Tastes of Fall: Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash + Quinoa

Hey there Monday!

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Here is a favorite pumpkin-y kind of fall stew that I LOVE to make thanks to Dara from Cookin’ Canuck.  I make a few changes to the recipe, substituting black beans for olives (since my husband hates olives), and cilantro for parsley.  Also, I usually omit quinoa entirely or substitute it with wild rice.  {We love quinoa and the stew tastes great with it, but the last few times I had quinoa, it caused me hours of the most insane stomach pain + cramps.  So, there’s that.  TMI.}  This stew freezes/reheats wonderfully, too!

Happy Fall cooking and enjoy!

When you’re falling apart a little bit

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Sundays are for worship, for naps + snuggles, for wrapping fingers around steaming mugs, for breathing fresh brisk air, for resting in this truth:

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
{Colossians 1:17}

He’s got this.  So, you can rest.

Playing in the Leaves

Our Saturday began in the chilly cold dark, setting up for a yardsale in the dewey morning.  I sort of despise doing yard sales, but making $300 when everything is priced below $5 is pretty awesome.  We also were able to scout the neighborhood sale and found some great things for the kiddos.

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Later in the afternoon, we took the kids to ride their new toys at a nearby park and when we were back home, I was chopping veggies for stir fry and could hear screams and giggling outside where the kids were with Daddy.  Looking out the window, I see them raking a huge leaf pile and screaming and jumping in it.

Sometimes savoring the moment means dropping what you’re doing and running outside to join in the fun.

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Happy Friday!

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Friday nights are homemade pizza nights!  My husband loooovvvees pizza and we usually have a little family date at home on friday evenings to celebrate the end of the work week + the beginning of weekend fun!  What are some of your family/weekend traditions?  Happy Friday!

Our pizza dough
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp yeast (or one package will do)
1 1/4 cup warm water

I make my dough in the bread maker machine on the dough setting (takes 1 1/2 hr to stir and rise) but you could easily do by hand as well.  Combine ingredients (add a couple more tablespoons of flour if dough seems too wet, water if it seems too dry), let rise for 30 min to an hour.

Roll out on floured surface, place dough on a greased pizza pan or stone (we like to sprinkle pan with cornmeal first, too).  Then top with fresh chopped tomatoes or part of a can of crushed tomatoes (or pizza sauce).  Add aromatics such as chopped garlic, oregano, basil, salt + pepper (if just using regular tomatoes), or pesto.  We usually add organic pepperoni, a few handfuls of spinach leaves, and a combo of cheeses (fresh mozzarella, sharp cheddar, parmesan, and/or feta).

Bake at 450 for 15-17 min or until cheese is slightly browned.
ENJOY!

Rhythms

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In our photo-saturated day, taking pictures can get a bad rap.  “Be present,” they urge.  “Put down your camera and enjoy this moment.”  And there are times to leave the camera behind.  Times to rest and just soak and to see.  But I have learned that for me, snapping pictures helps me see.  Helps me notice.  Like a glory-hunter, seeking the beauty in the dreary and ordinary.  Going out with my camera, with expectation to find gifts.  I learned this some time ago from Ann Voskamp, how she numbered gifts with her camera, framing the moments.  Every frame captures a moment, a mili-second of time never to be repeated.  The way after breakfast, they clamber up onto the couch to read books.  On tiptoes at the window to see the garbage truck on Thursday mornings.  The simple beauty of flour, butter, water, and yeast bubbling in a bowl.  The way they run to help whenever they see me drag the stool into the kitchen.  That little gap between his front teeth.  The girl on her trike, far too small for her now, but still her favorite.  The way she turns to see if I am watching.  Always looking to see if I see her.  I do, baby girl, I see you.  The scraggly wild berries and flowers growing alongside the riverbank.  Ordinary, common.  Beautiful.  Hot steaming loaves pulled from the oven, and the way that nothing smells as good as fresh bread at home after wind whipped cheeks and frozen fingers.

