Carrot-Zucchini Bread, Two Ways

I purchased the CUTEST cake platter at Goodwill{!} for eight bucks last week. So, naturally, I’ve had to have something in it at all times. When the kids and I made the cake, it perfectly displayed it, but then the cake was gone.

I didn’t want to make another sugar-laden treat, so I decided on the best thing I know how to bake: bread.

During the fall and winter months, we have home made pumpkin bread aplenty, but since it’s summer {and I don’t have gobs of pumpkin puree}, carrot zucchini bread sounded light and refreshing.

Now, I wouldn’t consider this recipe necessarily healthy, rather healthier than it’s original. For breads, I usually swap all purpose flour for whole wheat, reduce the sugar by 1/4 and replace one egg for flax seed. That’s a little better, but the cup of oil and cup + of sugar make this a decadent treat to be had sparingly.

| Zucchini Carrot Bread

makes 2 loaves

3 C whole wheat flour

1 TSP cinnamon

1/2 TSP allspice

3 TSP baking powder

3/4 TSP salt

1 C peeled and grated carrots {about 4 large, whole carrots}

1 C zucchini {about 3/4 one large zucchini, not peeled}

1 C canola oil

3 eggs {or sub 1 egg for 1 TBS flax seed + 3 TBS water}

3/4 C white sugar

1/2 C brown sugar

2 TSP vanilla

Grease two 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inch loaf pans and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix well the first 5 ingredients. In another large bowl, beat eggs until fluffy. Continue beating while you slowly drizzle in the oil. When the eggs and oil are well mixed, continue beating still, and slowly add the sugars, then vanilla. Fold in the veggies.

Mix in the dry ingredients to the wet until well incorporated. When thoroughly mixed, add half of the contents of the bowl to each loaf pan. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes, then check if they’re done by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean, it’s finished. If it doesn’t, let it cook another five minutes, then check again.

Carrot Zucchini Bread6

Two Ways

Now, I don’t normally {ever} write recipes on using a food two ways, but I often do it in real life as leftovers are a wonderful thing.

When we ran out of eggs, and I asked Husband to get some, he remarked by saying that the reason we are always out of eggs is because “that’s all you make for breakfast.”  {Let me point out that I have made homemade pancakes, peanut butter toast, and even allowed them to have cereal in the last five days}. Hmph. Well, I’ll show him!

I still required eggs for this, but it was different than the norm fried egg with toast that they supposedly “always” have.

| Carrot Zucchini Bread French Toast

serves 4

4 slices of carrot zucchini bread

2 eggs

1/4 C milk

1 TBS sugar

Butter, as you need

In a shallow dish {or pie pan}, beat the eggs with the milk and sugar. Heat a skillet on medium heat and toss in a tablespoon of butter. As the butter is melting, dip the bread in the egg mixture, letting it soak for a couple minutes, then turn it over and repeat. Place the soggy break in the buttered pan and let cook about 1 minute, or until the side is fully golden brown. Flip and repeat with each slice.

Serve with a pat of butter and, if desired, syrup {this is delicious with pumpkin, raisin, or really, any other bread you like}.

Carrot Zucchini Bread3

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Gazpacho and Spring Cleaning

That title is probably totally weird to you, but yesterday I did probably like my 10th spring cleaning of the year so far, and it always feels so great. Once I’m done, anyway. I tackled about 6 loads of laundry, deep cleaned both bathrooms, organized our closet and coat closet among other tasks {we are still going to clean the kids bedrooms out this weekend – they come home in 11 days!}.

All the spring cleaning, plus the 80+ degree weather {finally!} and our extremely well-behaved puppy at the park all made me think of those simple things that remind me of summer; lazing around on a hot summer day at the pool or a park, all the windows wide open letting in fresh air…

But one thing that’s not really my all-time favorite summer activity is cooking. If you recall, last summer I made a handful of different soups, which sounds crazy in hot weather. My logic is that you just throw everything in one pot, cover it and let it sit. No slaving over a hot stove or multiple burners heating up your house.

Something that {I honestly have no idea why or where I got it from} I have been wanting to make for the past week or two is Gazpacho. I did some reading up on this cold soup, and it’s just my kind of dish. I like foods that don’t always have an exact recipe, rather a backbone that you build off of to fit your palette/fridge/budget.

