30 September 2011

Friday Replay- Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Friday Replay is where I get a chance to replay some of the posts that I wrote back when the only people reading were my mother and husband. So many of them mean a lot to me, and show my heart a bit more, so much so that I want to share them with the many readers I'm blessed to have now!

_______________________________________________________________ 
 
 



Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

1 box Devil's Food cake mix (without pudding in the mix)
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
8oz container fat-free sour cream
8oz egg beaters
4 Tbsp instant coffee or espresso
3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp warm water
3 Tbsp oil
1/2 chocolate chips

Directions:
-Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour bundt pan.
-Mix together all ingredients but the chocolate chips. The batter will be pretty thick. Fold in chocolate chips. c
-Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until knife comes out mostly clean. Enjoy!



28 September 2011

Can I Get an Amen?

                                                                                         Source: stumbleupon.com via Hannah on Pinterest


Question of the Day:
Which ones did you relate to most?

Mine were #4, #8, and #17.






27 September 2011

Incarnational Living in Memphis, TN

I have a special guest post for you today! Laura from DePriest Adventures is here to share about the work she does in Memphis working with families in children in her neighborhood. She is an inspiriation to me, so much so that I couldn't keep her a secret. She's here to tell us more about her life and service...

Hello, Culture Connoisseur fans! I feel very honored to be able to share a little about my and my husband's heart and story here on Hannah's blog. My husband, Parker, and I just recently celebrated our nine month wedding anniversary, and we live in Memphis, TN. First and foremost, we are lovers of Jesus Christ. Our deepest desire is for our lives to be a picture of the gospel to those around us, through our marriage, our friendships, and the way we live. What I am about to share with you is our story. This is not to say that this is the only way to follow Christ, but it is the way He has called us for our current season of life.


SOS (Taken by Wes Kitten)

A few years ago, Parker and I both worked at a ministry for a summer in Memphis, Tennessee called Service Over Self. We made the decision to work there with absolutely no knowledge about it beforehand. It was pretty scary! All we knew was that it was a home repair ministry in an urban neighborhood called Binghampton. We had no idea that God would use that summer to radically transform both of our lives. Through the course of that summer, we learned a TON about discipleship, authentic Christian community, incarnational living, and radically living lives that put Christ on display. These were things that we had never heard with such clarity. And you just don't walk away from something like that unchanged. We were in college at this point, so the incarnational living part was not immediate, but we knew that it was probably in our future.


Kids on Our Street
 
In the year before we got married, we both moved into Binghampton, each of us living with roommates. (Let me pause here and say that we are by far NOT the only people who have intentionally moved into our neighborhood. There have been many before us, and they are probably the main reason we feel more comfortable than we would otherwise.) But we really didn't feel like we settled in until we got married. Since then, we've lived on a street where we are the minority racially and socio-economically. As with a lot of things in life though, we have learned far more from those we thought we were coming to "help" than we probably actually helped them. For one thing, immersing yourself in another's culture is life-changing. It causes you to totally rethink everything you're used to, from your clothes, to your food, to your house, to your way of speaking. And this incarnational nature of living is just about the only way to relate to and reach the people on our street. So we've chosen to live simply (partly because we half to, living off of one small income for now), but also because we want to be a part of our neighborhood, and we are trying to not stand out more than we already do because of our skin color. There have been many, many joys, and confirmations from the Lord that this is where He wants us for now.
 
There have also been trials, as we expected. And we expect them throughout our entire lives, because Jesus never promised that living radically in His name would be easy and trouble-free. Just recently, there was an accident in our yard with our tire swing that involved one of the kids on our street that we've gotten to know very well falling and breaking her nose. Parker happened to be pushing her on the swing, plus it was in our yard, so the natural reaction of the child's mother is to blame us, and since then, she has spread rumors about our intentions that have caused us to be the brunt of some hateful words and looks. The main reason this was so upsetting was because we wanted to defend our own names (self-centered as that may be), but more importantly, we felt that because people know we are living here to try to love them like Jesus loves us, God's name is being defamed. It's brought a lot of racism to the forefront. And so we've had to be patient and trust. Trust that God is very, very in control, and that this is so small compared to the power that He has. And we trust that because we are living in His will, He will provide and be faithful.
 
