I have an announcement!

After much consideration and a lot of encouragement I decided to leave this blog behind and start a new one, in collaboration with my husband, focused on food, delicious recipes, stories, and our life together.

Please check it out and start following Our Savory Life.

Not ready to move on? Here is a little peak at what you’ll find on the new blog:

Welcome to Our Savory Life. I’m Bri but you’ll get to know me as Belle and my husband as Beau (our nicknames for each other since we started dating).

For us, cooking isn’t just about food. It’s about telling a story. It’s about inviting others into our lives. Our crazy, delicious lives. This is our savory life.

So pull up a chair. Join us as we journey through this life, with Jesus as our aim, bringing people together around a table filled with food, love, and many, many stories.

Thank you to all who followed me and journeyed with me on to Know Love. I hope you find just as much satisfaction, if not more, at Our Savory Life.

New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday.

No really, it is.

Or so I thought. Then I started dating my beau. And he noticed a pattern (like he has so many other times since this relationship began).

Our first holiday as a couple was the Fourth of July, which I let him know was my favorite holiday. Then Thanksgiving came around and I told him it was my favorite holiday.

He thought he just misheard me about Fourth of July. Then came Christmas  Eve, which I informed him was my favorite holiday and so on.

Next in line, New Year’s Eve and I exclaimed with much joy how it was my favorite holiday. And Beau knew something was up.

“You know every holiday is your favorite, right?” He said it outright. Steady. A half smile giving him away.

“That’s not true! I love New Year’s Eve, it really is my favorite…”

(silence)

“Actually, I love Thanksgiving too. Oh and Fourth of July and Christmas!!!!” I said less steady, a little worried but still beaming as I thought about all my favorite holidays.

“So, basically any day where there is an excuse for celebration and a joining of friends is your favorite?”

“Um, yes. I guess that’s about right.”

“So, I should just assume that whichever holiday is up and coming is your favorite?”

“Yes. That would be best. But baby, your birthday is my ABSOLUTE favorite. The day you were born :)”

And no, I did not just come up with that. I actually said it. Oh yes I did. Judge me. Now.

Anyway, my favorite holiday is um, today!

If you are planning on having people over or if you need to bring something, I have an extremely easy dish that will be a hit. Everyone will love you. And they’ll ask for the recipe. And love you some more. And all of a sudden you will be a shoe-in for all parties up and coming.

And if you are an introvert maybe this does not sound awesome to you. And I apologize for that.

Enter: Baked Fontina

It is so easy. So simple. It acts as a great appetizer when you have friends or family over but it is just as good for a leisurely lunch.

This recipe comes from Ina Gartin who first made it after having a similar dish at a famous New York City restaurant.

Here are some of the ingredients you will need:

There, now that's not too bad, is it?

There, now that’s not too bad, is it?

Grab your cast iron skillet. Next you will want to cube up 1 1/2 pounds of Fontina cheese. One inch cubes will do and make sure you do not use the rind. Fontina is a very creamy cheese and melts well. I found it at my local grocery store in the cheese aisle.

Add the cubed Fontina to the cast iron skillet. Then mince 1 tablespoon fresh thyme and 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary.

Now it’s time for white gold. Garlic that is. This recipe calls for 6 cloves of garlic. Now that’s a recipe you can trust.

Slice the garlic very thinly.

Six cloves of garlic? Don't mind if I do.

Six cloves of garlic? Don’t mind if I do.

And that’s about the extent of your prep work. Look at you go. You’re awesome.

Now we assemble.

Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil all over the cheese.

baked-fontina-olive-oil

Add that beautiful garlic to the cast iron skillet. Just evenly lay it all over the cheese.

Fontina, meet garlic.

Fontina, meet garlic.

Now sprinkle your fresh herbs all over the cheese. Finish it off with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper.

She looks so beautiful and she still has to go into the oven to get all bubbly.

fontina-and-herbs

Now it is time to pop her in the oven. Turn your oven to Broil and make sure your oven rack is just five inches from the broiler.

A tip: if you are making this as an appetizer for people that you are entertaining, wait to pop it in the oven until your guests arrive. It only takes about 6-10 minutes for the cheese to get all bubbly and brown and it is always fun to pull it out when your guests are standing near by! OR, if you are bringing it over to someone’s house just assemble it and wait to pop it in the oven when you get to their house.

This is what you will pull out:

bubbly-baked-fontina

YES! Now, Ina suggests you serve this with a crusty baguette. Which is a very good idea. We like to drizzle our baguette slices with olive oil and pop it into the oven under the broiler once the cheese comes out. It usually only takes about 3 minutes for it to get all golden.

Then when it comes out, rub a smidge bit of raw garlic on it (because this dish doesn’t already have enough garlic).

See? A smidge of garlic.

See? A smidge of garlic.

