Monday, December 30, 2013

favorite good-for-you meals

I'm sure some of us have made a list of things we'd like to improve upon in the new year. No doubt one of the things on the list is to start eating better. I've noticed that my body feels better and I have a lot more energy when I eat right, and I've done pretty well in the last year. You will find a VERY healthy dose of sweets here on my blog, but I try really hard to balance all that out with meals that are good for my body. Below you'll find a list of the recipes I loved in 2013, and it's my plan to feature some of these delicious recipes (and how I tweak them to my taste) on the blog this coming year. Now if I could just start drinking more water….

First up, breakfast tacos from shutterbean. Charred mini tortillas stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, green onions, tangy sharp white cheddar, spicy Tobacco sauce, and creamy avocado. I seriously can't get enough of these tacos. They are perfect for breakfast and keep me full all morning. Plus, avocado in anything always makes me a huge fan.

Another one of my favorite breakfasts! A quinoa-berry breakfast bowl from Camille Styles. Quinoa has replaced oatmeal for me as far as hot cereal is concerned. This recipe is sweet and satisfying, but really versatile since you can add whichever toppings you want. 

This, my internet friends, is a blueberry cheesecake protein shake from Dashing Dish. I love these as a snack after work or after going to the gym, but they would also be great as a breakfast option. Katie over at Dashing Dish has some really delicious protein shake recipes, but this one by far is my absolute favorite. 

Moving along to lunch, this autumn cobb salad from Yes, I want cake, is one of my favorite lunches. The recipe uses arugula as the base for the salad, but I love this with butter lettuce (which is easier for me to find). It's got some well balanced flavors including a sweet honeycrisp apple, toasted pecans, and a smoky dressing. I usually make this salad on Sunday night and store them in mason jars for the remainder of the week. Mix your dressing in a separate container and dress your salad at work so everything stays crunchy. 

When I discovered this protein-packed egg salad recipe from Dashing Dish I had never tried egg salad and I was really skeptical. However, this egg salad is quite possibly my favorite lunch option. It truly keeps me satisfied until dinner and it's SO delicious. The recipe uses 2 egg whites, and a whole egg, tangy greek yogurt (which is the most delicious and genius addition EVER), whole grain mustard, and bacon. That's right people….B A C O N. Toast yourself some whole grain bread to eat this with and be transported to healthy lunch heaven. It's so yummy it totally deserves the over dramatic description. 

Yes, that is creamy mac and cheese as a healthy lunch option! Know what's even better? It's a slow cooker recipe! So, you throw all the ingredients into your crock pot the night before and dish out a nice serving into a microwave safe container to take with you to work. Nailed it! This recipe is also from Katie at Dashing Dish - she loves Jesus and you can tell she has such a sweet spirit from just reading her words. I'd like to be real life friends with her. 

Baked whole wheat chicken nuggets from Simply Scratch. When I saw these I immediately ran to the kitchen to make them. Unfortunately, all I had on hand was a frozen salmon fillet and some rice krispies so these didn't happen. These would be perfect for a week-night dinner. Do it!

Behold, the beginning of stuffed foods for dinner! Apparently, in 2013 I stuffed my face with a lot of stuffed foods. Fantastic. First up (that's a lot of words that start with 'f'), broccoli-cheese stuffed sweet potatoes. Now, before you get all offended that I'm adding a cheese-sauce smothered vegetable to my healthy foods list, let me explain. This cheese-sauce is also healthy because it's a white bean puree with a little bit of yummy cheese and some water to make it the right delicious, creamy consistency. Of course, you don't HAVE to make the cheese sauce this way, but if you're weirded out, believe me, it's delicious. Tangy cheese sauce, with the bite of broccoli, in the creamy sweet potato is perfect. Ugh. So good!