 

Binghampton is where God has us for now. Who knows where we'll be and what we'll be doing in 5 years? All we can bank on and plan for is that whatever we're doing, we are living radically, sacrificially, and missionally. That is what Christ calls us to, and that is what Christ calls everyone who claims to be His disciple to. We are far from perfect, but God promises that He can use us broken vessels to accomplish His work here on the earth.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions: lauradepriest01@gmail.com.



26 September 2011

Weekend Update| September 26, 2011

After the race all I could do was smile and say "wow!!"

I did it! I ran a 5k and man does it feel fantastic! I can't thank you all enough for your encouragement on my last post and for your tweets the day of the race to pump me up for the challenge ahead. It really meant so much.  Here's some details from the day:

- I woke up at 3:00am the morning of because I realized I hadn't put together a running mix for my iPod. I can't think of a better use for 3:00 in the morning. It so paid off when we left the chute for our 3.1 mile run.

- We woke up at 5:30. I bounced out of bed and into my gear, and John said "so you have no problem jumping out of bed at 5:30 on a Saturday to go running, but I can't get you out of bed for the life of me at 7:00 on a Wednesday. I don't understand you."

- We feasted on english muffins with peanut butter and split a banana on the way to the race.




- We hit major traffic on the way there and were 20 minutes late to the start line. Yup, 20 minutes! We started running with just a few other stragglers and then caught up with the walkers and stroller-pushers by the end of it.

- I ran 3.1 miles in 37 minutes, only stopping to walk for 3 of those minutes. That's about a 12 minute mile pace.

-Reaching that finish line was the most exhilarating thing I have ever done. I smiled wide, thumbs-uped the cameras and kept saying "yes!" every exhale till my toes crossed the finish line. :)

I am absolutely hooked people. Like, I need to run another race right now. Unfortunately I'll have to wait until February. We're signing up for another 5k in Melbourne and we're running it with my mom and step-dad! It's going to be a great time and another great reason to keep training and try and improve my time.

Thanks again for all the encouragement. It made my day! And your breakfasts tips totally helped, the english muffin and pb really did the trick. I didn't feel sick at all!

23 September 2011

Pre-Weekend Update| RUNNING

                                                                              Source: media.photobucket.com via Hannah on Pinterest


So, I know it's a bit unusual, but today I need to do a pre-weekend update because there is something I'm so excited to tell you that I just can't wait until Monday!

Tomorrow is the big day...our first ever 5k race! I. AM. SO. EXCITED. We have been preparing for this race since the beginning of summer and I can't believe that tomorrow morning, 7 a.m., I'll be kicking off from the starting line. I'm prepared to fall head over heels in love with the thrill of a race day tomorrow, and am already pumped to sign up for an 8k this February. Running has finally gotten fun, and though my endurance still needs a little work the fact that I can run 1.5 miles without stopping gives me the motivation I need to keep pushing toward new goals. It really is the possibilities that keep me going!


Here's the shirt I bought, on sale, at Sports Authority for my run (only $14!). It's a Nike Pro Fitted V-Neck tee and I love it. If I had a million dollars I would buy this shirt in ever color it comes in. I chose pink because, even though I hate wearing pink in real life, I love wearing it when I work out because it makes me feel like a lady even though I'm sweating like a pig and grunting through my workout like a man.

I can't wait to report back to you on Monday with pictures from race day and some other fun things on the agenda this weekend. I just know that this weekend is going to fly by, but I'm going to try and savor every last minute of it.

I'll leave one final question for you runners out there:



Question of the Day:
I've never gone running so early in the morning, and don't typically eat breakfast until 9:00. What is a good breakfast to eat early in the morning before we get there at 6am that would be good fuel and not make my stomach real sick?




22 September 2011

We Found a Place!

Well, we finally found a place. It is exactly what we are looking for! It's in a safe part of town, close to both of our workplaces, shopping districts, downtown, and on-ramps to highways that will take us anywhere we want to go.



It's a cute little townhouse on the southeast side of town with stairs. John and I are kind of giddy about having stairs...I feel like only grown-ups get to have stairs and we feel, in no way, grown-up.

