Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the best mashed potatoes ever

So, after I made my Chickpea Potato Curry, I had a lot of left over potatoes, and decided I needed to use them before they went bad. I found a recipe on Campbell's website for Ultra Creamy Mashed Potatoes and then searched through my cookbooks for something good to go along with it and found a Cajun Chicken with Corn Salsa recipe. I decided to forgo the corn salsa, since I don't like corn, and make the chicken with the mashed potatoes as a side. Let me just say that these are the best mashed potatoes ever. Seriously. Sarah's reaction was "whoa!" and Chelsea couldn't stop eating them. They were pretty amazing. I did a few things of my own, so keep an eye out for alterations. The chicken was good too and easy, which was good since mashed potatoes from scratch take a little longer than instant, but it does help to have a potato peeler (much quicker than trying to use a knife)!

Cajun Chicken:

1. Super easy! Just cover it with cajun seasoning. I used Tony Chachere's. Be careful if you can't handle spicy.
2. The recipe book that I have said to grill it, but since I have no idea how to grill and pretty sure Chelsea would kill me for using hers, and didn't want to take the time to mess with a charcoal grill even if I did know how to use it, I just cooked it in a pan with a little bit of olive oil.
3. That's it for the chicken. Like I said, super easy!

Mashed Potatoes (be careful because these are going to change your life!)

3 & 1/2 cups of swanson chicken broth
5 large potatoes cut into 1-in. pieces (I used gold/yellow potatoes because that's what I had left over. Since they are kinda small I ended up using 7 instead of 5).
1/2 cup of light cream (HEB didn't have light so I just used heavy, which might have been why they were so great)
2 tbsp butter
black pepper (however much you want)

1. Heat the broth and potatoes in a 3 qt. saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil. I also added two cloves of garlic and added some seasoned salt while it was heating up/cooking.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and cover for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain, reserving the broth.
3. Mash (and I'm one of those people who doesn't like lumps in my mashed potatoes so I used an electric mixer) the potatoes (garlic and all) with 1/4 cup broth, cream, butter and pepper (and whatever spices you may want to add). Add additional broth if needed, until desired consistency.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sesame Coated Tuna with Cilantro Salsa

I just have to say this wasn't the favorite thing that I've cooked. It wasn't bad, but it was really just ok. It was really lacking flavor. The recipe didn't say to put any spices on it and I didn't think to put any on before I rolled the tuna in the sesame seeds. It was ok, but again not my favorite. Also, I decided that it would be much easier to just buy pico de gallo from HEB instead of making it myself because it's pretty much the same concept but easier and probably better. So here is the recipe and pictures :)

Sesame-coated tuna with cilantro salsa:

4 tuna steaks (I just did 2 because turns out these are a little pricey...)
3/4 cup sesame seeds
3 handfuls baby arugula leaves (I left these out and used spinach instead)

Cilantro salsa:
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying
1 tbsp. lime juice

Cut each tuna steak into three pieces. Place the sesame seeds on a sheet of baking paper. Roll the tuna in the sesame seeds to coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

To make the salsa, place the garlic tomatoes, cilantro, oil, and lime juice in a bowl and mix together well. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Fill a heavy-bottomed frying pan to 1/2 in. (I didn't use that much) with the extra olive oil and place over high heat. (Be very careful, oil fights back and it got me on my eye-lid. Talk about painful.) Add the tuna in two patches and cook for 2 minutes each side (it should be pink in the center). Remove and drain on paper towels. To serve divide the arugula (or spinach in this case) among four serving plates and arrange the tuna over the top. Spoon the salsa on the side and serve immediately.

finished product

cilantro salsa

sesame coated tuna

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to School

Yup, it's time. Time to stop watching all of those SVU marathons and get back to work. Papers, tests and class here I come. So far I have two days of my last semester under my belt and it's looking good (and busy). Here's what has happened thus far. First, we got a dog. Really Sarah got the dog, but I'm just as excited about it. We don't know what kind he is, but he's super cute!

