Sunday, August 14, 2011

{ Slow Cooker Sunday | Sloppy Jose Goes to Greece }

People see my mother and know that I inherited my looks from her. We get the “are you two sisters?” question a lot (which is either a stunning compliment to her or a hint for me to start using under-eye cream at night). We both love a good bargain, and enjoy making things with our hands. But what most people don’t know is that we have another shared trait, we both turn into complete ogres when we’re hungry. Not joking.

In high school I ran cross country, and by the time I got home from a two-hour after school practice, it had been a solid six hours since I’d eaten lunch. Mom would press the “express cook” on my dinner that was waiting in the microwave, and no one would even ask how my day was until I was halfway through my meal for fear of ogre-girl. Unfortunately, this tendency to be a little snippy when hungry rears its ugly head the worst on Sundays after church. I’ve just heard a great sermon, I’m determined to apply it to my life posthaste, everyone at church was super friendly and complimenting my new haircut and…BAM! It’s 12:45, I’m starving because breakfast was a half an apple nibbled while I applied my makeup in the car on the way to Sunday School four hours earlier, and everyone better just get out of the way because dinner will not be ready fast enough. Add to this the stress of a husband who needs to be out the door for work at 1PM and a daughter who is wailing for her own meal (that only mommy can provide)…and you can see where this is going: Ogre City.  

All this stress means we either end up in the McDonalds drive-thru (which is definitely not Food Revolution approved), or I hastily prepare a meal (whilst Annie screams in the background) that the hubby gets to eat before dashing out the door, and I get to eat alone. So…now that you know way too much about me (and my mom!), I’ll get to the point: I’ve found a solution! The slow-cooker, or crock pot, is a head-slappingly simple fix to the ogre infestation we have around here – but crock pot cooking requires a bit of planning and prep work, which I would surely fail to do except for now I am blogging about it and it is slow-cook or shame from now on.

Inspiration for today’s meal was found here, but I’ve added my own flare to this tex-mex-sloppy-joe/Greek concoction. I hope you enjoy it, but most importantly, may it keep your own ogres at bay.

Sloppy Jose Goes to Greece
You’ll need…
1 package ground turkey (20 oz or so)
1 eggplant, cubed
1 cup salsa
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 T chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
8-10 Pitas*
Fresh cilantro or parsley
Sour cream or tzatziki sauce
Shredded lettuce
Olives, sliced (black or kalamata)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Combine turkey, eggplant, salsa, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and corn in crock pot. Add about 12 ounces of water, salt & pepper to taste, and stir well. Cover and cook on high for about 4 hours.

Once your crock pot meal is cooked, prepare pitas. We grilled ours for about a minute on each side, but you can wrap the stack in foil and heat for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 300F or just eat them straight out of the package. Now would also be a good time to stir in a handful of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley to your crock pot meal.

Spoon meat mixture over pita (tostada-style or taco style) and add toppings as desired. Enjoy!

*I cannot say enough wonderful things about Alexia brand Greek flatbread-style pitas. They are delicious and freeze well. At my market, they’re located in the bakery near the fresh bread

PS: There are no photos of this meal because we ate it too quickly. Sorry…will try harder next time.

PPS: For those of you who go to church with my mom or hang out with her afterward, I have it on good authority that she now snacks between services.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

{ When This Life Is Over }

Today was…hard. From the grueling 2-hour commute to the funeral to the exhausted drive back home a mere two-and-a-half hours later…I was ready for bed at 4PM. The young wife of a long time family friend passed away last week, and we made our pilgrimage to show our love and support to the bereaved husband…and the 11 month old daughter left behind.

Like most, I don’t look forward to funerals, and *shamefully* try to avoid them whenever possible. But attending this one gave me cause for reflection. Even though I spent the bulk of the service bouncing Annie on my hip outside of the church sanctuary, I could still hear the things said. The songs played. The stifled sniffles of friends and loved ones. In one hour, the story of a life cut short was shared. Pictures shown, anecdotes relayed. One last chance to say goodbye, then everyone filed out to have lunch in the gymnasium. It got me thinking…what will be said in my hour? When it’s my body lying in the box at the front of the church?

My husband and I talked about this very question on the way home (when it’s a 2 hour drive, you have time for deep, reflective conversation). I shared that my desire would be that testimony could be given of lives I’ve touched. Whether it was a simple gesture like bringing dinner to a family with a new baby, or babysitting for an exhausted mom while she got some R&R, or going to coffee with someone who just needed a listening ear…will those people be there? Will someone stand up and say “Ashley served the Lord by serving her family, her church, and her community. Without need or desire for praise, she worked as for the Lord and not for men.” Will another come forward, smiling through tears, and pray a prayer of thanks to God, thanking Him for using my life and my words to draw that person into a relationship with Himself? Will glory be given to the Heavenly Father for the life of servant gone home?

In truth, I won’t need accolades upon my demise – but I do want my God to be pleased with the life I lived. So what to do?

"And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 (NIV)

A standard of living summed up with a few seemingly impossible sentences. But "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). I am completely dependent on my Savior for the grace I need to live a life that pleases Him - and dependence on the lover of my own soul is a good the only place to be.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

{ A Mid-Summer Night's Post }

Summer has finally made her grand appearance in the Pacific Northwest, and we have been out enjoying every drop of sunshine that we can soak up – which has left very little time for documenting our activities. But my baby bear is asleep, hubby is relaxing on the couch, and I have a moment with my thoughts and my laptop to share a little bit of what we’ve been up to.

We have waited with frustrated angst patiently through most of July to have any consistent warm, sunny weather. I thought if we had one more day of rain I would do something desperate. But slowly, beautiful days started to string together, eventually forming glorious summer weeks. It is so breathtaking to get up in the morning and peer out my window and see that we have blue skies and sunshine AGAIN!

This sweet little girl and I took a trip to Boulevard Park on the bay for a little stroll and to watch the sunset. It was so beautiful, and so much fun to spend time with Annie...away from the house and the day-to-day stuff we have going on. Just to sit and watch the sun go down and the water lap gently on the rocky shore. Annie practiced sitting up like a big girl, while trying to pull up grass and eat it like her big pup, Wesley.
Our big, sweet dog commands a lot of attention when we go out

I almost missed this moment. Annie has been taking 3-hour naps right smack in the middle of the day, normally getting up around 4:45. It is so easy to let opportunities pass me by, because by the time she wakes up, we have to walk the dog, eat dinner, play a bit, take a bath, and then off to bed. But I forced myself on this day to load up a baby, a Saint Bernard, a stroller, and enough belongings to keep us all fed and happy for a few hours into our truck and take off. 

Spontaneity is becoming less and less of a scary thing for me. I am a planner by nature, and like to have things on the calendar so that I can be prepared ahead of time. But with a baby who's need for sleep apparently changes with the wind, I am learning to roll with the punches a little more. Besides, as Annie grows I want her to see a mother who is organized, but will drop everything for a great trip to the park, or will drive the long way so we can see that field with the horses, or will linger on the Barbie aisle at Target for 25 minutes for her to pick just the right doll...You can't make plans for those memories. The opportunites just come up, and you take 'em, or ya don't.

Summer means dinner on the deck...and in the buff. Well...only people that smear their carrots in their hair have to eat in the buff. 
Trip to the doggie park
Park playdate
 What have you all been up to this summer? What memories are you making with your families? I hope your summer is beautiful, even if half of it does end up being rain.