Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Twenties

I realize that I usually blog about food and delicious recipes, but after reading my sister's Young Life work crew application, I felt inspired to express my thoughts through writing. There are a few things in life that get me really excited and those are clean sheets, a fresh pack of gum, wedding cake, and a good playlist. But some things that do not get me excited are alarm clocks, parking tickets, dry cupcakes, and last but not least...the twenties.

All of my life I feel like I have been preparing for the day that I will live on my own, pay my own bills, and have my "dream job." Why did I go to high school? To prepare for college. And why did I go to college? So that I can get a job. And what's next? Well that is what I have come to find rather difficult in figuring out. The twenties are strange and no one really prepares you for the awkward middle stage after college and before marriage. Growing up you always hear about college...the best four years of your life, a time to be independent, a chance to discover what you want to do with your life. The whole time you attend college you are preparing for the day that you will graduate, move off to a big city, and start working somewhere you enjoy every single day of your life. You dream about this eutopia and fantasize about what type of life you will live the day you step foot off your college campus. Well all this preparing doesn't actually prepare you for the "real world." People warned me saying that "the transition is hard," but regardless of how many times I heard this or how many people hinted around about the fact that life wasn't going to be easy after graduation, nothing could have truly prepared me for this first year out of college. The thing that is interesting is that everyone feels the exact same way. I have talked to boys, girls, married people, single people, shy people, loud people, doctors, lawyers, and preachers and everyone agrees that this stage of life is not easy. Our whole lives we have had "ends in sight." Even though middle school is kind if crappy, you know that high school is only four years away. Then in high school you work hard because you know you only have four years until you get to college, and then in college you know that in 4 (or 5...or 6) years you will graduate and get a job, but then what? There is no "end in sight" in this stage of life. It is a time of complete unknown and instability. The one thing that has stuck out to me most is that people have picked certain careers and taken certain jobs. A lot of times they majored in a certain area and ended up getting a job in that particular field, but countless times I have talked with people in their twenties who after getting that first job decided that maybe after all this wasn't what they wanted to do with their life. Maybe that "dream job" wasn't so dreamy once they started working. But countless times I have also heard from these same people that even though they knew they hadn't landed their life calling, they still had yet to figure out exactly what they were supposed to be doing. I find myself in this category as well. I often wonder if I am doing "God's will," and I question whether I am in the right  city, state, and sometimes country. Despite all of this confusion and instability, I think God created the twenties exactly like this on purpose. When you are young you depend on your parents. When you're in college you depend on your friends and roommates. When you are older everyone starts depending on you. But in your twenties you have no one to depend on except God. The only stable thing you have to hold on to is the Lord Himself. It is a time where faith has to kick in and trust has to form. Like I said, it is a strange time in life, but also one that I wouldn't trade for anything. There have been lots of lonely and anxious times this past year. Times where I have had to completely start over, make new friends, and enter into unknown territory. It has been scary and sometimes discouraging, but I have learned so much about God. I have learned that God is in control of every detail of my life. He has placed me in this city, even though a lot of times I hate it and wish I were somewhere else. He has placed me in my job, even though it's it often thankless and disgusting. He has placed me with my roommates, even though I didn't even know them 8 months ago. He has placed me at my church, even though a lot of times I go alone. See, despite my situation or how I feel, God is still in control. In Matthew 15 Jesus appears to his disciples walking on water. Peter sees him and wants to go to him. Jesus calls him. Peter steps out onto the water with complete faith. He begins to walk on the water, and he's doing pretty good, but then the winds pick up and a storm comes. Peter gets scared and starts to loose his faith. He begins to sink, but Jesus goes to him and lifts him out of the water and sets him back on dry ground. Peter feared the storm...but God controls even the storm. So when the twenties start really getting hard remember that God controls even the tough times, but He doesn't let us sink all the way to the bottom. He will eventually reach down, pick us up, and put us back on dry ground, and when he does our faith will be stronger, our beliefs will be confirmed, and our trust will not be shaken.

Hold tight fellow twenty-year-old. Enjoy this stage of unknown and trust the One who created it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Turtle Pumpkin Pie

My family makes this every year and LOVES the combination of pumpkin, caramel, and coolwhip. Plus, its' not quite as filling as a true pumpkin pie. 

