Habits Not Exclusive

It currently smells of both gingerbread and balsamic-Dijon mixture in my home. It’s our first really cold day of December and it felt perfect to have a pot roast and some gingerbread to anticipate the season.

For a while I had joked about being wife-material with baking and cooking since I am single. However the more I have thought on it, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. I don’t have to cook well and be a wife, I don’t have to be a poor baker and single.

Simply stated, this is something that I enjoy and not a means to snagging a spouse. I just enjoy cooking and baking. I prefer a homemade cake to a store bought one (unless we are talking about Cheesecake Factory). Putting heart and care into preparing a meal for myself, or for others, is something I just plain enjoy doing most of the time. (There are nights when a frozen dinner or chips and salsa are all that’s happening)

But I think we often want to talk about preparing for marriage in ways that aren’t spiritually or emotionally sound. Learning to cook should be for one’s own gain and not for the allurement of another. Our habits are not exclusive to our marital status. In fact they should be grown and groomed apart from that as we are unique humans who have the interests and abilities gifted to us for our own enjoyment. We shouldn’t want to better ourselves for someone else, but out of our own desire for that.

I couldn’t help but think of this as I have watched this season of This is Us and the dynamic played out by the twins Kevin and Kate. They both are in to being that person for other people in alot of ways. I was really impressed with Kate when she finally told Toby that she couldn’t make it work with him because she needed to do her weight loss for herself.

Bravo writers! Our own self and our hearts should be what motivates us to lose weight, to take care of ourselves, to delve into a new craft or hobby, to learn a new skill. You cannot live off of someone else’s approval or attention. The economy of trade on that does not sustain a person for long before causing suffering or hurt.

So learn to cook, or don’t. Go to that class you’ve wanted to take at the gym, or don’t. Learn to paint, or don’t. Watch football, or don’t. But let it be for you and who you want to be, not the expectation of someone else.

A Single Foodie

Pardon me while I gush a minute about this past Saturday. And to think I almost didn’t go.

Earlier last week I found out via Lynda over at Southern Kissed that my favorite chef, Stephanie Izard, would be in town along with chef Michelle Bernstein to judge a grilling competition at Macy’s. Cue fangirling. Saturday as I was getting ready, I almost talked myself out of it. I had this voice whispering that this wasn’t something I could enjoy solo, and that I should just stay home.

As a single gal, that voice of fear gets loud sometimes. She sounds alot like doubt and a snarky friend you’d really not be friends with in real life. But man, can she cut right to your heart about fearing doing something solo. Last month when I kicked off the theme of a NoHSummer I had some swagger and confidence. Now that I am in the thick of it, I am finding fear of singleness grip like never before! A friend of mine tells me this is merely affirmation of the correct journey for me. I tend to agree with his perspective rather than that snotty girl whispering that people will talk that I am by myself.

So I went…and I am ever so glad that I did, for many reasons. First of all, I got to see amazing home-chefs grill their hearts out for the chance at $10,000 and picstitchto grill in NYC for Macy’s on the 4th of July (how awesome is that?!). Next I got to try some amazing food prepared by Michelle and Stephanie that they sent out in sampling form. There was Orxata, and for a lactose intolerant girl such as myself, this on a hot day was incredibly refreshing and delightful. We sampled two types of salads, one variation of a Caesar and another with grilled shrimp (which I dumped onto my cute dress I had in the excitement of playing trivia with Wells). They picstitch(1)sent out mini-brats that had enough kick for me…but y’all I saved the best for last. A tempura cooked chicken sandwich, with creamed feta and slaw (I may be Southern but I don’t like slaw…but this I would eat a million times over) and a peach fried pie with cinnamon and sugar. I gushed over this repeatedly to my new found foodie friends on either side of me. I wish I had the recipe for the sandwich, although I have to be semi glad that I don’t because I think I would get sick on it from eating it so much. It was that good.

So needless to say it was more than worth the internal battle I had with myself over whether I should go. In fact it build confidence in me to really pursue this NoHSummer with fervor, exploring things I can share with you all (singles/couples/marrieds/etc) in the hopes you’ll explore a single outing for yourself to enjoy the moment and this life we are created to live out.

picstitch(2)Before I go I have to share I tried a new local place that had a booth setup as well at the event. It’s called Padrino’s Pops and they are so delightful and refreshing. Had I not gone, I wouldn’t have been able to try their offerings and see that they are going to give Las Paletas a run for their money here in the 12th South District. They did not pay me in any way to post this, but I had to rave about them and how great they were. I tried the watermelon, as well as some of those sitting around me, and every flavor was a hit! Definitely check them out this summer if you’re in Nashville and needing a rescue from the heat!

