Saturday, April 25, 2015

Laura’s chicken over rice and beans

There are two types of cooks: those who prefer to follow a recipe, and those who like to wing it. I prefer to wing it — which is probably why I prefer cooking over baking. (I can never keep track of how many cups or tablespoons I’ve put into the mixing bowl!)

This meal isn’t very original, but it’s good. Really, that’s all that matters! As with most of my recipes, you can make substitutions or additions to suit your preferences. Use pinto beans, shrimp or steak, whatever veggies you want...this is one of those fabulous meals that comes together with only a few staple ingredients.

The other night I was looking through our almost-bare fridge and trying to figure out how to pull a complete meal together from the various odds and ends. I ended up with this dish, which I knew we’d enjoy because we love all of the ingredients and flavors. Andy liked it so much that he requested I make it once a week! 

I use a rice cooker and cook my beans and rice together. I use 2.5 cups of water in the rice cooker and use the “quick rice” setting, which took about 45 minutes. If you don’t have a rice cooker, use whatever method you like to cook the rice and beans. I would suggest quick rice in the microwave and heating up the beans after! 

To reheat leftovers, sprinkle some water over the dish to add moisture to the rice. Heat the meal in a covered skillet over medium heat for about five minutes, or in a covered bowl in the microwave for about two minutes.

Laura’s chicken over rice and beans
makes 4 servings
inactive time is based on method of cooking
active time, including prep, is around 20 minutes
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice
  • 1 chicken boiullon cube or “better than bouillon” equivalent 
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 or one whole bell pepper, diced (any variety will do)
  • 2 chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces (if the breasts are really large, use one and a half.)
  • ½ tsp onion powder 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, DIVIDED
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • optional: 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1. Cook the rice and beans. If cooking them together in a rice cooker, add the bouillon, ½ tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper and cilantro. If cooking separately, cook the RICE with the bouillon, salt and pepper and cook the BEANS with ½ tsp garlic powder. Add the cilantro after rice and beans are done (if cooking separately).

2. While the rice and beans are cooking, heat a TBSP of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and pepper and let them cook, stirring occasionally.

3. While the onion and pepper is cooking, season your chicken pieces with the onion powder, remaining garlic powder, cumin and a dash of salt and pepper.

4. Scoot the onion and pepper pieces to the edges of the skillet. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet and let them cook for two minutes, then turn the pieces and let them cook for another minute or two. Use a spatula to split the chicken pieces into smaller chunks if desired. If the chicken breaks apart easily, it’s done.

5. Serve the rice and beans mixed together on a plate or low bowl. Top the rice and beans with the chicken, onion and pepper mixture.

Monday, April 20, 2015

out and about in Frederick

It hit me last week as I was pulling flannel sheets off of our guest bed that we hadn’t had an overnight visitor since November! It felt so good to get the house ready for a guest, considering I haven’t hosted much in the past nine months.

Holly came up from Harrisonburg on Thursday night (bearing donuts from Strite’s, bless her heart) and we immediately fell into our pattern of non-stop chatter and laughter. And EATING. I am beyond thrilled that our baby friendship in Harrisonburg has weathered my move to Frederick. Holly and her husband and their two friends are opening a brewery in Winchester called Winchester Brew Works. I’m so excited for them!

I purposefully invited Holly to come up this past weekend so I could take her to Chartreuse & Co, a monthly tag sale set up in six buildings filled with antique/vintage (or faux-antique) goodies. I knew it would be a great place for brewery decor inspiration.

the second floor of the main barn at Chartreuse & Co 
I wanted these SO MUCH
We spent hours exploring the various buildings before heading downtown for lunch. I went to The Wine Kitchen a few weeks ago with my friend Sarah and loved it, and I knew Holly would enjoy it, too. We split the house made pappardelle starter and the mussels starter and each got our own Mexican BLT sandwich. We chowed DOWN. We should have split the BLT, but we were both doing the prix fixe menu. Everything was phenomenal, and it was nice to just sit and take our time with lunch. The stand-out dish was the mussels, which were cooked in a crazy delicious Thai-style broth. I asked the waitress for the ingredients (like I did with our favorite blue cheese sauce) because I’m dying to make them at home. Recipe to come!

