Chicken Tetrazzini (in a fort!)

Last night, I surprised my husband with a new recipe and a blanket fort in our living room. The look on his face was priceless, and it was so much fun eating dinner together in this cozy little candle-lit fort. We might just never grow up! Being his bride is the most fun I’ve ever had.

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I had never made chicken tetrazzini before, but I was very pleased with the way it came out and the leftovers I had for lunch today were just as good if not better!

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. fettuccine noodles
  • 1/2 cup butter (plus more for buttering the baking dish and for your water when boiling noodles)
  • Chicken breasts or tenderloins (boiled or grilled)
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

  • First, preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • Boil and drain your noodles
  • Then, cook chicken however you’d like. The original recipe I used said to boil 4 chicken breasts, but I grilled about 10 small chicken tenderloins and pulled them apart with a fork
  • Next, put butter, both cans of cream of chicken soup, sour cream, salt, pepper, and white wine in a bowl and mix it all together
  • Add cooked, shredded chicken to this mixture
  • Fold cooked, drained noodles into the mixture
  • Slice several pieces of butter and place on bottom of 9×13 baking dish, then spoon in the mixture
  • Sprinkle both the parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top
  • Cover with tin foil, bake 45 minutes
  • Uncover and bake for 15 more minutes
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Nutter Butter Truffles

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Aren’t these truffles just adorable? I whipped them up a few nights ago and could hardly wait to share the recipe. They are so easy to make and you only need 4 simple ingredients. For a girl on the go like me, you can’t beat that!

Ingredients:

  • One package of Nutter Butter cookies
  • One block of cream cheese
  • White chocolate (I use the kind that comes in the microwave ready tray, which is super convenient, but you could also go the old-fashioned route and pull out your double boiler)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter

Instructions:

  • First, put the Nutter Butter cookies in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Use a rolling pin to crush the cookies, until fine crumbs are formed. Or, if you’re super fancy you could use a food processor.
  • Then, in a mixer, combine the Nutter Butter crumbs with the whole block of cream cheese. If your cream cheese is at room temperature, it will be too sticky to form into balls easily, so cold cream cheese works better for this recipe.
  • Once it has reached a thick, creamy consistency, begin rolling the Nutter Butter and cream cheese mixture into one inch balls and set aside.
  • Melt your chocolate. It’s easiest to do this in 30 second intervals, stirring each time to evenly distribute the heat.
  • Next, cover your Nutter Butter balls in the melted white chocolate. I usually use a spoon to lower the ball into the chocolate, which makes it easier to spin it around so that it is completely covered.
  • After allowing the white chocolate to dry completely, melt the peanut butter and use a spoon to drizzle it over the truffles.

Viola! Peanut butter goodness that all ages are sure to enjoy!

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Weekend Fun

This past weekend, Gray and I made our way to Carrboro, N.C. (nestled between Raleigh and Greensboro)  where some of our dearest friends live. Kayla and I met our freshman year of college and our friendship has only become stronger as the years have passed. We have been through so many phases of life together just in the last five years- from living together, encouraging each other through breakups and makeups to sharing in the joy as each other got engaged, helping each other plan our weddings, standing beside each other on our wedding days, stumbling through newlywed life and the home-buying process together, and now welcoming her little one into the world! Little Berkley Stalker will be here in just a matter of days and he’s already so loved.

You can’t put a price on a friendship like this, and I thank God for it every day.11755794_10207221284156069_3337934158899378133_n 11760046_10207221284916088_2147295126678019843_n 11800499_10207221285396100_2843991354142917279_n11800054_10207221283476052_2416351216681779538_n 11800234_10207221283116043_1088406953484322993_n11742782_10207221283236046_584534852618842789_n

Celebration, not Competition

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I did not write this, but I stumbled across it today on Jenna Kutcher’s instagram and wanted to share it because it’s so true:

“The people who seem to have it all together, they don’t. The ones who you think have ‘made it,’ they are still reaching. And the ones who make you question their worth, they are likely doing the same. At the end of the day we are all beautifully broken, imperfect humans doing the best we can. Let’s stop this rat race of competition and focus our energy on empowering and cheering and celebrating instead.”

I am so passionate about the idea of women supporting other women, younger women learning from older women, and lifting each other up rather than tearing one another down. We live in a world of such competition and all it does is drain us and leave us feeling empty. Don’t be afraid to celebrate the success of those around you. Her success is not your failure.

Confident Expectation

This past year has been nothing like what I imagined my first year in the “real world” would be.

