Skinny Enchiladas & Fat Cookies

Every Wednesday night my husband and I (along with two other couples) help out at our  church’s Youth Group. It is such a blessing to get to know some of the 6th-12th graders in our community. The Youth Pastor at our church does an amazing job with all the kids and we are just excited to be along for the ride and help out with trips, conferences and leading small group discussions each week.

So Wednesday nights are a bit crazy around here. Mike and Rachel (one of the other couples) have three kids. Their three along with our daughter, Kenley, head to AWANAS at a different church. My mom and sister babysit all the kids and run them to and from AWANAS. So my job on Wednesday nights is to provide a meal for anywhere from 12 to 15 people!!

Usually we just do a quick, easy crock pot meal. But last week I wanted to test out a new recipe. I was a bit nervous because Wednesday nights need to be kid-friendly meals (since there are 7 kids), but I hoped they would enjoy my new, healthy version of Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas.

Proud to say it was a SUCCESS! The kids asked for seconds, which is music to my ears! Can I get a hallelujah? 🙂

So my inspiration was a skinny enchilada recipe I saw on (what else?) Pinterest. They looked super yummy, but one major flaw: Cheese was missing! I *need* cheese with my Mexican food. How about you? I also like my cheesey chicken enchiladas to be super creamy.

So how could I avoid all that sour cream? I used low-fat plain yogurt and some melted butter instead. This way we weren’t sacrificing on taste, but we were getting 30% less fat! I also made my homemade chunky salsa and then added some fresh, diced avocado for the topping.

“Skinny” Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

3 cups chopped, cooked rotisserie chicken

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese 

About 2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 can organic, reduced-fat/reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup

1/4 cup chopped onion  

2 cloves fresh pressed garlic 

1 can chopped green chiles, drained

Freshly ground black pepper

12 (8-inch) flour tortillas 

1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese 

1/4 cup chopped green onions

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F

I purchased a whole rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and chopped the meat in a large bowl.

Shred the cheese over top of chicken. Then pour in yogurt, butter and soup. Add onion, garlic and green chilies. Season with black pepper (I added some Pampered Chef Chili Lime Rub to the enchiladas and to my homemade salsa, you could just add some Mexican seasoning). Stir till well combined. If it seems too dry add a bit of milk to the mixture.

Reserve 1 cup of the chicken mixture and set aside.

Spoon 1/2 cup of chicken mixture onto each tortilla and roll.

Lay tortillas seam side down in a greased casserole dish. Spread the reserved cup of chicken mixture evenly over the enchiladas.

(Note: I had enough of the chicken mixture to make 12 enchiladas. I made 8 that night, since the kids all split them, and then I froze another 4 for a later date. Notice I didn’t have enough of the chicken mixture to put on top of the other 4 frozen enchiladas, so when I cook those I will just top them with some cheese so it doesn’t dry out while baking.)

Cover with foil and bake at for 25 minutes.

Uncover; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese and 1/4 cup green onions; bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

Serve with tortilla chips, homemade chunky salsa and diced avocado on top.  

************************************************************************************

You may remember me talking about my detox/diet. I am now finished with it. I lost 20 lbs! I feel so much better, more energy, and most importantly I am not craving carbs and sugar anymore (which was my main goal). So now instead of eating something sugary,sweet every day, we are having a special Family Baking Day on weekends when we are home! We make a delicious dessert, we each have one and then bring all those leftovers to church on Sunday or to our Youth Group.

If the dessert sits around the house, then I feel like I “need” to eat them. This seems to be working out so much better for me because I am being realistic and allowing our family to indulge once in awhile. But most importantly, the church family (and not my waist line) is now benefitting from my sweet tooth 🙂

 Last weekend we made Jacques Torres’ (not so) Secret Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is the recipe. The only thing I changed was I used semi sweet chocolate chips AND milk chocolate chunks.

Gooey, Goodness!

ENJOY!

Posted in About Food, Dessert, Main Dishes, Sides & Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Valentine Cards & Crafts

Here are my “so-not-original” Valentine’s ideas that I stole from much more creative people  🙂

Valentine’s Sucker Card

I found this idea here.

Little side note: I can’t wait till Kenley is old enough to make her own Valentines. Until then, it’s a mommy job.

I took a picture of Kenley holding out her fist (in front of my sister’s purple wall).

Then I used Microsoft Paint to type the Valentine’s message and draw hearts on the JPEG file.

