Thursday, July 28, 2011

waiting in the "calm"

I've never been great at decision-making. In my 21 years, I've had most big decisions made for me, or I've made the simple decision that took the least thought. Choosing a college is the biggest decision that has come across my path at this point in life (to my immediate knowledge at this time). And when I decided a college, I had... one option. So I went to Faith. Wow, that was simple. :)

I was thinking the other day as I was frantically searching for any teaching job I could find, that I hate making decisions. I hate being in the position that means my future is in my hands. As I was stressing, and struggling with the seemingly downhill fight, I realized that my God really does know me better than I realize. I HATE making decisions. He knows that! Because of that (and probably countless other reasons), I haven't had to make any major ones! I've just "missed the boat." Those of you who have asked about my job hunt at any point this summer have probably heard about the schools in Texas, Minnesota, Indiana, and Colorado. Moving to one of those places would be a BIG DECISION. But God knew that I would either "jump on the wrong train" or stress too much about which one to take. So He removed the decision from before me and made it for me. :)

I kept thinking, "Oh great, I'm the one who can't find a job! Something is wrong with me. People are going to look down on me like I have the plague." But knowing that my future is in HIS hands, and that He is waiting for my readiness to show me where He wants me in the future. I get to wait on the Lord. :) If that is the only thing I'm learning, that's still a HUGE lesson that I always need work on. If I am doing my part in the job hunt, He will come through and provide exactly what I need, whether it comes in the form of a paycheck or a lesson in patience. I'm not wealthy by any means, and I'll be drowning in college debt for some time, my God has me in His hands. He is my provider. But more importantly than giving me the "perfect job" in my "perfect timing (which would've been months ago! lol)"... He is doing His part in teaching me how to be the "perfect child."

This has been a season of struggle, yet a season of peace. A season of frustration, yet a season of resting. A season of learning, yet a season of knowing that He knows best.

For those helping me in my "job hunt," as humbling as it tends to be for me, keep helping in whatever ways you can. Even the most "random" connection or word from the grapevine is how God works. And those ways are neat to see! But please don't worry for me. Don't grow anxious for me. I'm learning peace in the midst of a "storm" that is manifesting itself in the form of a huge, foggy lake where I can't see shore and I seem stuck out in the middle with no paddle... but I never know when current may carry me towards shore. I don't know how close shore actually is. I don't know which shore I'll hit first. But I know that this time in the boat just praying and learning and waiting has been good for me. He knows best and He has each of my days planned for me.

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Each day. Today, He knows that I'll keep looking for a job. Tomorrow, if He decides to give me one, He will. :) I'll do my part, and He has NEVER failed me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Salmon with Broccoli Couscous

Two deluxe meals and two posts in two days. I'm on a ROLL!

The hardest part of cooking (for me) is timing everything right, and according to the Better Homes and Gardens, that is everyone's issue. (I use everyone's lightly since I know at least a few people who are just born chefs...) But, I'm thankful for an oven that keeps things warm when my "family" happens to be... forty-five minutes late... :)

Outfit of the Day: Simple and Chic

today's post is actually about what I'm wearing NOW! on a WEDNESDAY! :)

1. the shirt is from Express for $10.00. Originally $19.50. I LOVE the feel of this simple tee and it lays well and is LONG! I'm excited to layer it with winter clothes once the temperature gets below... 90 degrees?
2. crop pants from Target! on sale 30% off. versatile. and cool. and still dressy.
3. shoes. love them.

4. necklace. from New York and Company. $2.99. WINNER!

Another outfit ready to mix and match. :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lemon-Thyme Roasted Chicken

I'm not sure why exactly this came from a diabetic-friendly website, but I figured it couldn't be too bad for the average person either. I get daily recipes emailed to me, and this was one. I decided it would be worth a try, and BOY, am I glad I did!

The recipe is found here and I tweaked it a little by not using fingerling potatoes (mainly because I have no idea what they are or where to find them in a grocery store!) and I used chicken tenders instead of breasts. But it turned out well, and tasted wonderful, and stayed sitting in the oven until my "family" got home.

I was SO tempted to give myself a pat on the back after using thyme in my meal tonight, then I remembered that supposedly, normal people use that stuff all the time... so here I am, joining the ranks of "normalcy." It tastes better than I had anticipated, but I'm glad I'm making strides in being a "personal chef!"