His name is Johann (pronounced the German way - like the musician) and we call him Jojo for short. It's been very entertaining watching him try and eat his tail and listen to Sarah practice her "happy voice."

Next, which actually occurred first, was the first Freedom of the semester. It was great to see friends and here about their Christmas break. I'm glad to be back sitting at the Chivvis's discussion table. They do a great job of facilitating discussion and ask questions that really make you think about what you're learning. I am very thankful for them :)

Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and still no school so I made a quick trip down to Houston to see my old youth pastor and family. They recently just moved up there for a new job so I got to see their new house and their boys, etc. It was great getting to catch up with Stephani and talk about their "new life" and getting ready for life after graduation. And we ate Chik-fil-A, which is always great :)

Ok, Tuesday is here, and it's the first day of classes. But first this day starts off with an attempt to run 20 miles. Since October I've been training for the Austin marathon so I didn't just decide to run 20 miles, I've been working myself up to this. I woke up at 4:30 and ate a lot and drank a lot of water to prepare. Then 5:25 I walk outside and it's hot and humid! Seriously! But I continue to psych myself up for this and head to the park to meet my running partner. We stretch and start off on our first loop. After 5 miles we get back to our water and are dying (when I came home and checked it was 90% humidity - sick!). My legs were not tired at all (I've already done 18 so it wasn't supposed to be too bad), but neither of us could breathe. We decided to call it quits and do it on Saturday when normal people do long runs and I headed home. Then (after a quick nap) I started getting ready for class and headed out. I'm taking 3 political science classes this semester and one last semester of Chinese.

So far my classes look like they'll be pretty interesting. I am going to be writing a lot of papers this semester, so that's exciting (note the sarcasm) but I don't have many tests so I guess they offset each other. Three out of four of my professors threatened to do everything they could to get us kicked out of the University for plagiarism, so that was pretty intense, and I had my first substitute professor in college. All of my classes seem like they'll all be pretty interesting which is a plus and I'm only taking 12 hours so it shouldn't be too bad. I am also thinking of taking a salsa dancing class at the rec. I already know how to do basic stuff, but I think it would fun and I have free time. The only problem is that it's during The Office so we'll have to make a decision on which I want more, to salsa or watch The Office. I have also picked up swimming (for my off days from running). I decided today that I really enjoy it. Maybe it's because I'm kind of tired of running, but I love it.

So that's been the last couple of days. School has begun, and I should actually be reading right now instead of blogging so off I go to get started on being productive.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Procrastination and an Almond Bar

(a poem Jessica wrote about me while we sat and studied at Starbucks)

Procrastination and an Almond Bar

Blond, bobbed hair tied back to meet the headband,
Her Comal River eyes scan the margins
Of theories meant to teach her the wisdom
Of leaders and researchers who made stout
Decisions so others do not have to.

Blond, bobbed hair tied back to meet the headband,
Will she know what she needs to be proper And ...
Read More adequate for her before work class?
She is attracted to the thought of a Tedious Game of solitaire which seems
To be the default for retaining facts.

Will she buy the toffee almond bar that so eloquently sits by the lowfat blueberry muffin that is priced just right?
Almost guaranteed if she still has work.

-Jessica VS

(where it all began)

Tilapia with Mango Salsa

So I forgot to take pictures (sorry in advance). It was great. 2nd time was just as good as the first, but not as much food this time. Here is there recipe, but keep looking because I changed up some things that made it much easier, so if you're in a hurry and don't have time to make the salsa and marinade yourself it will be quicker.

Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa


· 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

· 1 tablespoon lemon juice

· 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

· 1 clove garlic, minced

· 1 teaspoon dried basil

· 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

· 1/2 teaspoon salt

· 2 (6 ounce) tilapia fillets


· 1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced

· 1/2 red bell pepper, diced

· 2 tablespoons minced red onion

· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

· 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

· 2 tablespoons lime juice

· 1 tablespoon lemon juice

· salt and pepper to taste


1. Whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, parsley, garlic, basil, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl and pour into a resealable plastic bag. Add the tilapia fillets, coat with the marinade, squeeze out excess air, and seal the bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

2. Prepare the mango salsa by combining the mango, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper in a bowl. Add the lime juice and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat, and lightly oil grate.

