Friday, January 31

Turning 30 and Easy Green Bean & Tomato Side Dish

I realized something kind of depressing a while ago but just got reminded of it again today.

I turn 23 this year, my daughter turns one, and next Wednesday, my husband turns 24. 

That means in seven years, I turn 30. SEVEN YEARS. Maybe it's just me, but that is no time at all. And 30 sounds ancient (no offense to my family members and older readers...). So after thinking this, then I start to think, "Gee, I want to have seven am I going to do that in seven years?" I think the answer is clear--I can't. It's not possible. I'd have to have twins to make up some time, but after being pregnant with one regular eight-pound+ baby, I can't even imagine carrying twins (even though we do have the fraternal twin gene in my family, yikes!). So I'm thinking I'm going to have to re-think my Ultimate Life Plan (which is not an official document or anything, but it is an official my head). It looks as though I will have to have a kid or two after 30. Which honestly, is not that big a deal, I just wanted to be done by then. Also I'm scared of turning 30 because then I'm a real adult. Yeah, apparently I'm an adult right now at 22 but it doesn't really feel like it--even married with a baby--because I am still in love with Disney movies and Harry Potter and pretty much love all the same things I did when I was 16.

But let's put that aside for now because I have other important completely random things to discuss.

Two weeks ago (was it that long?!) Dalin, Tenley, and I went to a little get-together with three other married couples and had some delicious pumpkin chili/soup for dinner and then played a fun game and chatted afterward. We were asked to bring a side and so naturally I googled "side dish" and got
89 million results. Literally 89 million. So then I decided to narrow it down a little and typed in "green bean side dish." (Green beans seemed easy-ish to cook and also I wanted them.) That search got me 10 million results and that seemed manageable. I clicked on the first result and this came up. Well, actually a homepage came up, but after browsing just a tiny bit I saw the picture with those juicy cherry tomatoes in it and I was sold (I love cherry tomatoes. And regular tomatoes). So I ran to Macey's and filled a bag with green beans (Dalin was like, "Why can't you just used canned ones?" and I was like "Ha! YEAH RIGHT!" Good one, honey...), grabbed some cherry tomatoes, and a lemon (because I love adding lemon to stuff). I already had basil leftover from making my yummy bruschetta.

When I got home, the gathering was going to start in 25 minutes so I kind of panicked and forgot the original recipe--I just made it my own. I grabbed my biggest frying pan and hurriedly put some water in--about halfway. I turned the stove on and set the pan of water on it. I grabbed a cutting board and as efficiently as I could, chopped the stem ends off and then cut the green beans in half and tossed them in the pan. It took a while to chop them all so I figure the first in and the last ones were cooked quite differently though it did not seem to effect the dish. Once they were all in, I covered them with a lid to let them steam in the pan. I sliced a yellow onion next and chopped up a few garlic cloves and tossed them into a smaller frying pan with a little butter. Then I started slicing cherry tomatoes in half. I also started cutting up basil leaves (which was basically just slicing them into strips and calling it good). I grabbed my garlic salt and sprinkled it over the tomatoes to let it soak in to the juices. The green beans seemed done and I tossed them into a large serving bowl. I only wanted the tomatoes to be lightly cooked, so I saved them for the end. When the onion and garlic were about cooked, I dumped the cherry tomatoes and chopped basil in with them for just a minute and I put a little bit of sugar in with them. I think I read that a tablespoon would be good, but I was in a hurry and just scooped a little into my hand and sprinkled it on top and mixed it in. After a minute, I dumped everything in with the green beans and mixed it around. I peppered everything heavily and mixed it in, then, in last-minute inspiration, squeezed some lemon juice over it all. I had no idea if my dish was going to be a hit or a disaster. So we went to the dinner and all I can say is I got lucky because everyone loved the side dish. Everyone complimented me on it, especially the lemon taste. It was gone before I knew it (and I had filled a pretty large serving bowl). I was very pleased that it had been so well received and that it was so dang easy to make, which is why I decided to share it with everyone.

This does not belong to me but I had no time (or thought) to take a pic of my own until it was too late.