But we didn’t stop there. My beau arranged an awesome array of veggies to go with this cheese. We used carrots, green apples and broccoli. We have also used grapes, celery, and bell peppers in the past.

With no effort at all your set-up will look like this:

baked-fontina-and-veggies

And when someone dips into the cheese, they’ll experience this:

baked-fontina-garlic-bread

Oh yes they will.

(Note: in my pictures you will notice my cast iron is a mere 5 inches instead of the recommended 12, that’s because I made this for lunch the day after Christmas for just the two of us! It is the perfect size for just two and I got this mini cast iron at World Market for $6.00! World Market, I’m addicted. Enough said.)

Done and done. You need to make this like yesterday. But since that isn’t going to happen, how about make it for your New Year’s Eve party?

Happy New Year’s Eve! Here’s your recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Italian Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, rind removed and 1-inch-diced
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 crusty French baguette

Directions

Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 5 inches from the heat.

Distribute the cubes of Fontina evenly in a 12-inch cast-iron pan. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese and olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 6 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and starts to brown.

Serve the baked Fontina family-style-right out of the oven in the cast-iron pan with crusty chunks of bread for everyone to dip.

This will easily feed 8-10 people as an appetizer or 4-6 if served for lunch.

Note: Welcome to my Tip of the Week. If there is a tip I found, and I tested it, and it worked, I will share it. If you are just stopping by for the tip and not the story, scroll to the graphic at the end of the post. 

It’s November and there I am, standing in my kitchen. Starring at my sauté pan. Wondering if exchanging diamond earrings for a pan was a good idea. I am unusually quiet. I am waiting for the pan to invite me into its life. Tell me its secrets. Make me the master chef I never wanted to be.

My beau is standing behind me. Respecting my quiet meeting with my pan.

When he proposed to me, he told me I was unlike any woman he had ever met. I think he is finding out how true that statement really is in this moment.

But, it’s just a pan. So the silence wanes on and on. I keep hearing the words from the sales lady, “Stainless steel pans are pretty hard to master. One day I am able to cook a perfect chicken breast in it. The next day, food is sticking and burnt.”

But it was just so pretty. All shiny. Just waiting to be used.

I think that trial and error might be best but this time, unlike others, I am not patient enough for that. I do some research online and find some tips.

If your food is sticking to your pan, it might be:

  • too hot
  • too cold

No one told me I was going to be reading a version of Goldilocks when I went on my search. Then again, Stout is standing in the kitchen with me and he looks just like a little bear.

Stout was named after our favorite beer... A stout. Because he's dark, like a Stout. We're really cool like that. Jer told me we cannot take that approach with our children.

Stout was named after our favorite beer… A stout. Because he’s dark, like a Stout. We’re really cool like that. Jer told me we cannot take that approach with our children.

Back to the pan. So, I am gathering it needs to be just right? And it hits me, I am Goldilocks and this pan is my porridge. Here’s to a fairytale ending.

The thing with stainless steel pans is, there are so many. Big, small, different metals…on and on. So there is no cookie cutter, “Heat for three minutes, no more and no less and you’re ready to rock and roll.”

It needs to be tested. You need to take the temperature of your pan. And here’s how.

TAKING THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR PAN

First, I start with a little pep talk that goes something like this, “Listen, you beautiful shiny pot, I bought you and I am going to use you. And you are going to cooperate. And I am going to make lots of food in you and I will give you some of the credit. We’re a team ok? Let’s do this.”

And thus the experiment begins.

Turn your stove onto medium heat. If you are using stainless steel you definitely want medium heat or maybe a little less than medium high. Stainless steel does an excellent job at maintaining heat and even cooking. It’s what they’re known for. So if you crank your stove to high, your pan will get really hot really fast and it will be hard to bring it back down to a good cooking temperature.

As your pan is heating, you will be able to check it’s temperature every 30 seconds with a droplet of water. An 1/8 to be exact. Do not try to do this test with 1/4 teaspoon because that is too much water and this test will not work.

The first time you drop the water in, you might see this:

This pan is too cold. The water does not react at all.

This pan is too cold. The water does not react at all.

If the water does not react at all, that means the pan is still too cold and you need to let it warm up a little bit.

Wait about 30 to 45 seconds and try the test again.

If you drop the water in and it bubbles and steams like the below picture, it is still too cold.

Here the water bubbles when it comes into contact with the pan. It is still too cold.

Here the water bubbles when it comes into contact with the pan. It is still too cold.

Again, wait another 30 to 45 seconds. Take a step back. Take a swig of water. Do some yoga poses to maintain peace.

You will probably experience this bubble effect one or two more times (like I did). This is no time to give up.

Jump a few times in the air like you’re in a boxing ring. That always helps. Take a second to mark off “exercise” from your to-do list.

