Friday, March 23, 2012

Rushing to Press

I have the best job. I get to work with the fantastically witty people of my senior staff (who are occasionally quite snarky, & then I just love them more). I get to edit fascinating articles. I get to be a little bit bossy. There are so many perks to being the managing editor of Insight.

And with all of the brilliant folks that I am lucky to work with, we get to publish the magazine of the BYU Honors Program. It's almost too fun for me to be paid to do it. But I'm not complaining.

Here's a sneak preview of all the goodness that went down—and up—at our cover photoshoot.

staff & friends

the lovely art director Sarah Kay, me, & our ruthless freshman editor, Mike

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hawaiian Mmhm BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

aka: Why MJ & I Are Obviously Meant to Be Together Forever

Saturdays at our house are days celebrated by sleeping in, occasionally watching movies, neglecting homework, going to the market, and cooking up lots of deliciousness. I've been missing Jerusalem quite a bit lately, so I was planning on making challah and was dead set on finding matzo meal to make matzo ball soup. But, after searching two of the most likely markets with no luck, I admitted defeat. Besides, MJ was craving a burger.

But not just any burger. Something gourmet. Something packed with flavors. Something with pineapple. And maybe bbq sauce. I, being one of those kids who always picked chicken nuggets over any burger, was a bit skeptical. So, being the awesome, considerate, self-sacrificing wife I am, I persuaded him to think about a bbq chicken sandwich instead. He thanked me later.

After a bit of brainstorming and pantry assessment, we created what we both feel/taste is The Best BBQ Chicken Sandwich Ever. It is possible, however, that we are the only people who would like this so much because it contains a lot of our favorite things, all on the same bun. Perhaps we should have christened it the Destiny Burger. You, dear friends, will have to let me know if this is actually an appetizing combo.

Our tastebuds were in heaven. Sweet pineapple, creamy neufchatel, juicy bbq chicken, rich havarti, crisp butter lettuce, & even more tangy honey bbq sauce? Perfection, right? This was one of those culinary experiments where the results were even better than we'd imagined. The name was inspired by our reaction. Yum. Now I want another one.

Hawaiian Mmhm BBQ Sandwiches
2 rather large pieces of chicken would comfortably make 4 sandwiches. We have—and love—havarti cheese, but mozzarella or provolone would also be yummy. We also used neufchatel rather than cream cheese (we're trying to be healthier & it has 1/3 less fat). And romaine or even iceberg lettuce would also be just fine.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
1 1/2 cups (maybe a bit more) honey bbq sauce (we used Kraft)
4 slices havarti cheese
4 slices deli ham
1 can pineapple rings
1 tblsp. nefuchatel cheese
4 leaves butter lettuce
4 hamburger buns
salt & pepper

1. Slice chicken into strips 1/2 inch thin and place in a glass bowl or plastic bag. Cover generously with bbq sauce. Add 3 tblsp. of the juice from the canned pineapple. Salt & pepper to your taste. Let marinate for at least 3 hours.

2. Cook the chicken using a grill on high heat. You could also bake it in the oven. I attempted to pan fry mine. I would not recommend this approach. It was very splattery.

3. Toast buns lightly. In a small frying pan, heat ham slices for 3 to 5 minutes. Assemble sandwiches. Spread a layer of cream cheese on the bottom bun and place pineapple slice on top of cream cheese. Add a layer of chicken, then the havarti, then a slice of ham, then the lettuce. Spread additional bbq sauce on top bun.

Yes... there were also sweet potato fries. Here are the basics:

1. Heat oven to 425°F. Wash, dry, and slice sweet potatoes into thin strips. Place fries on a large baking sheet.

2. Coat with 2 tblsp. cornstarch. Add 1+ tblsp. olive oil. Spice it up! (I used ground ginger, paprika, a dash of curry powder, salt & pepper, and a little pinch of cayenne.)

3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the fries are crisp on the edges and soft and fluffy in the centers.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Low-Fat, No Sugar, Still Delicious Oat Breakfast Cookies

I know, I know. No sugar? No butter?! Is this even Rush Slowly??? Yes. Sometimes you reach the point in your life where you realize that baking two cakes in a week (and then eating chocolate cake for breakfast) isn't going to make you look great in your little black retro swimsuit on your trip to Vegas next weekend (!!!). So. You go to the gym. You bake something mostly healthy, with no eggs, no butter, minimal but good-for-you fats, and very little sugar (but still with a healthy dose of chocolate to give your morning a boost).

