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Dinner

Breaking Bread

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Breaking Bread

The dream I had for our back deck/porch/yard has always been to gather together with our family and friends and talk about God's word and our lives, laugh, break bread together, and play games! We have been working on our backyard for over a year now. Here we painted our deck (which sadly did NOT hold up in the Colorado weather elements). Here we laid sod, which sadly ended up frying towards the end of the summer (#renoprobz). We also decided to renovate our kitchen starting in May and much to my dismay our deck became the outdoor storage unit for our appliances and our contractor's tools and supplies. We had a dishwasher and stove among other renovation debris and tools on our deck for about 8 weeks. FINALLY, when our kitchen was nearing completion we were able to finish decorating our back deck and get some use out of it before the winter rolls in. I was afraid I would miss the precious summer time but as I am always reminded, God is faithful and I still had plenty of time to enjoy the backyard.

The day after our contractor finished up with the kitchen, I texted a group of girlfriends to see if they wanted to join me for an evening on the deck complete with yummy food and wine! I got a resounding "I am in!". During this party, my sweet friend (and also current ROOMIE! - more on that later) mentioned that she wanted me to teach her all my hosting ways for when she gets married soon. I had another friend comment to me about how it is hard to know how to host. This got me thinking. I love to host and it comes somewhat naturally to me but it isn't that hard and really everyone can do it! We all grew up with our parents showing us different skills and gifts. My mom, as well as, my dad and step-mom are all amazing hosts. My entire life, I have watched as they have thrown party after party and gathering after gathering. It is easily one of my favorite memories of growing up. Somewhere along the way, I picked up my own hosting style. A few tips I have learned through experience can go a long way for throwing an affordable gathering with a specific theme or style.

I am going to share with you how you can put together a girls evening at your house for less than $50 and not stress out in the process! I want to encourage you to invite others in to share in the hosting and use all the fun stuff you already have in your home that was a wedding present or a special purchase that we just don't use enough!

First - pick the night of the week that works for you invite girls over. I know that about 8 girls fit perfectly on my back deck. For me, I work a 9/80 schedule which means I have every other Friday off so I usually pick a Friday evening that I am already off to host my gathering! This automatically makes it less stressful for me.

Next, decide on the menu for the evening. I usually make the main meal and at least one side or appetizer. I will text the girls letting them know what I need help with. Do not hesitate to tell your girls specifically what to bring or just give them suggestions. Most of my friends love direction when it comes to contributing to one of these gatherings!  Sometimes I am as specific to say that I want someone to bring a cheese and cracker platter and sometimes I say "a side that goes with chicken". This allows people to make something they like but also lets them know what would be helpful! I love my girls, everyone is usually fighting over who gets to bring what and we always end up with SO MUCH FOOD! I love it.

My go to recipe for the meat is crock pot pork. I literally make this so much. It is affordable, easy, and Whole 30 approved!

I shop at my local Sprouts and pick up a 3.5-5.0 lbs of pork loin or pork shoulder (whichever they have that's on sale). I usually spend about $5-9 on the pork! That's it!!

The morning of the party, I put the pork in the crock pot. Then I add about two spoonfuls of garlic that is already chopped in the jar. Add some fresh oregano or other herbs from the garden (pick what you love but some suggestions are: Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, & Basil). Then I add some salt and pepper to taste and put about 1/2 cup of water (or wine if you prefer. P.S. cooking with wine is not Whole 30 approved.) for the juice. That is IT! Just put on low for 8 hours and it is completely ready for your evening! Crockpot recipes make it really easy when you get home from work. You can just focus on prepping the table or the space you are going to hang out in.

For this party, I also made some basmati rice with garlic and some cilantro. I then just rummaged through my pantry and fridge and threw in a bowl of fresh cherries, some pistachios, and a bowl of green olives. All things I already had that were going to go bad if they weren't eaten soon!

When I am the hostess, I usually provide a few bottles of wine for the evening. Nothing fancy, I literally go to Trader Joe's and get 3 buck Chuck or maybe one "special wine" that is $4. I know big spender. To cutesy things up - I just poor the red wine in a decanter (a wedding gift) and put cute wine stoppers in the white and pink wines! I let the girls know they can feel free to bring their beverage of choice, so again there is no stress! I always provide some lemon and rosemary infused water in a cute pitcher (another wedding present).

To make the dinner special and set the ambiance for the evening, I usually pick up one of the $3.99 bouquets at Trader Joe's the week of the party. I keep a stock pile of my wedding decor for various church events and events at my home, so I will usually pull out a few lanterns and candles to set the table. Here is where it gets really fun... You know all that china, fancy cups, platters, and other STUFF you got for your wedding? Yeah, get all that stuff out! It is time to use it. I have been using Ben's grandmother's beautiful blue glasses, my grandmother's weeping willow dishes, and all the platters, pitchers, etc. that I have for these parties! It is so fun. At first all the girls were like, "wow! Where is all this from?" and I was able to tell them that it was basically all gifts and hand me downs and it was time to just use all the fancy stuff! This makes them feel very special and just makes the evening so much fun! You totally don't have to do this but for me, it is just really special to actually get to use all my serving ware. Finally, I pulled out the real napkins that my mom gifted me for Easter. Yep, that's right, real napkins. Don't be scared of the clean up, just throw them in the washer at the end of the night! These are from Target and are really cute!