Ask for a few shoulder rubs from your man or whoever happens to be nearby and step back into the ring.

Next, you will probably see this:

Tiny, round bubbles form and disperse gliding along the pan.

Tiny, round bubbles form and disperse gliding along the pan.

These round bubbles are what you are looking for….well, the shape is what you are looking for. But you need to see one, large ball of water glide along the pan to know your pan is ready.

Time for a little lesson.

Stainless steel pans have pores in them and when heated these pores open and close during the heating process. If your pan is not heated properly and you put your chicken (or what have you) in the pan, the opening and closing pores will latch onto your food, causing it to stick when you go to flip it.

When the pan is at the right temperature, the pores are no longer opening and closing. This is why the water test is perfect. When water hits a pan and forms one perfect ball that glides across the pan, the pores are stable. Your pan is heated.

This is the one perfect ball of water you are looking for:

If water hits the pan and forms one perfect ball. Your pan is heated correctly.

If water hits the pan and forms one perfect ball. Your pan is heated correctly.

Look near the middle to the right-hand side and you will see the ball I am mentioning.

Here is another close-up:

This ball of water indicates that the pan is properly heated.

This ball of water indicates that the pan is properly heated.

Obviously at this point I want to do an elaborate, choreographed dance in celebration of properly heating my pan BUT, THERE IS NO TIME FOR THAT.

Maintain composure. Push those feelings of joy to the side, temporarily. (I am not all about suppressing emotions, as my beau can attest to.)

Seeing as the pan is at the EXACT right temperature, you have to act quickly because the pan is still on the heat source and still climbing in temperature. Have your oil by your pan and add it quickly. It is also good to have your food ready to be put in your pan.

When you add anything to a pan, it lowers the temperature. Adding the oil will result in a slight decrease in temperature but only for a few seconds. You will know your oil is properly heated when you see the very first whisp of smoke. Or, if you move the oil around and you see legs form (the kind of legs you see when you swirl a glass of wine).

See those beautiful legs? High kick anyone?!

See those beautiful legs? High kick anyone?!

Once you see this it is time to immediately add your food!

I want to go big or go home. So I choose fish instead of chicken for this experiment. I have never been able to cook fish in a stainless steel pan without it sticking.

In they go. After 4 minutes it is time to flip them. My sweaty palms grab the spatula. It is a moment of truth for me:

Frying fish in a properly heated stainless steel pan.

Frying fish in a properly heated stainless steel pan.

And up she comes. Perfect execution. No fish stuck to my pan!!!

And that is how you properly heat your pan. I have done this water experiment the first several times I used my pan. After repetition you begin to learn the exact time it takes for your pan to heat properly. Then you become a seasoned pro and you do not need the water experiment anymore.

Basically, you’re ready to compete on The Next Iron Chef.

A Note About Stainless Steel Pans

I did not only pick a Tri-Ply stainless steel pan over a non-stick pan because some lady was not confident in my ability to master it. I did it for the following reasons:

  • When I thought about the kitchens of my favorite restaurants or my favorite celebrity chefs I recalled that they all used stainless steel pans. There must be a reason…
  • I am a huge fan of my meat being all browned perfectly with a gorgeous crust and I have never been able to create that in a non-stick pan.
  • I LOVE making reductions. (In cooking, reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor of a liquid mixture such as a soup or sauce.) In many of the recipes I use, they utilize the little brown bits (also called fonds) leftover in a pan after frying to make a rich sauce. BUT, these beautiful brown bits are not able to be created in a non-stick pan…because nothing can stick.

For example:

Perfectly cooked fish.

Perfectly cooked fish.

And that is why I went with stainless steel!

And now, for the cliff notes:

how-to-cook-in-stainless-steel-pan-without-food-sticking

Any questions?!

On August 11, 2012 I am cozied up in my parents’ guest bedroom. I am holding a wrapped package and Skyping with my husband. He is deployed in Afghanistan and it’s my birthday.

“Ok, I’m ready. Open it now.” His eyes all gleaming filled with wishes that he were here with me.

I open the gift and…act quickly. Maintain composure. Smile and try to trick the one person who I’ve never been able to emotionally trick.

“Diamond earrings!! Oh my gosh. Wow. I mean WOW! Thank you so much, baby. They are so pretty.” Smile. Keep smiling. Pick them up. More “oohs and aaahs”…

Inside I am thinking, something has gone horribly wrong. Do I wear diamond anything? Ever? In fact, when I first went ring shopping with my roomie I did not even want to look at diamond rings. I wanted a pearl.

I am Zales’ worst nightmare. Every kiss does not begin with “K” (well, I mean it does, but not with a diamond from Kay Jewelers) and diamonds are not this girls’ best friend.

J DID propose with a diamond ring! This was taken shortly after the proposal. I LOVE my ring and as this photo captures, I was in immense shock. The man did good!

