Sunday, March 9, 2014

Scripture of the Week - Mosiah 4:9

Back in January, I made a goal that I wanted to pick one scripture every week, focus on it, and try to memorize it  if not the whole scripture, at least the reference. Of course, here we are in March already, and I've only gone through one scripture. I wrote it on a little index card and it's been sitting on our fridge for the last two months where I see it countless times every day.

Granted, I have memorized it. Win. I also recognize that this scripture has been a great comfort to me for the last two months, reminding me that I don't have to understand everything now  that I am in God's hands. It's something I've repeated through my head hundreds of times. Though I've slacked on my goal, I can already see that the effort has been valuable. Double-win.

Still, I'd like to try to get back on track. Perhaps making record of it on the blog will hold me more accountable?


FYI, I'm choosing the scripture each week from the Preach My Gospel manual.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

100 Recipes

I love food. Okay. That's like the most obvious statement ever. Everybody loves food. But when I was trying to think of an explanation of why I decided to take on a 100 recipe challenge, that's all it really came down to  a love of food. Of course, being cooped up in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment with my newborn baby in Austin, TX (where I knew no one) over the summer was a catalyst. I just needed something to do. Something to keep me busy and creative. Hmmmm... I'm kind of bored with food lately. That's a dumb thing to be bored with because I love food. Hey, why don't I make a goal to try 50 new dinner recipes? Challenge born.

Fast forward a few months. A little side-job falls into my lap  one that requires me to cook for a widower in my neighborhood three times a week. Hmmm... now that it's my job to be a cook, why don't we up the ante a little bit? Let's make that goal 100 recipes. Challenge escalated!

Well, I finally made it. All I can say is that it's been a lot of fun. I've especially enjoyed discovering all kinds of ingredients that I've never cooked with before  fresh lemongrass, chorizo (Mexican and Spanish), goat cheese, poblanos, grits, bulgur, shrimp paste  just to name a few. The process of choosing the recipes was somewhat random, but I feel I did my best to include a wide variety of foods and ingredients. Of course, at least ten of these are "pizza" recipes, but they were all very different pizzas! And let's be real. I love pizza in all forms.

Okay. Enough rambling. For those who are interested in the recipes I included in the challenge, here is the list. An "h" signifies one of my top favorites. A "j" signifies a favorite of Jacob's. You'll notice that he had a much harder time limiting his top choices. We both agree that basically all of these were pretty dang delicious. Jacob said he would be mad if I didn't make most of these again. Oh, and the "favorites" are linked up to the recipes online, so feel free to check them out >>>