I realized as I drove home on Saturday that I got to experience quite a bit over three hours that I could have missed out on, including hearing Josh Farrow perform (fan of his now too!) and getting to meet another blogger and connect. (Hey Blonde Mom Blog!) So I urge you the next time doubt creeps in about going somewhere solo, weigh the regret of a great experience with the doubt that tells you are not confident enough. And keep on going til you get there…because the regret of not going far outweighs the fear of being solo.

Foodie Friday

So I meant to post this morning, as I normally do, but I have to be honest with you all. I overslept and today was struggle bus Friday around the office. I think it’s being back from vacation and summer days are longer, and also because I stayed up later after getting home from an event to finish a book that I have been engrossed in all week. I’ll totally post about that Outlander obsession later…

This past Sunday we were on day number four of rain and dreariness here in Nashville, and I was in a mood to cook/bake. Normally I do a full Sunday afternoon cooking spree during the school year because of work and events so that I have food ready to grab or heat up quickly. I reserve baking for when I need to destress or move my mind to something else. Sunday was a much needed day of just that-moving my mind into something else.

FullSizeRender(1)If you follow me on Instagram or we are friends on Facebook you saw me post a couple of things…in fact I think I even posted on my new Tumblr page a couple of photos this week. As you can see I got full on baker mode with the first thing I made, a Key Lime Pie from scratch. It is a summer favorite of mine, because I am a summer baby. This was done with a simple graham cracker crust and left to chill overnight in the freezer (mainly because I forgot to take it out before I went to bed). My coworkers raved about it this week, so I am exploring another icebox pie excursion this weekend.

Next up I set to making a cobbler. I had discovered in this month’s Rachael Ray Everyday (because obvs…) she had easy cobbler recipe variations that I FullSizeRender(2)wanted to test out. I picked up some peaches, because it’s summer and I wanted peach cobbler and warm breading and a dollop of salted caramel ice cream (who doesn’t, right?!). Well when it came time to make this I actually took a variation of her recipe for strawberries instead and used that one, since I had frozen strawberries on hand. I’ll share the full recipe (my way) below with you. This is what I have now call amazing deliciousness in warmth. It’s official name is a chocolate dipped strawberry caramel cobbler. I substituted the chocolate chips called for in the biscuit topping with caramels that I had on hand instead. Best. Decision. Ever. After dinner that evening I scooped out a little bit in a ramekin to try and this is the divine goodness that I was met with.

IMG_7770So good.

FullSizeRender(3)I also had a hankering for banana bread something fierce. So I got almost too ripe bananas on my Kroger jaunt Saturday (I do love the Kroge) and found a perfect meld of cinnamon and banana in this loaf. I ended up sharing it with my coworkers as well because of fear of eating the entire thing in one sitting. It went perfect with a cup of coffee in the morning, or tea in the afternoon. My house smelled like an unbelievable bakery when this was in the oven. I wish I could have bottled that as it was heavenly. The top crisped up well and still held a softness in the middle.

While my oven was still warm I was debating on a dinner recipe that could go far and still be relatively healthy…meaning I was looking at some wheat pasta and a yearning for Italian sausage thrown in. I have been very anti-chicken as of late but I compromised when I found some chicken sausage on sale at Trader Joe’s earlier Sunday. I threw it into cook with some garlic and basil, just enough to brown the sausage and soften the garlic. I put on a stock pot full of Farfalle pasta (quite possibly my favorite type) and started pulling stuff FullSizeRender(4)together. I threw in fresh mushrooms-I will put mushrooms in almost everything if I can. I added about a third of a bag of fresh spinach, lightly shredded by hand and cooked it all down. I threw in a bit of oregano and some salt and pepper to taste. Thankfully I had some jarred pasta sauce on hand  (I’m a Prego girl) and put that in with the sausage/veggie mixture to simmer while the pasta cooked. When all was said and done I combined them all in 3 qt baking dish, topped with two cups fresh mozzarella shredded and baked until bubbling. Served it up with fresh ciabatta rolls split, brushed with EVOO and sprinkled with Italian herbs then toasted in the oven.

So that’s how I spent five hours on Sunday afternoon, in kitchen heaven…seriously I know so many who hate to cook or are afraid to try things, but here’s the bit. I have been cooking for years, and I screw up alot. But I get back in there and find something else to make or figure out what I did wrong. Cooking and baking are about exploring and learning. I love that, because it allows your creativity to flow in the process and you never fully arrive. You just get better! So grab a spoon, and get to stirring!


Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Caramel Cobbler (as adapted from June issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine)

Ingredients for cobbler

1 lb frozen strawberries (I used Trader Joe’s, it was what I had on hand)
1/4 c. sugar
1.5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all these together until the fruit is evenly coated. I did not thaw the strawberries as the original recipe called for fresh ones. I also halved this recipe based upon the fruit I had on hand. You can certainly double the quantities. However I did not halve the biscuit topping portion as I do love the topping. Place in a 2 qt baking dish. I used a 2 1/2 qt round Corningware one that was perfect.

