Monday, December 3, 2012

Favorite Easy Dessert

I got the baking bug today. I just turned up my Christmas music and went to baking. I made banana chocolate chip muffins and brown butter pumpkin muffins with maple pecan frosting. Want to come over?!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins:

3 lg. bananas, mashed
3/4 c. white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (or 3/4 c. white and 3/4 c. whole wheat)
1/3 c. melted butter
1 c. (or more) chocolate chips
Add sugar and slightly beaten egg to mashed bananas. Add melted butter. Stir in dry ingredients and chocolate chips. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. (Either grease muffin pan or use baking cups.) Best served warm!

(I snapped this really quickly with my iphone- don't hate! They're really good!)

 If you're interested in the muffin recipe, you can find that here: Baked Perfection

(Now that's a professional picture!)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Trite though it may seem during this day, I can't help but feel so incredibly thankful! I wish I could adequately  express to those that have blessed our life how grateful I am.

Today while preparing to host our first Thanksgiving feast, I turned on my Christmas Pandora station and went to cooking/cleaning. We were able to cook 9 meals plus decorate the house for people to come over. We are college students! We receive college aid to help pay for tuition, rent, books and we work to try to pay for things that we want. We are so incredibly poor and yet we were able to eat better than we probably should have been able to. Not only were we able to stuff ourselves, there was plenty of leftovers for us and the two other families that came to dinner. These kinds of things just help me to start to put into perspective how much the Lord can give to us if we but follow Him. Praise God!

As the day went on, I couldn't help but look around our house and notice how much we have because of the generosity of others. Our dishes, cookware, couch, dinner table, and even our new Christmas tree have all been given to us. The wonderful thing is as little as we have, we have been able to give to others. Not liberally, but what a wonderful thing to have not only enough, but more than enough even as a poor college student. 

I just can't get over how good God is. He works through us and others to make us the best people we can be. As we enter the Christmas season and we give and receive gifts, I know that Jesus is the best gift in my life. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Big Fat Loser!

Have you ever heard of Pinterest? It is a virtual pin board where you can pin all your ideas for bridal showers, weddings, recipes, clothes you want to buy, etc... There is a section where you can look at things other people have pinned too and one of these sections is "Fitness". I curiously started looking on this board one day and was absolutely intrigued. Neat catch phrases like "More sweat now, less jiggle later" and "sweat is fat crying" started getting me thinking about my own fitness regime. In the first four years of knowing PJ, I gained 4 pants sizes and I have been trying to work those off for the past two years. I have 3 sizes down, but dropping the last one has been difficult. At the beginning of the year, I cut out potato chips and desserts and we stopped going out to eat. I worked out every other day until the winter semester was over and for Spring semester started working out [almost] every day. I can't say that my body changed much though. I was starting to get think I could never drop the inches until I came across this Pinterest Fitness page. Oh! And The Biggest Loser.

Have you ever seen The Biggest Loser (or Big Fat Loser)? That show is amazing. Well, besides all the little drama parts but I watch it on Netflix so I can fast forward. Those people are awesome. I was into the third season when one of the contestants started to get smaller than me. A 200+ lbs woman was now a size 6. In a matter of months. Now I understand they are under a strict diet and work out for 3-5 hours a day, but it lit a light under my butt. So I stalked the Pinterest Fitness page for a day or two to see what else I could do. I could not up my workouts any more because of school, so I made a plan to start working out 3 hours a day over the 7 week break. I also looked at my diet. I found an outline of foods to eat and have implemented that. I have cut out pasta and white rice (oh how I love jasmine rice!) and really tried to make the most out of the time I work out. It has technically only been a week since I changed my diet and I was feeling the post diet jitters. Every cupcake, cookie, candy bar, something-covered-in-chocolate spoke to me and said "I taste so much better than that spinach crap!". I tried to persevere and only take one bite of chocolate a day, but by the end of the week I ate a whole cookie. It really wasn't even that good. Then I found this picture:
True Nuff!

