Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Finish lines and popcorn bowls.

Remember the Titans and Rocky IV is to a sports fanatic as The Notebook and P.S. I Love You is to a romantic. Complacency is to a lukewarm Christian as Loud and Proud is to a Christian on fire.  You know that feeling you get when you're watching a classic sports movie, about to reach your hand into the popcorn, and suddenly the music reaches a climax, the players score the winning point on a buzzer beater, and you get the adrenaline rush of the century?  Recently, I've been challenged in many aspects of my life.  Not only have those included testing of my physical and mental (and often times patience) limits, but the examination of my spiritual potential, as well.  There comes a time in a girls life (probably right around the age of 23 for most ;) ) when she realizes she no longer has her once-ever-present safety net surrounding her.  While her parents, family members, life experiences, the Sesame Street crew, education, Sunday school, Snapple bottle caps, FCA huddle, sports practices, marathon training, youth group, wikipedia, and friends have taught her a lot, including most things she needs to succeed- she still has to take on the challenge of being an adult flying solo.  Somehow; and I'm not really sure how after all of those year-round sport practices, tournaments, and competitions, that competitive edge that has come to be a part of my very core has decided to stick around for the waltz into adulthood (because yes, I plan on entering these years gracefully with as few blunders as possible).  And for this, I am very thankful.  I love that the second I stop setting goals and challenging myself to do more and give more and help more and learn more, a siren goes off in my head wondering where this lethargic, self-satisfied, mediocre mindset came from.  Needless to say, this has been most evident in my spiritual life.  While many people who know me well or read my blog and check my facebook page know that I am a Christian, I've just met a whole new slew of people who may not have heard me talk about it enough.  Yes, they do know I go to church and am a Christian, but is that really enough?  Will someone want what I have if I walk around like a sloth, not putting 127% into everything I do, never smile, or show any energy when it comes to my spirtiual walk?  Definitely not.  As a Christian, it's my job to start being real.  To follow in the footsteps of the Tim Tebows and the Matt Barkleys, and let my faith out of the four walls in my apartment, the four walls in the church I go to (which actually is a lot more because it's more of a stadium), and the four walls of my brain.  Don't get me wrong, it's great for someone to believe in God and follow Him. I think that's absolutely wonderful, but we're called to do so much more than that.  We're called to show our faith in our daily lives, whether that's praying in public, talking to someone about your faith, smiling and thanking the cashier at the grocery store, keeping a positive attitude, having an honest tongue, or helping the person who dropped their belongings in the parking lot.  The same feeling you get when your favorite sports team wins the Superbowl, NCAA tournament, or the World Series (although maybe less so on that one because let's be honest...baseball is a little boring) should be the same feeling you wake up with each and every day when you think about all God has done for you and the opportunities He will give you to live your faith out loud if you just ask!  The Bible compares this life we live to a "vapor".  It will be gone in the blink of an eye so, what is the most important thing you can do in this life?  What obstacles can you overcome?  How can you change the lives of those around you?  It doesn't have to be on a grand scheme like a Billy Graham or even a Tim Tebow, but it can be in the little daily things that add up over time.  A conversation here, a smile there, a Jesus Freak bumperstick here, and a helping hand elsewhere.  Your co-workers, your family, your friends should all see something different about you and that, my friends, is the rolling credits at the end of a saga.  Make it your goal each and every day to get out there, and show your faith.  You don't have to preach on the street corners (unless that's totally your thing, dude on the ISU central campus every Friday), and you don't have to go witnessing to people in bars.  You just have to be the you that God created, and live your faith out loud.  Live your faith out loud.  That's my challenge to you, and to me because let's be honest, I can't resist a good challenge or an awesome sports movie for that matter :)

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverence the race marked out for us." - Hebrews 12:1

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pizza Pinwheels and Family Fridays.

Growing up, one of my favorite memories includes our Friday night family nights.  It was expected that we would eat dinner together (most often our pizza night) and either play games or watch a movie, but mostly it was about spending time together as a fam.  Now that I'm in the working world, I appreciate Friday nights more than I ever have before, and I often get that craving for not only pizza, but bonding with those close to me, as well.  So, a couple of Fridays ago I decided to invent Pizza Pinwheels in honor of our kick-off to the weekend.  I invited a couple of friends over, and we devoured this healthier version of pizza packed with the same flavor and a lot less grease (yes, yes I am in the health profession).

Pizza Pinwheels

You will need:
  • Pizza Dough (You can make your own, but I needed a quick fix sans yeast so I used a tube of Pillsbury Pizza Crust.)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 teaspoons of basil
  • 1 cup of sliced pepperoni (I used turkey pepperoni.)
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded paremesan cheese
  • Pizza or marinara sauce of your choice


Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Roll out the pizza dough and sprinkle garlic salt, basil, cheeses, and pepperoni evenly.
  3. Roll dough into a log-like shape.