Need a quick, delicious weeknight dinner? I suggest these buffalo chicken stuffed peppers from Dashing Dish (I know, I just love her food!) These are pretty self explanatory, and if the title didn't make your mouth water, you need to get that checked out immediately. So yum, and Katie provides both a stovetop method and a crockpot method. Crock pots for the win!

I'm pretty sure I ate these chicken fajita rice bowls from Simply Scratch every night in March and April. And, this is my favorite meal of all time. Get ready because these are layered with flavors and it makes A LOT. Start your bowl with cilantro-lime rice (substitute brown rice for an even healthier dinner), add sautéed onions and peppers, then add grilled corn, and a healthy serving of grilled marinated chicken. Finish with chopped avocado and light sour cream or greek yogurt. Eat it for dayssss and then make more. 

One last stop on the stuffed foods for dinner train! I present the philly cheesesteak baked potato from skinny taste. Steak, peppers, onions, and mushrooms get sautéed in olive (or coconut) oil. Place that yummy concoction on a crispy-skinned baked potato, and broil a thin slice of provolone cheese over the top. Think this is decadent? Nope…only 390 calories per potato. Yummy and good for you!

I'm finishing this list with one of my favorite sides: roasted marinated broccoli from simply scratch. I like this recipe so much that I will often eat it for dinner all by itself, but it's really good with fish or chicken…or anything really. Marinate two heads of broccoli in oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, whole-grain mustard, and salt and pepper. Roast until the broccoli is tender with a little bit of a bite, and you've got yourself a fantastic side dish. I usually add red pepper flake or chipotle pepper to mixture to give it a little smoky kick. 

Just so you know. I started craving the egg salad while writing about it. So, I started my eggs while I wrote the rest of this post. While I was up, I realized I hadn't eaten all day and thought it would be good to eat half a bag of lay's potato chips while my healthy dinner was being made. What a weirdo. 

**These photos aren't mine - please see the original posts that I have linked for the recipes. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

burdened with a glorious purpose.

"Burdened with glorious purpose." I saw those words written on a t-shirt and they resounded in my heart. Thinking about it now, that's a little weird, but I'll take inspiration in any form I can get it.

That phrase really sums up where I am in life. The majority of the time I'm confident that I really was made for a glorious purpose. That all I've walked through the last 8 years has been for a purpose other than to make me feel like I'm slowly losing my mind. Really, in the scheme of life, I haven't really dealt with anything major. I am healthy, I have a job, I have a family who really has become a solid place for me, I'm blessed with friendships, and I'm able to provide a roof over my own head and food for my own belly. In the scheme of life people deal with much larger issues than any I've ever had to face.

I guess my burden comes from one simple place: I am altogether unhappy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. I know I was made for more, but I have no way of getting from where I am to where I know I am meant to be. Maybe that's how King David felt when he was waiting for his time to come? I imagine David watching Saul make bad decisions, having to run for his life, and knowing that the kingly duties were really his inheritance was very frustrating. I imagine all of that was a very heavy burden to bear. I wonder if David, after a long day of running for his life, ever laid down to rest at the end of the day and begged God to release him from his promise? If he ever doubted the prophet that anointed him King? David didn't know the end of his story so I wonder if he ever looked at all that he had to overcome and just wanted out? Just wanted a normal life? Did he ever just pray that God would allow him to go back to tending sheep? Speaking as one who is full of doubt, who is weary of fighting, who looks at her situation thinking it can't be overcome, I hope he did. I hope that I'm not alone in that because my heart at this moment just wants to be released from the promise. My heart doesn't see an end to crying myself to sleep, doubting why I'm doing what I'm doing, seeing a young family and aching for something I'm afraid I will never have. The purpose could be glorious, but I don't know if I'm strong enough to carry the burden. Maybe I just want to go back to tending my sheep. Maybe I just want to live a normal life. Maybe I'm not strong enough to be glorious?