Oh Pinterest, how you motivate me. I was feeling so very discouraged. I started thinking "no matter what you do, you are going to stay this size". I started feeling like I was gaining weight. I started doubting my ability to even exercise 3 hours a day. Then I found a story (on Pinterest...) of a girl who was my similar weight, height and size who dropped down to my goal size in 30 days. I also found this picture:

Yah! I feel back on track. I have a week before school ends and 7 weeks to lose these final pounds. Then I'll be in the stage of maintaining my weight, not trying to lose it. My last plug for fitness is that the more I learn about it, the more I learn it is the answer to almost everything. Tired? Exercise! Depressed? Exercise! Stressed? Exercise! High blood pressure, heart problems, high cholesterol, diabetes, can't walk? Exercise! As some further motivation, PJ showed me this video today. Yah, if he can do it, I can do it.

And a final picture: Me as of today.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mitchell's Top 10

I have discovered the fun that is Pinterest but try to only utilize it for things that I can realistically try/do and will try/do. So it is mostly a personalized cook book. When I first started coming across recipes on Pinterest, PJ would ask me every night "is this from Pinterest?". He eventually stopped asking because everything was from Pinterest. My personal rule for pinning a recipe is that A) I must already have the ingredients or the ingredients can't be very expensive and B) The recipe can't take longer than 30 minutes. I have found a few that even though the picture looked yummy and the ingredients are all affordable, the recipe was just not "us". Now that I have tried at least 20 recipes, I figured I would document our top 10 favorite recipes:

1) Steak seared in butter, cooked in stove with butter, and garnished with butter. I mean, what can compete?

2) Chipotle Salmon.

3) Breaded chicken with a Basil Cream Sauce. (This is when we discovered that PJ does actually liked cooked milk- he's had a phobia of cooked milk for a LONG time)

4)Pasta with Mushroom, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese. Once again, shocked that PJ loved it as much as he did. He even said he LOVED the asparagus.

5)Spicy Spaghetti. This is not a Pinterest recipe (gasp!) but it's good. Just ask if you want the recipe.

6) Apesjam's homemade chili. Not a Pinterest recipe (again!) but something I completely concocted. And its good.

7) BBQ Ribs. (Another non-Pinterest recipe) PJ actually makes a special dry rub and then near the end we smother the ribs with BBQ sauce. Oh Yum.

8)Rosemary and Apricot Crusted Pork Loin. This is a magazine recipe- maybe I don't get as much inspiration from Pinterest as I thought...

9) Honey Sesame Chicken

10) Grilled Chicken with Lemon Basil Pasta.

Okay, I'm hungry.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sing a New Song to the Lord!

I have a confession to make: I do not like The Psalms. I would hear my friends quote the Psalms and kind of role my eyes. My first and only encounter with the Psalms came in high school as we were studying the Old Testament my second year of seminary. Trying to just get through them, I read a couple of pages a night and all I remember was David going on and on about how the Lord needed to punish his enemies. Unlearned of the time line of the Psalms, I thought the Psalms were written after David killed Uriah and took Bathsheba to wife. So in my mind I was thinking David deserves his enemies fighting against him!
Last fall when we were in Florida, the Institute lesson there was The Old Testament. I couldn't go to class, but I downloaded the manual and started reading. I love the Old Testament! It's written so poetically and there is so much to learn from the stories (Moses, Abraham, Joseph, Samson, David, Solomon...). I was really enjoying my study of the Old Testament until I got to the chapter in the manual that read "Psalms" as it's title. I hadn't really delved into much of a study of the Psalms since high school but I knew it wasn't right to skip over the Psalms so I started reading. I prayed that I would come to know why the Psalms was included as scripture and that I would grow a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ and of the Psalms.
Now, I am shocked to say, I really do like the Psalms! Understanding that some of the Psalms which were written by David while hiding from Saul, it makes total sense that while he was fighting for his life for being chosen king by the Lord that he would want the Lord to protect him. Most of the other Psalms are about praising the Lord (I'm not sure how I missed that...). As I approached reading the Psalms I only read a few at a time, sometimes only one, so that I could ponder about it. While they don't offer a lot of deep doctrine, the Psalms help us remember that the Lord is who is in charge and that we should never stop praising Him for all that He has done for us. Some of my favorite verses:

