Thursday, September 27, 2012

A big ol' dish of delicious...


Time for a lighthearted post from this girl. (yay, finally! right?)

As you know, I am expecting our third daughter. Like literally, expecting her any minute! She is due a week from today, although it doesn't seem possible...and neither does it feel like she is going to make her appearance any time soon. lol

As a result, my amazing husband has been assisting me in working diligently at stocking our freezer for those first few weeks after she arrives. Lasagnas, pasta sauces, different types of soups and soup bases, veggies for serving as well as including in dishes, etc. You name it, if it can be or make easier the preparation of dinner, we've either gotten it done or are planning on finishing it up in the next few days. {Thank goodness we have an extra freezer, because we're both the 'better to be safe than sorry' type and it's possible we might have gone a little overboard in our quest. haha}

Knowing we were doing this, my awesome mother-in-law loaned me a cookbook that is specifically about learning to prepare meals now to serve later. It's called "Dream Dinners" by Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna (you can get it on Amazon here) and I have just absolutely loved reading through it - finding new recipes to try as well as learning tips for preparing dinners. For example, they teach in the cookbook that it's just as easy to prepare three dinners as it is one when you're using the same ingredients. Kind of like a triple batch. Then you cook one for dinner that day and freeze the other two. Do this twice a week and at the end of a month you have 16 meals in your freezer ready to go, whether for your table or that of someone else who might need dinner (i.e. if they just had a baby! lol).

I couldn't believe how practical and simple that was! We've really gotten into meal planning as a method of making each dinner time as well as grocery shopping trip less stressful, and have found that it's really stretched our food budget a lot further as well. Now having this little gem dropped in my lap, I'm VERY excited to take that practice to the next level!

This book is awesome, it doesn't just cover dinners, but lunches, breakfasts, desserts, as well as all kinds of side dishes...and there's something in there for just about everyone's dietary preferences too! I'd encourage you to check it out if you're into having your family table be graced with a great meal as often as possible but don't necessarily have 1-3 hours EVERY DAY to prep for it...which is how long I sometimes spend in the kitchen working on dinner when I'm not big pregnant, because frankly to me (and to my husband!), the family table matters that much.

Now here's the fun part, the real reason for this post. The other day I was working on a recipe from out of here and fell. in. love. with it! So I bragged about it on Facebook and everyone wanted me to share of course! I figured out the simplest way to do that would be to share it here-easily referenced if you need to come back later! The recipe is for a Baked Pesto Ravioli with Chicken dish, and it was amazing. Now truth be told I didn't follow the recipe entirely, as we don't eat a lot of extra meat in our meals if there are other ways of putting protein in the dish. As a general rule, I rarely follow a recipe to the last detail anyway, my father taught me they're just launching points and so that's what they've always been. :)

Anyway, here is the recipe as given in the book. I'll just give you the basic recipe rather than the tripled version, as it's pretty easy to do the math, and I'll add my comments as to what I did differently as well. Any way you slice it - or bake it - it is delicious, and oh-so-simple to make. Enjoy!



2 lbs cheese-filled ravioli, fresh or frozen (<---here is where I made a change. I prefer spinach raviolis, or a chicken/spinach blend, so that's what I used. A LOT less cheese that way! The great thing is that it's really any ravioli, so possibilites are as endless as the selection you have available!)

1 lb cooked chicken breasts in 1/2-in slices (we omitted this since there was already chicken in the ravioli)

2/3 cup chicken broth (we used a low-sodium, organic, free-range variety that has proven to be very tasty and give just enough "under-flavor" for lack of better term. And you know, so we feel like it's healthy rather than comforting. lol)

2 cups zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch rounds

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped scallions (we used green onions, simply out of preference)

1/2 cup basil pesto sauce (the recipe says just use store-bought, but I prefer to make my own pesto, so I made a fresh batch instead and used it!)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper (I used more, but I'm a pepper-lover so this is a pretty common occurrence)

1 cup (4 oz) grated Parmesan cheese


Spray 9x13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the ravioli, chicken, chicken broth, zucchini, bell pepper, scallions, pesto, salt, pepper, and Parmesan in a large bowl. Stir gently to mix the ingredients. {If you are preparing a triple batch, divide the remainder equally between two resealable freezer bags}

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly.

{If you're wanting to freeze, just label, date, and freeze for up to 3 months. That at room temperature before baking as directed above.}

Voila!! Dinner is ready in about an hour and a half total and did I mention your house will smell amazing? The great thing is that the hour before dinner, which is usually always stressful and chaotic, can really become a fun time with you and your family. My daughters LOVE to help set the table, and this gives us time to do so in a fun, learning way, as well as getting salad, bread, and beverages on the table too. Then when it comes out, you just sit and serve!

I hope you get the opportunity to try it out, I'm sure it'll become a family favorite in your house the way it has in ours! If you have any questions, just ask and I'll do my best to answer.

And of course, until next time, I'll still be laughing. :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lifter of my Head...

"Fear not, you will no longer live in shame. Don't be afraid; there is no more disgrace for you. You will no longer remember the shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood. For your Creator will be your husband; the Lord of Heaven's Armies is His name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth. For the Lord has called you back from your grief - as though you were a young wife abandoned by her husband," says your God. "For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will take you back. In a burst of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the Lord, your Redeemer. "Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let a flood cover the earth, so now I swear that I will never again be angry and punish you. For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken," says the Lord, who has mercy on you."  Isaiah 54:4-10

During my morning Bible reading this summer, I was reading these verses and experienced one of those "aha" moments; it was as if I was reading this passage for the first time, when in reality I can't tell you how many times I've read it throughout the years. Isn't it amazing how God works like that? It's one of the reasons I don't think I could ever tire of spending time in His Word...He never fails to bring fresh revelation when I'm open, ready, and willing to receive it, and it is always so life-changing, if even in the smallest way! This was no exception, either. It made a very big impact on my heart, and it was one I've been praying about sharing for a couple of weeks now. It's always difficult to decide what moments like this to share and what not to. This week, however, I really felt the Lord lay it on my hear to share, so here it is.