Let me know if you try it! Let me know how it goes! And for SURE, let me know if you have any "killer" (ONLY in the figurative sense of the word) recipes for me to try! :)

Bon appetit!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shredded Pork Roast and Chickpea Carrot Salad

I happened to be watching TV at my boyfriend's parents' house last weekend and turned on the new cooking network. I watched it for a while realizing nothing else reasonably exciting was on, and let's face it, I'm the next Rachael Ray... who am I kidding!?! Anyway, this cute, young, aspiring new chef was making this shredded pork in a slow cooker! I'm a sucker for seeing food being made. So, I decided I would add it to my list of things to make this week! After turkey burgers on the grill (first attempt at grilling anything on my own... and i succeeded!), and Panera's Tomato Basil Soup, I made Slow Cooker Shredded Pork and then I made Chickpea Carrot Salad but replaced the Currants requested with raisins. I wasn't about to try it because I discovered that I despise chickpeas when I was in Portugal, but the slow cooker pork smells YUMMY! :)

Let me know if you try either recipe! I'd like to think I'm a success, but I've found that to be untrue many times before... ;)

Friday, July 08, 2011

the test kitchen of Jessica: Herbed Flatbread and Salmon Burgers

Guess who tried a new recipe and succeeded!?! THIS GIRL!!! Yesterday, I put on by bravery suit and attempted something new. Well, two something news... somethings new??? new things.

You saw the title, I tried to make flatbread and salmon burgers. Flatbread... we have a winner!!! Salmon burgers, well, my boss RAVED about them even though in my preparation, we didn't make it to the grill... we got a little stuck in the blender, but who cares, right?

Herbed Flatbread (thank you, Martha Stewart)
(Easy) Salmon Burgers (thank you, BHG... but why did you label them easy??? NOT as impressive)

You have helped me achieve new heights in life, like a user of yeast, and a user of egg wash, and a user of salmon. I can conquer new worlds and dream new dreams. :) I might even change my name to Martha Stewart Roberts... but my mom might not appreciate that one... Rachael Ray Roberts? Paula Dean Roberts? Bobby Flay Roberts?

Any name suggestions? I know you have them! ;)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Outfit of the Day: Simple and Classy

I found this idea of sharing part of my wardrobe every now and then, and since I've found several bargains recently, I wanted to share with whoever happens to read this. :)

Here's the rundown:
1. Shirt: New York and Company (one of my new favorite stores, when their clearance deals are SWEET!) Originally: $39.95. I paid: $7.99! Versatile, classy, and I saved a whopping 80%!!! :)
2. Skirt: New York and Company. (told you it was a favorite...) Originally: $39.95. I paid: $7.99! [Warning: your luck may not be as good, because I found this buried in a clearance rack when it wasn't supposed to be! She insisted that I take it for $7.99, so I didn't argue. ;)] Again, 80% off!
3. Shoes: Target (another favorite store; if I'm ever depressed in need of therapy, a Target gift card will do the trick! lol) Originally: $18.00. After lots of patience and hoping that they went on sale, I paid: $12.00! Cute, versatile, comfy, and PEEP TOE! :) winner!!!
4. Belt: New York and Company... I told you... Skinny, violet, and crocodile print (or some exotic animal of the sort...), and adjustable! Originally: $24.95. I paid: $4.99. Wow, 80% off!
5. Necklace: New York and Company (I'm not obsessed, promise!) And don't mind the fact that it's not laying well on the shirt, I was so distracted with the marvel called "self timer" that I forgot about wardrobe malfunctions... good thing this was minor! Originally: $16.95. I paid: $2.99. OVER 80% off!
6. Ring: I don't think I want to say, but I'm sure you could guess... Originally: $16.95. I paid: $2.99.

Actual retail price (dictated in the perfect Bob Barker voice) for this easily convertible outfit: $156.75. Wowzers... I think I owe my life (savings) to whomever created clearance racks! And I paid: $38.95. Still a decent amount in my book for one outfit, but ALL of the pieces can be mixed and matched... which is one of my gifts. I go to the mall, and steal ideas from the mannequins, the West Side soccer moms, and the high-schoolers who happened to cover some skin that morning.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

the test kitchen of Jessica: Recipe 2: Mediterranean Shrimp Packets

I decided to be bold. Make something new. Make something I can't pronounce. Use parchment paper for the first time. Use zucchini for the first time. You seasoned mothers (pun intended) are probably wondering why I've never made anything with zucchini. Oh well, I just haven't. :)