4.  Cut into sections (the size of a pinwheel that you desire) and place on the greased baking sheet.
5.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Serve with warm marinara sauce, and enjoy :)



Here's to a Friday that is just around the corner :)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Perfect Printemps (that's French for Spring) and plates with pesto.

Still loving this summer-like Spring.  Earlier this week I made a recipe for Pesto Stuffed Chicken from a recipe that I adapted from here.  It was my first try, and I always get nervous about making sure I cook chicken long enough, but it turned out SO well.  I made two chicken breasts worth so I could eat 1 that night with a side of brown rice and broccoli, and I'm eating the other tonight cut up over a bed of whole grain pasta and a touch of marinara!  So, if the name of your game is quick and easy (so, you can spend longer hours out in this lovely weather) then this is a perfect recipe for you!


Pesto Stuffed Chicken

You will need:
  • 2 skinlesss, boneless chicken breasts (pounded flat with a meat pounder...technical term I think or a hammer covered in saran wrap if you are less pampered chef and more innovative, fat trimmed...IMPORTANT STEP)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Pesto
  • 2 Tablespoons of light sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of reduced fat mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2.  Mix pesto, sour cream, and cheese.  Spread evenly on the chicken breasts.



3.  Roll up the chicken breasts and secure with toothpicks.



4.  Place on the greased baking dished and cover with foil.
5.  Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and flip over. Continue baking for another 12 minutes.
6.  I poured the excess sauce that spilled out from the pan over the chicken breasts, naturally. Enjoy!




Happy Thursday everyone!  I hope you are all getting a chance to enjoy the weather as much as I am :)


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sunshine, seventies, skateboarding, shooting hoops, and s'mores bars.

Ahhhhh.  Welcome back, summer temperatures.  You sure have been missed.  These past couple of days, I've been spending as much time playing outside after work as possible.  And an active girl leads to an active appetite for summer and foods that go along with it.  Since, my apartment does not allow us to have bonfires in our living rooms (not really sure what that's about), I decided to make Gold Graham's S'more Bars last night.  These are just as easy as Rice Krispie Treats, take the same amount of time, and taste like a sweet summer night filled with bonfires and ghost stories at the fire pit by the lake.  They're really quite simple to make, and the perfect recipe to take to summertime cookouts.


Golden Graham's S'more Bars

You will need:
  •  1 bag (10.5 oz) miniature marshmallows (5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (9 oz)
  • 5 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup 
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla 
  • 1 box (13 oz) Golden Grahams® cereal (8 cups)
(You can even see the picture of my lake sunset in the background! Definitely ready for that water sport season again :) )

Directions:

  1. Spray a 13x9 pan with cooking spray. In a saucepan, melt chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and remaining 4 1/2 cups marshmallows over low heat (reserve 1 cup for garnishing), stirring occasionally, until completely melted. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
  2.  
     
    2.  Pour cereal into large bowl. Pour marshmallow mixture over cereal; stir until evenly coated. Stir in remaining 1 cup marshmallows.
     
    3.  With buttered back of spoon, press mixture in pan. Cool at least 1 hour or until firm. Store loosely covered at room temperature (I actually keep mine in the refrigerator seeing as my apartment is 76 degrees due to the outdoor temperature of EIGHTY TWO and other people NOT turning off their heat. The bars just stick together better that way).  Enjoy!  Happy Wednesday everyone, almost the weekend :)
     
     





Sunday, March 11, 2012

Birthday cakes, basketball fever, and blogging hiatuses.

I apologize for the lack of blogging within the past week, but life apparently gets busier the week when you're trying to blow out those 23 candles. That's right, I've finally reached the 21+2 birthday, and while I'm not sure how adult-like I feel, I suppose anything under 25 sounds young...at least to the people with which I work. :)  Along with the birthday celebrations and feasts (minus the roast beasts), this past week brought on some serious spring fever with temperatures reaching near the 70's and sun shining well after I had gotten home from work some nights.  And we all know spring fever means one thing to me: MARCH MADNESS.  The start of the Big 12 tournament (as disappointing as it was for the cyclones) is just the beginning of the NCAA chaos, and for once my viewing privileges were not interrupted by the nonsense we all know as homework. Okay, maybe just Bjorn and I use that reference.  I received a call Friday night to see if I wanted to spontaneously join in on a road trip down to Kansas City to watch the Big 12 Championship game.  I was still a little bitter about the Cyclones loss, yet excited to see Neil and Margo and my nephews (Lewie and....well let's be honest Rexx is never that excited to see me...), as well as, get a chance to experience the Sprint Center atmosphere.  Unfortunately, they wouldn't let dogs into the game:


I may have been 1 of 13 Iowa State fans attending the game in our true colors, but it was definitely worth it post-game to be looked upon as Switzerland (the neutral party). In honor of March madness (and the cutting of the net tradition), one of my favorite paintings that I've created thus far has been hung in the entrance of The Shanks Mansion (a.k.a. my apartment).  It began with a blank canvas and ended as such:


Anyway, you can all be glad the hiatus has reached an end, and I have plenty of more recipes to post this week because things should slow down now that I'm an oldie, right?! ;)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rubber gloves and trust falls.