Easy Biscuit Topping

1 c flour
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c cream1/2 c chopped baking caramels

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add 3/4 c cream and mix just until the dough comes together. Mix in the chopped up caramels. Flour your area and pat into 1/2 inch thick round. You can either cut out the topping using a glass or cookie cutter. I chose to crumble them as I found the biscuit topping to be sticky and hard to manage.

Arrange on top of the strawberry mixture. Brush with cream, then sprinkle on a tablespoon of sugar. Bake at 400 until the filling bubbles up AND the topping comes out clean on a toothpick test. You may need to cover the topping with aluminum foil tented to prevent too much browning too quickly. I baked mine around 45 minutes but it can range from 35-45 minutes.

Enjoy responsibly!

My Imaginary Husband Prayers Pt. 3

This week I have shared on how I pray for my imaginary husband. You can catch up on this short series with part 1 and part 2. I took a pause yesterday in the midst of a difficult week as I felt called to just stop in life and be present in a certain situation.

Today though I wanted to come back and share another area of prayer that I have for my imaginary husband. While this has centered on things I pray for him eventhough I may not know him yet, I believe that if you are dating, engaged or married these are just as helpful points of prayer. Often I find I don’t come in focused on my prayers and tend to ramble (much like I do around here).

This area of prayer today focuses on his inward self a bit, and how that is lived out. If I am missing one, or would like to share how you have prayed in one of these areas, please share below.

  1. Pray that he pursues passions and activities that are healthy. I know this seems rather silly but often I have found in dating that some activities guys pursue are not healthy and rather detrimental to their lives and those around them if left unaccounted for. (Galatians 5:16)
  2. Pray that he practices forgiveness in relationships. That he knows how to forgive and how to accept forgiveness as well. (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. Pray that he would understand and know how to rest. This is something I believe none of us know how to do well, and yet we never ask for ways to grow in that. (Matthew 11:28)
  4. Pray for his doubts, fears, worries. Pray for his desires, truths and passions. That his worries and fears, the doubts he carries would be released and that he would cast it all at the foot of Christ. That in his desires and passions he would be looking at them with Christ’s eyes.
  5. Pray for his prayer time. I know we discussed that in the first part but it is vital, just as yours is, to be praying for him in his prayer time. (Romans 12:12)

What do you pray for with your imaginary husband? Has that ever occurred to you as a single woman to do? If you are dating, engaged or married, what would you add?

Praying for My Imaginary Husband Pt. 2

If you’re just joining us today, all this week I am doing a series on praying for my imaginary husband. Yesterday I started with his spiritual life, and the things that surround his walk.

Today I wanted to focus on other aspects of his life, whether that is social or professional.

  1. Pray for his calling on his life. That he would be obedient and faithful to it, giving full attention and dedication to it as to the Lord. (Colossians 3:23, 24)
  2. Pray for his purity. I know so often the focus on purity is towards women, however the assault on men is prevalent if you look at the rise in pornography usage. Pray that his heart will be guarded from inappropriate relationships. (Proverbs 6:23, 24)
  3. Pray that he would be responsible with his finances, and grow in the area of managing his own home in that way. This wasn’t something I had thought on initially until a friend pointed it out. That he would have wisdom in giving and obedience to what he is prompted on. (Hebrews 13:5)
  4. Pray he would have a teachable, humble spirit. (Something I even need to pray for myself in the midst of this) (Proverbs 15:33)
  5. Pray that he would be surrounded by men and women of good report. That he would choose friends wisely. (Proverbs 13:20)

My Imaginary Husband Prayers Pt. 1

So yesterday I shared with you all how I pray for my imaginary husband. While it may seem rather funny to do but I am finding it keeps my prayers centered and the focus not so much on me but on God’s plan.

Let me admit though that I do sometimes pray that God would hurry up just a bit…transparency here y’all.

So I promised yesterday that this week I’d share how you can be praying for your imaginary husband (and if you’re a guy I’d love for you to share how you’d like to be prayed for too!). This goes for if you’re dating, engaged or married too. I hope you’ll find new ways to be praying for your man as well. I know that often I find my prayers become either redundant or lost in the fray of all that’s going on in life. This helps me center my prayer life a bit more as well.

In part one I share the obvious ways to be praying for him, right now where he is in his life.