I am not trying to be ungrateful. I was just shocked at the gift but overwhelmed with gratitude for the gesture. I smiled and gushed and put them on. After we hung up I went to bed. Grateful for a husband who makes my birthday special.

As I closed my eyes, I talked to the only One who really knew how much I missed my husband. Just like the previous four months, sleep consisted of a prayer for his safety and desires for peaceful rest.

A few days later we’re Skyping again and J says what we both know, “You don’t like them, do you?”

“No! I love them. I just have to get used to wearing them. I’m not a diamond kind of gal, you know?”

“I can return them.”

“No! I mean, it’s not like they’re real. I like them and I will end up loving them I am sure. “

“What? They are real and not inexpensive and if you do not like them I should really return them. Really. I could get you quite a few things you like in exchange.”

“THEY’RE REAL?!! Oh my gosh. WHAT? Ok, maybe we should return them. I did not know they are real…What?!”

So, he returned them. When he got home several weeks later he took me out shopping for something I would really like. And I came home with….pots and pans.

You heard me. Actually, a dutch oven and stainless steel pans :) Take that diamond earrings.

As a newlywed who was convinced she did not like cooking, kitchen tools were pretty low on my priority list. Really low. In fact, if I had it my way, my registry for all things kitchen would have been summed up as: one personal chef. Apparently, people don’t ask for those as wedding gifts.

Fast forward one year later and cooking has become a release, a passion, and a getaway for me. And J loves being in the kitchen with me which makes it all the more fun! Except when we don’t communicate.

And all of a sudden our muffins are sprinkled with salt instead of sugar.

And then we have to talk about the importance of communication.

It’s like marriage counseling for us. But the counselor is usually a vegetable or burnt pecan pie.

But, it’s all good because we end up kissing and making up and slicing off the muffin tops and calling them food nouveau. It’s so french :)

Anyway, I had been noticing that proper kitchen tools could make my cooking experience more enjoyable and better.

And so begins my journey with my new pots and pans! In fact, I encountered quite the resistance when I went to purchase Tri-Ply stainless steel pans vs. non-stick pans. And not from J, from the sales lady.

She was quite convinced that I could not master stainless steel pans. “These non-stick pans are very easy to cook with. No sticking. No mess.”

After that sentence I knew what I had to do….I just had to rebel. And hope to keep cursing limited in the kitchen while I learned how to use these shiny vessels.

After much research and a little bit of practice, I have mastered my stainless steel pan. And I’m revealing what I found tomorrow in the high-kick tip of the week. You won’t want to miss it. Unless you already know the trick. If that’s the case I have nothing to say to you. But you should still read the post for the jokes…(Note to self, put jokes in post.)

What amazing gift has someone gotten you that you exchanged for something unexpected?

Note: Welcome to your High Kick Tip of the Week. If there is a tip I found, and I tested it, and it worked, I will share it. I am going to call these tips the High Kick Tip of the Week. Because I like to high kick. And so should you. ALSO, if you are just stopping by for the tip and not the story, scroll to the graphic at the end of the post. And please refrain from laughing out loud at my graphic. You can laugh silently. To yourself. That’s it.

Yesterday, Jer and I were making some Gingerbread Blondies* for some troops overseas. I was convinced I had all the ingredients for this holiday treat.

Deep into the recipe I saw an ingredient I had misread, baking soda…not baking powder.

Jer knew something was wrong because as my eyes fell upon the “add baking soda” part, I screamed. I do that a lot in the kitchen. The first hundred times I did it, Jer thought I had cut off my fingers. Nope! When I scream in the kitchen it’s usually because I accidentally used sugar instead of salt or I am missing an ingredient or something is expired :)

Kind of like this. Super attractive, right? Really turns J on...or not.

Kind of like this. Super attractive, right? Really turns J on…or not.

Jer says I feel the need to be heard every 15 min. and that is why I randomly scream. I reject that. REJECTED. But, it’s probably something that needs to be revisited. In a therapy session. He should really look into that, poor guy. :)

I had to explain to him that, OBVIOUSLY, I am actually very cool and collected when under duress. Anytime something has really gone wrong, like a sliced finger (ask Brandy), a fire (not contained in a fireplace), a pecan pie falling in slow motion hot from the oven onto the floor…I am actually very quite silent. I assess. And then act.

Anyway, I screamed, showed Jer all my appendages to calm him down and then exclaimed, “I have no baking soda.”

After talking to my mom (a master in the kitchen who now answers “Kitchen Hotline!” when I call her phone) I had the solution. You can use baking powder in place of baking soda, you just need to triple the amount. You can do this because there is actually baking soda in baking powder, but just a little bit.

Get Argo! It is aluminum free! Bad aluminum. stay out of my baking powder.

