Monday, February 29, 2016

My Can Opener from Outer Space

I'm going to assume that just about everyone on this planet has had at least one (or maybe three dozen) can openers fail on them.

It's possible that all can openers are doomed to break, but it's also possible that we simply aren't looking in the right place. To find a can opener that is "out of this world," perhaps we need to search out of this world.

Now before you call me crazy, allow me to explain.

The can opener that we received as a wedding gift stopped working only seven months into our marriage. Thankfully, I still had a few Bed Bath and Beyond gift cards left, so I started searching for a replacement.

The 407BK Swing-A-Way Can Opener caught my eye because it had 31 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6 stars. And guess what? It was only $5.99 (less my 20% off coupon).

It arrived last week, and I can already tell that it works better than any can opener I have ever used. The best part (and the reason for my pun) is that it is the can opener selected by NASA for its Skylab Space Station. How neat is that?

You can visit the Bed Bath and Beyond website to order the 407BK Swing-A-Way Can Opener or to find one in a store near you.

I am in no way connected to Bed Bath and Beyond, and I won't receive any compensation for writing this post. The satisfaction of knowing that my readers have working can openers is enough for me.

Already have a can opener that you love? Go ahead and post about it in the comments section.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Recipe: Healthy Pasta Salad


This is a recipe that both vegetarians and meat lovers can enjoy. It is full of flavor that is satisfying for adults and kids alike.

Depending on how much dressing the noodles absorb, you might only need to add 2/3 of the dressing.

Healthy Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
12 ounces pasta
3 garlic cloves

18 ounces combination regular cherry tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup black pitted olives

1/2 cup lunch meat ham (optional)
2 Tablespoons chives (fresh is best)
1/4 cup basil (fresh is best)
1 medium-sized cucumber
4 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
7 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Directions: 
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add pasta and garlic (with skins on), and simmer until tender (about 5 minutes). Drain.
  3. Set the garlic aside, and put the pasta in a large bowl.
  4. Chop the tomatoes, olives, ham, chives, basil, and cucumber into bite-sized pieces, and add to the bowl.
  5. Remove garlic cloves from skins, and crush. (An alternative is to add garlic powder to taste.)
  6. In a small bowl, combine garlic with vinegar, oil, and salt/pepper.
  7. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture, and stir to combine. Feel free to add more seasoning to taste.
Serves 6

*Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's pasta salad

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interview with Hit Songwriter Keith Getty

 Keith and Kristyn Getty with their three Irish daughters
(Grace, Charlotte, and Eliza Joy)

The NRB Convention has been a blast. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Keith Getty from Getty Music (video below).

Keith and his wife Kristyn are modern hymn writers whose songs, the most famous of which is "In Christ Alone," are sung by an estimated 100 million churchgoers each year. They have three daughters and split their time between Nashville and Northern Ireland.

Fans can keep up with the Gettys via their website (GettyMusic.com) or Facebook page (Keith and Kristyn Getty)



Thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law Mae for filming!


Photo courtesy Getty Music

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Meatless Monday: Carrot Salad

Last fall, I shared a new tradition that my husband and I had started, which we call Magnificent Meal Monday. To fight against the Monday doldrums, I prepare a delicious meal every Monday night.

After reading that post, several of my readers suggested Meatless Monday. I admit that my husband's love of meat means that Meatless Monday is not an option for us, but I would still like to share a few of my favorite meatless recipes with you all.

Growing up, my family ate vegetarian multiple times per week, and my mom was great at finding healthy and delicious recipes. I'll start with a side dish.

Did you know that carrots are bursting with nutrition? In addition to beta carotene, they also contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, potassium, fiber, riboflavin, and even a bit of protein. This carrot salad recipe was one of my favorites as a child.

Powerhouse Carrot Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 bag (10 ounces) shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup Ocean Spray Craisins
  • 3 Tablespoons chives, green onions, or regular onions
  • 1/4 cup toasted, slivered almonds (optional)
Directions:
  1. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mustard, salt, and sugar.
  2. In a large bowl, combine carrots, Craisins, and onion. 
  3. Add dressing to carrot mixture, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  4. Optional: Add almonds just before serving.

This is one of those recipes that tastes exceptional the next day after all the flavors mix. If you like carrots, you will love this salad. Go on and give it a try!

Monday, February 22, 2016

NRB Convention

Happy Monday! This week, I will be attending Proclaim 16, the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention.

The convention features dozens of media related seminars by well known individuals, including the Kendrick Brothers, Joe Battaglia, Eric Metaxas, and Dr. Rick Warren.

I will also have the pleasure of conducting a number of interviews, which I plan to post to the blog. Over the weekend, my in-laws drove my high school age sister-in-law, who hopes to pursue a career in Christian media, down to Nashville to be my videographer.

My wonderful husband made me this fancy Nashville Wife microphone flag to use during my interviews. What do you think?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Natural Beauty Products

One of my readers asked me to share the beauty products I use. Last summer, I started a quest to purge our home of toxic chemicals. When I began researching the ingredients in conventional beauty products, I was shocked to find countless cancer-causing chemicals.