And you have a slightly smaller slice of dark chocolate cake with creamy coconut chocolate frosting after dinner. I really like cake.

I'll admit, I cheated a bit on these by using some home-made apple sauce that definitely had some brown sugar and maple syrup in it... but I think it would be just as good and even better for you with plain 'sauce.  I was inspired by a recipe I found via pinterest, of course. But I yummed it up a bit more.

These are loaded with protein and good for you nutrients & even healthy fats. You won't be hungry five minutes after leaving the house. Yeah, there's some chocolate, which probably won't help you drop 2 dress sizes in a week. But chocolate triggers the release of endorphins, which we all need in the morning. So. You'll be happier, even if your skirt is still a bit tight.

I've been trying to replace some of the fats in my baking with coconut oil of late because, despite being a saturated fat, coconut oil is actually good for you!  Studies have shown that it  promotes heart health & boosts your metabolism. Your body can burn the fat more efficiently because of the composition of the molecules (they're smaller). PLUS, it also doubles as a fantastic lotion. This I learned in India after I spent a day spreading lye-based cement by hand. My skin was chapped & raw. I went to a small home near the shop we were building & asked for water to rinse the lye off my hands. The sweet woman of the house helped me wash, then motioned that I should wait. She returned with coconut oil & slathered my arms & hands. It felt wonderful.

Sorry. Tangent. The point is, coconut oil is good for you. It's a bit more expensive, but so are visits to the doctor.

Oat Breakfast Cookies
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cups shredded coconut (mine was toasted)
1/3 cup almond meal (blanched almonds ground in a food processor until smooth)
3/4 cup Krusteeze wheat & honey pancake mix
3/4 cup cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup mixed nuts (I used more almonds)
2/3 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
dash of ginger
pinch of salt (unless using salted nuts)

3 ripe bananas
2 tblsp canola oil
2 heaping tblsp coconut oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbslp. water
dash of almond extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a large cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients & stir until evenly combined. If you don't have almond meal (I didn't, either), put 1/4 cup of almonds in a blender or food processor & blend on high until you have a fairly fine powder.

If you have a food processor, the wet ingredients come together in a snap. If not,  a hand mixer, KitchenAid, or Bosch would also work well. Mash bananas thoroughly, then add oils, applesauce, vanilla, water, & almond extract, if you so choose. Whip them together until smooth.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until evenly blended. I let my dough sit for a while (while I folded laundry) so the oats could soak up some of the moisture of the wet ingredients. Drop by large spoonful—these are breakfast, remember—onto your lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for twenty minutes, or until edges begin to brown and the bottoms of the cookies are light brown & crisp.

I'm already a fan of these! They feel a lot more loving that tossing a Clif bar at your honey on a rushed morning. :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles w/ Ginger Lime Chicken

Hi friends. (if you don't know me, but like butter, we should be friends.)

Newlywed life is full of adventures, big and small. Suddenly, I'm the homemaker. The chef. The wife. It's blissful. And challenging. But it feels great to create a space for the twos of us. And weekly menus!

That's the latest challenge: plan menus for the week that appeal to both of us (we can't eat cream-cheese-based foods all the time, unfortunately) and concoct menus that use the groceries we buy to best advantage and somehow trick MJ into eating his vegetables. I've even been doing price checking and coupon cutting. Yeah. Really. Clearly, I it's time to get back to blogging about these culinary newlywed adventures. Plus, Barbi said she was bored with cooking and requested a chicken recipe and I like her, so here it goes.

I wish I would have tripled this recipe. I could have eaten these leftovers—
hot or cold—for a week. Blissfully.

Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles w/ Citrus & Ginger Chicken
After lots of rich soups and hearty winter meals, my body was begging for something a bit...fresher. This was a perfect solution, full of crisp veggies and bold flavors—and still filling! I pulled much inspiration from these noodles a small snippet and a marinade by Bobby Flay, but both have been altered quite a bit. I tried to gear it to feed two hungry people and leave plenty of leftovers leftovers. It would serve 4 to 6, depending on how hungry you are. You could easily add another chicken breast with this amount of marinade and up the portions a bit. In fact, I would recommend that you do.