Get Argo! It is aluminum free! Bad aluminum. Stay out of my baking powder.

My recipe called for 1 teaspoon of baking soda so I substituted with 3 teaspoons baking powder. (That math was for free. Any additional math requests and there will be a fee.)

BUT WAIT…another gem of a fact. There is salt in baking powder so it is usually a good rule of thumb to omit any salt the recipe calls for. My recipe called for a tsp of salt and since I like testing things…I added the salt. :) I know, Out. Of. Control.  I live on the edge.

When the gingerbread squares were baked and cooled, I tasted one. And screamed. And then I showed Jer all my appendages for added relief. And then noted that the baked treat was a little on the salty side.

Even though I thought they were a little salty, they were still delicious and we ate like four...each...We're all about quality control in this kitchen.

Even though I thought they were a little salty, they were still delicious and we ate like four…each…We’re all about quality control in this kitchen.

It was slight. Not overpowering, but still there.

Other than that, they were seriously delicious. We will make these again and again for holidays to come. And they were pretty effortless (if you have a mixer). Get the recipe.

So, let’s recap. You can keep your birthday suit on (that’s what you cook in, right?) when you realize you have no baking soda. Just reach for the baking powder, triple the amount called for and omit the salt.

Done and done.

*We wanted to make a Christmas treat for the troops we know that will be gone for the holidays. I needed a treat that travels well. These blondies are both festive and travel very well. If you need to make a treat that will travel, try them out.

And now for the cliff notes. This is my artistic side coming out :) Enjoy:

Cliff Notes!

Cliff Notes!

I have serious fear of consuming mold. Serious. Fear.

Therefore, expiration dates are somewhat of a beacon for me in the kitchen. Just ask my former roomie (The Marine’s Wife) who would watch me comb labels on breads and bags of veggies for that ever hard to find expiration date.

For most people, it’s a suggestion. For me, it’s a hard and fast rule.

Some Most people think, “Oh, just a few days past. Still smells good. I’ll eat it.” I think. “This is straight up poison and should be contained in a large metal can with a secure lid. Like in this trash can here.”

But I try not be dramatic about it.

This brings me to last night, when I noticed that most of the veggies I purchased last week were nearing their beloved end. Something needed to happen. And fast.

Enter, a Vegetable Tian.

OR, as I like to call it, a dish of various vegetables baked in the oven …made gorgeous by the halo of cheese that melts on top.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of layering and all the pictures I have seen of tians look so pretty. So I was questioning if I had the ability to re-create this beauty.

But it made the whole house smell incredible and my man and I owned it…the whole dish. Gone. I am so glad I stepped out. And I am even more grateful that our veggies were put to a good and most beautiful use.

Here we go:

I used Ina Gartin’s recipe for Vegetable Tian because hers called for everything I had:

  • Zucchini
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Grueyer Cheese
  • Garlic

Slice up two yellow onions and sauté them on medium heat for about 10 minutes (until they are translucent and all sexy looking).

Sexy onions. And they know it.

Sexy onions. And they know it.

While those are cooking slice up those “nearing the end” veggies. I used two zucchinis and two potatoes.

Here lies veggies that were knocking on death's door. I rescued them...well...kind of. Depends on your take on the word "rescue."

Here lies veggies that were knocking on death’s door. I rescued them…well…kind of. Depends on your take on the word “rescue.”

I also sliced up two tomatoes that were on the verge of squishy-ness. That is a technical culinary term.

Once the onions are sauteed add 2 minced garlic cloves. Or, if you have an addiction to garlic, use three, like me. Saute for one minute more (but not too long or you’ll burn your garlic and garlic doesn’t deserve to be treated that way).

Then spoon all that onion, garlic goodness in the bottom of a round casserole dish.

Now it’s time to layer. I was not too excited about the layering – who has time to layer? I was able to overcome this by playing some music. Maybe some Kanye music…maybe there was a dance party? Maybe the secret to not being bothered by layering is dancing?! I submit so!

See, she is so pretty. And in reality, it probably took me like 3 minutes of focused layering.

Yes, these veggies are spooning.

Yes, these veggies are spooning.

I just started with a potato and then two zucchinis side by side (they’re such little guys) and then a tomato. Ina’s recipe just said “layer” but I am here to tell you that you need to fit them pretty close together to fit them all. And I just started from the outside and worked my way in.

NOW. NOW for my absolute favorite ingredient. I never really knew the power of fresh herbs until I started cooking. I mean, I always liked them. They sure do make a dish all pretty. But, wow, they are almost always the star of my dishes. I don’t have an herb garden (due to lack of backyard) but it is on the top of my list.

Chop up some fresh Thyme. Chop! Chop! Chop! Do not have a dance party while chopping. There are too many fingers at stake.