If you can't tell already, I LOVE blue. Everything matches because, well, I buy everything in shades of blue and grey. Haha

This time together with friends was so sweet. I cherish these nights. I love encouraging the other women that they too can throw a dinner, that isn't overly expensive, isn't over the top but fosters an environment where others feel special and cherished! As you can see above, we had everything from pork to pizza rolls, to a cheese and fruit tray, to fresh cherries & veggies. We didn't have fancy Hors d'oeuvres. These nights are about being present in the moment. As a hostess, you can't lose sight of the point of the evening and you need to enjoy the friends you have over. Once I get the table set, I usually just sit down and focus on being present, I don't run around the whole time or let myself get stressed out. I just know that I don't have to control everything and it doesn't have to be perfect. I usually have at least one friend who brings their dog over to play with Trigger. We listen to country music or our favorite worship songs, sit under the market cafe lights, enjoy the amazing weather that Denver offers in the summer, and talk about life, marriage, our jobs, our ministries, and what we are learning about who Christ is. One of my favorite parts is towards the middle of the evening I usually prompt the girls to share what they are learning in God's word, what this season of life is teaching them, or how they are being stretched. I am always so encouraged during this time. I am beyond thankful for a community of women that are on mission in this city and are loving others with their time, their words, and their hearts. 

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We had such a wonderful time that I planned another evening just two weeks later. We changed up the menu but again it turned out to be such a precious time with these girls. As I swept the leaves on our deck last week, I was reminded of the changing season and I am so thankful I had these special evenings under the stars with my precious friends!

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Trigger and Abe were totally infatuated with all the food droppings they got! They were not happy to be temporarily locked inside.

Happy gathering -

 

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Lemon + Gorgonzola Pasta with Seared Scallops

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Lemon + Gorgonzola Pasta with Seared Scallops

My husband and I have been dreaming about a scallop pasta lately. We don't know why but it just sounded delicious. We planned all week that I would cook one for us on Friday evening before our Surge Orientation. (More on that soon!) I did some Pinterest-ing and found one that I wanted to try! As usual - I made some substitutes for convenience. For one - the original recipe called for ricotta cheese but our grocery store was out of it (so weird right?) and I had two full containers of Gorgonzola cheese in the fridge.

Lemon + Gorgonzola Pasta with Seared Scallops

Adapted from this recipe.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of angel hair pasta
  • 3/4 lb of fresh scallops
  • 5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice or more to taste
  • 1/2 a bushel of asparagus
  • 1 container of Gorgonzola cheese
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Rinse scallops and pat dry. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over high heat in a skillet until foamy.

 
Scallops
 

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on high heat. Chop the asparagus into small pieces (about 1 inch in length). Cook the asparagus in the pan until tender. 

 
Asparagus
 

3. Cook the pasta per the package directions until al dente. Angel hair pasta only takes about 4 minutes once the water is boiling.

4. While the pasta is cooking, place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer. Cook the scallops, turning once, until brown on outside and just opaque in center, which is about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside.

 
Cooking Scallops
 

5. Drain the pasta and return to the pot over low heat. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of butter, and the cooked asparagus. Toss to coat, then season with salt and lots of pepper. Add the Gorgonzola cheese and mix gently until pasta is coated evenly.

6. To serve, divide the pasta between the bowls and add scallops.

 
Pasta with Seared Scallops
 

Smell ya later -

Chelsea
 

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PF Changs Chicken Lettuce Wraps

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PF Changs Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Hey fellow foodies -

PF Changs is famous for their Chicken Lettuce Wraps. Everyone always talks about the chicken lettuce wraps anytime PF Changs is mentioned. Since 3 of my 4 siblings worked there, I am extra fond of these! I found this really simple and quick recipe to make these in your very own kitchen! Now normally - I will substitute complicated or unique ingredients for other things that I already have in my cupboard but in this recipe it is very important to get the right sauces so that it tastes just right! You can find all of the ingredients below at your neighborhood grocery story and thankfully it doesn't require a special trip to a Chinese or International grocery store. Not that Chinese or International grocery stores are bad - I just know it takes a lot more effort to find and go to one of these little gems!

PF Changs Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Adapted from this recipe.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 pound of ground chicken
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of Sriracha, or more depending on how spicy you want it
  • 1 can (8 oz) of whole water chestnuts, drained & diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 head of butter lettuce

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add ground chicken and cook until browned, approximately 3-5 minutes. Crumble the chicken as it cooks and then drain the excess fat.
  3. Stir in garlic, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and Sriracha for approximately 1-2 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of the butter lettuce leaf.
 
