An epic day and updates

Yesterday was in the words of Barney Stinson “LEGEND– wait for it –DARY.”  [smile] Perhaps that was bit of an oversell, but I’m so happy to be able to share that I was offered and accepted a job!  Stay tuned for further details when all the necessary paperwork is completed and I can make an official announcement.  For now, just want to say thank you for sticking with me through the ups and downs of the job search.

In other news, I spent some time yesterday afternoon updating the About: My Blogging Bio, Creative Reading, and Nearly Ordained Cafe tabs above.  After checking out some of the stats from yesterday’s “Nearly Ordained Cafe” post, I realized that I had gotten really far behind on updating what posts have actually been written under this category and the “Creative Reading” category and that it was hindering visitors from finding other posts they might enjoy.  I’ve rectified that issue and updated “My Blogging Bio” to reflect our graduation and move to Tennessee.  It’s about time, I guess.  We have been living in Kingsport for almost 3 months! [smile]

Finally, I have added a Publications tab under the About page.  Through the process of applying for jobs over the last few weeks, I have finally gotten up the courage to actually name one of the career aspirations that I’ve up to this moment have kept quite close the chest (particularly here):  I would love to write professionally at some point in the future. Perhaps this is not quite as big of a revelation to regular readers and those who know me in life outside the blogosphere, but naming this ambition here feels like a big step in a very right direction.  Who know what might come from it?  [smile]  So if you’d like to read some of what I’ve already published check out my “Publications” page and if you are publisher and you like what you’ve read, I would love to hear from you. Email me at margaret.n.frazier@gmail.com.

– Margaret

From our table to yours

We have finally gotten back in the routine of menu planning!  Yahoo!  [smile]  Perhaps you think my enthusiasm a little over exaggerated, but menu planning is something that really works for us.  By mapping out at least what we plan to eat for dinner, we are able to stick to a grocery budget and watch our waistlines.  [smile]  I will admit that we don’t always stick rigidly to our plan, but knowing that we have the ingredients on hand for a few specific meals during the week really takes the pressure off the late afternoon dinner decision making.

Since we’ve started back our menu planning process, Caleb has been encouraging me to post a few of our favorite go to recipes.  Particularly because a couple of them have come up in conversations he’s had with friends who read my musings and he’s promised that they would show up.  [smile]  Below is one of our all time favorite super easy dinner recipes and the other is a new treat we’ve been making lately to celebrate the changing season.   Hope these inspire your dinner plans for the coming weeks.

“Easy Stuffed Baked Potatoes”- I usually serve these hearty stuffed potatoes as the entree with broccoli as a side.

Lightly coat 2 baking potatoes with olive oil and coarse grain sea salt.  Place potatoes on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.  While the potatoes are baking, combine one can of black beans and one can of original Rotel (canned tomatoes and peppers) in a small saucepan.  Cook on low until black bean mixture is simmering.  Remove potatoes from oven and top with black beans.  May garnish with sour cream/Greek yogurt and/or shredded cheese.

“Oven S’mores”- It is very possible that everyone has been making s’mores like this for years, but it’s new to us. [smile]

Line baking sheet with tin foil.  Place half graham crackers on tin foil.  Top with mini Hershey’s chocolate bar and 2 marshmallows.  Broil on high.  Don’t leave these to sit in the oven.  Watch them and remove from oven when marshmallows have reached desired done-ness.

-Margaret

The Saga of My First Pintrocity

I have been working on the guest room most of the morning and the early afternoon with the goal of getting just one room exactly the way I want it.  It’s a small room and as you can imagine won’t include much stuff, but still its taken much longer than I expected or intended.  Part of the problem is that there are so many projects I want to work on in “The Parsonage” that in the midst of my hunt for some vase or painting to use in the guest room I was distracted by another little job that simply must be done right in that moment.  [smile]  I’m not entirely done as I sit down for a writing break, but the last few tasks are essentially just hanging some art and my favorite handyman is at the office.  I could probably hang the art myself, but it’s much more fun to have Caleb help so I’m on pause until he gets to a stopping point on sermon prep for Sunday.  [smile]