I am currently taking donations for a manicure. Kidding :) Kind of…

Now, sprinkle generous portions of cracked black pepper, salt, a drizzle of olive oil and your chopped Thyme over the veggies. Now she’s ready to go into the oven.

Put me in the oven!

Put me in the oven!

But where? Where is the cheese? I know. I promised you cheese. But, if you want to keep this dish Paleo, this is all you will be adding. It will still be yummy.

Cover the dish with foil and put it in the oven at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

NOW, if you’re like “um, it’s totally my cheat meal” like we were :) then you must add fresh grated Gruyere cheese.

Pull the dish out after 35 minutes. Remove the foil. Sprinkle on the cheese. And pop her back in, uncovered, for another 30 minutes until the cheese is all brown and bubbly.

Viola. Enjoy.

Those wine glasses are props...or something like that.

Those wine glasses are props…or something like that.

Just for clarity, I didn’t write this post to expose some amazing recipe that I did not create (although it is amazing and you should try it). I wrote it for all my fellow comrades out there who want to know what to do with expiring veggies. Follow Ina’s recipe here.

Note: You will feel all warm and wonderful inside because you did not have to throw out your expired veggies. This is a normal feeling. Also, you will feel extra wonderful because you did not have to breakout your hazmat suit to dispose of your expired veggies :)

Also, as long as we’re giving out tips. My younger, brilliant sister (studying to be a Doctor…I didn’t get that gene) told me this morning that a hazmat suit should also be worn when entering a hot tub. Something about hot tub folliculitis. Note to self: do not talk to sister while she is studying. Or why I am trying to enjoy my coffee and breakfast. Or if I ever want to live without consistent multiple gag reflexes in a row. Just don’t.

Let’s get right down to it. When Jeremy and I got married I told him reluctantly that I would make dinner most nights of the week due to his request and something about the budget…

Turns out I like this cooking thing. A lot. It’s become an addiction, and I often find myself talking about Food TV Network stars like they are old friends. I am awesome like that.

As Jeremy and I have journeyed through our first (and now into our second) year of marriage we discovered that we both love cooking. We are often in the kitchen together. Sometimes I am his sous chef and sometimes he is mine.

A few months ago we came up with a “Test Kitchen Tuesday” idea. We wanted to explore different foods and cooking techniques and give ourselves the freedom to royally screw up and laugh about it. And never reveal our errors to the human race. Ever.

It’s our baby idea. Like not even a newborn baby idea. More like an, “I think I am pregnant” idea. And no, I am not pregnant. But, interesting that I just used that example…baby fever much? I dunno. Ah. Ok, the idea of being pregnant still scares me. REIGN IT IN BRIANNE.

Ok…so, like I was saying. We usually have friends over for Test Kitchen Tuesday and they get to help us decide what we should cook. It’s fun! All you need for your own personal Test Kitchen Tuesday is:

  • an idea of what to cook and a recipe
  • Bottles of wine Beverages of choice :)
  • Friends

The idea to post about these nights was an afterthought.

That leads me into the world’s best caesar dressing. (And sorry for all the explanation before that. You thought you would just be visiting for a recipe, right? Sorry. Kind of.)

Ok, I have searched high and low for the best homemade caesar dressing. HIGH AND LOW. I have made dressings that range from painfully oily to disgustingly fishy (yikes) to downright illegal.

So last Tuesday Jeremy and I lined up three recipes and vowed not to leave the kitchen until we found the best caesar dressing ever.

We started with a recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Ok, we can just shut it down here, right? BUT, I was extremely skeptical because I had tried a spicy caesar dressing by her in the summer and the look on my guests face after serving it told me I was still on my hunt.

We carefully followed each step and after one lick of the spoon…we did shut it down. Packed test kitchen Tuesday up for the night. We found it. The best caesar dressing.

Isn't this the best picture ever? Not really. We forgot to capture the process. Oops!

Isn’t this the best picture ever? Not really. We forgot to capture the process. Oops!

Now, I’m not going to layout the recipe, Ree (see how I called her by her first name, we’re friends like that) does a much better job of that. We made it EXACTLY like she wrote it and it wowed us.

DO EXACTLY WHAT SHE SAYS. DO NOT, I SAY, DO NOT SKIMP ON THE ANCHOVIES…you heard me.

Oh and a tip on anchovies, we bought ours at Fresh Market (kind of like a Whole Foods) in a bottle (not a can) packed in oil (not in water). That makes a difference.

Also, DO NOT smell the anchovies as you are putting them into the blender unless you want serious gag reflex. Also don’t name them as you drop them in. Or do :) Little Henry served us well :)

Here it is: The Best Caesar Dressing.

You must try it and let me know what you think!

Note: Why not just buy caesar dressing in the store? First of all, most of the store dressings have enough preservatives in them to make a girl mad. Really mad. Secondly, I actually never found a bottled dressing I really like. Those really fancy ones can be ok, but their price tag makes me just as mad. BAD BOTTLED DRESSINGS. BAD.