Let's see, what else does it have? It's in mint condition, has wood laminate and tile floors, corian counters, new appliances, high ceilings, and a garbage disposal (praise the Lord!). Here's a few more pics and you can view all of them here.








We're really excited about it. Our applications are in, and pending their sure approval we will be moving in October 8th!

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers on this matter, guys! Everything worked out and we couldn't be happier about the place or the price. :)



Question of the Day:
What do you look for when house shopping?
Any must-haves?






21 September 2011

A Hungry Child Can't Wait: Ask 5 for 5

      Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5 Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you Hannah at Culture Connoisseur and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can't wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we'll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps. 

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren't so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world's first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond--or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity's baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don't do anything at all.



When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn't want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother's hungry child?




My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya--the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, "I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm." The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. "We don't have enough food now...our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues."


Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on--in nine generations of 5x5x5...we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support, healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It's so so simple; here's what you need to do.
  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!
I'm looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you're interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn't wait. She doesn't wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn't wait for us to decide if she's important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on...please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped--you are saving lives and changing history.

p.s. Please don't move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you're life is busy like mine, you probably won't get back to it later. Let's not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let's leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!


Hannah's Question of the Day:
Did you give today? If just half of the people that regularly comment (you know who you are) gave $5 that would be $50 right there! :)










20 September 2011

Grilled Vegetable and Bean Salad



This recipe is so good. If you're not a big veggie fan (which is crazy to me...) you may look at this salad in disgust. But I tell you, you will be pleasantly surprised when it hits your taste buds. The grill makes all the veggies so sweet and tender, and when mixed with the semi-sour dressing it is everything you could ever want in your lunch box. This recipe is from Oh She Glows. I just added an extra protein kick by throwing in some chick peas in addition to the other beans and grains.

Salad:
3 bell peppers (red, green,  yellow)
2 zucchinis, sliced in half lengthwise
6 ears of corn, husk removed
1.5-2 cups cooked black beans (or one 15oz can)
1/2 cup uncooked wheatberries (optional)

Dressing:
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes) I’m sure lemon works too
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 small garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro (or herb of choice)
1 tsp maple syrup (or other sweetener)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper, to taste



1. Preheat the grill over medium heat. When it’s ready add the corn, rotating every few minutes. After about 10 minutes, add the zucchini and bell peppers. No need to chop the peppers, you can leave them whole. Grill for another 10 minutes, rotating frequently, until lightly charred.

2. Meanwhile, cook your wheatberries on the stovetop (if using them) according to package directions. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and adjust to taste.

3. When vegetables are done on the grill, cool, and then remove corn and chop the peppers and zucchini. Mix the drained and rinsed beans, wheatberries, dressing, and vegetables together in a large bowl. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper, to taste. Will keep for a few days in the fridge.


Question of the Day:
What site do you get most of your recipes from?
Link it up in your response. :)









19 September 2011

Weekend Update| September 19, 2011

Well, this past week two of my very best friends got engaged. Love is in the air and it isn't even springtime! I'm so excited for both of them and can't wait to see how their beautiful wedding plans unravel. I know that both of them have many many happy years ahead of them with the good men they've snagged.

Becky and her rocks. :)


Kayla and her rocks (and her fiance Sheriffe).

Saturday morning I had breakfast with Becky. She asked me to be her matron of honor and I, of course, said yes. Only, it took me a second to realize what she was asking. Why the heck am I a matron? OH YEAH, I'm married now which apparently makes me matronly. #Ifeelold

We had a great time talking wedding stuff and eating bagels and cream cheese at our traditional breakfast date spot- Panera.

John was helping some of our friends moved to I went ahead and tackled all the grocery shopping. Check out all the produce I got at our local produce market...

Only $31!!!

Saturday night we had our friends Caitlin and Ben over for dinner. They are also vegan and we had a great time talking about our experience going vegan last week. A lot of the conversation centered around poop. But trust me, if you try veganism that's a great topic of conversation. I know you're thinking, "Hannah, it may be a good conversation to have with other vegans, but not with your blog friends..." Ok, I get it.

Vegan Diet Update: We have been meat and dairy free for a week now. Last week John had ZERO heartburn, except for one day when we went out with friends and got a beef schwarma. So far the diet seems to be helping and meat seems to be the heartburn culprit.