  1. Pray for his spiritual walk. That he would have a growing, deeper connection with the Lord and where He is leading him. That he would be pursuing a consistent prayer life, meditating on Scripture and reading His Bible (just as I pray you are doing).
  2. Pray for his heart, that he would keep it with vigilance. (Proverbs 4:23) That he would guard it with spiritual disciplines as mentioned in #1. That his heart would be set on God’s plan and God’s will for his life.
  3. Pray that he would be quick to address sin in his life, and have wisdom to recognize stumbling blocks before him. (Psalm 51)
  4. Pray for growth in his leadership skills. Something that is often discussed among women today is the lack of leadership among men they meet. Be diligent in encouraging or supporting men in leadership. Pray that he would have those around him to support and encourage him to grow in leadership and he would find ways to do this within his work, home and church.
  5. Pray for his prayer life. While at first this one seemed silly to me, I found that I needed prayer for my own prayer life. To be consistent in his prayer life, always vigilant and without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
  6. Pray for his thought life. Nothing assaults a man more than his thought life. It is something I have come to learn from conversations from friends and (ex)boyfriends. Temptations abound that we women often don’t understand that perpetuate in their thoughts. Pray that his mind would be pure, that he would dwell on good and lovely things. That his thoughts would be guarded and a hedge of protection would be around him. (Philippians 4:8)

Rainy Day Cooking

It’s a rainy day here in Nashville. Not really cold but just meh.

For some reason I love days like this…they are inspiring to me, giving way to creativity. Sundays are also usually my “cooking days” as I have come to affectionately call them. This allows me the afternoon to put together meals and prepare for the week ahead, while also testing out some recipes in case they don’t quite work out.

Which is what happened to Saturday night’s meal, didn’t quite work out in a time crunch.

So I thought I’d share a little of what goes on in my kitchen on Sundays, but especially on rainy ones. It usually ends with a sink full of dishes as the dishwasher whirs, stuffed full of pans and pots as well. Today is a bit quieter than normal as it’s a short prep week with a large feast coming Thursday that I shopped for yesterday.

The Crock Pot is ticking away full of fresh veggies and beef as I threw together a Beef Stew for a day like today. Rainy days just call for it, you know? I thought about sharing the recipe but it’s a family one that I hold dear so instead you just get a photo of 30 minutes in to a six hour process.

IMG_6611

So while that is busy simmering away, I wanted something delightful and that screams of this time of year. So I made this Brown Sugar Glazed Pumpkin Coffee Cake. My whole house smells insanely delicious as the cake finishes baking.

IMG_6618

Someone at work asked if it was made of crack because it was so addictive the first time I made it a couple of weeks ago. Since I talk about baking, and how that’s part of #wifematerial I thought I’d share this nugget just in time for Thanksgiving week. Even if you don’t bake, this cake is simple to put together!

Ingredients (aka what you need to run out and buy right now!)

Cake Mix:
⅓ cups Water
1 can Pureed Pumpkin (15 Oz)
2 whole Eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 box Yellow Cake Mix (18 Ounce Box)
1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Crumble Topping:
1/2  cups Brown Sugar
½ cups Flour
4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted

Glaze:
1/2 cups Brown Sugar
¼ cups Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ cups Heavy Whipping Cream

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350, and grease up a 9 x 13 pan. I use cooking spray, you can use butter if you’d like.

IMG_6612In a mixing bowl mix together (what else would you do in a mixing bowl, huh?) the water, pumpkin, eggs, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined. Add the cake mix and baking soda and mix until just combined. It should look something like that to the left.

It should be a consistency somewhere between a cake batter and a brownie batter for those of you who bake on the reg.

You’ll want to dump that into the already greased pan. You can use either a glass or cake pan, whichever you prefer. It won’t be staying in there long after it comes outta the oven. IMG_6613

MELT YOUR BUTTER! Grab those four tablespoons of it (I use light stick butter) and get it melted.

Next up is the delicious crumb topping. In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and melted butter. Use your fingers to sprinkle over the top of the cake. It’s nice to work with your hands. It should look similar to what is over to the right.

Throw that goodness into the oven for 25-30 minutes. I keep it on the middle rack for close to 29 minutes in my oven. I check it only once and when it starts to brown in the middle I whip it out and test a toothpick in it. Make sure it comes out clean when you do. You want this done, but not too brown on top.

So while that’s a’baking away and your home is filling with the amazing scent of this yummy cake, you need to whip up the glaze. It takes about eight minutes to do but don’t neglect this part. Trust me.

IMG_6615For the glaze, combine the other 1/2 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir until all sugar is dissolved. It’ll look like that to the left there. I just stirred it, but you can also use a whisk. No biggie either way. Just make sure that sugar is dissolved.

Once that cake finishes, pull it out and use a toothpick to poke holes all in that beautiful cake. When you’ve had your fun and you feel there’s plenty of holes in that pretty cake, slowly drizzle the glaze over it. Cover every inch of that cake.

Now you can either serve it up right there and then, or have some self restraint and give it away to guests, neighbors, coworkers, friends…or eat it all yourself. No judgement here. None whatsoever. You be you.


So what are some Thanksgiving week recipes you just must make? What about on rainy days? Is there something that just completes the day for you to have?