Thus concludes this post. Next time there will be more pictures. For example we have found (and this has been approved by dinner parties and our Bible study) the best pot roast EVER but we had to revise it several times over, so I will include the original recipe along with what we added and what we had to take away.

“In order to be a good cook, you have to love to eat.”

-Ana Jovancicevic
Celebrated dinner party hostess
Brooklyn, New York

“I don’t know why.”

I was ready to answer the question that would come. But, I don’t know if I’d call that an answer. Which made the tears explode and burst onto the scene with more intention.

But he never came and asked, “Why are you crying?” He let me rest. He cleaned the house and went grocery shopping and let me fall into the sleep he knew I needed.

I finally did sleep. Probably because I was exhausted from my trip to Peru. But mostly because I didn’t want to think about why I was crying. I hear that’s really healthy… (note sarcasm, or call me a therapist :) )

Tears bred from confusion light me up. Not with anger. With curiosity. But I did not feel like exploring that night. So I let my mind and heart be handed over to dreaming. I wanted to live, just for a few hours, behind the creases of my eye lids.

Little hands, patient but asking, appear on the stage of my life. Not as props or co-stars or backdrops but as the climax, with great purpose, acting as powerful transitions but revealed to be decisive beginnings. Everything but the ending.

I wonder how many times I escorted them off and welcomed the next scene. The next meal I was to prepare. The next pile of clothes to iron. The next floor to sweep. The next email to check.

I’m tired. But I know I’m not tired like Nicolasa who works 12 hour days to feed her children.

Who climbs a steep hill, rocks escaping from under her feet as she conquers each new step. Who carries buckets and buckets and buckets of water up the hill to her home, because water only comes through a community pump and it only comes every other day.

I’m not that kind of tired.

And then there is Naomi. My heart swollen as I watch her, a child in ever way, dressed in pink just like a little girl should be.

She clung to her mom. And her mom latched on too.

Abandoned by her husband. Left as the sole caretaker for her children. Living in a squatter district in Peru. Surrounded for miles by dust and gray sky. Like the underbelly of a donkey.

Standing in her house, I am reminded of how much I yearn for new Jerusalem for them…for myself too.

I’m ready for the water to break and for all my expectation to give birth to eyes that can look on Him who saves.

I’m waiting for a dusty, corroded mirror to crash taking with it the scales on my eyes and every former thing. I spent my time on earth straining to look through it. Catching glimpses. Being formed by quick impressions.

How can I not always yearn for it? For the mirror to give and burst and produce an opening to Him. The object of my faith. The fulfillment of my love.

I want Him to come back. I want Him to wipe my tears away. But I want to watch Him wipe Naomi’s tears away too. And I want Him to turn to me and thank me for wiping away her tears in the waiting.

Did I wipe away her tears?

I watched her and I prayed in my heart, “Jesus, please come back. Please. Please. Please. Please come back.”

But I know He is patient toward us. Steady. Loving. Waiting.

And I know until then He has someone to wipe away her tears and his tears. All their tears. I know that one of those someone’s is me.

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:2-4

Words come in a permanent form. No eraser. I hand my words out on a daily basis. Along with my words I have, several times, handed out my own God-made eraser, apologies and repentance.

Forgiveness helps. A remorseful heart is powerful. But there is just something about words that find the layers of your heart you never knew existed and they grow there. And then one day, these words you had forgotten, have dominion over you.

I was told lots of words growing up. Words that shaped me. Words that held me back for a while.

I was told I have lots of joy. Sometimes I was told I had too much joy. I was told I am short…I was told that a lot. But there are several moments that are strikingly etched into my memory. They were only moments, seconds even. One word was predominant and it continued to be thrown in my direction. I tried my best to dodge and dismiss this word.

Faith. I believe the exact reoccurring statement was, “Brianne, you have the gift of faith.”

I’ve let several people into my heart and I’ve given free access into my mind. I know that this can be dangerous and I have reaped the consequences of being so open. But I just have never been a completely closed off person. I love people. I love to know people. I want people to know me too. The real me. So I am usually in a constant state of, “What do you want to know about me?”

When you let a lot of people see you, you get used to hearing a lot of things about yourself and believing them.

My mirror is dusty, it’s crystal reflective glass is tainted by the rust of this world, who I think I am, the sins I know I’ve committed. I know the truth, but to be honest, I rarely see white snow. My friends and family help knock my own mirror, they shake it up, and as some of the dust falls away, I begin to see this very pure and beautiful reflection. It looks a lot like Jesus.

These same people keep this word, faith, marching in my direction.

Let me be honest, I didn’t like it at all.