It was so refreshing and surprisingly FILLING. I couldn’t eat my entire bowl {I think maybe because the water content is so high} but I wish I could have. This recipe makes a huge pot and could probably serve 6 comfortably as a side dish. Possibly the best part is that there’s no heat required.

Gazpacho1

| Gazpacho

Serves approx. 6

5 Roma tomatoes

1 red/purple onion

1 large cucumber

1 red bell pepper

4 celery stalks

3 cloves garlic

1/2 jalapeno

a handful of cilantro

3 TBS tomato juice

3 TBS olive oil

3 TBS white wine vinegar

1/2 TSP salt

avocado to garnish {optional}

1/2 TBS agave

Finely dice the first eight ingredients. Put half of all the vegetables in a blender plus the last 4 ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour out the blended mix into a large bowl and set aside. Add the other half of the vegetables to the blender/food processor and pulse until they become minced, but not pureed. Add in the minced vegetables into the blended vegetables and stir well.

It is best if this soup sits in the fridge for 8+ hours.

Garnish with slices of avocado and a couple sprigs of cilantro, if desired.

Gazpacho2

Enjoy on a hot day!

He Loves Me Like Jesus Does

{Okay, so I couldn’t wait to do another marriage post until Monday. Just couldn’t do it. So happy Marriage Friday!}

 

Have you ever heard that song? I’d say it’s a favorite of mine. I like Eric Church period, but that song…

All the crazy in my dreams,
both my broken wings,
every single piece of everything I am.
[S]he knows the [wo]man I ain’t,
[S]he forgives me when I can’t.
That devil, man, he don’t stand a chance.
[S]he loves me like Jesus does.

I always thought [s]he’d give up on my one day,
Wash [his] hands of me, leave me staring down some runway.
But I thank God each night and twice on Sunday
that [s]he loves me like Jesus does.

 

I can’t say enough good things about my husband. And the saddest part, to me, is that sometimes {most of the time} the way I treat him doesn’t show how I feel about him.

I really am lucky.

I think the world of that man. And he is my world. My whole wide world in one person. This amazing soul of his is one of the biggest motivating factors in me trying better myself. I want to be like him, and have the patience, forgiveness, grace and mercy that he shows this tired, tortured soul on a daily basis.

I hurt him sometimes, and immediately after regret it. I don’t want to hurt him, but I do. And then I think, “God gave him to you to trust his heart in your hands for this temporary life you’re living and this is how you take care of it?”

I never realized how selfish I was until I got married. He gives, gives, gives and I take, take, take without thinking twice and then wanting more.

I’m not going to condemn myself because that would be a reflection of me throwing his love away, and I will not do that.

Somehow, though, this man sees only good in me where, on even my best day, I can maybe find one or two good qualities. I want him to feel the way he makes me feel. My body feels warm when I think about him, and I just begin to get this overwhelmingly comfortable sense in my entire being.

I have never known a love so deep and true until the day I met him.

DSC_0305_002

Pasta Puttanesca

I’ve heard some very interesting stories about this Italian dish. The name literally translates to, “Whore Style Spaghetti”. One story is that the ingredients were so cheap, it was a staple for Italian night walkers. Another is that prostitutes would make this pungently aromatic, spicy dish and place it on their window sill to draw in men. Whatever story is true, the dish is truly alluring.

I’ve wanted to try my hand at Pasta Puttanesca since I first saw A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s extremely inexpensive, and utterly fool proof. There is a basic recipe here, but the point is that you put in what you have or what you feel like. My ingredients vary a tad from the basic recipe, but it’s mighty fine.

Puttanesca 1

| Pasta Puttanesca

Serves 2

1 TBS olive oil

1/2 TBS minced garlic

1 TSP red pepper flakes

1 – 16 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice

2-3 TBS chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 TBS capers

1/4 C kalamata olives, roughly chopped

a dash of salt

2 servings spaghetti, cooked

Puttanesca 4

Saute garlic, crushed red chili flakes and capers in olive oil on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes and add the rest of the ingredients plus a couple tablespoons of water. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce reduces a little, add in cooked spaghetti and stir well to incorporate.

Puttanesca 2

Serve and enjoy!

Uplifting in Discouragement Part 4: Final

During the conference, after I had begun to feel the healing process take place in my soul and body, I can honestly tell you that the spiritual warfare began immediately. All of the sudden, I found myself being so distracted, especially during the worship times. I began judging women, which honestly is one thing that I pride myself in not doing. I asked for God to help keep my attention on Him, on worshiping Him and thanking Him for what He was doing.

