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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Brandy Bourbon Chicken

I have a huge crush on Nigella Lawson.  I think she's fabulous.  I love her style, her accent, her attitude, and mostly, her food.  I own several of her cookbooks and so far, everything I've tried has turned out really well.  Nigella is my no-fail standby.

Roasting a chicken isn't particularly difficult, mind you.  While it's hard to mess up completely, it can also be tricky to keep it from getting really dry.  There is nothing worse than taking a huge bite of chicken and immediately getting cottonmouth.  I hate that, as does Kenny.  He was a little skeptical about trying a roasted chicken at first, but when I mentioned that it included bacon, he came on board.  

You can't complain when it's this easy either.

 Bacony-Bandy Chicken
1 whole roasting chicken (2-3 lbs)
4 strips center cut bacon
1/2 C brandy

Preheat oven to 425*.  Clean and prepare chicken.  Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp, reserving drippings.  Remove bacon from pan and stuff into cavity of chicken.  Place the bird in a roasting pan, breast side up.  Pour the brandy into the still-hot skillet with the bacon fat and let bubble for a minute, then pour over the chicken.  Roast for 45 minutes, or until juices in joints run clear.  Let rest a few minutes, and then carve. from Nigella Lawson
Fantastic. Simple. Savory.  It's easy and fast enough for a weeknight, and makes great leftovers for chicken salad or soup.  Thanks, Nigella!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Let's Fall in Love: Blessing of the Hands

The wedding ceremony up to this point felt like it was flying by.  I tried to soak it all in, but there were so many moments that I had been looking forward to in the months (years) leading up to September 4.  Walking down the aisle with my father, standing at the front of the church I had attended since childhood in my mom's veil, exchanging vows.  These were all things that I had been imagining since I was a little girl, and they far exceeded my expectations.  What followed after the vows was new to us, but I had been anticipating it just as much as the rest.  We opted not to do a unity candle or other such symbolic ceremony, and shared a Blessing of the Hands instead.  I love the tradition of hand-fasting, and this was the best way we could incorporate it, as well as paying an homage to a cousin who had used it in his ceremony several years before.

I put the words together myself based on several different versions from many different resources.  When we decided to have the wedding at the church, we sacrificed our ability to write our own vows.  Perfecting every word of the Blessing of the Hands was the next best thing.  It was incredibly touching and meaningful to hear  them aloud at our wedding, and it was at this point that my emotion overflowed. 
Meagan, please turn to face Kenny, and hold his hands, palms up in yours, so you may see the gift that they are to you.
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and vibrant with love, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as he promises to love you all the days of his life. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness. These are the hands that will protect you and honor you as they work alongside yours to make a happy home. These are the hands that look so large and clumsy, yet will be so gentle as he holds your children to comfort and console them. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and as in today, tears of joy. These are the hands that will share their strength when you need it. These are the hands that will embrace you when fear or grief fills your mind. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same outspoken love as they give you today.
Kenny, please hold Meagan’s hands, palms up in yours, where you may see the gift that they are to you.
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as she pledges her love and commitment to you all the days of her life. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, and these are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times. These are the hands that will hold you in joy and excitement and hope. These are the hands that will give you support as she encourages you to chase down your dreams. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same outspoken love as they give you today.
 Please join your hands together, as we pray.
 
Heavenly Father, bless these hands that you see before you this day. May they always be held by one another. Give them the strength to hold on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. Keep them tender and gentle as they nourish each other in their love.  May Kenny and Meagan see these four hands as healer, protector, shelter, and guide, and may they always bring forth the very best in both. Help these hands to continue building a relationship founded in your grace, rich in caring, and devoted to reaching together for your perfection.
 After the Blessing was complete, it was almost official.   Just a few minutes left before we're Mr and Mrs.