Psalm 9:9: "Put them in fear, O Lord: that the nations may know for themselves to be but men"
Psalm 17:5: "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness"
Psalm 23:3: "he leadeth me in his paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
Psalm 27:14: "Wait, I say, on the Lord"
Psalm 34:1: "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth"
Psalm 44:12: "Thou sellest thy peple for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price"
Psalm 56:11: "In God I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me"
Psalm 73:25: "...therefore is none upon earth that I desire beside thee"
Psalm 86: 11-13: "Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify they name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou has delivered my soul from the lowest hell."
Psalm 90:17: "and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us"
Psalm 107: 27-28: "[men] are at their wits end. Then thy cry unto the Lord"
Psalm 118: 8: "it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man"

I am so grateful that I took this opportunity to learn from the Lord through the Psalms. These are only some of the verses that stood out to me and I am sure I will continue to find other great ones throughout my life. The biggest overall lesson I have learned from the Psalms is to praise the Lord and always remember Him!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Growing Pains of Life

Next week is the last week of the winter semester and I am so glad to see it go.I have learned a lot this semester, but more things about myself rather than scholarly things. This semester, I took Chemistry, Research Methods (a class about how to construct research questions and perform experiments), History of Psychology, Book of Mormon,and American Foundations (a class about American history and culture). Kind of boring subjects, I'll admit. My favorite class was my History of Psychology class. It was a really brief overview of psychology starting with the philosophers of old such as Aristotle and Plato. I look forward to getting into my upper level psychology classes which will get more into detail about theories and conclusions of different branches of psychology.
My least favorite class has been chemistry and, believe it or not, this really surprised me! I started out with such a good attitude about this class because last year I learned that I really loved science but chemistry is something else. I have always hated performing experiments and every week we had a new lab to do. I initially thought I would become a psychiatrist in my latter life, but this class has shown me I am really not interested in chemistry or the goings on of electrons but of the goings on of the brain- and that's where biology comes into play. I took 15 credits this semester and worked part time on campus, but my chemistry class, while offered as a 4 credit class, should really be a 6 credit class. I went to class every day of the week, plus lab, plus tests, quizzes, and homework had me spinning in all that needed to be done.
So other than subjects in school, this brings me to the first thing I learned this semester: I am not PJ. What I mean by this is that PJ took 18 credits this semester and worked part time. He would wake up, do homework, go to class, go to work and if the lab wasn't busy do homework, then come home and do homework. He can go go go and I tried to keep up since I was only taking 15 credits, but I couldn't! It is not in my constitution to work on school work all day and night. When I get home from school, I like to clean the house, or watch a TV show- something to release my brain of the frustrations of learning. This is something I am so grateful for- that I have no fear about PJ being able to provide for our family. And that I will feel right at home staying home with our children. I know that I will be more effective in taking care of our future children and keeping the house running by keeping it clean and making dinner and etc.. than I would be working a full time job. Once I recognized this, the semester got a little easier- at least emotionally.
I have also been trying to continue to lose weight. Only, the weight is not coming off like it was. I have started to stabilize and that is always frustrating. I cut back what I was eating to mostly fruit and granola during the day and trying to eat small portions at dinner, but I have basically stayed the same size throughout the semester. I did not have more time to work out other than every other day, so I just had to come to terms with flat lining for now. I have to keep telling myself that my goal is to be healthy and that my goal is not to be a super model (although wouldn't that be nice?).
Lastly, the winters out here are just crazy. This winter was much milder than last winter, but compared to the southeast, the winter is still crazy. The wind blows at about 20 MPH, it's cold, it snows, and it's COLD! During the times I would walk from the north of campus to the south of campus (all uphill) and have the snow blow in my face, I would think about the early pioneers who made the passage so long ago across the plains of the west in the bitter cold dealing with the elements. I was outside for a maximum of 10 minutes, while their whole day was spent walking against the harsh wind and across the frozen ground. Half way through the semester I also genuinely questioned the plausibility of what I was attempting. Could I really obtain my degree? Could I really graduate? And I thought of these early pioneers and I realized that we had three options. We could give up and go back, we could stop and stay where we are, or we could press on. If we were to turn back, would it really be that much better? Especially if we were halfway, all that means is that we would still be walking in the harsh environment but away from our goal instead of towards it. Would it be better to just stop and pitch camp right where we are? Eventually we would have to press on, so why delay the journey any longer? And if we were to continue to press on, it would be hard, but we are promised it would be worth it. And so with this new resolve, I pressed on. I went to classes when I didn't understand what was going on, and I went to work even though I felt like I wasn't doing a good job and I find myself at the week of finals and almost done with this part of the journey. Spring is coming and while it is not as warm as my beloved southeast, the bitter cold of the winter is being pushed farther and farther behind me.
Over spring break PJ and I are taking a much needed vacation to Salt Lake City. We have never been to SLC before and especially after just watching General Conference, we are so excited! After that we will begin Spring Semester and we are taking it much easier than we did this last semester. I am taking Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Sensation and Perception, Biology, and a world foundations class. It will be 15 credits again, but I have actually scheduled breaks in my day and one of my classes will end early so for the second half of the semester I will only have 12 credits. PJ is doing the same thing, so the second half of our semester should be a breeze. Should be...
Like I said I have learned a lot this semester, especially about myself. While I am glad to be growing as a person, I hope the Lord will go a little easier on me next semester so that I can continue to grow, but not have such a huge growth spurt!