The marinade would make a fantastic salad dressing as well. I may have snitched a spoonful. Or two. 

4 green onions, chopped
one-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
~ 1/2 cup lime juice (about 1 1/2 limes)
4 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 heaping tblsp. sugar
2 generous tblsp. sesame oil
1/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

2 chicken breasts, sliced into one-inch pieces

In a blender, combine lime juice, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, pepper. Blend on high until smooth, then add onions and sesame oil. Blend again until smooth. (I used  my brand new Cuisinart mini-prep. pure. joy.) It should be a tan color and smell like amazing. Reserve 1/4 cup marinade for noodles.
Feel the power! Love this new Cuisinart!

Pour over chicken and let marinate for at least 20 minutes, but no more than 40. The lime will start to break down the chicken too much and it will get mushy instead of tender and juicy.

For Noodles
3 tblsp. sesame oil
3 tblsp. canola oil
1/2 to 1 tblsp. cracked red pepper (depending on your fire tolerance)
3 tblsp. honey
3 tblsp. brown sugar
3 tblsp. soy sauce
4 tblsp. reserved marinade
2 1/2 tblsp. chunky peanut butter
10 oz. whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or linguine)

1/2 of a green bell pepper, diced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1 cup shredded carrots
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In a medium frying pan, combine sesame and canola oil. Add cracked red pepper and cook on medium for 3 to 4 minutes. Strain out red pepper flakes and set oil aside to cool slightly. In a bowl, whisk together honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, and reserved marinade. Add peanut butter and oil.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt to taste, and begin cooking pasta. In the same medium frying pan, heat two tsp. canola oil. CAREFULLY add chicken (the marinade will sizzle and splatter when it touches the hot oil). Cook on medium high, adding a bit of the remaining marinade after about 5 minutes.
When the marinade begins to carmelize on the chicken and turn a dark golden brown, be sure the it is cooked thoroughly, then remove from heat.

When they are cooked to your liking, drain noodles. In a large bowl, combine noodles, chicken, veggies, and most of the chopped cilantro. Pour sauce over noodle mixture and stir to coat evenly. Serve with a pinch of cilantro on top. Enjoy!

Our meal was even better with the addition of a great smoothie MJ whipped up of various things we had on hand. soooo good. I really love him.

MJ's Piña Colada Smoothie
3/4 cup fresh or canned pineapple
3 fresh (or frozen) strawberries
1/2 a can of coconut milk
~ 1 cup orange-pineapple juice
1 very ripe banana
about 15 ice cubes
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Blend on high until creamy, dreamy, and delicious. YUM.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

December 29th, 2011

This is my best friend and his cute mama. 

He married me.
(How lucky am I?!) 
On December 29th, 2011.
It was pretty awesome.

The most handsome groom I ever did see.

The night before, we had a party with lots of friends and loved ones.
There was a bit of cake smashing

And some dancing.

But the sealing that took place at the Newport Beach temple, just inside that window behind us, was by far the most spectacular experience.

Now I know that I'll have this wonderful man 
at my side 
for the rest of my life.
And if we faithfully keep the covenants
that we've made to the Lord
and to each other
death won't part us.
We will spend eternity as husband and wife.

We were so grateful to be surrounded by friends and family.

And loved the addition of some little cousins.

Had a great line-up of wonderful friends (many of whom traveled far to be there).

We felt the love of friends who have become family through years of laughter, tears, & love.

We showed off our classy sides.

We also kissed a bit.

The Murdoch Men looked particularly dashing.

There was more kissing. With some extra help this time.

I even caught some air.

I have new family members to love.

And a husband to share my adventures, trials, and triumphs.


Running through the fog to the beach that has always felt like home was exhilarating.

And then the sky caught fire.

My cousins, Tiff and Alan Hancock, of Hancock Photography, captured our day beautifully.

Standing in my groom's arms, 
toes in the sand, 
on the beach where I grew up was 
the perfect way to end 
our truly perfect day.

While planning a wedding in 56 days 
and keeping my budget under $5,000 for two receptions, 
life got a little crazy a few times.

But I like crazy. 
And I had a great guy to love me through the insanity.
And the support of so many who pitched in to make our wedding possible.
Our parents were incredible, our friends were kind, and we felt so loved.

 I love my newly expanded family.

With my Mr. by my side, life as a Mrs. is pretty fantastic.