I uploaded the picture to Shutterfly.com. I ordered 12 sheets of wallet sized prints. (Between Preschool, Dance, Gymnastics and AWANAS we had a ton of these babies to hand out!) I ordered them a few weeks early to be safe.

When they arrived Kenley and I were so excited to get to work (she mainly just watched and commented on how much she loved them) I went to Wal-Mart to get the tiny dum dum suckers. Then I used a sharp kitchen knife to cut an “X” at he top of her fist and an “X” at the bottom.

…slipped the sucker through the picture.

CA-UTE! Seriously, who thought of this idea? I really want to know where it originated from because these are probably the cheapest Valentine’s we will ever make.

But I couldn’t stop there with just one sucker….more candy was needed for all her little friends 🙂 I put the sucker cards in plastic Valentine’s bags and dropped some red, pink, and white M&Ms and candy corn and tied it with some ribbon.

For the teachers I gave them each a little sucker card and a heart cookie from the bakery. I also threw in some of the “Teacher Gifts” my mom has at her Christian Bookstore.

Kenley was very excited to wear her Valentine’s dress and pass them out at preschool.

For the G-Parents

For Kenley’s 5 sets of grandparents and great grandparents I did the same Sucker Card but used the 4×6 prints and larger Blow Pop Suckers.

When she gave one to “Grandpa Great” he said “Oh these are so cute” and Kenley replied “Grandpa you can’t have it until after you finish your dinner” (I have trained her well)

I Love You This Much…

Every holiday I try and have Kenley make a craft for everyone. I wanted to have her make the grandparents an I Love You This Much Card.  So I took the idea I found here but just made it a bit more “Kenley created”

We painted her hands in white acrylic paint. Then “stamped” each hand five times (one for each set of grandparents) on a pink sheet of cardstock.

After they dried I cut around each handprint. Then I had Kenley use a marker to write “I LOVE YOU” on all the left hands.

I cut some purple cardstock into strips and accordion folded it. Then I had Kenley write “THIS MUCH”.

I used super glue to make sure the hands would stay connected to the accordion strip (some of these cards had to travel long distances to Florida and Arizona for the great grandparents that are “snow birds”).

So each grandparent got a Sucker Card, and I Love You This Much Card, and I also threw in some pictures of my sweet kiddos.

Every year I like to take pictures of the kids in their Valentine’s shirts. Here is last years.

And this years.

Thems some cute kids 🙂 

I Love You Because…..

Keeping with the tradition of making all the Valentines gifts this year I needed something to make for my hubby.

I found this idea here.

I used a 5×7 frame from Wal-Mart. Hot glued on a peacock feather I found in the craft aisle and some other decals I had sitting around. Then I printed out the words “I love you because…” on a piece of scrapbook paper. This gift cost me a whopping $7!

I think this is such a great way for both my husband and I to write special notes to each other. I really want him to be more aware of how much we appreciate and love him, sometimes I don’t think I say it enough. This will be a great reminder for me to always be building my man up! 🙂

I also got Marcus “The Resolution” from the movie Courageous

We just love that movie (watched it again the other night). Like I have said before, my mom owns the Christian Bookstore in town and I was working the other day and saw that we had gotten in “The Resolution” from the movie. It was only $9! I still have to go out and get a nice frame for it but my husband had been talking about doing this so I knew he would really appreciate this gift.

If you haven’t seen Courageous you should! It has a very important message that I feel EVERY SINGLE MAN should hear. 🙂 Great, great movie.

Hope you all have a great VALENTINES DAY!

Posted in About Faith & Family, About Fun Stuff, Crafts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow Day

We had a couple Snow Days (7 inches) a few weeks back. The only measurable snow covering we have had this year in North Central Iowa. I am sad to report (well not *that* sad) it melted right away and we haven’t seen any more of the white stuff since. What a marvelous winter 2012 is turning out to be!

Here are some pics of my precious children playing in the snow. 

They played all morning with uncle Landon and then I joined in again at night while daddy snow-blowed the driveway.

Cohen freaked out when we had to go inside.

Is it bad that I laugh and take pictures of my son as he is having a temper tantrum? I can’t imagine I am the first mom to do this 🙂 Nothing a binky can’t fix.

Another Panini (you sick of them yet?)

My love affair with my panini press is well documented (read here, here, and here)

 But I created one the other day with just my kids in mind (and I ended up loving it too).