The fabulous Holly w/ her wine flight! I had their yummy “Gossamer” cocktail. 
our starters
my Mexican BLT and the mussel broth
It was a beautiful day to walk around. One thing I love about living here is that we have a great downtown! We went to Relish, The Smokestack Studios, Treaty General Store, Retro Metro, Velvet Lounge, Tiara Day, Simply Beautiful Boutique, Firestone’s Market on Market, Hunting Creek Outfitters, and Muse. We skipped a lot of shops on Patrick Street because we were exhausted! I drove Holly through Shab Row and Baker Park and then we went home and put our feet up for a bit. We ended the night with Sardi’s Peruvian chicken and rented “Big Eyes” on Redbox.

Holly left after a breakfast of bacon, eggs and donuts, and I immediately swore to start eating better and went for a run. :) Let me know if you’ve tried any new healthful recipes lately!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

filled with sorrow, or expectant joy?

I wonder what the disciples thought on the second day. They had just witnessed the wrongful accusation and brutal death of their close friend and precious Savior. He had told them He would rise again. In fact, enough people had heard talk of Jesus rising on the third day that Pilate ordered Jesus' tomb to be reinforced so the disciples couldn’t scam everyone by stealing the body and claiming the empty tomb as proof of a resurrection.

I wonder if the disciples were filled with sorrow, or filled with expectant joy. 

I wonder if they experienced both of those feelings. The battle between soul-crushing reality and soul-saving promises. 

Did the disciples feel defeated by Christ’s death? Did they feel let down? How could they... knowing He would rise again?

I feel defeated. I feel let down. I find myself in this place of second-day-ness, of knowing the glory is coming but feeling the weight of grief. 

That confusion between I know You are good
and is this good?

Habakkuk, the Old Testament prophet, felt that confusion. He longed for justice to be brought to the land of Judah. He pressed God to take immediate action. He asked, do I have wait forever? God replied, "If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.” God’s plan for justice, and the timing of it, didn’t make sense to Habakkuk. But he resolved to wait.

"I will wait...
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!"

I see how this waiting — this waiting that I hate so much — I see how it’s sanctifying me. I see how this waiting has led to blessed conversations, to new perspectives, to the opportunity to encourage and affirm. I see how this desert place has made my soul thirst for God. 

Oh, but this waiting is hard.
Oh, but remember! Glory is coming.


Thank you to my friends Shannon and Rachel for encouraging me to write this post. Shannon re-blogged a post she previously wrote called "Easter Saturday," and when I read it this morning I thought I couldn’t possibly add anything (which is why my timing on publishing this post is rather late). Shannon’s post is simply beautiful. You need to read it. My favorite line is, "I still find myself in the middle place where reality and expectation collide, where life experience and future hope aren’t always woven together as seamlessly as I would like them to be.” And then the ending -- I love that ending.

If you’re waiting (or if you just want to hear a lovely song), give this a listen. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

den: the shelves are DONE!

Today I’ll share my favorite part of our updated den — our DIY shelving unit! Please excuse all of the crazy shadows in the pictures. See, I had beautiful naturally lit photographs, but when I went to post them I realized I didn’t have any art in two of the frames. Then a few episodes of Arrested Development and a big bowl of pork ragu happened, and all of a sudden it was dark out!

Worth it.

The biggest transformation in the room was going from this:

To this:

I had the best time putting up several of the books and decorative objects I’ve collected over the years. Really, the hardest part of the styling process was choosing to say "no” to a bunch of my favorite objects in order to keep the shelves from looking cluttered.

I don’t mind the way the top shelf looks with the left side being blank, but I’m going to try putting a vine-y plant up there. I spent TWO HOURS in Michaels the other day looking at artificial plants! My mom saved the day by offering to give me an offshoot of her Philodendron.