Sunday we went to Beachside church (a.k.a. we skipped out on church and went to the beach instead.) It was so much fun, we went with some friends and I enjoyed talking with my friend Laura while all the guys tried their hand at surfing.

The rest of the day was spent napping, doing homework, and packing. Yup, we found a new place to live and will be moving on October 8th. More on that (with pics!) later on this week!


Question of the Day:
What did YOU do this weekend?
Do you buy your produce at a chain store or a produce stand or farmer's market?






16 September 2011

Friday Replay: Bedouin Tattoos| Discovering Our Mark

Friday Replay is where I get a chance to replay some of the posts that I wrote back when the only people reading were my mother and husband. So many of them mean a lot to me, and show my heart a bit more, so much so that I want to share them with the many readers I'm blessed to have now!
_______________________________________________________________
 

Photograph by Annie Griffiths Belt


Isn't she lovely? I've been browsing through the photos on the National Geographic website and stopped when I came across this one. I love how her eyes seem so shapely and young, but her skin is so worn and weathered. She seems like the kind of woman that would keep you laughing through the night if out in the open desert 'round a campire. You know, the brazen old woman that will say it like it is because she realizes life is just too short to beat around the bush.

There's something so honorable to me about nomadic peoples. I love the tribal face tattoos you find among Bedouin and Berber people. I once had tea with a Berber woman that had three lines tattooed down her chin...a permanent reminder of who she belongs to and the life her family lives. I remember being jealous and thinking, "I wonder what my mark is?"

The more I think of it the more terrified of the truth I become. Is my mark the kind of cars my family drives? Is it the label on our clothing? Is it the size of our diamonds or the volume in our hair? My stomach turns and i think again. No. That may be for some, but not for us.

Sit down at my table and I will show you my mark. Let me hand you a fork so you can taste it. So often I get picked on for my love affair with food. But truth be known, it's just my way of holding on to my ancestry. It is my mark.

This Bedouin woman could tell you tales of her families travels across the sand. Caravaning goods from here to there. These stories would warm your heart and feed your soul. Sit down with me and I'll tell you about generations of boisterous women packed in the kitchen, ragging on their men, laughing at themselves, and cooking up a pot of something wholesome.

It's good to finally own your mark.




Question of the Day:
What's your mark?










15 September 2011

Moroccan Carrot-Raisin Couscous


I got home last night and went to work on dinner. I had plans to make this roasted root vegetable recipe along with a simple couscous on the side. I was so excited to use the beets and turnips I bought on Saturday, I've never cooked with them before. I had kept them in the pantry, because it's dark in there, just like under the ground. I thought that they would feel at home.

This led to their ultimate demise. I went to the pantry and grabbed squishy, mushroom-like beets and turnips. Plan B turned out to be quite delectable...

Moroccan Carrot-Raisin Couscous
Serves 4-5 as main dish, and 6-8 as a side

Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chickpeas
1.5 tbsp Moroccan spice (ras-el-hanout)
1 cup raisins
2 cups couscous


Directions:
1. Bring the broth, onion, carrot, and cooked chickpeas to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce to med-low and let simmer for 8 minutes. Add the ras-el-hanout and simmer for another 2 minutes bringing it to a full boil.

2. Add the raisins and couscous. Stir well, cover, and remove from burner. Let stand for 10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed by the couscous.

3. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!

14 September 2011

Who Brews the Kombucha

                                                                                            Source: blueeggkitchen.com via Hannah on Pinterest


I'm getting my first batch of kombucha and my little baby scobys this Thursday. In case you are unfamiliar with kombucha tea I'll give you a brief description...

Kombucha is a beverage that is made by placing a big honking slab of bacteria and yeast (the scoby) in a bath of black/green/white sweet tea and letting it steep and ferment for a few weeks until the bacteria and yeast has eaten most of the sugar out of the tea mixture. 



                                                                                                Source: deliciousobsessions.com via Hannah on Pinterest


One might ask, "why would you want to drink a brew of bacteria?" And the simple answer is, I don't really want to, but I hear that they health benefits of drinking it can be quite good, and some people enjoy the fermented, fizzy flavor. For me, that is yet to be discovered.