For most of my life - really almost as far back as I can remember - I have battled shame. Not just being easily embarrassed, but a true, harassing condemnation that would follow me wherever I'd go, regardless of who I was around. I could be sitting in a coffee shop at age 25 and be somehow reminded of something I did - whether "bad" or simply foolish - YEARS before and suddenly feel my neck and face grow warm with a fresh humiliation. This, my friends, is awful. And the Bible says it's unnecessary to boot! In fact, it promises in Romans 8:1 that there is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ, so why should I have to be walking in it, right? I would repeat this verse to myself over and over, get prayer, and it would go away for awhile...and then somehow, creep back into my mind. Whether because I'd mess up again in some area or another, or because in casual conversation someone would remind me of a time when...fill in the blank. At any rate, it was RIDICULOUS, and I'd had enough. One of the biggest things I'd been praying for this year was to finally shake off the shame and condemnation I'd been previously unable to and walk in the true freedom promised to us at the point of repentance and salvation. This summer, that prayer was finally answered and the breaking point came in the form of this beautiful passage from Isaiah.

Rather than give you an even fuller discourse, I will simply share with you the revelation I felt God gave me to accompany these verses:

"God has redeemed me! No longer do I need to hang my head in shame at the mistakes and sins of my past, He has dealt with me and disciplined me regarding them, and now He lifts my head, brings me into His loving embrace, and says it's time to move forward."

SO SIMPLE, RIGHT? And finally, it is. Whenever I feel that spirit try to knock at my door again, I simply say NO, because my God HAS redeemed me, HAS forgiven me, and HAS lifted my head so I can again keep my eyes on the high calling I have in Christ. Just like that!!!

If you are a Christian, you do NOT, no matter what some may say, have to walk in a feeling or state of perpetual overwhelming guilt over the mistakes of your past. If you have truly repented, and turned the other way from your sin, then you are covered by the grace of God and the work of the Cross. You are free! What God finally helped me to see was that I cannot walk in freedom and bondage at the same time. I had to choose one or the other. I chose freedom, and it has been beautiful. I encourage you, if this is a battle you ever struggle with, to really dive into His Word, read for yourself and get that personal revelation of the forgiveness that God has already, in His love, poured into your life. You are forgiven, you are free!!!

Thanks be to God, who loves us so much to continually speak to us in relevant ways. Because of Him, I'm still laughing, and in the most genuine of ways.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

More Giveaway Fun!!!

Did you know I have a little business? I believe I've talked about it before, but I thought I'd share with you afresh...especially since I am doing a big giveaway, and there are lots of ways you can enter and win!

So my business...about 3 years ago I started selling crocheted goods to friends and family members who wanted fun, unique, personal gifts or accessories but couldn't make them themselves. And so, Oli J Accessories was born. Now I have an Etsy Shop (an online shop you can view and purchase from) where I sell my goodies, as well as several places in my area that sell them in their stores, and of course - because where would I be without this? - I still do A LOT simply via word of mouth referrals and Facebook orders. It is so much fun, keeps me busy, and provides us with a little supplemental income for the "extras" that pop up in life. (a friend of mine once called it 'diaper money' and that's probably what it will be here very soon!) I love to be able to create a completely personal accessory or gift, and see or hear how much the receiver loves it, it makes every second I spend perusing yarn shops and crocheting hats, blankets, shoes, etc 100% worth the time and energy.

And now, the giveaway! Recently, my Facebook page hit 300 fans, a HUGE milestone for me!, and I wanted to celebrate by doing a giveaway. Between then and now, my Etsy shop hit the 100 sale marker (also HUGE!!), so that was it, this giveaway had to be BIG. And so it is. :) I'm giving away 4 different items, and there are LOTS of ways to enter (some worth more entries than others even!), as well as opportunities to enter every day. Oh that's another thing, this baby is going to be accepting entries for the next 5 DAYS so you can definitely increase your chances of winning very quickly!

So what are the prizes? They are:

A Brimmed Beanie of your choice (size, style, etc.)

An Earwarmer/Headwrap of your choice (size, style, etc)

A Crown/Tiara in your choice size/color

And last, but certainly not least, a crochet headband in your choice size/color combo

See? So much fun, and so many different things to win! I'm excited just writing this. lol So now, the details, I suppose, are in order.

There are several ways to enter, just follow the steps below to get them all in! And don't forget to share the giveaway as well as refer your friends...those are the steps that will give you 2 ENTRIES every time!

So that about sums it up! I'd love to hear your responses below, as well as any feedback or requests for the next time we do some giving away of goodies. This will probably be the last giveaway before the holidays are here, especially since my little one is due to make her appearance sometime in the next month or so! I hope you enter and best of luck to you! Most importantly, thank you so much for all your support and encouragement while I've been on this journey, it means the world to me and I know that I absolutely would not be having the success I have been without each and every one of you. I feel very blessed and hope that in turn, I will be able to bless someone else along the way!

Good Luck!
Until next time, I'll be laughing. :)