Can I make a confession?  I promise to get back to the titular post in a moment, but first I must confess that despite moving in, I mean really moving in with decorating and organizing, the whole life we are building here still feels a bit surreal.  It feels like we’ve been given this really fantastic house to “play” or “pretend” in.  Living in the apartment with Caleb never felt that way and so I can only assume that the extra space to make my own has something to do with this feeling of “playing house.”  I took a photo of the guest room last night after I had made the bed to text my family to show them that whenever one of them decides to drop in we have a bed (and now a room) ready and couldn’t stop staring at the photo.  I told Caleb that I thought it was just so cute and he responded that of course it was because it was in our house. “That’s our guest room, darling.”  The thought of it was much more profound to me than his simple words would indicate to someone else.  Alright enough about all the adjusting that I’m discovering comes along with a move and onward to the pintrocity!

The cupcakes when finished baking.

The caramel centered cupcakes when finished baking.

This post could also be called “How Margaret Quick Thinking Prevented Major Dental Disaster.”  [smile]  Caleb’s birthday was about a week ago and in advance of his party I asked what kind of cake he’d like to celebrate.  True to his sweet tooth loving form he requested some kind of chocolate caramel creation.  Of course my first thought was to search Pinterest for a easy recipe with a twist.  I love to incorporate a twist in my baking creations! [smile]  I came across a super easy recipe for a chocolate cupcake with a caramel center and knew at once it was the one to try.  I’m used to making my own caramel, but realized I wouldn’t have all the time in the world and was swayed to try this recipe because instead of having to make homemade caramel it used Kraft caramel squares.  The absence of homemade caramel should have been my first clue that disaster was imminent, but I so wanted it to work so I ignored any apprehensions I might have had.  [smile]

The recipe called for the Kraft caramel squares to be inserted into the cupcakes for the last five minutes of baking.  So dutifully I plopped one in each cupcake, but when I removed the cupcakes I was immediately dismayed to find that the caramel square had barely lost its shape let alone melt into the cake.  I was so disappointed with the results that I decided to not make another batch with the caramel squares which turned out to be a good idea because it helped me discover an alternative.  [smile]  When the icing was finally prepared, I found that the caramel had re-hardened to form a very dense and quite brittle center that I thought for certain that meant a cracked tooth was in very near future for one of the party-goers.  A quick fix was in order.  So I deconstructed the existing caramel centers and filled the cupcakes with a mixture of a few of the second batch cupcakes that my oven decided it did not want to bake to perfection anyway and the caramel sauce I used for the icing.  I was sure that they would still not be the best cupcakes I’ve made, but was pleased to receive rave reviews from the rest of the family at the party.  My adapted recipe for chocolate caramel centered cupcakes and the recipe for caramel frosting I used is below.

The finished cupcakes!

The finished cupcakes!

Cupcakes: (from Southern Living Cookbook)

20130711-200921.jpgYou will need:  1/2 cup shortening, 2 cups sugar, 2 large eggs, 4 (1 oz) unsweetened chocolate squares, melted, 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Beat shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.  Add chocolate, mixing well.  Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to chocolate mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Mix at low speed after each addition until blended.  Add water, mixing well.  Stir in vanilla.  Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin pans, filling each cup half full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Frosting: (slightly adapted from Cara’s Cliche)

You will need:  1 cup unsalted butter (softened not melted), 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt, 2/3 cup caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Ice Cream Caramel Sauce.), 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Mix butter with hand mixer until smooth and fluffy. Now add the vanila, salt, caramel and vanilla.  Mix until fully combined. Gradually add the powdered sugar mixing each time in between.

20130711-200945.jpgFilling and Assembly:

You will need:  5 or 6 baked cupcakes, approximately 1 cup caramel sauce (I used Smucker’s Ice Cream Caramel Sauce.)

Spoon out the center of each cupcake.  Set aside centers in bowl with 5 to 6 crumbled cupcakes.  Add about 1/2 cup of caramel sauce to crumbled cupcakes and mix until a gooey mixture forms.  Squeeze or spoon about a teaspoon of sauce into each cupcake and add a 1/2 tablespoon of the gooey mixture to each cupcake center.  Frost with salted caramel frosting as desired.