I could hear things in my brain that are things the real me would never think about. In the middle of a Christian conference. But that just goes to show that God was doing amazing things not just for me, but for hundreds of women. The devil was feeling threatened.

While that’s a great thing, it can also be dangerous if you don’t put your guard up. I had visions of the next week, and saw Satan slowly taking away everything I learned and me spiraling down into my dark place that I so often used to go. I did not want that.

When I felt like I was being healed, I thought to myself, “Wow, God is moving in me and soon, I won’t have to deal with this thing that has plagued me for eight years!” Then I thought about cancelling my therapy appointment because I knew God was going to heal me. But then when I felt that spiritual warfare, I knew that I couldn’t count on myself to keep moving forward. Especially since it had been eight years. I believe that God made therapists and counselors for a reason and so even if it was just for the first appointment, I would go.

And I did. And I love her. She is a Christian counselor who understands how big of a role my faith plays in my healing.

So, me writing all of this down is for me to never forget. Ever. I can say that even since the conference less than two weeks ago, I have had to reread in times of despair. Even just on Saturday, Husband had to help me consciously stop saying terrible things about myself that I didn’t even realize I was. And if someone gains something from this story, well, that’s even better.

I am still constantly a work in progress, but I believe in a God who heals.

Healing

Marriage Mondays: Identity in Marriage

I was talking to one of my best friends about our marriages and how previous issues had molded us so greatly and how those issues have caused negative things. I was married before I met my lovely wife, Savannah, and the events leading up to the end of that marriage completely destroyed my sense of self and who I thought I was. I did not see it at the time, but God was reshaping my identity in Him so that I could better fulfill my role as Savannah’s husband.

It’s important to realize that although you have a very important identity as a couple, you still have your own individual identities as well. I had completely lost mine before and became buried alive under the weight of all my “titles”.

It is by the grace of God everyday that I am any good to my wife and children. By going to God for your identity, He will lead you to your destiny and in turn use you as a man to lead your wife into her destiny and the callings He has for your marriage.

Seek out that truth, and you will be blessed.

Fingerprint

Happy Monday!

-Jason

Uplifting in Discouragement Part 3

Okay, so here’s something very cool. Before all of that emotional, spiritual stuff happened, I had seen the pastor’s wife, Chris, that morning. She stopped by to say good morning, and said, “I had no idea you were coming!” I explained, in short, all of the last minute things that had brought me there and that I was so excited for the weekend. We had our brief conversation, and both went about our business.

After our time of worship, Chris got up to welcome the speaker again and announced that she had some gifts to give away. We had little lanyards with our names and each woman had a different number. She started calling out random numbers and whoever owned the number got up and chose a gift. Now, I’m never the person to win those sorts of things, so I tuned out and just clapped for the women who got something. It was nice little treats such as lotions, soaps and candles. You know, little things that women love.

Anyways, all the gifts had been handed out. Then she said, “I have a couple bigger gifts to give away. God put this person on my heart about 4 months ago {when Katie was getting married. We were all around each other a lot at that time}.” Then she said, “Savannah Lucero,” and I thought, “me?” Well, duh, that’s my name. I walked up to the stage where she was standing and she looked me in the eyes and said, “I have a gift for you, but first; God put you and your husband on my heart, and I wanted to tell you Don’t. Give. Up. Keep pursuing the Lord and He has a special place set aside for the both of you and you are going to do awesome things for Him.”

Wow.

Even thinking about those words that she spoke to me 6 days ago brings tears to my eyes. We haven’t had a lot of rainbows and butterflies in our journey, but those words made me want to keep fighting. And to never give up. I just thought how good God is that He spoke those words to our pastor to give to me at the exact moment I needed it. I had been so down and torn up trying to fight all the battles life has given me. And then this glimpse. This glimpse of the end of our fighting and our struggles, showing me that YES! Someday, it will all be worth it. All of it. And that there won’t be a single thing that I will look back on and think, “Man, I wish I didn’t have to go through that.” Because the end is in sight, and I see a beautiful light glimmering just for husband and I.

So there you have it. Oh yeah, the gift! Remember when I talked about how I {very} briefly thought about going to the spa, and then I saw the prices and changed my mind? Well, that sweet lady gave me a $100 gift card toward the spa!