4. Remove the tilapia from the marinade, and shake off excess. Discard the remaining marinade. Grill the fillets until the fish is no longer translucent in the center, and flakes easily with a fork, 3 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the fillets. Serve the tilapia topped with mango salsa.

So here's what I did differently.

1. I didn't make my own marinade. I just bought a lemon pepper marinade from HEB. I marinated it for about 2 hours. I also just used Mrs. Dash Table Blend spice to add some more flavor.

2. I also didn't make my own salsa (so basically I didn't really do anything to make this except cook it).

3. I also didn't grill it. We have a grill but I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to that kind of stuff. What I did was I cook it in a pan (I just sprayed some off brand Pam to keep it from sticking). Then after it was done cooking I threw the salsa in to let it simmer for a while while I cooked some green beans (which were great). I just sautéed them in some olive oil and some butter and threw some garlic powder, seasoned salt, tony sacheries and added some Louisiana hot sauce so it would be spicy. I really liked it and it was quick and easy so I'll definitely make it again.

back to the fashionista lifestyle

I love dressing up. I used to dress up a lot when I was in high school but the last three years while I've been in college I've been slackin'. At the beginning of the semester I decided that I would dress up more often because all of my classes were at the Bush School and I couldn't look like I just rolled out of bed because everyone is all dressed up (and it all paid off when I ran into Barbara Bush). But this semester I decided to kick it up a notch, so this past Sunday this was the result:

Julie told me that I should blog about everything I'm wearing in this outfit, since it's so great, so here it goes.
Shirt: Gap (I bought it a while ago but there still have the classic white button-up) - $44.00
Skirt: Forever 21 - $13.80
Necklace: Forever 21 (couldn't find it online) ~$5
Tights: Walmart ~ $4.00
Shoes: Payless (thanks to my sister for the gift card!) - $17.99

So there you go. Hopefully more to come :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I love Angela!

She's awesome and loves Jesus and China, so we're close, and I'm very sad she is not going to come over this semester...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

“This trip is all about having fun…”

I have spent the last couple of days in Dallas for a leadership retreat for the student leaders at my church. It was such a great couple of days filled with a lot of learning and fun :) Here are some key points of the last 3 days.

1. George Jacobus is a crazy driver.

2. Afshin Ziafat is awesome. He has such a great testimony of how God has saved him and is an excellent teacher. I have left this retreat feeling very encouraged.

3. Aubrey Malphurs is a guru on leadership and I’m glad all of the notes are online because I couldn’t keep up.

4. We got to go on a private tour of the Dallas Cowboys stadium. You could place the Statue of Liberty on the star on the 50 yard line, close the roof of the stadium, and she would fit inside.

5. I love the people I serve with (I already knew this but still wanted to mention it). I have such great friends who I know I can depend on for prayer, laughter and tears when needed.

6. I have a new Logos partner and he and I did a great job telling the other leaders where babies come from and why God created men before women.

7. Shane and Shane are awesome! (again already knew this). I love how their concerts are not really concerts at all but a time of worship. They have such a gift and I am thankful for their passion for the Lord.

8. Great Wolf Lodge is super intense. This is not just a hotel. It has a spa, arcade as well as an indoor water park. Unfortunately they also had really hard pillows which gave me a major crick in my neck :(

9. I really missed Liz Kilpatrick. She gives the best hugs and a whole month without her was very sad.

10. Julie and my new life goal is to become Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Just call me Betty Crocker (or Paula Dean; either is fine)

Yes, that is the title of my blog. Here’s why. So as I posted in my last blog, two of my New Year’s resolutions are: 1) to eat out less and cook more, and 2) to blog more often. In order to accomplish this whole blogging thing, I needed an idea, and in order to eat out less, I needed a reason (other than the fact that my bank account would really appreciate it). So I stole the concept of Julie and Julia and decided to combine these two resolutions into one. Now, not all of my blog is going to be about my cooking, but I feel like this is an easy and fun way to help me keep up with these two things. So my goal is to, once a week, cook something new and blog about it (i.e. how I made it, how it was, etc.)!