Dr. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International (shout out to the ministry I labor at!), recently released his new book Just a Minute. In his book he challenges the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s just not true and he expounds on this.

In his book are vibrant collections of stories from people whose lives have been changed in literally just a minute, because of something said to them when they were a child. Some have been changed for the better; others have been discouraged for what seems lifetime.

When I was thinking of my very own “just a minute” moment, the word faith, and all those who spoke it to me, was the first thing that came to mind.

When I was in youth group years ago, my pastor came up to me one day and said, “Brianne, do you know you have the gift of faith?” And that was it. He walked off after that. I was utterly offended.

Of course, there was something deeper to my disgust of being known as a girl with faith. I profoundly desired to be known for something of “greater” value. Most people in my youth group were beyond talented. Incredible public speakers. Musicians. Beautiful. Athletic. Brilliant. And here I was, with just faith.

Exactly one week later my bible study leader had us girls take a Spiritual Gifts test. Mine number one gift, faith. Again, I was kind of dismayed.

Several years later I am in an Australian Rainforest with Youth with a Mission. Our speaker for the past week was a powerful and eccentric speaker. After 5 days of teaching we came to the last session where we would take communion and spend time in praise and worship. The speaker said that he would like to come around and pray over the people he had gotten to know over the past week. He made it clear that if he did not get to know us, he would have someone else come pray over us. I had not even sat down with him once. I am pretty sure he did not even know my name.

The session began. My group leader came and prayed over me. She left and I continued in prayer. All of a sudden I felt someone standing in front of me and he grabbed me by the shoulders, I opened my eyes and there he was, our speaker, looking me square in the eyes and saying over and over again, “You have an incredible gift of faith.”

Now, at this point, I was still annoyed when people said that. Can’t a girl get a break? Isn’t there something else captivating about me besides this invisible faith that I do not even understand? But part of me was intrigued. God was pursuing me to acknowledge the gift He had given.

This speaker continued to say that though we had not spoken the whole week he saw light follow me wherever I went. He knew it was my faith. Then he prayed for me and the prayer shocked me. He did not thank God for my faith or ask my faith to increase. He asked God that I would accept my gift of faith and walk forward in confidence with it. He prayed that I would claim my faith and stop pushing it off.

A few years later I started working at Compassion International. My boss had me take the StregnthsFinder test, a secular test that helps define your strengths. It is incredible. I highly recommend it.

I wasn’t sure what my results would be, communicator? Organizer? Developing people? Ideation? Strategizing? I could not wait.

The results came back with my top 5, number one being the strongest. My number one was faith. It found me out even in a secular, business book.

I am indelibly grateful that God gave me this gift even though I rejected it. He pursued me and opened my eyes until I did accept it.

His words are magnificent. They are higher, more powerful and more substantial than any word ever spoken by a human being.

His words are living.

What words were spoken to you in just a moment that changed you forever?

She strikes again. Almost a year later.  “She” being the words, the writer, the other companion I have. But she’s neglected. And she knows it. Sorry, luv. Too much happened this year. Reflection almost became an enemy to survival.

But, I do miss you. Please come back. See, here is what’s happening:

I don’t feel like I am being ushered into the New Year. I feel like I am being hurled. 2011 has picked up my memories, my events, my going heres and theres…he’s waded them all up, along with me, and he’s aiming me at 2012.

Marrying my love. Very new.

I have been overwhelmed; almost overcome, by new experiences, new people, a new life. New mercies. New loving-kindnesses. Lots of new.  It’s all still so new, it does not have a hint of fading or that beginning smell of dust.

Marriage. Living in Florida. New job position. New puppy. New home (twice). Lots of traveling. Did I mention that I love cooking now? That’s really new!

I did not just forsake my writing (again) I crept away from pursuing to know God. Mostly, I just did a really good job of maintaining. But, maintaining and more horrifically, complacency, is such an enemy to love.

I am utterly shocked that 2012 is about to make his appearance. But, I have a plan; more importantly, I have a word.

About three years ago, my boss (at the time) introduced me to a different kind of New Year’s Resolution. If you know me, you know I am not a resolutions kind of gal. More like a, “It’s midnight! I’ll have that sip of champagne and a kiss and go to bed now!” kind of gal. But, I liked what he shared and it has stuck.

One word. That’s it.

It is a discipline of seeking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the word that God has for you in the upcoming year. Read more about.

So far I have had:

Love

Worship

Obey

It is a spiritual discipline. Each year I thought I understood why the word was given to me. Alas, each year the Lord has used the word in my life in a way I did not expect.

He’s like that.

This year my word is one I do not even remotely understand. I have tried to change it many times. But, I know which word was given to me.

Pleasing.

I am waiting on a little more revelation. I am sure it will take about 365 days.

If you are so inclined, please ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the word He has for you in 2012. And then share it. I’d love that.

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