When I was a wee one my mother never made us Peanut Butter & Banana sandwiches (deprived? possibly). I thought it was really strange any time I heard friends talk about a sandwich with bananas in it?! I can honestly say I have never had one…ever!

Well that all changed the other day.

I have some bread that needed to be used and I was trying to come up with an idea for a panini for the kiddos. Then it hit me, I keep seeing Pinterest pins about PB & Banana this….PB & Banana that.

Conversion with myself: “I shouldn’t deprive my children of the same thing my mother deprived me of as a child…..Jenna, you are 26 years old…it is high time you try the dang thing. It might be good!”

(Not dissing my mama, she is an amazing cook!)

Peanut Butter, Nutella, Banana Panini

So here we have the bread, some all natural peanut butter, and as luck would have it I had a few bananas sitting around. I slathered on a tiny bit of nutella too (yum!). I spread some butter on the outside of each piece of bread.

Then let the panini press do its magic! (I suppose to could use a small skillet and make it like you would a grilled cheese sandwich…. but trust me you want one of these panini presses in your house!)

The kids devoured them. Look at those satisfied faces…

I immediately called my mom and reminded her of her “mommy faux pas”. She said “Oh yuck, I never made those for you guys because I hated them”

Well now I know her reasoning, but I can tell you my kids and I will be eating these for years to come!

ENJOY!

Posted in About Faith & Family, About Food, Main Dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

100th Post CONTEST!

 

CONTEST ENDED: February 17, 2012

WINNER! Nicole Steen

Hard to believe I have written 100 blog posts in the last 10 months!

I am having so much fun writing about things I am passionate about. My family, cooking, crafts, and decorating our home. I am also amazed at the feedback I have received and you all actually enjoy reading what little ol’ me has to say 🙂

So since my 100th post is a somewhat significant milestone I wanted to make sure I had a pretty sweet prize for this contest winner. But this will take a little bit more of an effort from my blog readers…..

Prize:

The Pampered Chef Stoneware Bar Pan

 

This can be used for so much more than “bars.” Here are just some of the recipes I use it for

White Chocolate Cake-Like Brownies

Chocolate Chip Cookies (I used the round stoneware for this recipe but you can use the bar pan too)

California Club Pizza (my fave)

Pizza Burgers (my hubby’s fave)

Chicken & Broccoli Braid (all the way at the bottom of this post)

Walnut & Parsley Crescent Rolls (I made these at my mom’s house and she doesn’t have the Stoneware Bar Pan…tsk tsk! But if she did I would have used it for these)

Sicilian Shrimp & Tomato Pizza

Contest Rules:

This contest requires a bit more work since the prize is so great! 🙂

1) Become a Fan: You must be a fan of Adventures of a Domestic Engineer on Facebook

2) Share My Page: You need to share my blog’s Facebook Fan Page on your own Facebook Wall.

3) Increase Your Odds: For every friend of yours that “Likes” my page you will be entered again (and again and again!) into the contest. So you can share my fan page on your wall as many times as you want! Make sure your friends let you know that they “liked” the page.

Say something like “Check out this mom’s blog, “like” her Facebook page and YOU and I will both be entered to win the Pampered Chef Stoneware Bar Pan!!”

5) Leave A Comment: Make sure you let me know that you shared it on your page by leaving a comment on this post or somewhere on my Facebook Fan Page. Also, towards the end of the contest let me know how many of your friends “liked” my page so I know how many times to enter you.

6) Contest Ends: I will give reminders about the contest every day for the next week. The contest ends on February 17!

7) Winner: There will be one winner and the prize will be shipped to anywhere in the continental United States. My husband will be drawing the name out of a hat to decide the winner (I know, way professional 🙂 ) The winner will be announced the next day.

GOOD LUCK!

Note: I am not paid or perked for hosting these giveaways, I just do them to thank you awesome folks for stopping in! 🙂

Posted in About Food, About Fun Stuff, Misc. | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Master Bedroom: Before & After

I wouldn’t technically call our bedroom a “Master Bedroom” but since my husband and I sleep there then I guess it qualifies.

Kenley actually has the biggest room in the house. But it is a weird, rectangular shape and our bed didn’t fit in there correctly. Plus it allows Kenley to have a lot of room for all her toys. So once again, we got stuck with the smaller room. Not complaining, because it isn’t like we spend a ton of time in there. Just sleeping and reading 🙂 (Get your mind out of the gutter!)