It was such a special treat and I had been wanting to get a massage for like the past year. It’s awesome to me how she didn’t even know I was going to be there and all these amazing things happened. There for a reason, right?

A glimmer of hope in a dark, dry world.

A glimmer of hope in a dark, dry world.

Okay, there’s still more {yes, I’m sorry. I’m a talker} but until next week, I hope you all enjoy your weekend and beautiful weather!

Uplifting in Discouragement Part 2

Click here to read part one of this story.

The next morning, I was ready to be rocked again. After hearing those words, I knew that the rest of the weekend had amazing things in store.

One of my best friends, Katie Leach {she goes by Kate now, but I will never cease to call her Katie; Sorry Katie! You love me :)} was a guest speaker for the event and had her moment to shine that Saturday morning, and boy, did she ever.

I will be true and honest with you; over the past month I have been depressed. I say depressed because I don’t know what other word{s} to use. I don’t hate myself and who I am like I used to, but my body image and self esteem in the physical realm have been completely and utterly depleted. I’ve felt like it’s been even more so than when I was anorexic. I’ve heard a lot of people call weight gain due to a marriage to be defined as “contentment”, but I did not know how to deal with this.

I know it sounds so silly, but to me it was a very real, very emotional and dark time. To gain weight for most people doesn’t stop them from living their lives, but for someone who {albeit doesn’t suffer physically as much} suffers from an eating disorder, it does. Oh man, it does. And it gets worse; because of the physical damage my body endured for so long, I literally wasn’t able to starve myself, even though I tried. It became {what I think is worse than just starving} a dangerous starve/binge cycle. One can only imagine that even though you restrict, you gain weight. I gained 5 pounds last month. 5. That’s big for 5’2″.

Anyways, it began affecting my social life. I hated that every single thing that gathers people together revolves around food. I looked at the other women in our marriage group with envy because they could just eat, enjoy it, and not think about it for the next 24 hours. It became hard for me to pay attention. It stole the joy I once had from such a good thing.

Have you ever heard the song “I’m Worn” by Tenth Avenue North? I read these lyrics to husband about a month back and just cried as I read them, because they’re so true:
I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

I’d gotten so close several times before to complete healing, to even wanting to be healed, but something inside me would say, “No! Stop! This is where you’re comfortable. Out there, healing, that’s scary!”

But I’d finally had enough. I’d held on to my eating disorder for so long, and it had such grips on me that I finally wanted out. I wanted to be normal. Normal! Is that so much to ask?! I’d made the decision to seek out help. So, the Thursday before the retreat, I found a therapist and made an appointment with her for the next Monday, after the retreat.

So back to Katie. First of all, I wanted to say that worship was amazing. One of our worship leaders pleaded with God to let the Lord literally breathe his presence over us, and that my friends, is just what He did. I just cried during worship. I knew I was there for a reason.

I had no idea what Katie was speaking on prior to that morning, and when she got up and declared that she was speaking on what God created women to be, I knew it was going to be good.

I’ll focus on the last point, but Katie said these three things: God made women to be strong. God made women to be persuasive. And God made women to be beautiful.

That last one got me. It got me good. She spoke of Esther and how she won the kings favor with her beauty {Esther 2:15}. She also said that Satan has a special hatred for women. Doesn’t that make sense, though? He was the most beautiful angel and turned from God and became ugly. He can take people’s joy, kindness, love toward one another… but if you think about this, he cannot take beauty. It is impossible for Satan to take a physical trait away from you.

Women have gone so long thinking, “If I think I’m beautiful, that’s selfish or conceited.” What would our friends think if we said, “I just look absolutely beautiful today”? Isn’t it sad that even with our own friends, we can’t feel comfortable living in the beauty that God made us? Sad! It’s begun to make me angry! It shouldn’t ruin or run my life!

But these words… even if just not for myself to stop saying terrible things about me… these words have begun to change my thinking; it hurts Him when we criticize ourselves because we were made beautiful in His image.

You are beautiful, like Esther.

You have won The Kings favor, like Esther.

Stay tuned for the next post for more about that weekend.

Side note: I wanted to say that everything I’ve heard, read and felt is from none other than Yahweh, Jehovah Jireh, the Emmanuel; Jesus Christ. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I also don’t want to live a lukewarm life. He is where my inspiration comes from, and no. One. Else.