In case you missed it ...
I bought a dress and completely changed it.  We had a marathon final week of engagement.  I giggled my way through our rehearsal.  Mr LikesIt got grilled at our rehearsal dinner.  The groomsmen ran amok in downtown Springfield. The girls got gorgeous.  We exchanged mushy wedding-day gifts.  The guys got fancy and then got dancy.  I became a Bride.  There was a first First Look. I shared my Somethings.  The boys made the most of trolley-time. And did their thing on the Capital grounds. The girls took photos at the hotel. Everyone arrived at the church. We walked down the aisle. We declared our intentions and my cousin preached. We exchanged our vows

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fajita Turkey Burgers

Let's face it, healthy cooking gets a bad rap.  Bland.  Boring.  Tasteless. All of this may be true for some foods, so it's pretty exciting to find a recipe that livens up an otherwise mundane meal.  Turkey burgers, for example.  Lean.  Full of Protein.  Potentially dry and blah.  But not these!

 
Fajita Turkey Burgers

1/4 cup salsa
1 diced avocado
1 T fresh diced cilantro
1 cup breadcrumbs (packaged or homemade)
1/2 finely diced onion
1 finely diced red bell pepper
1 finely diced green bell pepper
2 tsp fajita seasoning (or a mix of garlic, cayenne, and chili powder)
1/4 tsp salt
1 T tomato paste
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg white

Combine salsa, avocado, and cilantro until well-incorporated.  Set aside.  Prepare breadcrumbs in food processor if not packaged.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat well with cooking spray.  Add onion and peppers; saute 5 minutes or until tender.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon fajita seasoning and 1/8 tsp salt.  Cool. Combine breadcrumbs, onion mixture, remaining seasoning and salt, tomato paste, egg white, and turkey,  Using your hands, divide turkey mixture into four equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4-inch patty.  Grill four minutes on each side or until cooked through.  Place a patty on a whole wheat bun and top with 1/4 of the avocado salsa.  Serve with lettuce, onion, and tomato as desired.  Adapted from Cooking Light                                                                                        
These are fantastic and come together really quickly, so they make for a great work-night meal.  I have come to rely on things like this for nights I come home from the gym late and Kenny is ready for dinner like five minutes ago.  Plus, we love burgers.  These can be prepared on an indoor grill as well.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chocolate Wafflewiches

Sometimes, Kenny is a genius. He had it in his head that he wanted me to make homemade ice cream sandwiches for him, but decided that he wanted me to make the sammies with waffles instead. When I suggested making them chocolate waffles, I think I nearly killed him.




Chocolate Wafflewiches

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Ice cream of choice (we used Cookie n Cream), softened
    Preheat waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa. Stir in milk, eggs and butter until mixture is smooth. Spray preheated waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Remove waffles from iron and cut into 16 sections. Add a spoonful of ice cream (volume to taste) between two sections. Wrap individually and freeze immediately.
      Enjoy!

      Happy Birthday, Tucker Bear!

      My Schmuckers turns 5 today! I can't believe it's been that long since I brought him home, but I can't imagine my life without him.  He is quirky, funny, playful, snuggly, dumb as rocks, and smart as hell.  He keeps us entertained and on our toes, and our family is not complete without his fuzzy little nubbin wedged between us.  Call me crazy, but I love this little dog to bits.

      From the first day I brought him home, he's been a joy to have in the family.  And damn, but he's stinking cute too. 

      Can't believe my baby dog is all growed up and middle aged now. 

      We'll be celebrating tonight, of course.  We've been telling him for a week that his birthday was coming up, so he has high expectations: a walk outside, his favorite dinner, a new toy, and ample belly scratches.  Some things never change - he is such a diva. 

      I can't imagine how he got to be that way.

      So happy birthday, Tucker Bear Banana-face!  Thanks for being so kickass!

      AND I'M GONNA GET THAT TUMMY!!!

      Monday, March 21, 2011

      Let's Fall in Love: Vows

      After we declared our intentions and listened to readings and Pastor Nathan's sermon, Mr LikesIt and I turned to face each other, clasping our right hands.  I was shaking.  He had tears in his eyes.  I had worried that practicing the vows the night before would somehow take away from the ceremony, but when we stood before each other, there was nothing that could diminish the feeling I got looking at my almost-husband as he swore himself to be before God and all of our closest friends.  Mr LikesIt appeared outwardly calm, and spoke in a voice full of confidence and assurance.  And then the tears came.  It touched me beyond belief.