So the hubs and I were fine having the smaller room. We just dream of the day when we can have a larger (more deserving of the term “Master”) Master Bedroom. You know, a king bed, a sitting area, his and her large walk in closets, flat screen TV, whirlpool, two separate vanity areas,…yes! *that* kind of Master Bedroom.

But let me show you how I took this tiny 11×11 room and made it our own ….

BEFORE

Here is what the tiny thing looked like when we purchased the home.

PROGRESS

Here is what it looked like after we moved in our massive furniture.

There is about an inch on each side of our night stands. The dog can barely jump up on our bed at night because he can’t even get a running start 🙂 Poor Colt. Then top it all off we had to fit our dresser in there. So when you walk around to Marc’s side of the bed you have to squeeze by that. 

But like I said, it is COZY and we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Paint Colors

We started by painting the trim Valspar off the shelf white in a semi-gloss base. Then the walls were painted in a Valspar’s Incandescent in a satin base. (Kind of a khaki color). We didn’t paint the back wall because I had a different plan for that.

Here is a before and after of the paint/trim.

BEFORE

AFTER

Weirdo Windows

The hardest thing to work with was the off-centered windows. No matter what wall we put our bed on, our headboard went half way up one of the windows…looks really odd doesn’t it?

But don’t worry, I had a plan! I had four apple green Pottery Barn curtains that had hung over the large picture window in our Ankeny House. I figured that they would fit the entire back wall of our bedroom (floor to ceiling)….AND I WAS RIGHT!! (This was my way of just getting “rid of” that off-centered window by covering it up but still making everything symmetrical.

I got the cheapest rod I could find from Wal-Mart  that would extend to around 180+inches.

Then I had the painter, Matt, build a valance out of wood and trim so that the rod wouldn’t be visible. Turned out great. You really have to see it in person, to notice that it makes the room look SOOOO much bigger!

New Bedding

The blue bedding we had just didn’t look right with the green curtains so I sold it.

For Christmas I asked for lots of fun, fluffy, full pillows from Pier One. (Does anyone else ask for home decor items for Christmas….why is that the wife’s job? Why can’t the men use some of their Christmas list for items like new pots and pans? Double standard if you ask me!)

Then I went out and just got a cheap white comforter from Wal-Mart ($24.99 people!).

Lastly, I spray painted the lamps (read about that here).

And Master Bedroom COMPLETE

BEFORE

PROGRESS

AFTER

I love our little room, even though we can barely get out of bed in the morning between stumbling over all my large fluffy pillows and the few inches of space we have working on each side. I think I managed to do A LOT with a LITTLE space 🙂

Posted in About Fun Stuff, Crafts, Decor | Tagged , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Too much pinning…

So has anyone seen my Pinterest lately? It is a little out of control. Too much pinning and not  enough executing. 🙂

I have a few friends that execute their pins at record speed! I am a bit jealous and very impressed at all the cute things they have done in their homes. 

I have so many projects I want to complete and recipes I want to try! We are kind of in limbo right now because we randomly showed our house last week. We weren’t expecting to put it on the market for another couple months but we had some interest so I spent all last week cleaning like a mad woman. So not really sure I want to “execute” a bunch of home projects if we do end up selling sometime soon (or preferably at least in the next year). I will keep ya’ll posted!

Ok back to a project that I actually COMPLETED!

We finally finished our (teeny, tiny) Master Bedroom! But before I get to that reveal…

Here is a before pic of the lamps on our night stands.

A really cool shape but kind of a rusty color. I liked them when I first got them for our living room. But I was getting sick of the boring color and wanted them to brighten up the night stands a bit more.

I used 4 plastic bags and green painters tape to make sure no spray paint got on the cord or the light bulb area.

Then I took them outside to the garage on a nice 50 degree (January..what?) day.

Painted on two coats of primer (dries in about 10 minutes)

Then painted on two coats Valspar Mediterranean Spray Paint.

 I waited about 30 minutes in-between coats. Then I took them inside to dry over night.

I got these cheap-o lamp shades from Target to finish off the look (I couldn’t use the original cream-colored lamp shades because my hubby broke one of them during the move.) I actually like the smaller, white ones better because then the base of the lamp shade is showcased better!

BEFORE

AFTER

MUCH BETTER!