Rhythms.  Rhythms of these days.  Simple.  Small.  Barely noticeable.  Easily forgotten.  I don’t want to miss it.  I don’t want to forget.  I want to give thanks, capture the moments, hands full of memories and moments to hold out to Him and praise Him for.  I love this season, I love these rhythms, Lord.  Costly.  Often painful.  Sometimes downright boring.  But precious.  Worthy.  Heavy with the weight of glory.

The Measure of Success

The day reaches its end, a good day, yet the weariness is still there.  The pots and pans are scrubbed, leftovers tucked away.  The children, too, are scrubbed and tucked away.  Only the blowing wind, the rain pattering on the sill, the occasional rumble of thunder now.

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How do we measure our days?  How does my soul measure the fruitfulness of a day?  These thoughts weigh on my mind as I turn on the faucet and let the hot water beat on my skin.  The days end, a good day, yet I feel that I didn’t accomplish enough.  I didn’t get to this or that.  Pictures still wait to be hung on our walls here, piles of clutter still wait to be organized.  For heaven’s sake, I have nothing ready for the baby coming in just a few weeks.  I groan inwardly as I think of all that needs to be done.  Hospital bags packed, baby clothes pulled out and washed and organized, freezer stocked with meals.  Carving out and setting up a little space for this little life that is coming.  My social media outlets are filling up with news and pictures of all my friends and family that were due ahead of us, each one welcoming a baby.  Each a reminder that soon it will be our turn.

So much left to do, and my heart feels unprepared.  So many people have given us words of woe about the transition from 2 to 3 children, and I groan every time.  Really?  So few encourage or speak words of strength.  I need the borrowed strength right now, I think.  It seems my preparations have been mostly around labor this time, trying to fight back the fears and worries of a repeat of what happened at Noah’s birth.  {A baby in distress, taken from me right at birth due to swallowed meconium, while my body experienced its own trauma from a broken/separated pelvis and postpartum hemorrhage.  Not to mention a very slow and complicated recovery.}  How to prepare my heart and mind for the adjustments that are to come?

All I want to do is savor this season a little longer, this time as a family of four, before we transition and never pass this way again.

Then these words via Ann Voskamp’s blog today:

“The thing I know most about seasons —  is that God made them to change.  And it is in the passing through them, the move from one season to the next, that true beauty is brought forth.” {Laura Boggess}

It makes me think about labor, just one kind of passing from one season to the next.  All that comes when that baby comes, all the unknowns and questions and uncertainties, all the newness all over again.  I want to resist the change and the fears surrounding the unknowns.  But true beauty is brought forth in the passing.  The letting go, the welcoming what is to come, whatever it is.  Trusting, surrendering to this wild and untamable yet good God who is most certainly more intent on my conformity to Christ than my comfort, my holiness rather than my happiness.  {Why again is surrender so hard, so daily?}

And so I look back over the day.. what is the measure of my days, Lord?  What is the measure of success?  Is it every task crossed off the list?  Is it what my hands can accomplish that makes me feel worthy, worthy of having been given another day breathing air?  Why is this always what my soul comes back to? Like a dog returns to its vomit, why do I return over and over the stinking pile of guilt and shame?  If I feel this way now, how will I feel in a few weeks when I am totally unable to lift a finger to accomplish much around here besides feeding, swaddling, changing a newborn?  What do you say, Lord?

“When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of His mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by His grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.” {Titus 3:4-7 NET}

The passage goes on to exhort the readers to good works, because of the example of the Good Work that Christ did for us, and because our good works are profitable for others.  Ahh yes, this balance again.  The Lord’s gentle grace whispered again:

“My child, it isn’t what you do that can ever attain worthiness.  You cannot measure yourself or your days by the works of your hands.  You must rest in what I have done for you, what I have accomplished, what I finished.  I have made you worthy.  And yet, yes, you must work, there is much work I have for you.  The work of love, of likewise pouring out your life.  The work of kindness and ministering grace and reconciliation to all that I put before you.  The work of the mundane tasks and necessary preparations in each day.  These things are the practical avenues through which you can show love.  And of course, you fail and grow faint and weary.  But I am your God, your Creator, the One who formed you.  I remember that you are dust.  Come to me, let me pour out grace afresh.  Let me restore and renew.”