Easy Green Bean & Tomato Side Dish Recipe

fresh green beans (lots! depending on how many people you are feeding)
cherry tomatoes - one container will do
fresh basil leaves
1 yellow onion
a few garlic cloves
tsp. butter
garlic salt
1 Tbsp sugar*
1 lemon

1. Fill a large pan halfway and put on stove (which should be on medium to medium-high heat).
2. Chop stem ends off of green beans and slice in halves.
3. Put green beans in the pan with water on the stove and cover to let simmer (reduce heat).
4. Chop onion and garlic cloves and sauté in butter in a separate pan.
5. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and shred basil leaves.
6. Lightly sprinkle garlic salt over tomatoes.
7. When green beans are done (they should simmer about 10 minutes), scoop into a serving bowl.
8. Add cherry tomatoes and basil leaves to the onion and garlic mixture in the pan.
9. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of sugar and mix pan ingredients.
10. Dump pan ingredients in with green beans and stir.
11. Pepper to taste, then squeeze lemon well over the entire dish.
12. Serve warm preferably.

*I eat pretty healthy (not because I really try, I just happen to like fresh foods more) and don't usually cook with sugar (I bake with sugar of course) but I truly believe this step was crucial to the dish's flavor.
Also not my photo, but still looks good! 
What is your easy go-to side dish for dinners or parties? 
Will you be trying this recipe with dinner or otherwise?
Do you feel like 30 is kind of old?

Sunday, January 26

Being Comfortable With Husbands

Sorry but that deserved all caps because 8:30am church is cruel and we have a very hard time making it (at least on time) half the time. We were still late for the first hour, but hey, we made it.

I never regret going to church. But I do feel regret any time I miss it. Church just starts the week off right for me and every time I go, someone gives a message that seems like it was meant specifically for me. This week, that happened in Relief Society (third hour, when all the women gather for a class). I missed the first part of the lesson because I had taken Tenley in the mother's lounge to feed her. It would have been easy to stay in there, rocking in one of the many nice comfortable chairs, but I wanted to hear the message.

When I came into the Relief Society room, the lesson discussion seemed to be about husbands and dealing with marital trials. The woman speaking told of how she decided to try treating her husband as a guest in order to improve their relationship. I was so surprised to hear her say that because that was something I also had tried during the last few months to improve our relationship. And because it helped both of us, I decided to share my experience.
Photos from our dating days

I know I'm not alone after talking with several other wives about the subject, so I will try not to feel bad when I say that in the last few months I was not sure what was happening to my marriage. Things were not bad--nothing had really changed in our relationship, but things weren't GREAT. My attitude had changed. I grew repeatedly frustrated when I realized how different we were from the time we had gotten married more than two years before. Where was that lovey-dovey feeling from when we were dating? Where was the romance? Where was the passion when we kissed? Marriage changed that. Suddenly, we could do anything we wanted and because we could do it, there was less of a yearning for it. We could kiss whenever we wanted. We could do more than kiss. We didn't have to say goodbye ever. We stopped doing things for each other the way we had while dating and engaged. It was not like we never did things for each other, but they were less often and far between. And that angered me.

What is happening to us? I would ask in my head over and over. Why can't things be the same as when we were dating? I even asked Dalin this a few times and he finally told me that it hurt his feelings when I asked him that. I realized that in saying that, I sounded as though I did not love him as much as I did then. But that wasn't true. I loved him more. So what changed?

The answer: our attitudes. Specifically mine, because mine is the only one I can actually fix anyway. Time changed our attitudes. I do not love Dalin any less than when we were engaged, but over time, I have grown used to feeling that love so constantly that I do not notice it as much. It doesn't seem as magical or exciting because it has become the norm. Other things have changed, too--we have a daughter obviously for one, and we are in different places in our lives than we were then. We don't buy each other candy or flowers or write notes as often anymore because sometimes it feels like we've done it all, and we've said it all. We have grown too comfortable with one another.

That was something that I also allowed to bother me--us being too comfortable. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't like that we were so comfortable with one another that farting/tooting (whatever you say) was no big deal. Just because we're married doesn't mean we should give up being polite in front of one another. Dalin did not like that I had no problem burping in front of him (though obviously burping is way less gross than tooting...;) so we made a pact. No burping or tooting around each other intentionally and if we fail, the other person gets a freebie. (We're weird. And gross).

But anyway the point is, that just because we've grown comfortable doesn't mean we can't do new things for each other. We can serve each other. I can treat Dalin like I would a guest. By that I mean I can offer him something to drink and ask him questions like I did when we were dating. I can get him a snack once in a while. I can treat him like a friend because that's what he is to me. Why is it that we would be more willing to serve a guest than our spouse sometimes? (Well, this applies to me anyway.) I think we need to work on that. I'm going to work on that. I'm not going to complain when my husband asks me for a favor (at least, I'm going to try and stop myself when I start to). I'm going to be more polite around him. I'm going to be loving especially when he gets home from work. I'm going to thank him more often. I'm going to compliment him more often.