Supposedly the good bacteria kind of acts as a probiotic... it helps balance your gastrointestinal tract, helps your liver to function more properly, and acts as a detoxifying agent. Supposedly.

I feel that as a blogger known for adventure and as a lover of new/strange things it is my duty to be the guinea pig on this one. Word on the street is that people have been brewing kombucha for it's medicinal properties since 400 B.C. (People have also been smoking opiates for that long...so I'm not sure there's any argument there.) I can't wait to tell you more about if it really works and if I can see any increase in my vitality from this magical tea.

I also plan to post about my scobys....which I will name once I adopt them.


Question of the Day:
Have you ever brewed your own or tried someone else's kombucha tea?
What should I name my scobys?



13 September 2011

Help Wanted: Need Guest Posters!

                                                           HELPING OTHERS ROCKS! Source: None via Emma on Pinterest


Well folks, in a little over a month's time John and I will be setting sail on the high seas on a journey to the deepest depths of the grand and mysterious ocean....err....on a luxury cruise ship sipping daquiris and getting our suntan on! Yup, our anniversary is coming up and our dear parents have given us a week long cruise vacation to celebrate. We. Are. So. Excited.

Seeing how I'll be up to my eyeballs in buffets and tide pools I'll have zero time for writing this here blog. As much as I love it, and all of you, you will be the last thing in my pretty little wind-swept head. :)

I need your help. I'm looking for guest posters from October 31st till November 4th. If you are interested in guest posting during that time, please shoot an email to culture_connoisseur(at)yahoo.com letting me know you are interested and proposing a topic to write on.

I can't wait to see what you guys come up with! Hope to find my inbox fat and happy. Thanks again for all your help, John and I both appreciate you helping take a load off our backs while we enjoy the sweet Caribbean sunshine!




12 September 2011

Linguine With Two Sauces

Good morning, everyone! Did you have a good weekend? We had a very productive one and had a chance to hang out with some new friends and enjoy old friend's company. Sunday we spent slaving in the kitchen and cleaning the house from top to bottom. Can you believe I came away with zero pictures? Very unlike me, I know, but that's what happened.

Instead of a weekend update, I'm here to share a yummy recipe with you. This is my old stand-by when I'm hosting a fancy dinner because the pasta is so yummy and rich and tastes so "oh my, you must have slaved all day..." I can't wait for you to try it and wow your guests. Also, I wanted to give a big hug to each of you, your comments on my health update were so uplifting and motivating to stay focused on the next step in our health journey! Thanks ladies!



This recipe comes from a Cooking Light magazine all the way back in 1997. But I got it out of their "Best Of" cookbook a few years ago. Surely it has to be one of their best. Here's what you need:

Linguine With Two Sauces
Serves 8-10

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 (14.5-ounce) cans Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained 
Cooking spray
4 cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms (about 12 ounces)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat, reduced-sodium Swiss cheese (such as Alpine Lace)
1/2 cup dry white wine (and more for drinking...)
8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Fresh oregano sprigs (optional)



Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add basil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; cook over low heat 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Place a large saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add mushrooms, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from saucepan, and set aside. Add flour to saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Place flour mixture over medium heat, and cook until thick (about 3 minutes), stirring constantly. Stir in Swiss cheese, wine, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until cheese melts (about 1 minute), stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms.



Combine linguine and mushroom sauce in a large bowl. Spoon linguine mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread tomato sauce evenly over the linguine mixture, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cover and bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with oregano sprigs, if desired.

(This dish is great when you have another couple over because you'll have tons of leftovers to nosh on the next couple days after the party. This dish reheats really really well.)






Question of the Day:
What is your go-to recipe to impress your guests?








09 September 2011

Hannah's Health Update (and a winner...)

Today is the day we've all been waiting for....the finale of the giveaway! Our winner is.....
Comment #4- Hilliary from Happily Ever Healthy!