1. Turmeric Chicken *hj
2. Peanut Noodle Stir Fry
3. Dragon Noodles
4. Peanut Chicken Curry
5. Thai Chicken Pizzas
6. Grilled Veggie French Bread Pizzas
7. Roasted Veggie Burritos
8. Poblano-Roasted Grits with Chorizo *j
9. Mediterranean Quesadillas *hj
10. Spinach Lasagna Rolls
11. Eggs in Purgatory + Grits
12. Chorizo & Sweet Potato Enchiladas
13. Chickpea & Pesto Salad/Wrap
14. Italian Chicken Hoagies with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce *j
17. Pasta with Sweet Potato Cream Sauce + Roasted Kale
15. Jalapeno Popper Mac n Cheese *hj
17. Zesty Tomato & Artichoke Pasta
18. Golden Rice Bowls With Spinach
19. Indian Creamed Spinach + Naan *j
20. Cheese Ravioli with Toasted Walnuts *j
21. Chicken Shawarma
22. Three-Cheese Calzones
23. Salami and Spinach Stromboli
24. Chipotle Sweet Potato Burgers
25. Sweet Chili Chicken Bowls
26. Southwest Cornbread Salad
27. Black Bean Pizzas
28. Buffalo Chicken Pizza
29. Black Bean & Avocado Enchiladas
30. Zucchini Ribbon Pasta
31. Teriyaki Meatball Bowls *j
32. Gnocchi + Summer Squash
33. Korean Beef *j
34. Taco Chicken Bowls
35. Greek Turkey Burgers
36. Caramelized Onion & Mushroom White Pizza *hj
37. Mediterranean Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers
38. Italian Wonderpot
39. Easy Sesame Chicken *j
40. Spicy Chipotle & Sweet Potato Soup
41. Asian Slaw Dogs *hj
42. Vegetarian Borscht
43. Chicken + Pineapple Quesadillas
44. Cajun Chicken Pasta
45. Oven-roasted Autumn Medley *h
46. Grilled Broccoli & Cheese Sandwich on Sourdough *hj
47. Thai Green Curry *h
48. Vegan Enchiladas with Cashew-Poblano Crema *hj
49. Creamy Tomato & Spinach Pasta
50. Savory Parmesan-crusted French Toast
51. Roasted Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Alfredo *j
52. Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
53. Chicken Yakisoba
54. Red Kidney Bean Curry
55. Pumpkin, Bean, & Chicken Enchiladas *h
56. Butternut Squash & Kale Lasagna
57. Spinach + Artichoke Wonderpot
58. Corn & Rice Cakes with Black Beans + Chile-Lime Zucchini Saute
59. Pesto-stuffed Shells
60. Spicy Pasta with Sweet Potatoes
61. Spaghetti Bolognese
62. Cinnamon-roasted Chicken + Pumpkin Grits *h
63. Green Enchilada Soup
64. Moroccan Beef Stew + Moroccan-spiced Spaghetti Squash *h
65. Curried Sweet Potato Soup
66. Apple Cheddar Penne Pie
67. Apples & Pork Loin + Maple-roasted Acorn Squash
68. Spinach & Artichoke Pasta *j
69. Chorizo, Jalapeno, & Corn Nachos
70. Jamaican Jerk Chicken Pasta *hj
71. Chorizo-stuffed Acorn Squash
72. Coriander Chicken with Acorn Squash & Tomatoes
73. Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash *h
74. Pecan Pesto Shells with Sausage *hj
75. Honey-Lime Chicken Enchiladas *hj
76. Tomato Herb Soup with Tortellini
77. Chicken Noodle Soup
78. Spaghetti Squash & Chorizo Bake
79. Spicy Coconut Pumpkin Soup
80. Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes *j
81. Brie & Crab Mac n Cheese

82. Spinach, Tomato, & Swiss Pizza
83. Broccoli Shells n' Cheese

84. Thai Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Curry

85. Zuppa Toscana *h

86. Sriracha Chicken Thighs
87. Thai Massman Curry

88. Slow Cooker Chicken & Chorizo Paella

89. Pizza Supreme *j
90. Jalapeno Popper Pasta

91. White Spinach Pizza

92. Chicken Wild Rice Soup *hj

93. Baked Lemon Chicken

94. Deep Dish Polenta Pizza

95. Sweet Potato & Thyme Ravioli

96. Cafe Rio Style Pork Barbacoa *hj
97. Pasta with Chorizo & Chickpeas *j

98. Lemony Chicken & Orzo Soup *h

99. Teriyaki Salmon with Sriracha Cream Sauce *hj

100. Greek Pizzas with Olive Pesto Sauce *hj

Things I've learned from this experience:

Goals FTW - I've never been much of a "goals girl." Not that I don't ever work towards accomplishing cool things in my life  I'd like to think that I do. However, I've never been very good (or consistent) with setting a long-term goal and tracking my progress until I reach it. Really nailing down that process has been enlightening. I've found that working towards a really big goal and accomplishing it is one of the most empowering things a person can do.

Anyone Can Cook - Just so you know, I am truly a novice in the kitchen. And let me tell you, even after making quite a variety of recipes, I still feel like a have so much to learn about food preparation. Still, what I've come to learn is that cooking is so much more about the recipe than the cook. If you've found a great recipe and you know how to follow some basic directions  you're pretty much golden.

Cooking Gets Easier - When I first really started cooking while I was in college, I would find a recipe that looked good, email it to my mom, tell her to make it first, and then have her explain every detail of how she made it in her own words before I would even attempt to make it on my own. I know... kinda pathetic. I suppose I had absolutely no "kitchen confidence." But with more experience I eventually got to the place where I would try new things on my own; still, it seemed like cooking took SO LONG. This was mostly because I had to read every single word of the recipe over and over and over  just to make sure I was doing everything precisely perfect as written. Also, some of my skills (such as chopping vegetables) were a little underdeveloped. And multi-tasking was pretty much nonexistent.