Another thing we discussed that will help us strengthen our marriages is going to the temple as often as possible. You may feel like you are incredibly busy or even like you do not want to be around your spouse. If you get to that point, know you can change your relationship. You can fix it. It will take work, but if that desire is in your heart, you can turn your relationship around. This is where the temple comes in. When we put the Lord before ourselves, we often find that everything else in our busy lives somehow falls into place. (It's the same as the principle of tithing). Dedicate yourself more fully to your spouse. If you are not yet married, you can still serve your future spouse. That may sound weird, but I'm serious. You can pray for him or her. The thought of doing that did not occur to me until I was sitting in a lesson in Young Women's during high school. Pray for your future spouse. Pray that he will make good choices. Pray that he will be safe. Pray that he will be happy. Prayer works.

I guess the goal of this post is to encourage men and women especially to re-commit to their spouses. You may have been feeling out of tune with your spouse lately and if that's the case then fix it. Fix it now before it gets worse or it's too late.
I need feedback. 
How do you stay in love with your husband (or wife)? 
How do you encourage your spouse? 
What are some ideas you have for serving your spouse?

Saturday, January 25

Why Marriage and Babies Are WORTH IT

I just read two bull crap articles from Huffington post that really angered me. They angered me so much, that I had to reply by blogging because that's just the way I am.

The first was this piece of crap. I mean honestly, I don't know if I've read a more bitter and stupid article with zero merit whatsoever. Then I read this ridiculous thing. It was also bitter and also stupid in my opinion. These two articles epitomize the brand of feminism that I despise. It's the type that discourages women from their ultimate potential as wives and mothers that also portrays women with these roles in a negative light. In addition, they are negative toward men. That just drives me crazy.

Mainly, I am writing to clear up a few things that I was dying to say to the ladies who wrote the articles.

First, they must have had sad, miserable childhoods to grow up so bitter, uncaring, and spiteful toward the two things that are God's greatest gifts to mankind. They were clearly raised with a distorted view of what true womanhood is and I feel sorry for them. Truly sorry, because they have no idea on the happiness they are missing out on. I doubt it was in their nature to believe so wrongly, (in fact, I know it wasn't because every woman is born with a divine nature) but the way they were brought up obviously influenced their views.

Second, not all marriages are miserable and end in divorce. Clearly. There are circumstances that occur in some marriages that no one can predict. I am not justifying divorce, but I am admitting that there are times when it is necessary. For Dalin and I, we determined as boyfriend and girlfriend (even before we became engaged!) that the word divorce would not be in our vocabulary. It's simply not an option. That is how you must go into marriage if you want it to last. It reminds me of that ecard I've seen on Pinterest--this one:
I find it ironic that the same people who declare marriage should be available for everyone would at the same time mention that most marriages end in divorce. While it is unfortunately a fact that approximately half of marriages fail in present day, I have to ask, if so many marriages result in separation or divorce, then why fight so hard for it at all? Why fight for any couple of humans to be able to marry if it might just be a waste of time? The answer is because marriage is important. Whether you believe it is intended for one man and one woman as I do or whether you believe it is for any two humans, it is inherently important to the human race. Marriage is sacred, which is why it must be honored and defended.

The one--ONE--thing I agreed with the second writer on was that far too much money is spent on weddings. To each his own, but we spent very little on our wedding. My aunt made my wedding cake for me. Another aunt arranged my flowers and made the bouquets and boutonnieres. An aunt and uncle photographed everything for me. My mom got a deal on our reception place. Instead of doing a full dinner, we did a variety of fruit, cheese, crackers, punch. My mom talked the price of my wedding dress down to around $400. Instead of getting a DJ, I put together a playlist for the reception on my laptop which my brother ran for me. My mom had found a ton of mason jars at a yard sale which she cleaned out and filled with ocean sand and added a candle for my tables. She also collected antique bottles from sales for decoration. I loved how simple and inexpensive these were. And after it ended, I had zero regrets. My parents didn't lose a nonexistent fortune, and Dalin and I had money to put toward our rent and things for our home. We were frugal. We didn't spend more than a couple thousand on the wedding, if that. And I loved my wedding. Everything about it. It was easily the happiest day of my life and well worth celebrating. Her point about people divorcing as a result of their wedding is irrelevant. If a couple divorces over that, then they should not have been marrying in the first place. Those people who are in it for the free stuff and for the attention are not marrying for the correct reason. They may blindly believe this to be the case because they are so caught up with plans to celebrate themselves. But those people cannot be lumped in with the rest of us--the ones who are truly committed and don't toss around the term "marriage" like it's a trip through a drive-thru. It's not. It is something intended to be eternal. Not just until death, but forever and ever. That is my testimony of marriage.