Congrats, girl! And thank you for all of you support! Please email your full name and address to culture_connoisseur@yahoo.com  so I can set up your subscription.
__________________________________________________________________________

                                                                             Source: saturatedcanary.blogspot.com via Hannah on Pinterest


Fitness Update:
I'm feeling great these days folks! First I want to share with you a major victory...a little over a year ago I took the Real Age Test, and scored 34 years old! (That was 12 years over my actual age.) Over the last year I have increased the amount of exercise I do, changed to a 65% vegetarian diet, started getting more sleep at night, and cut out almost all drinks but water and the occasional sweet tea. I took the Real Age Test again yesterday and scored at 20 years old...that's 4 years younger than I actually am! Needless to say, I'm feeling on top of the world!


                                                                                                Source: weheartit.com via Hannah on Pinterest


We have been running 2-3 times per week in preparation for our 5k on September 24th, go to the gym 1-2 days a week to lift weights, and we do yoga 2 days a week or as needed to relieve tight and sore muscles after our runs. With each run and each weight I feel stronger and more endurant, but the yoga is what makes it all possible. Without yoga as the foundation I wouldn't be fit to do anything else.


                                                                            Source: letsrendezvous.tumblr.com via Hannah on Pinterest


Diet Update:
I've mentioned in previous posts that John and I are "Carnevegeveganarians." That is, we eat like vegans and vegetarians for most of our week and throw in some meat here and there when we feel like it. Making this change has completely changed our health...all our afternoon drowsiness is gone, we sleep better at night, we experience little to no illness (when we used to get sinus infections and colds year 'round), our dental health has drastically improved, fewer headaches, and even clearer skin.
Since we've so enjoyed the benefits of our healthy diet, we're taking it to the next level...


                                                                                Source: theveganproject.wordpress.com via Hannah on Pinterest


I'm a little hesitant to say "we're going vegan" because I feel like "vegan" has so many opinions surrounding it. Instead I'll say that John and I are going meat- and dairy-free for a month, and the "why?" is quite simple. Even though we have seen dramatic differences in our health lately in comparison with where we were at a year ago, John still experiences chronic heartburn. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes have been known to act as a medicinal diet, healing the body of it's ailments, preventing AND reversing heart disease and pro-longing one's lifespan.

Our meat- and dairy-free experiment is to see if it will rid John of daily heartburn for good. Currently he takes Priolosec daily, and has for years (which is not recommended) and we feel it's high time we try and deal with it. Chances are a doctor will put him on a prescribed medication, and we aren't interested in those...we want the chance to heal ourselves by way of good food straight from Mother Earth.

Our diet starts Monday, and I can't wait to see what happens. I'll keep you all in the loop and say a prayer that this finally brings John some relief!


Question of the Day:

Are you a vegetarian or meat- and dairy-free?
Have you tried in the past?



08 September 2011

Grilled Kebab

Hey folks! Don't forget to enter my giveaway for the year subscription to Cooking Light Magazine. The giveaway closes tonight at midnight and the winner will be announced tomorrow!!
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Ok, down to business. This recipe was really delicious and pretty easy peasy. John found the recipe here and it turned out pretty darn good! To go with the kebab, we also skewered some roma tomatoes and grilled them to perfection, and I made a saffron rice and yogurt sauce to go with them. (See end of post for rice recipe and yogurt recipe).



Ingredients (for kebab):

1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped very fine
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp cinnamon


Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, and leave for an hour to let the flavors blend. To make the kebabs, take small amounts of kefta (the beef) and shape them into cylinder or sausage shapes. Skewer the meat, squeezing it to mold to the skewer. You will need sword-skewers, and they can be purchased at your local Middle Eastern market.



Cook the meat (and tomatoes) over hot coals, about 5 minutes on each side (or longer until cooked through). Don't let the kebab dry out. Serve immediately. Grill tomatoes until the skins start to rip and some of the skin is charred.

Quick Saffron Rice: In a rice cooker combine rice and water and add a small pinch of saffron threads and 1/2 tsp tumeric. Stir together and let cook to perfection!

Yogurt Sauce: 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cucumber (seeded and diced), 1/2 tsp minced garlic, 1/8 tsp salt, a couple sprinkles of pepper, and a shake or two of dried dill.



Question of the Day:
Have you ever had Middle Easter kebab?