So tonight, I went to the store, bought everything I needed, and embarked on my new assignment. It was a great success (hence the title). Julie came over to test it out and gave it two thumbs up. I was very surprised that it came out so well since it was something I’ve never done before, and I have a ton of leftovers. Here’s what I made:

Chickpea Potato Curry Recipe


2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
Two 15-ounce cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

One 14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted or stewed tomatoes with chiles (See Muir Glenhttp://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=elisecom&l=as2&o=1&a=B000LKVH8S. If you can't find canned tomatoes with chiles you can add half a 4-ounce can of diced green anaheim chiles to a 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes.)

6 baby (new) Yukon Gold potatoes (about 12 ounces), quartered

1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1-2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1 In a large pot, combine the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, butter, ginger, 1 teaspoon of salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Stir to mix and nestle the potatoes into the liquid.

2 Set the pot, uncovered, over medium heat. Simmer vigorously for about 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add more salt to taste. Serve the curry in bowls over Jasmine rice.

It was great. I was inspired by the Indian food that Julie, Erin and I ate last week, and thankfully this was less spicy and I was able to eat it without it bringing me to tears or dying for more water. It was absolutely perfect and very easy. It took me about 10-15 minutes to prepare everything so it was super fast and convenient for a busy college student. So if you’re looking for a new recipe, this one is a good one.

New Year's Resolutions

So here it goes. There are several things that I have resolved to do in this year. Some are frivolous, but there are some more serious things that I want out of this year. More and more I realize how important it is to take a look at the previous year and do an inventory of how things went, and make serious, realistic goals on how to change where needed.


“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

This verse says it well. As a Christian, I am called to be more like Christ. Every day I am to choose death to my old self, ways and habits, and practice holiness. God has been teaching me a lot this past year and looking back at 2009, there are some things that need to change. I’m excited! I know what God has convicted me to work on, and I think that writing it out makes it more real, will help me be mindful of what I need to work on, and keep me accountable to what I’ve committed to (especially with all my friend reading it and helping me out in this – thanks guys!).

So, here is a list of my resolutions (in no particular order):

1. To be more disciplined. This one is hard, because it’s pretty abstract, and encompasses many aspects of my life. Over this past year I’ve learned a lot about being disciplined, and the importance of it, but have failed to put it into practice. Whether it comes to spending time in the Word, or in prayer, even to the less spiritual side of my life like what I eat and school (and not hitting the snooze button for an hour every morning), I have not tried very hard to be disciplined. I think it really hit me when I was watching my weekly SVU marathon on a Tuesday. What was I doing? I would come home from class and watch SVU all day until I went to my late class and then Logos. Not that watching SVU is bad, but a whole day of it is just a complete waste of time. Then recently, while I was out running, I realized just how intertwined not being disciplined in one area leads to a lack of discipline in another area. Now I’ve realized this before over a year ago, but all of the steps I took to be more disciplined in one area of my life were all a self effort and it didn’t last long. This attempting to transform myself on my own was futile, but still it is one of my resolutions to be more disciplined this year. It’s a difficult balance, because at first I was trying the “do it yourself” method which failed miserably, then I fell into the “not actively doing anything to change” method, which also failed miserably. There is, thankfully, a solution, and Richard Foster in The Spiritual Disciplines (good book, read it!!) puts it well:

“If all human strivings end in moral bankruptcy (and having tried it, we know it is), so if righteousness is a gracious gift from God (as the Bible clearly states), then is it not logical to conclude that we must wait for God to come and transform us? Strangely enough, the answer is no. The analysis is correct – human striving is insufficient and righteousness is a gift from God – but the conclusion is faulty. Happily there is something we can do. We do not need to be hung on the horns of the dilemma or either human works or idleness. God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”