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. caramel (found in jar)
  Graham cracker pie crust (6 oz.)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. chopped Pecans, divided
2 pkg.  (3.4 oz. each) Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
1 cup cold milk
1 cup  canned pumpkin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp.  ground nutmeg
1 tub (8 oz.) cool whip
1. Pour 1/4 c. of caramel toping into empty pie crust.2. Sprinkle with 1/2 c. chopped pecans. 3. Combine pudding, milk, pumpkin, cinnamon,    nutmeg, and 1 1/2 c. of cool whip. 4. Pour mixture pie crust. Cover with remaining cool whip and make your own decoration with the caramel topping. *Must be kept refrigerated!

Roasted Rosemary Chickpeas

This recipe comes from my wonderful roommate Lexi (a soon to be bride working on her LGN diet). These are great to eat as a snack or compliment with some grilled salmon or chicken. 

1. One can of chickpeas (drained)
2. 1/2 c. lemon juice
3. 2 tbsp. olive oil
4. 1 tbsp rosemary
*Marinate peas overnight in the refridgerator for atleast 1 hr.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. They will feel slightly crisp and begin to brown on the edges when cooked completly through. 

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Salad

I buy the already diced butternut squash and sweet potatoes, but if you can't find these you can use a whole sweet potato cut up into small squares and likewise with the butternut.

1. Coat about 1 c. of sweet potatoes and 1 c. of butternut squash (both diced into squares) with olive oil spray (0 calories). Place on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil.
2. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and plain cinnamon.
3. Bake on 400 degrees for 23 minutes or until a fork can be inserted with no resistance.
4. Mix in with a cup or  two of spinach leaves.
5. Add diced honey roasted almonds, some craisins, and a a little grilled chicken that can be cooked on a    George Forman grill.
6. Top with goat cheese and balsalmic vinagerette

Voila! Healthy yet so good.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

My roommate told me these looked like "little pumpkin terds." Then she tried one. Her world was rocked. These little guys are good!

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
  • 1-2/3 cups flour
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (1/3 less fat)
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 1. Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

  • 2. Whisk together melted stick of butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Then, fold in the flour 1/2 c. at a time. 

  • 3. Use a tablespoon and drop heaping mounds of dough onto cookie sheets. Smooth out so they appear in little flat rounded balls. Thiner the better. Too thick, they turn out too big because they expand when cooked. 

  • 4. For the middle frosting: Cream the softened butter and cream cheese. Add in powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Add tablespoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice or both! It just gives a little extra flavor. Add in maple syrup and mix all together until smooth and thick. 

  • 5. Wait until cookies are cooled. Then, pile a heaping amount of frosting on the flat side of one cookie. Take another cookie and smoosh on top.

  • 6. Enjoy! But keep refridgerated if not serving

  • *Tip: These can be frozen for up to three days. 

Food For Thought

Some cook for their families, others cook for fun, and most cook out of necessity. We've all got to eat, right? But I cook for other reasons. We live in a stressful, crazy busy world. We are surrounded by timelines, meetings, obligations, and requirements. So how do we escape this part of life? How do we cope with the stresses the world throws at us? Some exercise. Some do yoga. Some disconnect from their iPhone for a while, but I bake. There is nothing in the world that makes me feel more at ease than baking a tray full of homemade cookies, watching them expand into complete yumminess, and then enjoying the satisfaction that comes from watching others endulge in one of my creations. It's a time where I am required to focus completely on the task at hand. If I step away for even a minute or get my thoughts in another place, my project could be ruined in an instant. 

Cooking also reminds me of how much we long for something to fill us up. We eat because we are hungry, and we are satisfied once our bellies are full. As humans we all crave to be filled. We all hunger for something more. The Lord says, "Taste and see that I am good. Blessed is the man that takes refuge in me." The Bible is full of passages that talk about food. Jesus says in John 6:33, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry." Jesus and his disciples had a last supper where they gathered around a table of food to prepare for what would be the most important day in all of history. We take communion at church where we "eat in remembrance of him." Jesus fed five thousand with a loaf of bread and a few fish. He turned water into wine. Eve even ate from a tree evil! Food is all throughout the Bible, so when I cook, I am reminded of my need for a savior and my bodies requirement for the food that lasts and never leaves me hungry. 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
   for they will be filled." 
Matthew 5:6

