Happy Birthday Gray!

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Yesterday was my husband’s 26th birthday and in the hustle and bustle of things, I didn’t really get a chance to write about how truly thankful I am that he was born. To me, he is such a testament to the Lord’s tangible love for me, for His provision, and His faithfulness. I know without a shadow of a doubt that when the Lord was forming him in his Momma’s womb, He was thinking of me (before I was even thought of). Life with Grayson is a gift, and I am so thankful for his love, patience, and encouragement. He makes me laugh like nobody else, knows me better than I know myself, and blows me away every day with his big heart that’s full of compassion.

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Chocolate Chip Punkin Bread

This time of year, the basic white girl in me goes crazy. Pumpkin anything? Sign me up. I have seen lots of different recipes like this, but I adapted my recipe from this one.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray one 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, add the the first eleven ingredients, through ground nutmeg, and whisk to combine.

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  • Then, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and stir until just combined (don’t overmix).
  • Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

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  • Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and pushing it into corners and sides as necessary.
  • Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes or until the top is domed, golden, the center is set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the toothpick test is tricky here because you might hit melted chocolate and the toothpick will look wet).

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  • Allow bread to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

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This bread is moist and delicious, with just enough chocolate chips to satisfy your sweet tooth. It’s perfect with milk or coffee, and the aroma of it baking is better than any fall candle you could ever buy!

French Fried Onion Chicken Casserole

I made this last night for the first time and it was so good, I could hardly wait to share the recipe. It’s so easy to make, hearty enough to be served alone, or easily paired with a yummy vegetable (I served it with grilled zucchini and squash). I first saw the recipe here, but adapted it a little.

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Ingredients:

  • 16oz French Onion Dip (I used Deans French Onion Dip)
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 16oz egg noodles
  • 2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 bag of french fried onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9×13 baking dish
  • Cook egg noodles (just follow the instructions for cooking on the package) and drain
  • Boil chicken breasts and pull apart into small pieces
  • In a bowl, combine both cans of Cream of Chicken Soup, French Onion Dip, chicken, and cheese.
  • Stir in egg noodles
  • Pour mixture into 9×13 baking dish and top with french fried onions (I used the entire bag, but you could use as much or as little as you’d like)
  • Bake for 30 minutes uncovered, until heated through and french fried onions are crunchy and golden brown

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The recipe makes enough to easily serve about 8-10 people, which is one of the reasons I love it. When you make a dish like this on Monday night, you can have the leftovers for lunch every day that week!

Cling to What is Good

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Last week was a long, hard week. It was full of every emotion- from joy to heartache- and by the time the weekend (finally) rolled around, I was so consumed with the bad parts of the week that I could barely even focus on all the good. It’s funny how the Lord works. He seems to always put someone in my path to bring me just the right word of encouragement or He brings Scripture to my mind right when I need it most, and today it was Romans 12:9.

Cling to what is good.

What does that even mean? How do we even do that in such a crazy, sinful, lost world? I’ll tell you exactly how. It sounds cliche and that’s okay, because it’s the truth…the way to do this is to simply count your blessings, not your problems. It’s so easy to let people steal your joy, and if you aren’t careful listening to the world (instead of Jesus) can make your blessings seem like burdens, and that’s never of Jesus. He loves you, He cares about all the little intricate parts of your life, and He wants you to know that He’s in the details.

So, today, it’s my prayer that you would take this challenge with me: Cling to what is good. Don’t let discouragement or frustrations bring you down. Focus on all the blessings God has given you and trust His perfect will and timing.

Happy Monday!

Please note: the watercolor calligraphy scripture above is not my original work, I only found it on Pinterest.

Russian Stew Beef

My coworker, Zhanna, has easily become one of my dearest friends over the last year and a half. She is gracious and gentle, kind and loving, and makes me laugh until I cry. She’s from Siberia, Russia and although she’s been in America for almost 18 years, still manages to maintain a distinct charm and eye for beauty that I’m most certain she brought with her.

She is always bringing me food, and I mean to tell you… it’s the greatest thing ever. She doesn’t use recipes, she just knows – an art that I am constantly striving to master. A few days ago, she made this Russian Stew Beef, and I could hardly wait to try my hand at it. It’s amazing. Like, melt-in-your-mouth-go-back-for-seconds amazing.

I made it for Grayson and he literally took one bite, got out of his chair, and got down on one knee and proposed again. It was hilarious! I have a feeling this will be our new go-to meal for cold, rainy days.

Ingredients:

  • Stew beef
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Mushrooms
  • Salt + Pepper
  • Flour for coating meat
  • 3 tablespoons of ketchup
  • McCormick’s Beef Stew packet
  • Parsley (optional)

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Instructions:

  • First, rinse meat and pat dry
  • Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper
  • Coat meat with flour (I did this on a baking sheet to eliminate mess)

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  • Cover the bottom of a frying pan with oil and heat on high so that the oil is very hot
  • Put meat in oil and sear for 4-5 minutes on high (the edges of the meat should begin to brown and get somewhat tough) turning occasionally so that all sides of the meat are seared
  • Turn meat down to medium-medium high and slice onions, carrots, mushrooms (as much as you want), and mince garlic (one clove) and add to meat once it’s almost completely browned
  • Once vegetables and meat are cooked thoroughly, add McCormick Stew Meat packet and one cup of water
  • Stir and continue cooking in the frying pan on medium until it’s a thick consistency
  • Scoop contents of frying pan into a pot
  • Add 3 tablespoons of ketchup and 1-2 cups of water (depending on how thick you want it) and one more clove of minced garlic and stir
  • Cover and let cook on medium heat for 25-30 (stirring occasionally so as to not let it stick to the bottom of the pot) – This tenderizes the meat and allows everything to finish cooking
  • Top with parsley and serve over rice (or over quinoa or with mashed potatoes)

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I served this Russian goodness with rice, my great aunt Tootsie’s canned green beans, and crescent rolls with pumpkin spice cookies for dessert. YUM!

This dish is savory and flavorful and filling. I hope you all try it out and love it as much as I do!

Happy Friday!