So that’s number one. I said they were in no particular order, and the rest of them aren’t, but I feel like this is my most important one. As I stated earlier, as a Christian I am always going through the process of sanctification, to be more like Christ. In my life right now this is something that God has really convicted me of and I believe is currently the biggest hindrance in becoming more like Him. I know this is pretty abstract, and I do have specific goals, but resolution #1 is getting pretty long.
Play the piano once a week (at least, since I’m taking less hours hopefully I’ll be able to more often).
Cook more often and eat out less (more about this to come in a future blog – get excited!)
“Wherever you are, be fully there.” (This can somewhat be wrapped into #1, but I felt like it should be a resolution of its own.) A very wise woman (and probably one of the coolest people I know) told me this while I was in China this summer. I have a really hard time living in the present. A lot of the time I find my mind wondering off to thinking about the future, and sometimes about the past, and not being where I currently am. Right now I am still a student at Texas A&M and have one more semester to go. I find it hard to stay here. Whether it’s worrying about the next step in my life (or even the next 10 steps after that) or imagining how I want a situation to turn out, or dwelling on how I would have done something differently etc., I don’t do a good job of being where I am. This has been a struggle for years and more and more I see how this affects my life and how desperately I need to change. This past year I have learned a lot about trusting God. I have always been one to try and plan my life 10 years in advance. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen and a lot of this comes out of a lack of trust in God and knowing that He already knows what’s next and is working everything out for my good. I am learning. Romans 8:28 has been an important verse in my life this year. I have realized I can’t control everything but God does, and that’s comforting. And honestly it’s a little more exciting not knowing what’s coming. Before I came to college I never would have thought I would be working on moving to China after I graduate, or that I would have even gone there (three times!). If I planned my own way through life I would be graduating with a degree in business of some sort, and be going to law school to become the next Jack McCoy (I know I’m obsessed with Law & Order). God truly does know me better than I know myself, and knew that 3 years of memorizing cases wouldn’t have been my favorite past time and that being engulfed in a new and different culture that has won my heart would be a much better fit for me. As I said, I’ve learned a lot about trusting God this past year, and I know that all of my worries about the future come out of a lack of trust. I have also seen how much time I waste worrying about controlling what I can’t. I’ve come a long way for sure, but still have much to work on and God is still teaching me. I have a purpose in being where I am right now, and I need to use this time well while I have it. In order to do that, and for God to really be able to use me in the here and now, I need to stop living in the future (or in the past) and trust Him.
Blog more often J Right now I’m at three posts this year (and in one week I might add) which is already more than last year. I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job at this one so far.
Take more artsy photos J
Read more (for fun, not necessarily for school, although that probably would hurt my GPR). This also includes reading through the New Testament in a year. My church Central Baptist is doing a really cool thing this year where we all read through the NT. Last year we read through the whole Bible, but this year we’re doing it a little different. We also have been given the assignment of journaling (YES! Homework I like). With each passage we read we are to journal about 3 things.
a) What the passage tells us about prayer (i.e. how to pray, what to pray for and what not to pray for).
b) How the passage reveals that we are significant in God’s plan.
c) What the passage says about God’s love for us
I’ve been very blessed to be at this church, and to have a pastor who does a great job of sheparding his congregation and I am thankful that he has commissioned our church to do this together, and excited about learning (I wish I could say that about POLS 359…).
Do something once a month I’ve never done before.
Have a rock solid 6-pack with Julie Millsap thanks to http://twohundredsitups.com/index.html

So that seems like an extensive list, but I feel like I did a good job of encompassing fun things with that I really do need to work on. So those are my resolutions. I’m excited for 2010. This is the first time I’ve really made a resolution list, at least one that I’m committed to, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a good year of growing and changing. As for the fun things, those are easy to take care of on my own. For the more serious/spiritual aspect of my resolution, I’m excited to see how God is going to change me to be more like Him and how He is going to use me through that to share His good news to those around me.