I was originally planning to use my agate bookends on this bottom shelf, but my colorful books distracted from the agate and they got sort of lost in all the color. I picked up 4” clamps for $8 each at Home Depot and voilĂ !

These hanging frames at World Market caught my eye and I knew they’d be perfect for this spot. The art is a page from a book of quotes that I tore out and cut in half. I originally bought a beautiful faux mother of pearl box for the shelves, but I ended up having the same problem with the box that I had had with the agate bookends. It was really hard for me to return it (I’m still having second thoughts), but the basket I replaced it with was much cheaper and is less distracting. 

I had a mini freak-out when I saw this brass stand magnifier at an antique mall in Georgia. It is one of my very favorite things. The large piece of art is my “big” souvenir from my Europe trip. It’s a pen and ink of Salzburg, Vienna, with gorgeous watercolor detail. It happened to fit perfectly in an empty frame and mat that my parents had given me on one of my many “Becker basement shopping sprees.” (The bell was also taken from their basement. Thanks, mom and dad!)

The picture in my prism frame is cut from a postcard I bought at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. 

For $6, you too can have a ridiculous looking eyeglass holder that will make you smile.

Believe it or not, I’ve been keeping my eye out for a trophy cup for nearly a year now. This cup, from one of my favorite shops, is the perfect size and it has a gorgeous patina. 

There you have it! I am loving these shelves. I didn’t enjoy spending time in the den for a long time because of how cluttered it was. Now it’s a lovely space that I look forward to cozying up in.

Come on over! :)

Trunk – from my childhood
Shelving unit materials – Home Depot
C-clamp bookends – Home Depot
Trophy cup – The Cottage in Dayton, VA
Rhinoceros – Kohls
Vintage camera – thrifted
Armillery sphere – gifted (World Market)
Hanging frames – World Market 
Rectangular basket – Michaels 
Prism frame – Retro Metro (also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and CB2)
Brass bell – gifted 
Salzburg print – gallery in Salzburg, Austria
Mat and frame around Salzburg print – gifted
Magnifying glass holder – Canton Street Antique Market in Roswell, GA
Eyeglass holder – World Market 
Brass antelope bookends – from grandmother
Gold clock – awarded to Andy from Kellogg’s!
Vintage set of “works of” books – from grandmother

Monday, March 16, 2015

on a Sunday in March

We’ve only been to church a handful of times this year (after a seven-month-long stretch of staying home). I haven’t wanted to participate in worship, so we arrive late. We hurry out after the sermon ends, because I haven’t wanted to run into anyone who hasn’t seen me since last May.

We were late yesterday, but the worship team was still playing as we scooted past a beautiful family of six, including an infant. My heart began to race when I recognized the song as “The Lord Our God” by Kristian Stanfill. The last time I heard that song was when I was pregnant with Jane. I even blogged about it.

I can hardly bear to go back and read through the posts I’ve written about my grief. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s me that is experiencing all of those emotions and bearing all of that (this) pain. When I wrote that post in June I was terrified out of my mind, but deep down I believed our baby would be healthy. I listened to that song and thought God WAS leading us out of our dark grief from John and into a time of joy with our second baby. My most prayed prayer over my second pregnancy was that God would be delighted to give us a healthy baby — that it would bring Him joy. I thought with a prayer like that, surely I will get to hold this baby and watch it grow.

I threw myself into desperately hoping, desperately praying, desperately reciting verses... and when I got home from the hospital after saying goodbye to my second baby, I was, and continue to be, simply desperate.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
-Psalm 73:26

I don’t know why, or even how exactly, but my mouth opened in church yesterday and the words came spilling out. I heard my husband’s voice softly rising alongside mine.

Still we can know you are good.

I imagined what we looked like to God... two of His people, weary and heartbroken, lifting their voices in obedience and faith. We sang knowing full well God could have given us healthy babies. We sang knowing full well only God knows our future. We sang knowing full well this hard road we’re on may be longer than we’d like.

Tiny step after tiny step, we move forward.