I just couldn't justify putting harmful toxins on my skin every morning, so I started looking for alternatives. After experimenting with various products, I found my favorites, most of which are from the brand Mineral Fusion.


Left to Right:
Mineral Fusion Valley Liquid Eyeliner*
ZuZu Luxe Raven Liquid Eyeliner
Mineral Fusion Neutral Concealer duo
Mineral Fusion Fragile Eye Shadow Trio
Mineral Fusion Stunning Eye Shadow Trio
Mineral Fusion Flashy Blush
Mineral Fusion Chestnut Volumizing Mascara
Mineral Fusion Gem Lipstick
Tarte Clean Slate 360 Creaseless 12-hr Smoothing Eye Primer

*My favorite eyeliner is the one by ZuZu Luxe. The Mineral Fusion eyeliner is easy to apply, but it tends to flake off towards the end of the day.

To avoid the harmful chemicals found in conventional hairspray and hair gel, I now use Medium Hold Sunflower and Citrus Hair Spray by Andalou Naturals and Hi Shine Styling Gel by Jason. Both products work well for my hair, although I will warn you that the hair spray is wetter than conventional aerosol hair sprays, so you have to give it a few minutes to dry.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Chattanooga Choo Choo

As I mentioned in Monday's post, we spent the weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee. We drove to the top of Lookout Mountain, visited Ruby Falls, toured the Tennessee Aquarium, and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Texas Roadhouse.


On Saturday, we spent the night at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a historic train station that was converted into a vacation complex in the 1970s. We slept in an old Pullman railroad car! The room was a bit drafty, but we were able to solve the problem by turning the thermostat up to 85 degrees. It was a lovely vacation!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Trip to Chattanooga

As a combined Christmas and Valentine's gift, my husband surprised me with a trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

We headed down on Saturday morning and spent the rest of the weekend touring the area. Upon arriving, we drove to the top of Lookout Mountain. Instead of paying $20 each for admission to Rock City, we found our own scenic overlook and snapped a photo.


We were told that we absolutely had to visit Ruby Falls, so we did pay for that attraction. It was definitely the highlight of our trip. The tour began with an elevator ride 260 feet into the heart of Lookout Mountain.


 After we exited the elevator into the cavern, our guide took us on a 1/2-mile walk to a 145-foot waterfall, located 1,120 feet underground. It was spectacular!

Have you been to Ruby Falls? If not, I highly recommend it.

Friday, February 12, 2016

My Niece Reads a Book

My sister-in-law Anne just sent me a video that I know you all will enjoy. It shows my 18-month-old niece reading one of her favorite books, Opposites by Sandra Boynton.

Anne and her husband have been reading to their daughter since the day she was born. They have a basket of books beside every couch and comfy chair, which allows them to read to her throughout the day.

But what about the little ones who have a difficult time sitting still? Anne stresses the importance of making reading fun. She recommends keeping kids' hands busy while you read by giving them a toy or another book to hold. Even if it seems like they aren't paying attention, they are absorbing more than you may think. Allowing children to help turn the pages also keeps them attentive.

It is important to choose books with fewer words per page. According to Anne, who has a degree in elementary education, teaching babies and toddlers individual words will be more helpful in the long-run than reading them a long story.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Buffalo Wild Wings Style Wings

Did you watch the Super Bowl? We did! Although we don't have TV service, we recently purchased a $50 antenna that picks up a decent number of news and sports networks. Mr. Handsome's two brothers and one of their girlfriends were visiting for the weekend, so we all watched together.

For the majority of the evening, I was in the kitchen making honey-BBQ and Parmesan-garlic chicken wings. Our kitchen and living room are attached, so I was able to catch all the good commercials (and some of the actual game).

Mr. Handsome and I made these chicken wings for friends and family during last year's Super Bowl, and they were a big hit. They taste almost identical to the wings served at Buffalo Wild Wings. I just have to share the recipe with you all!


Buffalo Wild Wings Style Chicken Wings  
Honey-BBQ/Parmesan-Garlic

The first step is to prepare the Parmesan-garlic sauce, as it is easiest to use when chilled in the refrigerator for several hours. (If you are crunched for time, I recommend just throwing it in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.)

Peel 4 medium-sized garlic cloves (or 2 large cloves), and coat with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Bake at 350 in an oven-safe dish (either in a regular oven or a convection oven) until garlic cloves are light brown (approximately 20-25 minutes).

After garlic cloves are cooled, mince them.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine garlic with the following ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonaise
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 teaspoons powdered Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Chill until cold (up to several hours). 


When the Parmesan-garlic sauce has finished chilling, it's time to make the homemade honey-BBQ sauce. (My husband is a huge fan of Sweet Baby Rays, but he likes this sauce even better.)

In a large saucepan, combine the following:

1-1/4 cups ketchup
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Stir well to combine, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.