A few days ago, the Lord dropped this phrase in my heart as I was driving home: "behold, an open door stands before you." I knew it was a verse, but I didn't know the rest. I looked it up when I got home, and it's Revelation 3:8. In The Voice translation it says this, “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door, which no one can shut. I have done this because you have limited strength, yet you have obeyed My word and have not denied My name." At the time I wasn't struggling as much as I am in this moment, but God knew that not 2 hours later I would need something because my heart would be shattered once again. 

If there are two things I know to be true about myself it's that I am weary, but I am also stubborn. To my credit I really have withstood a lot of pressure, I've obeyed His word, and I have not denied His name. But, just like anything in life there is a point that a thing will break because it's bent too far; it will shatter if too much pressure is applied; it will die because the breath is being strangled out. Just like the verse says, I have limits and I've reached them. My heart, my faith, my obedience, my emotions, my mind have all been tested to as far as I could possibly stand it. I am hoping with what little hope and trust that I have left that the verse was not only a ray of sunlight to illuminate the dark path I'm walking, but also a promise that He sees that I have nothing left and He is stepping in to restore. I'm hoping with my shoestring faith that the glorious purpose will be released over me. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

merry christmas

Luke 2:14

Merry Christmas, Meredith

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dear 2013

December 2012 I sat on the bed at my Aunt's house praying over the next year. My heart was filled with hope that 2013 would "be my year". I was certain that a good job would open up, that I would be financially secure, that I would finish my Master's degree, and my husband would finally wake up and realize that I was worth it. I prayed and caught God and knew that 2013 would be a year of restoration. Things were looking up and I couldn't wait for the blessings to flow. I knew that at the end of the year I would have everything I had been waiting on. 

January came and went without change, but I kept the hope that it was indeed my time. Things had to move forward in the near future so I ignored the hopelessness that had taken root in my heart.

February came. My birthday month. I wanted to be married by 25, but 26 would work. I had no choice in the matter anyway. My birthday came and went but I pushed through the hopelessness that was becoming more of a problem. By the end of February, the hopelessness, despair, and depression became overwhelming. I could barely pull myself out of bed in the morning. I got really good at putting on a happy face. I walked around life feeling empty and alone. My heart felt like it weighed 100 pounds as I carried the growing thoughts that I would always be alone. That I needed to be embarrassed about who I was and what I wasn't. I wasn't a wife. I wasn't a mother. I wasn't successful. It became increasingly difficult to go to work feeling like I wasn't good enough. It became increasingly difficult to help my friend with her photography business. Helping my former classmates remember important milestones - engagements, marriage, children - made me feel inadequate and embarrassed, but I didn't say a word. That would be selfish, and I couldn't bare disappointing anyone else in my life. 

As the older sister I should be counseling my younger sisters through things they were dealing with, but I couldn't because my life has been stagnant for years. They've had to press through things that I know nothing about because I'm not married. I've robbed my parents of the joy of grandchildren. I've robbed my best friend of the experience of planning a wedding and experiencing the good things in life because I'm still single and work at a dead end job that I can't get out of. I am disappointing as an older sister, as a daughter, and as a friend and there isn't anything I can do about it. 

The spring months reinforced my insecurities. A woman at church began to speak over me that the promise God had given to me would never come to pass. The man God had for me had gone too far and was out of the reach of Jesus. God surely had another plan because he would never be the anointed worship leader he once was because alcohol and easy girls had lead him down the wrong path. He was too far in that he would never get out and not even Jesus could help him now. For 4 months of Sunday's I heard words like this spoken over me as truth, and I slowly lost all hope. That's when the panic attacks started to get worse. Why would God give me a promise and make me wait if He knew He couldn't do anything to help him? Would God really make me go through years of pain only to leave me at my very worst? It seemed like that was the case because there was no help.