I’m not sure what I thought this year would bring – it’s not like I was imagining some kind of fairy tale or anything – but whatever this was, was not what I had envisioned. All within a years time:

  • I graduated from college
  • I started a small business out of my home to fund the mission work we do in Haiti
  • I got my first dog (the sweetest, most precious golden retriever)
  • I made my first “big girl” purchase (a car)
  • I went back to Haiti, and Grayson went for the first time
  • We lost my grandmother, after an excruciating month in a coma-like state after having a massive stroke
  • Grayson and I bought our first home
  • We got married
  • We went on an amazingly wonderful honeymoon
  • I began my career
  • Grayson changed schools for the 3rd time in three years (because of moving)
  • We lost our Pastor who had been serving my church for my entire life, baptized me, and took me to Haiti for the first time
  • I lost my cousin, Tony, after he fought a horrible battle with cancer
  • Grayson’s home church burned to the ground right in front of our eyes

Needless to say, that’s a lot for anyone to handle. Those are some of my happiest and most devastating moments, and I honestly don’t know why the Lord allowed all of it to happen at once. But He did. And I know He loves me. And I’m stronger because of it.

This is the thing, though- I have been thinking about the fire at Bethlehem Baptist and wondering how to even begin writing about it, because I see it from lots of different perspectives. I see both the heartache in it all because of the precious memories there and the stress over finances for the people employed by the church itself or the daycare, but I also see the good that has already come from it, the unification of the community, and the opportunities for growth that God set into motion the very second lightening hit the steeple. As Christians, we know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28), and that truth is what got the wheels in my mind turning about a specific thought: expectation.

It seems like every time I think of the word “expectation,” it’s in some kind of negative context. Like, I have these expectations and they leave me disappointed if things don’t go like I thought they would or should. But, lately, God has convicted me about this word. Instead of having expectations about what I think things should be like, I should be waiting with confident expectation of what Jesus is going to do. For instance, my church is approaching what may be the end of our long-prayed-over pastoral search, after having a (wonderful, precious) interim for almost a year. We are so excited and there is a contagious new energy awaiting this position being filled that has put a spring into almost everyone’s step. It’s this situation that has got me thinking even more about expectation. Instead of expecting this new pastor to be a certain way or do things a certain way or handle things a certain way, I want to have no expectations other than what God is going to do. What if, instead of letting ourselves get disappointed when things don’t go as we expected, we asked ourselves the question: what is God trying to do through this?

It’s not always easy to approach life with this attitude, but I think the best way to train our minds to look at life like this is to constantly remind ourselves that Jesus sees the big picture, He wants us to have the best, most abundant life, and He can make beauty out of ashes.

Beauty out of Brokenness

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I remember the first time I stepped foot inside Bethlehem Baptist. It’s resemblance to the church I grew up in was striking, the sun streaked through the stained glass that crisp, Fall morning, and I heard my at-the-time-boyfriend, now husband make that beautiful grand piano dance in a way you have to experience to truly understand. At that time, I had no idea I would be marrying that tall, charming boy there four years later, walking down that isle by candlelight dressed in white. No, I didn’t grow up at Bethlehem, I didn’t get baptized there, and I don’t know every one of its precious members by name, but it does have a very special place in my heart, it’s where I became one with the man God chose just for me. It’s in pieces now, just like the stained glass that we cherish so deeply, but I’m confident that Jesus is going to do amazing things through this tragedy, and make beauty out of this brokenness.

Cute as Pie

These cupcakes are sure to be a hit for any occasion. After all, who can resist a cupcake that looks like a miniature pie?

My darling husband sorted through an eight pound bag of M&M’s to separate the greens, blues, and reds. What a guy!

I made four dozen cupcakes, half yellow cake and half chocolate. I researched ways to improve boxed cake mix, and was pleasantly surprised with the results I got from the recipe I tried. The back of the box instructs you to add (to the cake mix) one cup of water, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, and three eggs. However, if you add four eggs (instead of three), one cup of melted butter that has rested until room temperature (instead of oil), and one cup of milk (instead of water), it makes a remarkable difference. I was afraid the mixture would not be thick enough, but it was just fine. Follow the baking instructions on the back of the box for time and temperature.

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Next, comes the homemade buttercream frosting (YUM). The trick here is making sure you’ve let your butter sit out all day, so that it’s room temperature. Mix one box of powdered sugar and three tablespoons of cocoa with a whisk, then, in the mixer, add the stick of softened butter. For four dozen cupcakes, I doubled this recipe.

IMG_1904With my M&M’s separated and after letting my cupcakes cool completely, I began to spread a thin layer of homemade buttercream frosting over the tops of my cupcakes, and immediately covered the top in one color of M&M’s, with the “M” facing down.

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Lastly, after filling a piping bag with the buttercream and choosing a flat tip, I iced the top of the cupcakes over the M&M’s, creating the appearance of “lattice.”

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Don’t worry about the little imperfections, they really just make it look more like an actual pie. These little cuties are so much fun, and sure to be a favorite for all ages!