I think of the words I studied in the Gospels this morning:  Come to me like a child.  I watch my daughter dance amidst the mess of toys, the unpacked boxes, the unhung pictures, the scattered books.  Unhindered, unhurried.  Delighting in being delighted in.  Lord, let me be the daughter who dances freely and lightly in the unforced rhythms of grace.  

Help me to “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge.” {Eph. 3:17-19}  To measure the immeasurable love of Christ for me.

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Tastes of Fall: Black Bean Soup

I’m a cold-weather girl through and through.  I love a good dreary rainy day, or dumping snow (the best).  I loved living in Breckenridge, Colorado for a few seasons of my life where summers are mild and winter lasts about eight months of the year.  I definitely appreciate the other seasons, but I love the fall/winter the best.  And my cooking shows it.  I am way more equipped in the kitchen for the cold season.  There are a whole slew of soups and stews that have become staples around here over the years, but one I’ve latched onto lately is a Black Bean Soup.

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It’s sort of my own recipe, adapted from simple black bean soup recipes that I googled.  But for an inexpensive and meatless dinner, it is so quick, delicious + satisfying!

Black Bean Soup

{ingredients}
2-3 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper (or whatever color pepper you have on hand)
3-ish cups fluid (can use water, but chicken broth lends more flavor)
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, or a couple fresh diced tomatoes
cumin
chili powder
salt + pepper
paprika
oregano

{toppings}
chopped cilantro
avocado
dollop of plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
fresh squeezed lime

{optional serve with}
corn tortillas heated OR cheese quesadillas
green salad

Basically, you heat your soup pot on the stove with the olive oil, onion + green pepper until soft (5-8 min) over medium high heat.  Add garlic, cook for another minute.  Then add beans and water/chicken broth, tomatoes, and spices to taste (I don’t usually measure, I just put in a dash of this and that, so not sure how much to recommend using).  Let simmer for a little bit to let flavors meld, probably minimum of 10 minutes but longer if needed.

Then use an immersion blender in the pot to chop it up a bit, or take out 2 cups or so of soup, blend in blender, then return to pot.  I leave mine somewhat chunky, as you can see above.

Top with toppings of choice and it is to-die-for with cheese quesadillas on the side.

Happy Cooking!

He Withholds No Good Thing

There’s always been something about Sara Groves for me.  She speaks my heart’s language both in her lyrics and her melody.  Her craft opens my soul.  I’ve never met her, but I feel a kinship with her in her music, as though she knows how to tell my own story.  I was listening to this song this morning on our way to worship, driving in the dreary and pouring rain with fall’s colors all ablaze.  I don’t mind these kinds of days.  And my heart was pounding out these words along with her of what I believe despite what I feel.  Believing implies mental assent, choice.  Feeling implies simply natural affective response.

Rain is no measure of His faithfulness.  Pain is no measure of His faithfulness.  Thirst is no measure of His faithfulness.  Circumstances are no measure of His faithfulness.  His Word alone stands and directs and proclaims what is true.

Savoring these days, these imperfect and often broken days, means I must surrender, must open my heart and my hands to all that He has for me.  Because He withholds no good thing from me.  What a promise.

“Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better
than spending a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God
than live in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is our sovereign protector.
The Lord bestows favor and honor;
he withholds no good thing from those who have integrity.
Lord who rules over all,
how blessed are those who trust in you!”
{Psalm 84:10-12 NET}

“Open My Hands”

I believe in a blessing I don’t understand
I’ve seen rain fall on wicked and the just
Rain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain
That broken find healing in love
Pain is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

I believe in a fountain that will never dry
Though I’ve thirsted and didn’t have enough
Thirst is no measure of his faithfulness
He withholds no good thing from us
No good thing from us, no good thing from us

I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that You have for me

No good thing from us
No good thing from us
He withholds no good thing from us