Summer was when I hit absolute rock bottom. A woman I trusted very much spoke over me that my husband would come home "mid-summer". I remember the first day of June and how a fog drifted over my heart and mind. If I could just make it to July (or August at the very least) he would come home and I wouldn't have to be embarrassed or depressed anymore. June came. Then July and August and no breakthrough came. The panic attacks, shame, embarrassment, and depression got even worse. I missed three weeks of work because I couldn't move. All I could think about was how much of a disappointment I was. 

When the waiting started 8 years ago I specifically remember talking to one of my friends about the man God wanted me to wait on. I remember saying that there would be a day that all his friends got married and he would be the only one left. There's no way that I could've known that that day would come and that I too would be alone. Four of our friends from high school got married this year, and that was it….my words came true. Except he wasn't alone and I was. He wasn't miserable. I was. He wasn't thinking about me, but I was thinking about him. 

Fall came and I went on vacation. A week in, I found out he moved in with his girlfriend. All the peace I felt sitting by the ocean was quickly removed from my heart. Somehow I pulled myself out of the darkness that settled over my heart after vacation, but put a little wall up for the holiday depression that I've dealt with for 8 years. Not too much was said about me still being single, but I still felt embarrassed and like a failure for robbing my family of good times that we all should've experienced. My little cousins should have a healthy relationship modeled for them. They should have a cousin they can look up to, but they just have me. A huge disappointment. Someone without a boyfriend. Without a successful career. Without a life. Except now they have my younger sister to experience good things with because she's engaged before me. Congratulations 2013. You've dealt me my laundry list of worst fears. 

So, here we are at the end. I started the year with hope and faith that 2013 would be filled with blessings and peace, but I'm worse than when I started. My husband is living with his girlfriend and I live in a one bedroom apartment all by myself. I still work at a dead end job that I can't get out of making no money. My sisters are experiencing life before me. My dream to be a worship leader is gone because I can't finish my degree. There was no breakthrough and I don't see how or when anything is going to work out or get better. I've faced some of my worst fears, and while I've survived, I've come out on the other side bruised and broken. So 2013, you've left me battered and defeated. You stripped me bare, took all of my pride, and my hope. You've taken every dream and desire of my heart and showed me how impossible they are. 2013, you've shown me that I don't deserve good things. You've shown me that I'm a complete failure and an embarrassment to my family. You've shown me I'm weak and ridiculous for ever thinking things will ever get better. But, most of all you've shown me that I will never be a wife or a mother. I will never have a christmas card with my own family on the front. I will never be in ministry with my husband, and I will always live in a one bedroom apartment all by myself. My life will always be embarrassing and empty, and me wanting or wishing for anything is a sure-fire why to ensure that it won't ever happen. So 2013, you fooled me. You got my hopes up and then destroyed them one dream at a time. You win. I lose. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

diy home & decor gifts

For my last installment of diy gifts I give you - home and decor! Woo hoo! These gifts are easily customizable and give you the ability to give something personal and thoughtful. Let's get started!


1 - Tutorials for "sharpie mugs" are all over the internets right now and I think they're fab! Buy yourself a cheap mug, write some pretty words or draw a cute design (like polka dots in the photo above) and place the mug in a cold oven. Bake the mugs at 350 degrees, turn the oven off, and remove the mugs after they've cooled. The heat makes the ink stick and you're left with an adorable mug!

2 - DIY stamped tea towels - these are also too easy and super customizable. Choose your paint colors and a pretty stamp or two and go to town on a few simple tea towels. Easy and pretty!

3 - Marshmallow wreaths - I pinned this tutorial several months ago and I'm still not over how cute it is! It's just a foam wreath and marshmallows attached with toothpicks! 

4 - DIY Christmas Door Mat - the link above is for the basic tutorial, but you could very easily write a cute holiday message, or print your family's name in a pretty font and transfer it to your rug. Again, customize your paint colors and you have a cute holiday gift!