Uplifting in Discouragement

I have to share with you something amazing that happened to me this weekend.

I went to a Women’s Retreat with 250+ women from JFC, as a last minute deal. I was planning on going about 3 weeks in advance, then roommate things fell through, and I had just made terms with myself that I wasn’t able to go. So of course, Husband buys a TV instead since we weren’t spending the 200 bucks for me to go {okay, we really deserved it – we had been watching a TV that had LED leaking right through the middle. For two years}.

So, on the last day of registration, my friend texted me and asked if I was going, and I told her no, unfortunately. She responded with “well, there’s still one more spot in my room!” That gave a little glimmer of hope, but then the TV thing crept up in my mind. I said “thank you, but let me speak with Jason. We didn’t think I was going, so he bought a TV, and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to swing the money.” After I asked Jason, {and I told him ONLY IF it’s not putting us in a bad situation – could you imagine going to a life-changing event to come back to face guilt and ruin everything you gained?} she responded to me before he could and told me that the church would give me a scholarship to go.

So, the decision was made. Total God thing, right?

Anywho, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the amazing stuff.

I read the email that was sent to me after I registered to go, and it said if you mention that you are at the Jubiliee Fellowship Ladies conference, you get 30% off at the hotel’s spa. So, I searched the website, and even with 30 percent off, the cheapest thing was a 75 dollar pedicure. No thanks. And that was that.

A series of other last-minute God things helped me get up to Beaver Creek, and while the girls I rode with and I were about an hour late, we made it in the middle of the first session where Terri Furr was speaking. It was a little difficult for me to get into at first because I came halfway through and wasn’t entirely caught up with what she was talking about. But then the end of that first night kind of set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

These words: Pride really isn’t the conventional way we think of pride {oh, I’m so good at this, etc.}. Pride is preoccupation with one’s self.

Woah. Maybe that doesn’t rock you like it rocks me, but it in all my sadness, complaining, talking about myself; that is my pride. Talking about how rough life can be or how things always happen to me that don’t happen to others. That really threw a wrench in my thinking.

Then she said: The opposite of pride is humility. You become humble when you choose gratitude.

That makes total sense, right? Instead of my normal, “woah is me” thoughts, I should be thanking God for what I DO have. Which is so much more than some others. Then, my thinking will shift to those others who so often go with out. And like that, gratitude changes pride to humility.

Okay, so that was the first day. And that was after I didn’t think I was getting anything out of the first message because I came late.

But like I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how good God is {if all this hasn’t convinced you yet}.

gratitude

Warm Cabbage & Fennel Salad

Normally, when I think of salad, I definitely don’t think of warmth on my plate. I think of cool, crisp leaves with sweet tomatoes, creamy avocado and crunchy onions with some sort of a tangy dressing.

Warm Cabbage and Fennel Soup3

But, when April is almost over and it’s still snowing, thinking of a summer salad sort of depresses you. Monday and Tuesday it snowed about 5 inches, but today I am not complaining. Almost all of the snow melted late afternoon yesterday, and with this 50 degree weather today and my 10 day forecast, I believe we’re in the clear {knock on wood, cross my fingers, say a little prayer}.

Warm Cabbage and Fennel Soup4

So when I’m craving a salad, but the weather isn’t cooperating {don’t get me wrong – it’s possible to have a cold salad when the weather’s cold – just doesn’t feel right to me}, a warm salad is the way to go.

I have been eating a lot of cabbage over the last week. For one, it’s cheap as dirt, and two, read this.

Warm Cabbage and Fennel Soup1

|Warm Cabbage & Fennel Salad

serves 4

1 head white cabbage

2 fennel bulbs

1/2 red onion, roughly chopped

1/2 TSP minced lemongrass

a TSP olive oil

a pinch of S&P

Cut the fronds off the fennel, then quarter and cut 1/4 inch slices. Begin to saute the fennel and onions in olive oil on medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the fennel and onions are cooking, quarter the cabbage and slice into ribbons. When the fennel and onions begin to caramelize, toss in the cabbage and lemongrass with a few TSP water. Cover, raise heat one or two notches, and stir every few minutes for a total of about 10-15, or until cabbage has wilted and begins to brown {add a TBS of water at a time if the veggies are sticking to the pan}.

Remove from heat, add S&P, tossing to coat.

Warm Cabbage and Fennel Soup6

Enjoy!