      I, Kenny, take you Meagan, to be my wedded wife.  To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death us do part.  According to God's holy will, I pledge you my faithfulness.



      I wiped the tears from his face with the handkerchief my grandmother had given me, and prepared for my turn.  I was feeling a bevy of emotions: I was giddy and calm and choked up all at the same time.  I'm not sure exactly how I made it through them without breaking down and crying (or giggling), but I am glad I was able to speak those important words with confidence and composure.


      I, Meagan, take you Kenny, to be my wedded husband.  To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, til death us do part.  According to God's holy will, I pledge you my faithfulness.

      Vows taken.  That's the big moment, right?  I had looked forward to pledging those words for close to two years.  I will never forget watching Mr Likesit's face as we spoke them to each other. 


      Coming up, the next part of our wedding ceremony, the Blessing of the Hands.


      In case you missed it ...

      I bought a dress and completely changed it.  We had a marathon final week of engagement.  I giggled my way through our rehearsal.  Mr LikesIt got grilled at our rehearsal dinner.  The groomsmen ran amok in downtown Springfield. The girls got gorgeous.  We exchanged mushy wedding-day gifts.  The guys got fancy and then got dancy.  I became a Bride.  There was a first First Look. I shared my Somethings.  The boys made the most of trolley-time. And did their thing on the Capital grounds. The girls took photos at the hotel. Everyone arrived at the church. We walked down the aisle. We declared our intentions and my cousin preached.

      Monday, March 14, 2011

      Let's Fall in Love: I will.

      I was nervous before the ceremony started.  I had been such a giggling mess during the rehearsal and I didn't want a repeat performance with the eyes of all of our friends and families on us.  It's funny, though - when Mr LikesIt took my hand and we stepped up to the alter, I completely forgot my worry, as well as the hundred plus people watching behind me.

      My cousin Nathan co-officiated the ceremony along with the home pastor, who I have known since being confirmed at the church. They welcomed our guests, called God to witness the union, and began the traditional ceremony by explaining the institution off marriage as believed by Lutheran teaching.

      "We welcome you to witness the union of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.  it is an honorable estate, instituted by Christ before humanity's fall into sin.  
      Marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly, or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purpose for which it was instituted by God.  The union of man and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for mutual companionship, health, and support that each person will receive from the other, both in prosperity and in adversity.  Marriage was also ordained so that man and woman may find delight in one another, therefore all persons in marriage should pick their spouse in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust where God has not called us to impurity, but holiness.  God also established marriage for the appropriation of children, who are to be brought up in the instruction of the Lord, so that they may also offer Him praise.  For these reasons, God has established this holy state that Kenneth and Meagan wish to enter.  They desire our prayers as they begin their marriage in the Lord's name and with His blessing."
       

      My cousin Melinda stepped forward for the first reading, from the Book of Ruth.

      And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.  Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. 
      The passage from Ruth is one of my favorite verses, and has double meaning to me.  Not only does it speak to me about marriage, but since Ruth was actually speaking to her mother-in-law, I think it is also appropriate in terms of joining a new family.  I didn't just get a husband that day, but a mother-in-law, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and a slew of cousins.  Our families came together with this union, and that is why I chose it.  When Melinda finished, her older sister Rachel followed with the second reading, from the Book of Ephesians.

      Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.


       The girls did the readings beautifully, and got compliments all night about them.  Still, people were surprised at my choice of the second passage, but as we had discussed it with Nathan in our pre-marital counseling, it was very meaningful.  He began the sermon and spoke beautifully.  He is an enthusiastic and devout man.  I am honored to have him speak to our guests on our behalf.  He articulated our choice and the symbolism of the readings much better than I ever could have hoped to.

      "Can you believe Meagan chose these readings?  Can you believe she had her cousins read those words on her wedding day: wives, submit to your husbands?  It sounds like knuckle-dragging Neanderthal language!  Why on earth would Meagan and Kenny choose these words for the day when they are beginning their lives together?  It is an interesting and legitimate question, if you go along with the way the world thinks.  The world thinks this is archaic, it's out of date, it's, well, passe.  But there is a reason that Meagan and Kenny picked these words:  because they believe them.

      Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  To understand why a gifted, talented, college-educated woman would allow these words to be read at her wedding, we must go further into the text.  She also knows that God has presented to her, as a gift, a man that will love her in the way that Paul prescribes in Ephesians chapter five.  Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.  As we stand under this beautiful alter of a resurrected Christ, it is critical to understand the step before this.  Jesus loved the church so much that He died for her."
      "Kenny, by asking Meagan to be his wife, by asking her to do him the honor of spending the rest of their days together, is saying 'Meagan, I love you that much. I am willing to put you ahead of me.'

      Wouldn't you willingly submit yourself to one who would willingly surrender his life for you?  On a battlefield, if a soldier would surrender his life for the rest of his brigade, we would call it heroism!  Today, we might roll our eyes and call it old-fashioned to use the same language about marriage.  But, Meagan, you know better!"

      "You know this and it makes sense for you to say, 'Yes, I will surrender to this man because he loves me this much, and I too will surrender myself to him.  I will surrender the me for the sake of the we.' Because in this wonderful, mystical union that God has established, He takes two and makes them one.  You will leave here in this divinely appointed, miraculous thing called Holy Marriage where you become extensions of one another by God's action."

      "Yes I know that he asked and you said yes, but it wasn't by your direction.  God designed you for this.  He created you for this day, so that Meagan, you can say, 'Yes, I will submit myself to you' and so that Kenny, you can say 'Yes, and I will die for you.' And as we leave here, facing this one life together in marriage, we can do it in confidence because together you know the one who has called you to this day.

      You have this precious gift.  You are about to embark on this precious journey, and you go with the one who loves you.  Amen."
      When the sermon was complete, we declared our Intention.  In some wedding ceremonies, this is the "I do's."  As Nathan explained to us the night before, we were not going to say "I do."  It implied that the statements we were making are just for that moment, that day, but we were pledging ourselves to the future, so our response would need to be different.


      Kenny, will you have this woman to be your wedded wife?  To live together in the holiest state of matrimony as God has ordained it? Will you nourish and cherish her as Christ loved his bride, the Church, giving Himself up for her?  Will you love, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, remain united with her alone, as long as you both shall live?

      I will.

      Meagan, will you have this man to be your wedded husband?  To live together in the holiest state of matrimony as God has ordained it? Will you submit to him as the Church submits to Christ?  Will you love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, remain united with him alone, as long as you both shall live?

      I will.  

      Pastor Nathan then asked our parents to stand, as we did not come alone to this day.  Mr LikesIt and I turned to look at our proud families, my parents on one side, his mother and grandparents on the other. 


      Do you give your consent to this and bless this couple?


      We do.


      Will you pray for and encourage Kenny and Meagan in their marriage, remembering at all times that God wills them to live together and keep their vows until they are parted by death?


      We will. 


      In case you missed it ...
      I bought a dress and completely changed it.  We had a marathon final week of engagement.  I giggled my way through our rehearsal.  Mr LikesIt got grilled at our rehearsal dinner.  The groomsmen ran amok in downtown Springfield. The girls got gorgeous.  We exchanged mushy wedding-day gifts.  The guys got fancy and then got dancy.  I became a Bride.  There was a first First Look. I shared my Somethings.  The boys made the most of trolley-time. And did their thing on the Capital grounds. The girls took photos at the hotel. Everyone arrived at the church. We walked down the aisle

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Let's Fall in Love: Walking Down the Aisle

      Candles lit.  Music playing. Guests seated.  Sun shining through stained glass.  Time to start the ceremony!

      Our grandparents were escorted in first.

      How cute are our grandmas, by the way? 

      The groomsmen and bridesmaids were lined up outside the aisle doors.


      Rob and Keith brought in our mothers next.



      I waited just off to the side with Daddy-O and Seester.

       
      I was a ball of nerves.  So much so that I nearly forgot to put down my blusher.