As I get closer and closer to my 23rd birthday, I continue to trip over more and more learning opportunities. The most recent lasted an entire week, and while I was busy learning to put my trust where it belongs and give my anxiety the deuces, life was busy continuing on as it always does (with or without you). No matter how much we may try with all of our might we are unable to slow time when we’re enjoying ourselves, make it speed up when we’re anticipating something in the near future, or even stop it when we’re in the very moments that define the sheer bliss within our lives, though we may make a valiant effort. The seconds will keep passing us by, and if we don’t take advantage of our time on this Earth, it will be gone before we know it. At the risk of sounding morbid, I will stop with those few sentiments, but just remember everyday when you wake up, make sure to use your precious minutes to best of your ability. There’s no need to complicate; our time is short. Everyday is what you make of it, so spend yours wisely. Time flies, time passes, time drags, time is even lost, and yet, sometimes time is on our side…Anyway, this song may be a little harder rock than some of you are used to, but it's one that's on the "shuffle" at the fitness center and I've fallen in love with it.  Life is beautiful and sometimes alarmingly short. So soak it up, live it up, and leave it up to the One who will always be there to catch you.  Happy Monday, kiddos!



Friday, March 2, 2012

Half days and fancy ways (yes, yes this does rhyme because it's Dr. Seuss's birthday).

My number is up.  And no, that doesn't mean I'm next in line at the DMV or that my coffee concoction from Starbucks is ready.  It means that it's my turn to work a Saturday at the Well For Life Center.  It makes it easier knowing that I get to leave for the 641 right after, ISU plays that night, and I do enjoy teaching one of the two hour-long classes that are available to the employee's every Saturday (which is the reason that the foods I am consuming today are legal); however, I do miss sleeping in on the weekends that I have to work, even if I can only make it until 8:00 am these days.  It just feels so much better when my body wakes itself up instead of being jolted from the REM cycle by some lovely, pre-chosen alarm sound on my phone.  ANYWAY.  I only had to work a half day today due to the aforementioned responsibilities, which means I had plenty of time for a long run, a trip to the grocery store, a snuggly nap in my cloud (nine) of a bed, and time to try out some new recipes!  The first I have been waiting to try for an extended period of time so, I decided its number should be up.  It goes by the name of cookie dough truffles.  If you're not drooling yet (wait for the pictures below), either you don't like the sound of fancy desserts or you are not human. I must say, my first attempt went rather well seeing as I was a rookie.

Cookie Dough Truffles

Ingredients:



  • 4 tablespoons or butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • A little over 1 cup of all-purpose flour (I adapted this recipe from elsewhere so my measuring techniques weren't 100% accurate...less mathematical and more to taste and texture).
  • 1/2 of a 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. bag of semisweet chocolate chips
  • Garnishes for the top are optional so feel free to pick your flavor and put your own style into it (i.e. toffee bits, coconut flakes, mini chocolate chips (because let's be honest, there is no such thing as too much chocolate), drizzled white almond bark, etc. Be creative!)

Directions:

1.  Blend the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  Add in the flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.


2.  Fold in the chocolate chips (about 1/3 of the bag), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until cookie dough is firm enough to sculpt (the waiting is the tough part for a girl with little patience and a mind made for multi-tasking).

3.  Form 1 inch spheres with the chilled cookie dough and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper or parchment.  Place in the freezer for 1 more hour or until cookie dough set.


4.  Remove the cookie dough from the freezer and roll the stiff dough into smooth spheres.


5.  Melt the remainder of the chocolate chips using the microwave or a double boiler, stirring often.  Dip each of the cookie dough spheres into the melted chocolate using a spoon or a toothpick (once again, you have to master the method that works for you), shaking off excess as you go.


6.  Place each dipped sphere back onto the lined baking sheet (if you are going to garnish, now is the time to sprinkle your topping of choice onto the still warm spheres).

7.  Store in the refrigerator (or in the freezer if you want them to last longer), and serve chilled.  Enjoy :)



I adapted this recipe from here, but I thought it would be a little absurd for me to have 5 DOZEN cookie dough truffles sitting around my one bedroom apartment just calling my name.  Instead I basically halved each ingredient, and my recipe yields 2 dozen.  Get excited co-workers because I will be taking the extra's to work next Wednesday for one of the greatest holidays of the year!

Coming back for Seconds.

Solid advice from a sold out guy. Looking for a challenge?  Just follow the link below and watch the film.  You're welcome. Oh, and HAPPY FRIDAY!


Seconds - I Am Second