Fill your deep-fryer (or a medium-sized saucepan) with oil (I use vegetable oil), and heat. To check if it's ready, sprinkle a few drops of water on the surface of the oil. If it sizzles, you're all set.

While the oil is heating, you'll want to make the batter. Combine the following in a medium-sized bowl:

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use crushed red pepper)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Cut 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces.


 In a small bowl, beat 1 egg into 1 cup milk.


Dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture...


 ...And then coat it with the flour mixture. (Dip it back into the egg mixture, and coat it with flour a second time.)


Add the battered chicken pieces to your hot oil. I encourage you to use a splatter screen to prevent injury. Only fry as many at a time as can be fully submerged in the oil.


 Fry each batch until chicken is thoroughly cooked and moderately browned (approximately 5-10 minutes).


 Smother fried chicken pieces with either honey-BBQ sauce or Parmesan garlic sauce, and enjoy!



Recipe adapted from Blog Chef

Monday, February 8, 2016

Organizing with Mason Jars

Since getting married, my appreciation for Mason jars has grown. Not only are they decorative, but they are incredibly functional, as well.

Above my stove, I have three quart-sized Mason jars, in which I store white flour, popcorn kernels, and brown rice. I would like to add more jars to my collection, but I'm not sure what to put in them. Any ideas?


On the counter next to the stove sits a two-quart Mason jar filled with brown sugar and two larger jars filled with all-natural cane sugar and a mix of white and wheat flour. I confess that the larger jars aren't genuine Ball Mason jars. You're going to laugh, but they're actually old pickle containers from the early '90s, compliments of my mother (shh, don't tell anyone).

Do you use mason jars to organize your kitchen?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Decor for a Fisherman's Wedding

We recently received our completed wedding video from the videographer and watched it for the first time yesterday afternoon. It was so much fun to see footage of our special day!

Looking through photos of the DIY decorations from our wedding receiption, I knew you all would enjoy this one. My husband loves fishing, so his sisters created this picture collage, using an old window pane.

Click here to see more photos from our wedding day and here to see pictures of our DIY wedding reception.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Recipe: Southern Sweet Tea

We've been living in Tennessee for nearly eight months, and I finally decided to try my hand at making sweet tea. Up North, most people drink iced tea (which means unsweetened), and if you ask for sweet tea, you will most likely get a glass of iced tea and a few packets of sugar.

My sweet tea turned out to be a big hit. Here's the recipe I used:

2 cups water
6 tea bags (I used English Breakfast)
1 cup white sugar (or less, depending on personal preference)
6 cups water (cold)
1/8th teaspoon baking soda

Bring 2 cups water to a boil (either on the stove or in an electric kettle) and add tea bags. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. When finished steeping, discard tea bags, and stir in sugar.


Put 6 cups cold water in a pitcher.


 Add tea mixture and baking soda. Stir well.


 Refrigerate until cold, and serve over ice. Enjoy!


Southern Sweet Tea

Ingredients
2 cups water

6 tea bags (I used English Breakfast)
1 cup white sugar (or less, depending on personal preference)
6 cups water (cold)
1/8th teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
  • Bring 2 cups water to a boil (either on the stove or in an electric kettle), and add tea bags. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. When finished steeping, discard tea bags, and stir in sugar.
  • Put 6 cups cold water in a pitcher.
  • Add tea mixture and baking soda baking soda. Stir well. 
  • Refrigerate until cold, and serve over ice. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cake Decorating

My sister-in-law Anne has been trying her hand at cake decorating. She hopes to save money by making her own cute birthday cakes for her kids.

Last week, she baked and decorated two trial cakes for her own birthday, and boy did they turn out well!

The one on the left is a three-layered chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream frosting, and the one on the right is a three-layer buttermilk vanilla cake with chocolate frosting (links to the recipes are below). To make the embellishments, she used a cheap cake decorating kit from Walmart.




For those who think these cakes look appetizing, here are the links to the recipes Anne used:

Pink Cake:
The Best Chocolate Cake You'll Ever Have (Good Housekeeping)
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (Cooking Classy) 

Cake with Pink Embellishments: 
Buttermilk Vanilla Cake (Wonky Wonderful)
Creamy Chocolate Frosting (Southern Plate)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Freezer Meals

Every two months, my husband's mom, grandma, and sisters get together to make a few dozen freezer meals.

The tradition started last summer, when one of my two brothers-in-law graduated, moved away, and started a job. As a bachelor, he quickly grew tired of the eggs, canned soup, and chicken quesadillas and requested some of Mom's home cooking.

We live several hours away from my in-laws, so I unfortunately can't participate in their freezer meal days, but they always send me pictures when they finish. Last week, they made a whopping 35 meals, including cheeseburger soup (click for our recipe), shepherd's pie (click for our recipe), ham/bean soup, and ham/cheese pasta casserole.

Mr. Handsome's mom and grandmother, along with two of his four sisters