      Mr LikesIt entered at the alter with his Best Man, Sean.  He hugged his mom, and took his place at the end of the aisle.  He told me later that he was so excited to see me he was shaking.

      Mr LikesIt has known Sean since the third grade.  They were like brothers growing up, and shared the distinct honor of being Best Men for each other within a few months.

      The first chords of Canon in D began to play on the church organ, so it was time for our friends to take their turn.  They entered at the aisle doors, crossed to the center, and walked down the main aisle together.

      John and Kate, who we both met in Graham Hall our freshman year at Mizzou. We were all part of the same group of friends that also introduced me to Mr LikesIt.  Kate and I were also pledge sisters in KKG and roommates after graduation.

      Cory and Jen.  Mr LikesIt met him when he lived in the dorms his sophomore year (and me at subsequent parties at John's apartment).  Jen is one of my best friends from high school.  We've known each other since middle school, and became inseparable when we took all the same AP classes as juniors.  

      Jim and Adrienne.  He and Mr LikesIt have been friends since they rode the bus together in the fourth grade.  I met Adrienne as a freshman through Kappa, and we lived together for two years in undergrad (including in an apartment right around the corner from Mr LikesIt senior year).

      Justin and Stacy.  He is another elementary school friend, but I also met him living in the dorms freshman year.  I met Stacy the first day of Recruitment in Graham Hall and we power-bonded, in spite of joining different houses.

      Dan and Sarah.  Mr LikesIt met Dan in elementary school through Sean, and they (plus Justin) were nearly inseparable all through high school.  I met Sarah on the playground in the fifth grade, and we had our first big-girl post-college apartment together.

      James and Katie.  We met them both in Graham Hall freshman year, down the hall from our respective rooms.  He and Mr LikesIt lived together off-campus.  Katie and I were Kappas together, and roommates in the same apartment complex as the boys.

      My sister, two and a half years my elder, was my Maid of Honor and I wanted her to have a special moment as Maid of Honor, which is why we decided that she would walk by herself down the aisle. 

       I have never seen her look so beautiful. 

      The church doors closed.  I frantically pulled my blusher over my face.

      Daddy-O and I stepped forward.  OMGOMGOMG this is it, this is happening, I'm about to get married OMG.


      Rob and Keith began to unroll the aisle runner.  It was very important to me at the time to have one.  We did literally no decorating at the church (I wanted the space to speak for itself) and all I wanted was that runner.

      So naturally, it broke halfway down the aisle.

      I don't know what they did, but fueled by panic, they made it work.

      "Are you sure you want that aisle runner now."


      The church doors opened, and Trumpet Voluntary began to play.  I didn't hear it at all.



      I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, grin, pause, or sprint to the alter.  I was incredibly grateful that Daddy-O was there to lean on.  I don't think I could have done that walk without him.


      I couldn't see Mr LikesIt at first, but I did see Sean, leaning out to see me, grinning like a maniac.  A few steps later, and there he was.


      He had the sweetest smile on his face, and tears in his eyes.  I was so glad we had waited to see each other until that moment.  It was worth all the nerves.  My favorite moment weddings I have attended has always been when the groom catches sight of the bride walking down the aisle.  It was the moment I had been looking forward to since Mr LikesIt proposed.  It was perfect.


      And I was so excited to see him.


      It took no time at all to get down the aisle.  I might have dragged my father along with me, poor guy.


      Daddy-O lifted off the blusher, the same as he had done when he married my mother.

       

      He kissed my forehead and told me how much he loved me.  

      And with that, Mr LikesIt took my hand and we walked together towards our happily ever after.

      In case you missed it ...
      I bought a dress and completely changed it.  We had a marathon final week of engagement.  I giggled my way through our rehearsal.  Mr LikesIt got grilled at our rehearsal dinner.  The groomsmen ran amok in downtown Springfield. The girls got gorgeous.  We exchanged mushy wedding-day gifts.  The guys got fancy and then got dancy.  I became a Bride.  There was a first First Look. I shared my Somethings.  The boys made the most of trolley-time. And did their thing on the Capital grounds. The girls took photos at the hotel. Everyone arrived at the church.