Just because I have this view of marriage does not make it a cake walk. It's not easy. Dalin and I argue. We stress over money. We disagree on things like how to raise our children and where we want to end up. But the difference is we do not let those things block our ultimate goal of being a family forever. Nothing brings more happiness than being a part of a loving family. Nothing.

Back to the articles--one writer complains that she had to pay an excessive amount to be a part of three different weddings. (Um, may I point out that she could have said no if she was aware they were going to cost that much, which she must have been after the first one.) She then uses this as an excuse as to why celebrating a wedding is pointless and "brags" how she married with only one witness present and then celebrated her marriage a year later with a $15,000 celebration. Glad she has taught the world the "right" way to do things. Except she is clueless. As mentioned before, I hardly spent anything on my reception. I spent as much on the entire day as some women spend on their wedding dress alone. On our wedding day, our family and friends were celebrating, with us, the day that we made an eternal commitment--a sacred promise--to devote ourselves to God and one another for eternity. To me that's worth celebrating.

What's more, the writer suggests that baby showers are a waste of time as they "send the message that getting pregnant is the pinnacle of achievement, as opposed to the beginning of 18 years of hard labor...ignoring the fact that the endeavor she is embarking on will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and stunt her career opportunities for the rest of her life, not to mention the devastating impact on her social life." (How obnoxious is this lady? If I didn't feel sorry for her, I'd want to slap her across the face.) Then the other idiot writes, "We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it's a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren't accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them." First, many people--decent people--get pregnant because they want families. Most couples want children because they bring joy. Not everyone is like, "Shoot, we got pregnant and now our lives are over." Most people are excited because having your own children is awesome. What about the couples that struggled to get pregnant? Literally anyone can "get knocked up" so why can't they? Why celebrate their achievement "act" of getting pregnant, perhaps after years of trying? Because it's a miracle. A wonder and a miracle to be able to create life. In addition, I'd like to point out that the point of baby showers, apart from congratulating a couple on successfully making a human, is to help them acquire the things they need to get started. It's not about showing off and getting expensive things for everyone. I didn't get expensive things and I'm not complaining. And does the second woman really think that getting married can be done by "literally anyone"? If that were true, then why are there MILLIONS of people using dating sites to find the one person they want to spend forever with? Probably because many, many people want to get married but have not found someone yet.

I have many more thoughts on these two articles and their cynical-minded writers, but it is 2:30am (way past the time I intended to stay up) and I'm done for the night.

Please share your opinion on these articles with me. Or on my thoughts. Vent to me if you like. I'll respond--I'm a good venter as you may have noticed ;)

Tuesday, January 21

Food for Thought (Corny Title That is Literally About Food)

I love food. If there is one thing I think humans should be able to indulge in in this life without consequences, it's good food. (Unfortunately, too much food, like all things in excess, is not good for anyone but that's not something I trouble myself with). That's why I am not as careful as I should be when I go grocery shopping. It's like the one thing I think it's okay to splurge on. (Also, since I'm not buying clothes or pretty much anything at all apart from food and necessities right now, it's the one thing I get to have fun buying). And if nothing else--if we're poor and living in a little shack somewhere one day--the one thing I really care about my family having is good food to eat.

In the last two or three weeks, I've received several compliments on my cooking causing me to feel like I'm a pretty good chef. This is a big deal, guys. I have always wanted to be a good chef. Something about wanting to have a big family has made me feel like I have to be a good cook or I'll be screwed in big trouble. So those compliments have really meant a lot to me and I'm also talking about that nice comment someone left me recently about loving my recipes and wanting me to post like a week of dinner ideas I would use. I was thinking about that and wondering why someone might like my recipes and the main thing I realized is that I am picky. I'm not a picky eater per se--I'll eat anything--but I'm a picky chef. I just am not going to put effort into meals that aren't going to be delicious. No joke, I'd rather not eat than eat something that doesn't appeal to me (just ask Dalin).