5 - Monogram Wreath - the link above is an etsy store where you could buy this wreath, but it's a simple diy! Check out your local craft store for foam or wooden letters and wrap them with burlap or jute. You can very easily make a few felt flowers in whatever color you like, or buy a pre made arrangement (also found in a craft store) and attach it to your wreath with a little hot glue. Finish it off with a piece of thick ribbon in a coordinating color attached with hot glue and you're done!

6 - DIY quotes on canvas - this is one of my favorite tutorials I've found. Vinyl letters are attached to a cheap painting found at a thrift store, a piece of sheet music, or a canvas covered with magazine clippings in bright colors. Paint over the entire canvas, painting, or piece of sheet music (including the letters) and allow it to dry. Once it's completely dry, peel the letters off and cover the whole thing with mod podge! So cute!

7 - DIY mason jar crafts - these are also super easy! Cut out a cute design and attach it to a clean mason jar. Paint the whole jar in the color of your choice. Once the paint is dry, remove the design. These can be used as vases, candle holders, basically anything. You could even use these as kitchen utensil holders. Find a cute design of a fork and spoon, and paint using coordinating colors to your kitchen. Ahh! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

diy beauty gifts

Today I'm sharing a few favorite diy beauty gifts from around the internet! 


First up, this peppermint candy cane sugar scrub. There is a pretty good argument that I just like this because of the cute packaging and layered effect. However, it's also festive smells good and is useful. All good gift-giving adjectives. 

Next, sugar lip scrubs in AMAZING scents! The link includes recipes for a cinnamon sugar scrub, rosemary mint, and pumpkin spice (if your friends and family still can't get enough). These are made with a coconut oil base which is what I use to help keep dry, winter skin away. Plus, they're budget-friendly, adorable, and made with fresh ingredients. 

Finally - homemade body butter! This moisturizer is seriously simple. Take coconut oil, honey, and citrus zest dump it all in your stand mixer, whip it up, and put it in a cute jar. That's it! 

These would be perfect as individual gifts, or pack them all together in a basket with a note for your more holiday-frazzled friends. It will give them an excuse to take a little extra time for themselves which we all need now and then.

More to come on gift-giving later this week. I hope you're enjoying the lists so far!

Monday, December 16, 2013

DIY food gifts

This week I'm sharing some diy gift ideas that are nice and budget friendly. My plans are to make at least a few of these things to give to family and friends so, if you fall into one of those categories, be warned!

Today we've got food gifts! I love food gifts because they're both indulgent and practical…especially when they involve things like chocolate, caramel, and BACON! Bacon for Christmas! 

1. Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix and Vanilla Marshmallows. This would be a perfect gift for co-workers! Get a few cute air-tight containers, fill them full of mix and little homemade (or store-bought) marshmallows, and tie it up with a pretty bow. It might be a good idea to include a mug with a few for those special people that save your sanity every day.

2. Bacon. Peanut. Caramel. Corn. When I saw this recipe my head almost exploded! I've grown to really like homemade popcorn. It's so easy and you can make it healthy or smothered in caramel and bacon. I think it's safe to say I prefer the caramel version! 

3. Homemade Chai Syrup. This syrup is supposed to be used to make chai lattes (duh!), but I   think it would be good on pancakes, in coffee all by itself, drizzled on oatmeal, or to make cupcakes or frosting extra yummy! Gift this to your foodie friend. 

Stay tuned for more ideas coming at you this week! 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

homemade marshmallows!

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Bringing homemade marshmallows anywhere will automatically make you a super hero of a human. Anytime anyone finds out that yes, in fact,  you can make marshmallows from scratch lots of questions ensue and people start thinking you're a genius in the kitchen. It's pretty fantastic if you ask me. 

Another really good thing? Marshmallows are appropriate for everything! Summertime bbq's and bonfires? Yes! Fourth of July parties? Yep! Dip them in chocolate for Valentine's day! Or make a batch and dunk them in a steamy, creamy cup of hot chocolate when the weather turns colder. They really are great for everything since you can adjust the flavors with extracts and a little imagination. I'm itching to try orange extract and chocolate and a chai-flavored marshmallow. Sounds delicious to me. 