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
 

Happy cookin' -

Chelsea
 

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Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

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Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Hola mis amigos -

It has been a while since I have shared a recipe with you! It is not for the lack of cooking but rather for the lack of time to talk about my cooking (& remembering what I actually did!). I rarely follow a recipe exactly because I always add my own flare based on Ben & I's preferences, or rather mostly MY preferences! haha Ben is the least picky eater I have ever met in my life. He only hates olives - which makes no sense to me?  Anyways - This recipe is an adaption of my sweet friend Christi's recipe! She recently made this for us on the Baldock GC Mountain Retreat Weekend {you will see more about this soon on a future post!) and it was a huge hit with everyone!! Ben and I just added a few vegetables that we really love & as Christi says, this recipe is totally adaptable. Feel free to add what you love to it or take anything away that you are not crazy about. The world is your oyster!

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Prep Time: 15-20 min

Cook Time: 30-40 min

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 package of sausage (We used turkey Polska Kielbasa sausage!)
  • 1 package of basmati rice (We are obsessed with basmati!!! We absolutely love it, the flavors are amazing.)
  • 3-4 yellow squash
  • 1 package of mushrooms
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 can of chicken broth
  • Tony's Creole Seasoning

Directions:

  • Start by cooking the basmati rice according to the package instructions in a LARGE pot (This can be the pot you use later on to mix everything together.). Note: Most basmati rice requires that you rinse it until the water runs clear, this takes a few minutes so I recommend starting with this step first. Usually it takes about 15-20 minutes to cook the rice. Our package recommended adding butter, so of course we did! It was delicious so I highly recommend it.
  • While the rice is cooking, chop all of your vegetables into bite sized pieces. Saute the vegetables in a skillet over medium heat in olive oil until tender.
  • While the rice & vegetables are cooking, cut up the sausage and put into a skillet over medium heat in olive oil until lightly browned & crispy.
  • While the rice, vegetables, & sausage are cooking, pick off all of the rotisserie chicken off the bones and put into a bowl. Save the chicken broth for future use.
  • When the rice, vegetables, & sausage are done and all the chicken is picked off - put all ingredients into the LARGE pot with the rice and stir together. Add the chicken broth from the rotisserie chicken, as well as, chicken broth from the can as needed until it is a smooth texture. This all just depends on your mixture of how much you will need.
  • Add Tony's creole seasoning to your liking and it is ready to serve!

This is seriously one of the easiest & most delicious semi-homemade meals I have had in a long time. We are hooked. Ben said he was going to eat it every single night this week while I am out of town for work! 

 
Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya
 

Happy cookin' y'all -

Chelsea
 

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Pecan Lodge

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Pecan Lodge

This week I am back in Dallas for work and Tareen, one of my coworkers, is a fellow foodie and is always taking me on a tour of the latest and greatest in Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum is the hub of trendiness in Dallas featuring great venues for music, the coolest new restaurants, and quirky, fun art galleries. She has told me many times about Pecan Lodge, a Dallas-famous barbecue spot that was notorious for long lines at the Dallas Farmers Market. One of our other coworkers enticed us with pictures of their food last week so we put it on the slate to try. In our client's auditorium they just so happened to be serving barbecue today, so after being hit with the enticing smells and hearing our stomach growls we knew exactly where we were going to go.

Upon arrival, we were giddy with excitement about this place's potential after seeing the Texan and rustic outside patio area with twinkle lights and picnic tables. I am a total sucker for twinkle lights, there is just something about them that completely sets a specific type of ambiance for me. See twinkly perfection below:

 
Pecan Lodge Patio
 

We were caught off guard when we entered the restaurant at 12:45 pm and noticed the 40-50 person long line to order! The bartender then walked up to us and asked if we wanted to sit at the bar and order food from up there. Score - he just earned himself a big tip for that one! 

Upon reading the menu - I decided on The Hot Mess and a side of mac & cheese. I won't waste my breath trying to describe this for you, I will just let you see for yourself:

The Hot Mess
The Hot Mess & Mac and Cheese

This place was definitely delicious and lived up to the hype. The atmosphere was great, everyone was so nice, the food was unique and fresh, and after hearing their story I love it even more! If you are curious about the inspiring story behind the couple that quit their day jobs and risked everything to pursue their passion of mesquite grilling, read this article by D magazine. They hit it big time when they were seen all over the Texas lists of best barbecue and were even featured on the popular show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. When they were faced with the closure of Shed 2, part of the Dallas Farmers Market, they were in tears over what their future held for them, but in true fashion they had no idea what lay ahead for them. D Magazine always does a fabulous job capturing the true essence behind the story and shares very real and even emotional sides that most people don't know. It is also so wonderful to see two people share their hearts and struggles so publicly.  You will fall in love with Justin & Diane's story just like I did!

If you want to visit the Pecan Lodge yourself, here is their website.

Hope you dream of Deep Ellum and The Hot Mess tonight -

Chelsea
 

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