-Margaret

His and Her’s: Waffles

His and Her’s: A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”

Still no air conditioning, but we are trudging through and crossing all our fingers that the AC guy will show up today with the part that he ordered on Monday.  Hopefully we will be chillin’ like villains by this afternoon.  [smile]  In the meantime, we’ve found that maintaining our sanity while living in and packing up a hot house requires that we indulge in a few rewards throughout the day.  Last night we ate dinner out and then picked up a movie to watch at home.  And this morning we are headed to my favorite place to eat breakfast out… WAFFLE HOUSE!

If you know me at all you know of my love for this classic American diner.  I got onto the Waffle House bandwagon a few years ago when I moved back in with my parents who at the time liked to eat out there about one morning per week.  We’d always visited every once in a while when I was a child, but eating out there once a week really convinced me of how special these restaurants are.  I love to watch how community happens at Waffle House, especially between “the regulars” and the wait staff.  Though my parents don’t eat out at Waffle House as often as they once did, they are still regular enough customers to have a couple of waitresses who visit their table just to say hi during each visit.  I’m convinced that the church could learn something about what it means to welcome people from the Waffle House hospitality model.  Perhaps I’ll explore that topic a bit more in the future.  [smile]

Another thing I love about Waffle House is it’s predictability.  The coffee is strong and if you have a good neighborhood diner they’ll even make a fresh pot when you arrive.  The waitresses are down to earth and friendly.  The waffles are sweet and the grits are perfectly creamy.  And at our table at least the consistency of service is matched by a consistency in conversation.

For years my mother has always kidded my dad and I on our waffle eating technique.  Waffle eating technique?  In answer to your question, yes there are multiple ways to eat a waffle.  My dad and I meticulously cut our waffle following the lines and squares and my mother inevitably points out how silly she thinks we are.  Its a sign of our very rigid type A minds, she says.  In return, we appropriately mock her free form slicing of the delicious waffle before her.  We laugh about how there is no way that the other person can enjoy eating their waffle quite as much when they are using the wrong technique!  [smile]

Caleb’s first visit with us to Waffle House was secretly a test to see where he would fall in the waffle eating spectrum.  Funnily enough seems like us type A’s are attracted to free form thinkers because Caleb eats his decidedly less meticulously than me and my dad and more like how my mom eats hers.  [smile]  I guess its kind of a silly thing to notice and even sillier to bring up in conversation regularly, but we do and I’m glad.  Watching how Caleb eats a waffle is a reminder that he brings something different to my life.  As clique as it is to say so his differences complete me.  I am so fortunate to get to laugh and cry and argue and agree through life together with him.

-Margaret

The 5 F’s and Aging

Fine Food Flavored with Fabulous Fellowship”

Yesterday we had the great privilege to enjoy each of our meals with both sets of my grandparents.  We lunched in Macon with my father’s parents, Mom and Pop, at their  retirement care village and dined in Broxton around the family table with Grammy and Granddaddy.  Both experiences of table fellowship were indeed a joy.  As always seems the case with meals with my grandparents our bodies and souls were nourished.   While sharing with us a story of some pastor he once worked with, Pop told us what this pastor always said was the recipe for a good meal:  “fine food flavored with fabulous fellowship.”  Our two meals could not have been any more different, but both were definitely good meals.

I feel so very blessed to have 4 living grandparents and even more blessed to have close relationships with each of them.  They are all now in their mid to late 80s and are aging.  From watching them age, I have learned that growing old is unique to each individual.  Sometimes aging is most evident in the physical changes to the body and other times it is apparent in the mind.  My Grammy is preparing for a knee replacement in the next few months.  Her walking and sitting have become painful, but that did not stop her from dancing in celebration of our wedding.  My Mom is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease.  Conversation with her is disjointed and difficult to follow.  Sometimes she may not remember completely who I am, but her smile shows that she remembers that she loves me.

Despite the individuality with which they are aging, each of my grandparents are teaching me how to grow old gracefully.  Their spirits of love and service to their community are still very much alive.  They are adapting to the changes they are encountering in their physical and mental faculties with the assurance that these do not in essence change who they are.  In fact they seem to grow more fully into their authentic self with every passing day.  They are teaching me that becoming fully Margaret will be a lifelong process of daily discovery and really the grandest adventure of them all.