I believe I'm the good kind of picky though. I love eating, like a lot, and I only want to eat things that are delicious. I am somewhat of a choosy dessert eater because I don't want to eat sweets that are just decent. I would rather save my appetite for the most delectable dish. For example, between brownies and a sundae or a strawberry cheesecake, I'd take one of the latter. Brownies are good, but I just don't love them. It's a weird thing about me, and I'm not sure when it came about but I only realized it about myself recently. If you look at my Cravings board on Pinterest, you'll notice that I hardly have anything on there (at least compared to some people) because I only like to include recipes that A) I'll actually use, and B) That sound delicious enough to be worth putting in the effort. If you check out my board, you'll also probably notice that I love meals that have a healthy look to them. I love vegetables in dishes. I'm really into fresh produce and I'm not even sure it's for the sake of being healthy or more because I just love fruits and veggies. Probably the latter.

So anyhow, having had that ambition to become a great cook ever since I knew I wanted to have a lot of children (which was like, middle school, people), I have always paid attention to how people cook. It's maybe the one thing I'm great at observing (and kind of sneakily, I think). I'm kind of a backseat Food Network watcher, meaning I don't put it on that station, but whenever it's on I can't help but listen and sneak peeks at the techniques being used. Basically, one thing I've learned from watching Chopped (which Dalin used to watch all the time) is that you can make something good with almost nothing. You may feel like you have no ingredients, but you probably could make an amazing meal with what you do have if you knew how to mix them.

I only really started cooking a lot (and "well") since I married Dalin. It's a lot easier to try cooking when you have someone you want to cook for I've discovered. And since the beginning of time of me trying to cook well, I have taken photos of my meals in case they came out so well that I wanted to try and duplicate them. As you could imagine, I have taken a lot of food pictures over the last two and a half years that Dalin and I have been married. So many in fact that I have a "Food" album in iPhoto. Here are a ton (like, a ton) of photos of meals I've made. And it's not even half of the photos I have, but anyway... If you want to ask me about a photo, go for it! And I'll try to write a post about it (or at least give you my recipe) if you would like. Also, notice how I am in love with vegetables (especially colored peppers...) in like every pic.

Enjoy. Oh! And consider drinking a glass of water to fill yourself up before you start, because these pics will probably make you hungry (they did me).
The makings of fancy meat and veggie tomato sauce for spaghetti
Really delicious spaghetti sauce (better than the plain canned/jarred stuff)
Fish and "chips" (kale chips!) with summer squash and zucchini, yum! 
Back when I made over-achiever meals....
This is white cheddar shells, corn, fresh salad (and fresh veggie sticks), fresh berries, with juice. 
Steak and veggies 
Spaghetti with chunky sauce and a side salad
Orange-juice pork chop (the only way we like it), peppers and spinach (my favorite!)
Chocolate covered strawberries. A dessert I actually love.
Chicken and asparagus stir fry
Close up
Fruit smoothie (back when I made them frequently)
Orange-juice pork chop, baked potato and cucumbers
Fish, asparagus, and summer squash
Orange-juice rosemary pork chop with mixed peppers
Made from scratch pancakes
Peanut butter chocolate chip bars
Broccoli pasta with summer squash, zucchini, and fresh tomatoes
OJ rosemary pork chops with spinach and rice
Grandpa French's french toast
Beef stroganoff on egg noodles (first time I ever made it)
Spicy sausage and fresh tomato spaghetti sauce
OJ pork chops (we used to have this a lot--it's one of Dalin's favorites) with buttery mashed potatoes and spinach
Beef stroganoff, another time (I think it got even better)
Taco stuff
Make your own tacos
Fresh tomato spaghetti sauce with canned green beans and bread
Homemade buttery sweet rolls! 
horrible picture-- AMAZING fresh salsa recipe for a party. Seriously, we ate it all. 
Chicken salad sandwiches with grapes, cucumbers, spinach, etc.
Pork chops, spinach, rice, peppers, corn
Rice and veggie stir fry
Crock pot ribs, potato, and carrots 
Chicken, rice, and veggie stir fry
Steak and veggies over rice
Steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, squash and bread 
Mexican buñuelos (fried cookies) - love them.
Spicy sausage penne
Fresh tomato, basil and Queso fresco bruschetta
Scrambled omelette with tomatoes and peppers, crispy bacon, and toast with homemade jelly and fresh pomegranate seeds
Are there any recipes/pictures you want to know more about? 
What is your personal favorite recipe?
Have you tried any of mine? (Or are you going to?)

In other news, Tenley just nailed me with her spit up which landed perfectly (or imperfectly) down the gap between my chest and my shirt. Ah, the joys of motherhood. I knew I shouldn't have showered today...