Homemade Marshmallows

inspired by my favorite recipe found here

2/3 cup water, divided
3 (1/4 teaspoon) packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar

Butter an 8X8 pan and sprinkle with powdered sugar to keep marshmallows from sticking. Set aside.

Pour 1/3 cup cold water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle all three packages of gelatin over the top and gently stir to moisten the gelatin. Let stand until softened.

Meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed pot mix together the remain 1/3 cup of water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Cook the sugar mixture over medium-high heat until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat.

Turn the mixer on low and pour sugar mixture over the softened gelatin. Add in the vanilla and turn the mixer to high. Beat until the mixture is white, thick, and tripled in volume (usually about 8-10 minutes). 

Working very quickly, pour marshmallows into greased pan with an oiled spatula. With wet hands, press the mixture down and smooth the top. Sprinkle the top with a little powdered sugar. 

Let marshmallows stand for at least 3-4 hours or up to overnight. Remove from the pan, and cut with a very sharp knife. 

Place powered sugar and cut marshmallows in a large ziploc bag. Shake to coat - this will help store the marshmallows without them being too sticky. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

peppermint hot chocolate popcorn.

Hi folks! I'm here again with another peppermint recipe. Today, it's popcorn…my newest favorite snack. Popcorn is so versatile you can add sweet ingredients for a decadent snack, or things like taco seasoning for a more savory one. Either way, you can't go wrong!

This popcorn is made with hot chocolate mix and crushed candy canes. If you use bagged popcorn this is just a three ingredient snack! Make this on a cozy winter evening, turn off all the lights except for the Christmas tree, and watch a good holiday movie…I suggest White Christmas. 

I will also mention that I made homemade marshmallows to go in this mix and realized as I was chowing down on it later that I forgot to add them. I'll be sharing that recipe later this week. Please add marshmallows to this mix they make it super delicious. 

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Popcorn

adapted from this recipe by Tracy.

  • 2 tablespoons hot chocolate mix, I used this one
  • 4 candy canes, crushed to fine powder
  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • salt
In a large bowl mix together the hot chocolate mix and candy cane powder. Set aside.

In a large saucepan on medium high heat add in the oil and popcorn kernels. Cover with the lid and swirl until the kernels start to pop. Swirl the popping kernels until the slowing begins to stop and remove from the heat. Immediately remove the lid (this helps keep the popcorn from getting soggy) and sprinkle with lots of salt. 

Spoon out popcorn 1/2 cup at a time into the hot chocolate mixture. Stir until popcorn is coated. Add in the marshmallows and chocolate chips. 

Eat it!

Monday, December 9, 2013

chocolate peppermint cupcakes.

I guess we have officially entered the holiday season! While most people are going crazy over the pumpkin spice lattes, my go-to holiday flavors are chocolate and mint. I've always put mint in my hot chocolate and I will be ordering peppermint mocha's for many more months to come.I find the flavor combination so festive and decadent I put them in a cupcake!

I cheated a little bit with these and used boxed cake mix, but the shining star of these little cakes is the peppermint icing. Soft chocolate cupcakes topped with cool peppermint frosting are a perfect sweet treat for this time of year.

If you want to make your cupcakes from scratch I recommend these from Joy the Baker. They are so freaking soft…I think I even made a comment about wanting a mattress made out of those cupcakes once. I still stand by that statement.

Peppermint Buttercream

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
splash of milk or cream, if needed

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together softened butter and cream cheese. 

Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time with mixer on low speed. When the sugar is incorporated mix on high for a minute or two.

Add in the peppermint extract and mix until combined.

If your frosting is too thick add in a splash of milk until it's creamy. 

Pipe onto your cooled cupcakes, top with crushed candy canes and chocolate syrup.