One of the perks of this summer is that I'm learning where all sorts of knew things are in the grocery store. Shrimp included. This recipe was one that had been set out for the lady I work for, and I decided it couldn't be that bad. :)


PREP: 25 min
OVEN: 425 degrees
BAKE: 25 min
MAKES: 4 servings


8 ounces fresh or frozen peeled & deveined medium shrimp
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
1 cup boiling water
2 small zucchini and or yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced
1 small red, yellow, or green sweet pepper, cut into thin bite-size strips
1 9-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bottled reduced-calorie Italian salad dressing
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil or fresh spinach

1. Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Rinse shrimp; pat dry w/paper towels. Set aside. Cut four 16 x 12-inch pieces of parchment. (Or tear off four 24 x 18-inch pieces of heavy foil. Fold each piece in half to make four 18 x 12-inch pieces.)

2. In a small saucepan combine couscous mixture, shrimp, squash, sweet pepper, & artichokes evenly among the 4 pieces of parchment or foil. Sprinkle w/black pepper & salt. Drizzle w/salad dressing.

3. Bring together 2 opposite edges of parchment or foil; seal with a double fold. Fold remaining ends to completely enclose the food, allowing space for steam to build. Place the packets in a single layer on a baking pan.

4. Bake in a 425 degree oven about 25 minutes or until shrimp turn opaque (carefully open a packet to check). Carefully open packets & sprinkle w/ 1 tablespoon of basil or spinach.

Nutritional Facts per serving:

292 calories
3 g fat (0 g. sat. fat)
88 mg chol.
696 mg sodium
46 g carbs.
7 g fiber
20 g protein

Daily Values:

29% vitamin A
67% vitamin C
9% calcium
14% iron

Exchanges: 2 vegetable, 2 starch, 1 1/2 meat

Lessons learned:
1. After making these, I wished I would've doubled the recipe, but since I just cook for a couple and their five-year-old, I didn't deem it necessary.
2. The parchment paper didn't hold as much as I would have liked. So I opted for foil after my first two packets. And since I left before they were done, I'm not positive that they turned out well initially, but I loved them the next day!

If you happen to try these, fill me in!!! I'm starting to feel like I can conquer the world. So, we'll see what happens! :)

The test kitchen of Jessica: Recipe 1: Herb-and-Bean-Stuffed Tomatoes

Those of you who know my cooking expertise (or lack thereof) will smile when i tell you of my summer plans. I accepted a nannying job and the couple asked if I would be willing to cook dinner for their family. I eagerly accepted. I had months to prepare myself, so I thought I would be fine. I grew up eating things like pasta, pasta, more pasta, with the occasional hamburger helper, and rarely a hot dog or sandwich. I found my first week on the job that the family eats almost everything organic and she works for Better Homes and Gardens. She hands me a stack of recipes torn out of magazines with hundreds of words I can't pronounce, and foods I have never heard of. Google became my (even closer) best friend. Since I began, I have successfully made tortilla-and-lime crusted tilapia with corn salsa, learned how to roast a red pepper, and found the organic produce at the grocery store. And, they grow their own herbs. She told me I could use those in my cooking, but the only thing I've ever picked on my own anything except dandelions... and they didn't taste very good. SO MUCH TO LEARN!

Now, join me for my first blog about a meal... Herb-and-Bean-Stuffed Tomatoes. This is what the website says they should look like...

Let's just say that I DOUBT mine will end up like that. But you get to experience it with me! We'll see how it goes! And if you test out this recipe, please tell me how it went, but don't try to show me up. I'm NOT a chef, but by the end of the summer, I plan on renting myself out as a personal chef. ;)

Enjoy my play-by-play!

1. Cut off 1/2 inch from the top of each tomato. Finely chop enough of the tops to equal 1 cup; set aside.

2. Remove and discard the seeds and pulp from tomatoes. (Or save them for something else!)

3. In a large bowl stir together the chopped tomato, 3/4 cup of the bread crumbs, the beans, pine nuts, cheese, basil, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Spoon the bean mixture into the tomatoes. Place the stuffed tomatoes in a 2-quart square baking dish.

4. In a small bowl stir together the remaining 3/4 cup bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and the thyme. Sprinkle over tomatoes.

5. Bake, uncovered, in a 350° oven about 20 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown and tomatoes are heated through.

Not too far off from the original! And it tasted okay too. ;) If you try it, let me know how it goes!