-Margaret

Fiesta Night

Over the past two weeks almost every meal that I’ve planned has been built around some unused pantry item. I’m trying to use as much of our food up as possible before we move. The hassle of carting around pantry items from our apartment to my in-laws house then finally to our new parsonage is one I would like to avoid. [smile]

I’ve been really surprised at how many meals I’ve been able to come up with. Full disclosure– I am not a fan of stocking a pantry. [gasp… smile] Perhaps my imagination of your reaction to that is a bit over dramatic, but I think I’m probably in minority here. Most people I know seem to keep quite a bit of canned or boxed food on hand. I appreciate the convenience of having what you need on hand, but I’ve found that if I keep too much on hand inevitably one or more items never get used. Plus I really prefer to cook as many things as I can from scratch. Working with fresh veggies is my favorite!

Even though I try not to keep too much extra food around, I still have enough things like rice or canned veggies to build a couple of meals last week. One of my most successful eat as much from the pantry as possible nights was what I’ve decided to christen “Frazier Fiesta Night.” It was such a good meal that I’m already planning on recreating it when we move into “The Parsonage.” Caleb also gave it the husband’s seal of approval. I think it was the dessert that put it over the top! [smile] So without further ado the menu followed by recipes. Hope you feel inspired to celebrate a belated Cinco de Mayo with a fiesta night of your own!

So yummy!

So yummy!

Menu:
Mexican Rice (a la a boxed Rice-A- Roni mix and can of tomatoes from the pantry)
Spicy black beans (canned beans mixed with a can of Rotel both from the pantry)
Veggie Fajitas (recipe below)
Salsa, guacamole, chips and whole wheat tortillas
Dessert Nachos (picture above, recipe below)

Veggie Fajitas: 1 medium zucchini, 1/2 onion, 2 bell peppers (yellow or red recommended), 1 cup frozen broccoli and cauliflower, 1/2 cup fresh carrots, cumin, chili powder, 1 tbsp olive oil, and 2 cloves garlic smashed

Preheat oven to 450. Cut up the vegetables into long strips appropriate for fajita stuffing. [smile] Add vegetables, smashed garlic and olive oil to an oven safe dish. Mix to evenly coat vegetable with oil. Add cumin and chili powder about 2 or 3 teaspoons. I just eyed the distribution of the spices, but you could always add more later if needed. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the carrots are appropriately “soft crisp.” Serve with whole wheat tortillas and your favorite fajita toppings.

Dessert Nachos: 2 whole wheat tortillas, sugar, cinnamon, 1 tbsp butter melted, 1 1/2 cup fresh berries, 1 small lime, 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 2 tbsp half and half, whipped topping

Chop up your berries. I used raspberries and strawberries because I love eating them together! Add a teaspoon of sugar to the berries along with the juice of a small lime to make a sort of “salsa.” Set aside so flavors can get to know each other. Preheat oven to 350. Spread melted butter on tortillas then top with sugar and cinnamon to taste. Use a pizza cutter to slice tortillas into 6 or 8 “chips.” Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-12 minutes. Watch while baking to prevent burning. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. While waiting for the chips to cool, melt chocolate chips with half and half. You could do this in the microwave or on the stove top. If you choose the stove top, make sure you stir almost constantly so the chocolate doesn’t burn.

Now for assembly: Scatter chips on plate. Top with fruit salsa, melted chocolate and whipped cream. Enjoy.

(Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites.)
-Margaret

Haunted by Death

Death by Chocolate Waffles

Death by Chocolate Waffles

I am being haunted.  Followed around by the sweet memory of the most awesome dessert I think I have ever eaten.  Sinfully rich and yet delicately light these “Death by Chocolate Waffles” is to ‘die’ for.  [smile]  Last Saturday, Caleb and I ordered these perfect chocolate waffles topped with warm creamy Nutella at Tryst in Adams Morgan, DC.

I need the recipe.  Have any of you out there ever made a chocolate waffle?  I’ve seen recipes that use chocolate syrup and others that use cocoa.  If you have a recipe suggestion, please let me know.

-Margaret