What I've found is that when you start cooking more, you really do get better at it. You don't have to have your eyes glued to the recipe quite so much. You can chop the veggies faster. You think of smarter ways to prepare in advance to make things smoother before dinner. You have a little more ingenuity when it comes to multi-tasking. The more experience you have, the easier and quicker it gets.

Meal Plans - There was a time when Jacob and I would just meander around the grocery store every week, just picking up random items that we thought we wanted to eat that week. I would maybe plan one "nicer" meal for Sunday dinner, and the rest was probably just random ingredients for Mexican food  cheese, tortillas, salsa, beans, etc. We ate A LOT of Mexican food our first year of marriage.

Meal plans have completely changed the way we eat. It guarantees variety and encourages smarter shopping. Trips to the grocery store are quicker because I know EXACTLY what I need to buy for the whole week. My mind is more at ease because I know what we're having for dinner every single night. Jacob's probably a little more excited to come home because he knows there is something planned for dinner. I also think planning meals means more economical shopping. We buy what we need and what we know we will use that week, instead of random items that we think we want  which often don't get used or go bad when we've accidentally bought too much food for the week.

The Internet = Treasure Trove of Endless Possibilities - The hardest part about creating a meal plan is simply thinking of what it is you want to eat. If you feel stumped, you obviously haven't been browsing enough recipes on the web. I promise, once you get into the habit of recipe browsing every once in awhile, you'll have way more recipes than you'll ever be able to make.

The People's Voice - When it comes to sites like Youtube, I am usually inclined to avoid the comment section  that is, if I want to preserve my faith in humanity. But in the food world, you need to read those comments! So often, users will give a recipe a high rating without taking into account the many adjustments that they made to get a great end result. Always read the user comments to see what others have done to achieve the best outcome. I know this has saved my dinners so many times. Also, be a good web citizen and leave comments after trying a recipe!

Cataloging Recipes - I'm not on Pinterest, but I've heard it's a good place for collecting these kinds of things. I have been using Ziplist for recipe-collecting and creating grocery lists, and love it.

"Hard Recipes" Easier than Expected - There were a lot of dishes that I assumed were probably too difficult to make at home. In reality, a lot of them were super easy. Don't let exotic/fancy-looking foods scare you. It's so fun to learn to make the foods you love to buy at restaurants. For instance, did you know that sesame chicken is incredibly easy to make? Save your money at Panda Express and make it yourself!

You Don't Need Fancy Kitchen Tools - You really don't need all that fancy stuff. I mean, a bunch of cool gizmos and gadgets for the kitchen can be fun, but you can get by without them. However, if I were to suggest investing in a few items, it would be these: 1) a decent food processor  2) an immersion blender (So useful for soups and all kinds of things. One of the best wedding gifts ever. I love mine so much) 3) a few quality knives. That last one is actually pretty important. I don't know what I would do without my Cutco petite chef knife. I use it so much every single day.

Oh, and you should probably have an apron that you like. Just because it makes you feel cool.

When You Eat Better, Life is Better - If you think about it, the food you eat kind of defines your basic quality of life  almost more than anything else, in my opinion (but that's probably because I love food more than most things in life). In other words, if you eat great food, your life is (at least) a little bit great. On the other hand, if you eat crappy food, your life is probably... well, you can fill in the blanks. Not the best.

Food is kind of a beautiful thing. Not only is it a necessity of life (in that it nourishes the body and keeps you alive), but it brings people together, it creates tradition, it enriches memory, it can even make a simple day of work and perfunctory tasks feel kind of special  and, oh yeah, it tastes good! And I suppose, one of the best things about food is that the possibilities are truly endless. In my opinion, life is simply too short to be spent eating boring food.

I Can't Stop - Now that I've started, I'm not sure I can stop this train. In fact, I made recipe #105 today (pasta with pistachio-mint pesto  pretty dang good, I might add). I'm afraid this might just have to be a new life pattern. I'm not mad about this. And come on, neither is Jacob.

To end, I would like to thank Sriracha hot chili sauce and Costco (for their 48 oz. bulk container of minced garlic). Couldn't have done it without you guys.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Valentines + Another Go at Blogging

Hello again.