Million Dollar Baked Spaghetti

Preheat oven to 350

What you need:

  • ½-3/4 lb. ground beef (I use the frozen kind that comes in the tube from Aldi)
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I use the prego in a jar, the Meat kind is good or the Garlic Herb, or if you have the homemade kind)
  • 8 oz cream cheese (softened, I let mine sit out all day)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • Splash of milk
  • Whole stick butter
  • Box of spaghetti noodles
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese

What you do:

  • First, brown and drain the hamburger meat
  • Add the spaghetti sauce to the drained meat
  • While the meat and sauce is simmering, boil your spaghetti noodles
  • While your noodles are boiling, use your mixer to mix the cream cheese, sour cream, parmesan cheese, and splash of milk. You want to add just enough milk to make the mixture creamy and a little bit spreadable
  • Next, cut half of the stick of butter into small pieces and set the pieces all over the bottom of your 9×13 baking dish
  • Put half of the drained noodles on top of the butter
  • Spread the sour cream/cream cheese/parmesan cheese/milk mixture on top of the noodles
  • Then, put the other half of the drained noodles on top of that mixture
  • Use the rest of the stick of butter to cut into small pieces and set the pieces all over that layer of noodles
  • Once you’ve done that, put the spaghetti sauce and meat mixture on top, and make sure to spread it all over the top
  • Bake for 25 minutes, sprinkle as much cheddar cheese on top as you want, and bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve immediately (although it’s great leftover all week)

God’s Protection

It’s time for me to share a story. Some people dismissed the events I’m about to tell you about as “nothing,” and it may have very well been “nothing.” But next time, it may not be… and it could have changed from “nothing” to tragedy in just a fraction of a second.

A few months ago, as I was pulling up to church on Wednesday night for supper before prayer meeting, a car pulled over on the wrong side of the road across from the church caught my eye. When I got out of the car to go inside, I heard a rustling in the woods and saw a man wearing a masquerade mask standing in the woods, watching our church. Terrified, I called 911 immediately, and as soon as they pulled up, he ran to his car and sped off, clearly up to no good. They did catch the man a little ways up the road, but all they could fault him for was not wearing a seat belt.

I was shaking all over and something in my gut told me that something just wasn’t right, but what could we do? Prayer meeting began and I was sitting about midway up on the right side closest to the inner isle. About halfway through the service, I heard the double doors at the back of the church creak open, and as I turned my head, our eyes locked. It was the man in the masquerade mask, standing in the center of the isle at the back of the church. He was wearing a huge coat, his hair was disheveled, and his eyes were wild, darting from one side of the room to the other. He hesitated for a second, then took a seat a few rows from the back. My heart was beating out of my chest, and I decided that it was my responsibility to protect my family. I got up as calmly and discreetly as possible, walked out the back door, and called 911 again. He was back, they hadn’t stopped him, he had on a mask, he could have a gun. Help.

It only took a few minutes before the police surrounded our humble little church building. Our fearless leaders, Tony (youth pastor and associate pastor) and Josh (head of the deacons), who had been at Youth Meeting, had been alerted of what was going on, and came quickly, speaking to police, keeping the few people who were aware of what was happening calm, and letting the ladies working in the nursery know what was happening so they could get the children to a center room, and lock the doors.

During the service, Pastor Max was fearless. He stood bravely, behind the pulpit, and preached through what could have easily been his last sermon. The man in the mask moved from the back of the church up to the front during the middle of the service, making jittery movements, looking around, and fidgeting with the mask. It was the most terrifying moment of my entire life, and I watched through a window, as some of my precious church family in the pews began to pick up on what was happening. I watched as their eyes widened, then closed in prayer, asking God to protect us, and change this man’s heart if he had ill intentions.

After the service, I saw some people bravely greet him, thank him for coming, and walk away. He could have been an angel, for all we know, and of course we want everyone to feel welcomed at our church, but I don’t think he was. I think, sometimes you have to trust your instincts, and my instincts told me he came there to kill.

The police couldn’t just barge into the sanctuary and tell the man to leave, because technically he hadn’t done anything wrong, just suspicious. He could have just been crazy or mentally sick… or he could have been a gunman that changed his mind because he felt the presence of God. We will probably never know, but what I do know without a shadow of a doubt, is that God protected us that night, and He allowed us to see a glimpse of what people all over the world in countries that don’t have the freedoms we do in America face everyday. It was my worst nightmare coming true, and nothing mattered except Jesus. Yes, I knew that if I was to die that night, I would instantly be in the presence of the Lord, but it was so terrifying.

This morning, when I heard about the shooting that took place yesterday at the church in Charleston, it all came flooding back. I still remember every detail of that night as vividly as if it had just happened yesterday, and there will never be words to explain how grateful I am to God that He spared our lives. What happened in Charleston could have happened to us, and my heart goes out to the families dealing with the loss from this tragedy. It breaks my heart that we live in a world where evil is not only accepted, but embraced whole-heartedly, and everything seems to be tolerated except for Christianity.

It’s time for us, as Christians, to start speaking up, standing up for the religious freedoms that our country was founded upon, and sharing our stories.