Friday, February 24, 2012


I usually post pictures of the recipes I make on Facebook, but I have a story.
PJ LOVES his grandma's mac&cheese. The recipe calls for 6 cups of cheddar cheese. I don't care for  cheddar cheese and I like my noodles al dente- even in mac and cheese. So we usually just buy off brand velveeta mac and cheese but we also differ on how to season it. I like to add just a little bit of mustard (like 1 tsp) to add some bite and then garlic and black pepper. He likes the garlic, but likes it more spicy and adds red pepper flakes. So this has become a debate in our house: how to cook mac and cheese (the comfort food of all comfort foods)?
I found this recipe on Pinterest and really only saw the different cheeses and fell in love:

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups 1% milk
3 cloves garlic peeled
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound pasta (Cavatappi or Rotini work well)
1 tsp olive oil + more for drizzling
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, bring large pot of salted water to boil and grease a 9x13" baking dish.
Combine squash, broth, milk and garlic in a pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to mid-low heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Next place the hot squash mixture in a blender (will have to do in 2 batches) and blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture into a bowl and stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg and Greek yogurt. Then stir in Gruyere and pecorino Romano. Set aside.

Add pasta to water. While pasta is cooking, add 1 tsp olive oil to pan on medium heat then add breadcrumbs and cook until breadcrumbs are golden, remove from heat and set aside.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and stir into reserved squash and cheese sauce. Pour entire mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bubbling.

Serve as is, or with a shot of hot sauce or spicy peppers!

But then I re-read it when I was making the grocery list and saw butternut squash. I am not a squash fan. My mom used to grow squash in our garden and I never ate it. If she put it in dishes, I'd pick it out. And I'm still the same way except if I go over to someones house I get a small serving and just swallow. But I thought this recipe was in a magazine so I'll try it. So I went to the local grocery store here in Rexburg, ID looking for butternut squash. I looked in the produce isle, only found yellow squash. Looked in the canned isle, no butternut squash. I looked in the frozen isle (on my sisters recommendation) NO butternut squash! I thought I could just use yellow squash but my sister assured me I couldn't. So I brainstormed and found myself looking at baby food in the baby food isle and alas: I found it! 
As I was cooking I thought I'd taste my ingredients and I popped that jar of baby food and tasted butternut squash and I hated it. I started doubting the recipe again as I continued to add in the yogurt and nutmeg. I started going into mom mode and hiding all the ingredients and dishes that had any resemblance of squash in it in case PJ came in because I knew if he saw what I was doing he would not eat dinner. So I finished shredding all the cheese and combining the ingredients to bake and I got some on my finger. Natural chef reaction is to taste what is now on your hand and before I knew what I was doing I tasted this squash concoction and... I loved it! I thought maybe this will work after all! 
And it did. PJ ate one whole serving and his only complaint was that there wasn't enough cheese. I had two servings and even brought it to a friend to try because PJ's reaction wasn't good enough and she ate it! 
The debate is still going on but at least we're a little bit closer to finding our family mac and cheese recipe. 

**In case you find yourself unable to find fresh butternut squash like me, I used 3 small baby food containers of winter squash and skipped the first step. Meaning I did not put the milk and chicken stock in with the squash and puree it. I warmed it up on the stove and then added the rest of the ingredients.**