Apple Pie
Recipe adapted from Taste of Home

1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup warm water
2 Tbsp butter
3 large apples, sliced

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

Pie crust:
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup cold butter, cubed
2-3 Tbsp cold water

In a saucepan over low heat, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in warm water until smooth. Add butter; bring to a boil, stirring every 30 seconds. Add apples. Cook and stir for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your pie crust by combining the flour and salt in a large bowl with a whisk. Slowly cut in the cubes of cold butter. Once the butter is integrated completely, add in water until your crust has reached a pliable, but not gooey, consistency. Flour a large, clean surface, and roll out your pie crust into a 10-inch circle with a rolling pin. Place pastry in a buttered, 9-inch pie plate. 

Place apple mixture into your prepared pie crust. In a bowl, whisk pumpkin, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and egg until smooth. Pour over apple layer. Flute the edges of your pie crust.

Bake at 375 F for 50-55 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking time to prevent overbrowning. Cool completely. Garnish with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired. (I personally enjoyed the Caramel Apple Gelato from Talenti, YUMMMMMM). 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Skinny Chicken Tikka Masala

This is a lightened up version of one of my favorite Indian dishes. Something about the creamy and spicy sauce makes this a perfect comfort food. Especially when served over a bed of steaming quinoa or brown rice, this dish is a great one to break out on a chilly fall day. The weather has FINALLY changed a little bit down here in Austin, TX and it's starting to feel more like fall. I broke out my sweater and scarf for the first time yesterday! Even though I do miss the changing leaves of Seattle, it sure is nice to have that sunshine beaming down on you even when it's cold.

Skinny Chicken Tikka Masala
Recipe adapted from The Scrumptious Pumpkin
  • 4 tablespoons sesame, sunflower, or canola oil
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, fat trimmed and cubed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 small carrots, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
  • 12 ounces frozen chopped cauliflower florets, thawed
  • 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • Garam Masala (see recipe below)
  • 15-ounce container chopped tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Garam Masala (if you don't have the spice blend already):
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  1. To a bowl, add all the spices listed above for the Garam Masala. Stir until well combined, and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté the chicken until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl, cover with foil, and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to the pan along with the onion and garlic and cook until veggies are softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the carrots and jalapeño and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken back in, along with the thawed cauliflower, tomato paste, and the Garam Masala. Stir until spices are well combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, simmer, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn off the heat and add coconut milk. Stir until well combined.
  6. Serve over quinoa or brown rice.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Brides-To-Be And Their Bodies

Yes, I know this is my food blog, but I feel the need to share my thoughts on my recent struggle with preparing for a wedding and body image.

First of all, I'm engaged! He popped the question in July and I am oh so excited to marry the man of my dreams next June!

My engagement bliss was short lived however. After floating around on cloud nine for a few days, I decided it might be good to look at a checklist and get planning for the wedding. Being a super planner that I am, this was of course the logical next step. I quickly hopped onto The Knot's wedding website and proceeded to check out their super helpful and extensive checklist. 

Though overwhelmed at first, I knew this was something I could handle and proceeded to weed through the check list to see what really was a priority. 

1) Celebrate your engagement... CHECK!
2) Decide on a city and season... (What girl doesn't have their favorite city and season already picked      out?)
3) Make a beauty plan... ermmmmm....?

Having never been good at/interested in "beauty" things, I thought I'd better educate myself on what a beauty plan should look like. After clicking on the hyper-link, I was quickly whisked away to a page filled with models splashing water delicately over their clear faces and size 2 women in their undies being measured by unimpressed seamstresses. 

Ooooooofff. Did I hit the ground hard. I looked down at my body and realized that my acne, poochy tummy, and lack-luster hair weren't going to fly on wedding day. My mind was instantly flooded with  stressful questions and thoughts. Isn't this the day that I'm supposed to look my best? Isn't this the day that I'm going to be photographed over and over and over again? Heck, I better look good on wedding night!

Yeah, I've struggled with body image concerns in the past, but this was at a whole new level. After reading that post and seeing how far from being ready for wedding day I was, I immediately threw myself into a regimented, and intense work out plan. Counting and cutting calories left and right, my body was exhausted, but my mind wouldn't let go of that ideal, that goal!

3 months into this craziness, I've had a reality check. I'm exhausted. I'm cranky. I'm stressed. 

Yeah, I know that that's going to happen at some points in this planning process, but do I really need to be purposefully doing this to myself? I'm forgetting completely the reason why I'm getting married in the first place! And you know what, quite honestly, I don't think I'm going to care how skinny or toned I look on my wedding day. I'm going to be so overwhelmed by emotions of joy and love and excitement, that my pre-wedding work-outs and stress are all going to seem silly and insignificant. Is beating myself up now really going to make me enjoy my wedding day more? 

It sickened me to think of how many other women are dealing with this pressure too. Can't we just encourage one another to be happy and confident in our own skin instead? "If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business." Every day I come across subtle messages from the media telling us that "if we just lost some weight" or "if we just achieved the body of our dreams, all the stress of our wedding would melt away and everything would be blissfully perfect". Well let me tell you, that is a BIG, FAT LIE.

Size and weight, do NOT equal happiness.

I'm going to be marrying the love of my life, and doesn't that matter more than the number on my wedding dress tag? Instead of trying to love the idea of what my body can be, I'm going to start by loving my body with what it is today.

I hope this encourages you to love your special, unique body. Let's push back on the messages that our culture is sending us and instead share some love and self-contentedness. Make the decision to stop picking apart your flaws, and start giving yourself some grace instead.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Homemade Hummus (Oil-free)

Texture, flavor, health-points; you can't really ever go wrong with hummus. I absolutely love how adaptable it is too! In the past I've made, sriracha hummus, cilantro-lime hummus, and roasted red pepper hummus, just to name a few. Not only is it's flavor adaptable, but also it's usage. I love smothering hummus on pita bread, sandwiches, veggies, and slurping straight off the spoon. Making your own hummus may sound daunting, but it's actually pretty easy (if you have a blender or food processor). Not to mention it's a whole lot cheaper than buying it pre-made at the store. Have fun adapting this recipe to your favorite flavor combos!
Homemade Hummus (Oil-free) 
1 15 oz./425 g can chickpeas (no salt) or 1 3/4 cup of fresh cooked chickpeas
1-2 small cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tbsp water (this is replacing the oil)
3-4 tbsp lemon juice (depending on how lemony you like it)
1 1/2 tbsp tahini 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
dash of cayenne pepper
  1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and set aside.
  2. Add the garlic clove(s) to the food processor (or blender) and pulse until chopped up. 
  3. Add the chickpeas, water, lemon juice (start with less and add more if desired) and pulse the chickpeas until they are fairly broken up. Depending on how strong your food processor is when they are broken up you can let it run for a few seconds or just keep pulsing until it’s a little smooth. Stop the food processor. Taste test and add more lemon if desired.
  4. Add the tahini, salt and remaining spices. Let it run until everything is creamed up. Taste test and adjust any additional salt, lemon or water (for consistency). Your hummus should be creamy with no chunks left.
  5. Serve with veggies, pita or baked chips if desired.