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
Deuteronomy 8:3 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Some say that Atlanta is “too big." "It is hard to find people to hang out with and the commute across town is atrocious. And did I mention the traffic?" Well, I have been here for almost a month now and I can honestly say that these “rumors” about Atlanta are false. Tonight we all met at JCT Kitchen for some live music and  sweet fellowship while overlooking the Atlanta skyline. Despite the heat, it was a great night. Very relaxing, new, and different. But I did discover that no matter where people live in Atlanta, no matter how far the drive, how terrible the traffic, or how much gas costs, if a location is decided upon, people will show up. Tonight we had two people who commuted all the way from Peachtree City, which is at least a 45-minute drive outside of the city. Then, we had a girl from Dekalb, who decided to bum off someone’s couch for the night. Other’s lived around Georgia Tech, Buckhead, Vinings, and Howell Mill. It was incredible to see how many awesome people congregated to hang out for the evening despite their home location.  I also love that no matter how many times we meet for dinner we can always try a new restaurant. The options are endless and every place provides a different experience. Different genres, different prices, different atmospheres. Growing up in a family who circled around a dinner table at a great restaurant in order to grow closer and enjoy one another, the Atlanta eating experience is right up my alley.

Then there is the Atlanta surroundings. Today I woke up in a lovely mansion located in Buckhead, filled with old oak trees, hydrangeas, and gated houses (I know...this is not real life!). Then, I headed over north of the city to float the Chattahoochie River, which was filled with lovely murky water that was somewhere around 50 degrees. After, I entered downtown where we ate a very modern urban pizza place and then headed west to enjoy the classy environment of JCT Kitchen. Atlanta has it all. If you want ritzy, it’s right here. Classy? Yep. Hipster? Absolutely. Country? Right down the road. I love a city where you can be surrounded by skyscrapers but then drive 15 minutes and be engulfed in beautiful country land.

Lastly, the people. Atlanta people are so incredibly nice and more than anything, generous. I live with a family who has opened up their home, for free, to let me live. I have an incredible pool in the backyard, a maid who cleans my room once a week, and I get the luxury of paying for not one penny all summer. All because a family felt the need to help out some new graduate who could not afford her own place. Then about ten minutes down the road another family with 5 children, two dogs, and a house on the market is currently housing three college students. My nannying job pays way more than I deserve and they let me eat their food, stay at their house, and enjoy their country club membership. Atlanta people are generous. Not to mention the people I have met are some of the nicest most welcoming people I have even encountered. They are constantly inviting and including me in their plans. They are open to all different types of people and they love others so well. Even at the bar on Friday night, a girl who had probably had one two many vodka tonics came up to me and asked if I needed friends since I was new in town. Of course I said yes, seeing as I could probably count the number of people I know in this city on one hand. She immediately told me to take out my phone so she could store her phone number and offered to hangout with me whenever I felt lonely. Even a drunk girl at a sktetchy bar was so incredibly sincere and compassionate. Atlanta is an awesome city, but the people are the reason I have grown to love it even more.

So far I have learned a lot. I have learned to ALWAYS trust my GPS. It usually knows more than me! I have learned the fun places to hang out, and that the weekends are a time to not be so stingy with my pay checks and just enjoy myself because that is the only time people don’t have to work. I have learned how to invite myself to places in order to make friends, and despite the awkwardness it actually has gotten me pretty far. But more than anything I have learned how to be content wherever God has me. I could sit around and wonder if this is really where God wants me to end up for the next little bit. I could bite my nails and wring my hands trying to figure out if there is actually a job waiting for me at the children’s hospital, but honestly that gets me no where. No matter where I go, where I end up, or where God decides to lead me, I have learned to be content and make the most out of every experience. 

New circumstances provide two options. You can either look at your situation negatively and count down the days until it ends, or you can trust the reasons why God has placed you where He has and enjoy it to its maximum potential. Life is full of disappointments and hard times, and no, college cannot be re-created, but this phase of life is fun. It is fun to experience a new place with new people and new adventures. I am excited to look back and see the places God decides to take me. 

Will I end up in Atlanta after this summer? Only God knows, but wherever He leads me, I will trust that He knows what He is doing.