06 September 2011

Long Weekend Update| September 6, 2011

Me and the girls at Wekiwa Springs

Good Tuesday morning to you all! Raise your hand if your ready to start back into the work week. No takers? That's what I thought. Raise your hand if you had an awesome and relaxing long weekend....

Now that's more like it!

This weekend we were able to squeeze in quite a bit of fun and relax time despite some of the more stressful tasks we had before us: finding new wheels for the car and scouting out a new place to live. More on the tires later, and more on the new place to live once we find something.




Sunday morning we went to Wekiwa Springs State Park in Winter Springs, Florida. It was such a beautiful, peaceful morning and we enjoyed a two-hour paddle around the springs with our friend Laura and her parents who were in town. As you can see, the water was so glassy and still and everything was so lush and green. We saw multiple turtles and even saw a little 2ft alligator as we were coming back to shore.

The company was the best part though. Laura just moved into town and it's been great getting to know her better. Meeting her awesome parents was the icing on the cake...talk about people of God! We really loved our time getting to know them and laughing along with them down the river. 




We also enjoyed an evening using our new grill. John made me homemade kebab and he knocked it out of the park. Something tells me he has a little bit of Persian blood running through his veins because it tasted just as good as the ones I've had at restaurants or our Iranian friends' house. I will be posting a recipe and how-to on Thursday. You're going to want to try this recipe!

We also grilled hot dogs this weekend...those were nothing to write home about. And frank-ly (hehe), I regret it.



Monday John finally got some new wheels for the car. He and a friend went to pick them up from a guy in St. Cloud. We paid $300 for all four wheels and tires. Not a bad deal. We parked the car inches away from my own last night so that if the theives had the nerve to come back again they would only be able to steal two of them.

Luckily, no such thing happened. And if it had, John swore we would move into a friends house until we found a new place to live.



Monday evening we got together for dinner at Olive Garden with our friends Becky and Reggie. Reggie just moved to L.A. and is back visiting his beautiful girlfriend Becky. Aren't they a lovely couple?  They are surely in love. I have a feeling he's going to be stealing my friend away forever sometime soon, but I couldn't think of a better person to do so. We love you Reggie!

We're looking forward to the short week ahead and the possibilities for housing coming our way. We should have some busy evenings scoping places out. Can't wait to update you all on our progress!

Have a great week!


Question of the Day: 
Do you celebrate labor day and recognize it as anything other than a day off?
Don't forget to enter the Cooking Light Subscription Giveaway by Thursday!




02 September 2011

Low Rider



This is what I saw when I walked out to my car this morning. Our Miata's tires had been completely lifted.

I walked out. I saw the car. "Balls. Really? Really??" I walked back inside to notify my husband. The conversation went something like this...

Me: Dude... your car has no tires.
Him: What?
Me: Your wheels have been lifted, dude. (for some reason calling him "dude" felt like it broke the news easier.)
Him: Ah man, really?

There we were, me in my work clothes,  him in his underpants. Standing outside staring at our poor poor car.

I think we need to find a new place to live...


01 September 2011

GIVEAWAY- Subscription to Cooking Light Magazine

                                                                            Source: frenchbydesign.blogspot.com via Hannah on Pinterest


Woo hoo! Yesterday my little bloggy hit 200 followers! I can't even begin to express my thanks to each of you for connecting with me here and "doing life" with me, even if it is on the web. All of your comments have been so uplifting and encouraging and even help me to achieve some goals I have set for myself.

If it wasn't for each one of you I probably would have stopped blogging months ago, and my passion for it may have fizzled out. Instead I keep on writing, because I know that in doing so I will continue to learn and grow from all of your responses and the experiences you share from your own life here. I really am grateful, and look forward to the future and my time here with you.

In the words of Buzz from Home Alone..."Ok, that's enough sh....ow of emotion. Let's open some presents!!!"



This giveaway will be the giveaway that keeps on giving. I would like to give one of my dear readers a year subscription to Cooking Light Magazine (my personal favorite). This magazine has tons of healthy and delicious recipes, tips for living a healthy lifestyle and even some beauty and fashion stuff as well.

To enter the giveaway: 
You must be a follower of this blog through GFC. 
To enter, just leave a comment below. :) 


This giveaway will close at midnight, next Thursday, Sept 8th, 2011.