After taking a 4-month sabbatical from the blog world  well, I'm back. I thought my valentine's post was a good enough opportunity for re-entry. There have been two main reasons for my absence. The first reason is BUSY. I think I am busy. In reality, I'm not sure if I'm a busy person or actually just a lazy person  it's very much debatable. But that's none of your business. Second reason, I'm a really good sister. You see, I have two baby brothers serving missions right now, and I've faithfully been keeping up mission blogs for both of them. What am I supposed to do? Keep up THREE BLOGS? Ain't nobody got time for that...

Oops. I guess there are three reasons. Third reason, EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. My blog just isn't sure who it is anymore or what purpose it is serving. First of all, the name is pretty dumb. *Oh Holli? Seriously? Secondly, the rainbow chevron stripes in the background need to go. Bleh... sick of them. And then there's there's the deeper psychological issues like... Who even reads this stuff? What am I writing about anyway? Now that I'm a mom, does that make me a "mommy blogger?" Maybe this thing should just be a photo tribute to Rose  she's obviously way more cute and entertaining than I am? Is my blog frumpy? Oh yeah, and WHO AM I? (Okay, this is getting a little dramatic. Remember that this is my blog's existential crisis... not mine.)

Well, after a lot of thinking and unproductive existential-crisis-ing, I have decided that I do care about this blog still. As a free agent who is responsible for my own authenticity, I remain wrestling to answer some of the questions about why I even have a blog to begin with. Seriously thinking about it  I'm really not the blogger type. In the meantime, I've come up with a mini "mission statement" of sorts (if you can even call it that). I want this blog to be a place where I can write about my goals, share the things I love, and tell stories about my life and the people in it. That is all. Who ever reads, reads.

I have so many things in my head that I feel that this dumb lil' weblog could be a great outlet for. So here's to another go at blogging. Hopefully I'll post a few things that are worthwhile every now and then. For now, here are some pics from Valentine's >>>

When I told Jacob that I wanted to go classic skating, he said it was an "interesting idea." Interesting? Classic skating is a lot of things, but it's not interesting! Anyway, he warmed up to this interesting idea pretty quickly, and we had ourselves a night at the rink. And of course, I got my valentine's couples-skate... and a plastic, light-up, flashing heart necklace. So romantic.

The whole thing was incredibly dorky and exactly what I needed.
(Who said Valentine's had to be serious anyway?)

*When I started this thing, it was called "B.Y. Youth Gone Wild"  which I still think is a pretty funny name, but I outgrew it. After all, I'm no longer a B.Y. youth, I suppose. When I was traveling around, it was "Innocents Abroad." Another name I liked, but not really traveling much these days. And so I defaulted to the name I used for my URL address  Oh Holli. And why did I choose that for my URL? Because at the time I made this blog, I felt it was the thing people most often said to me  usually out of ridicule. I was (am) known for being a bit clumsy. I'd love to change it up again, but I haven't had any epiphanies for a clever name. And after six years of blogging is there really a point in changing it now?

Friday, February 14, 2014

To Jacob (on Valentine's Day)

I know you've heard me sing this a million times now -- especially after I was randomly summoned to perform it at a furniture store on Tuesday (despite all my practicing, I had a brain freeze right in the middle of the song, and you still made me feel like a rock star). But I want you to know that my original vision for this little cover was for you on Valentine's day. I had high hopes of creating a real quality recording with multiple tracks for the guitar, vocals, and maybe even some cute harmonies. But you know me. I never get anything done. And let's be honest. I really don't have the equipment or skills to even create what most would consider a "quality recording."

What I did do was sit in the kitchen with my guitar while you were out, download a simple voice recording app on the iPad, and hit the "record" button. It's rough, raw, and unadorned. If anything, I'm just hoping that this recording will still exist maybe 10 years from now. We'll listen to it. Maybe our kids will listen to it. We'll laugh. I'll be a little embarrassed. And we'll remember our simple little life when we lived in that old house by the park. You were still a student and Rose was only a baby. Wherever and whenever that is, I hope we'll still be as in love as we are now (or more). If not, I hope this song will help us remember.

happy valentine's day, my love.


I know Freddie Mercury (R.I.P.) wrote these lyrics, but I mean 'em! Also, I think now that I've set this precedent, you should probably sing Styx's "Lady" for me next year... hint hint.