Posted in About Fun Stuff, Crafts, Decor | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oven-Baked Bruschetta Chicken

Here is a simple, easy, yummy recipe from Pinterest for Grilled Bruschetta Chicken.

My husband loves Bruschetta anything, and the kids are obsessed with chicken…so the whole fam was pleased! (And mommy, especially because she is always searching for new ways to serve chicken.)

The original recipe had the chicken being grilled but I used the oven instead.

Here ya go…

Oven-Baked Bruschetta Chicken

Ingredients

4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves 

1/2 cup Newman’s Own Sun-Dried Tomato dressing

2 tomatos, chopped

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp. dried basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F.

(Note: I had 5 chicken breasts I wanted to use so I added a little bit more of all the ingredients)

Place chicken in zip loc bag. Add 1/2 cup dressing and seal bag. Turn bag over several times to evenly coat chicken with dressing. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. I actually let it marinate all day.

Remove chicken from bag and place in a greased 9×13 casserole dish. Bake chicken in the oven for 30 minutes.

 Meanwhile, combine the chopped tomatoes and fresh basil.

Take chicken out of the oven and top with tomato mixture and then sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is done (has an internal temperature of 165ºF)

ENJOY!!

P.S. The leftovers are really good on this one 🙂

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“…and served with a side of Pepto”

Ok please watch one of my favorite comedians: Jim Gaffigan talk about Hot Pockets (you will better understand the title to this post)

There now aren’t you glad you watched that and laughed hysterically? I am laughing just thinking about all of you laughing 🙂

After watching him talk about Hot Pockets I never purchased them again…true story.

Now I make my own 🙂

Homemade Hot Pockets

Ingredients

2 packages crescent rolls

Melted unsalted butter OR olive oil

Your choice of protein (ham, chicken, pepperoni, sausage)

Your choice of cheese (swiss, mozzarella, cheddar)

Your choice of sauce (homemade ranch dressing, pizza sauce, or marinara)

Your choice of seasoning (original blend or italian)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F

Break open each package of crescent rolls. I use these all natural ones from Immaculate Baking Co.

They will be perforated right in the center, so break it in half. Use a small rolling pin to roll them out. (So two packages make four HUGE hot pockets. We usually just share two between the four of us and put the other two in the fridge for leftovers. We never eat a whole one especially if we are having other sides like fruit, veggies or a salad).

Spoon your sauce on first and then place your protein and cheese on top. (I made ranch, ham, and swiss this time…but you can use the other ingredients mentioned above to create a “Pizza Pocket”)

Place one side of the crescent roll over top of the other and connect the edges together by pinching. Use a knife to cut slits on the top of the hot pocket.

Spread melted butter or olive oil on top of the hot pocket and sprinkle on your seasoning.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until crust begins to brown. (Note: Usually I just do whatever time it says on the back of the crescent rolls)

Again, these make four huge hot pockets. So they serve 4 or 8, depending on how hungry you are 🙂

Yum, look at that cheesy, gooey center. ENJOY!

Posted in About Food, Main Dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heaven IS Real!

I want to write today about something that has really been on my mind a lot this last year. I feel it is a very important message to share. I am kind of stepping out of my comfort zone (talking about my kids, sharing recipes and DIY haha)…..but I really hope you enjoy these stories!

Colton’s Story

A lot of you have probably read the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo.

Here is Amazon.com’s description of the book (stop reading if you don’t want some of the story given away)

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.
Colton said he met his miscarried sister whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.
Told by the father but often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready there is a coming last battle.
 

I highly recommend this book for ANYONE! I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in half a day.

I think one of the main reasons I was so intrigued by this little boy’s story is because my family has a similar one. One that I want to share with my friends and blog readers….

Ryan’s Story

 

The following is something that was read at my cousin Ryan VanderMolen’s funeral. He passed away before I was born. I grew up hearing about his dream and other funny, heartwarming stories about my cousin’s short time here on earth. I can’t wait to meet Ryan in Heaven!

“Our son died Thursday upon returning from kindergarten at the Immanuel Lutheran School in Waterloo, Iowa. Ryan got off his school bus, walked a block on the sidewalk and began crossing the street in front of another stopped, off-loading school bus. When he was in front of the bus, the vehicle struck him down when restarted, causing fatal head injuries.
We would like to share Ryan’s dream with you. Ryan had talked of heaven to his parents on occasion, but always with reservation, “I would miss you and you would miss me,” he said.
Tuesday night, Ryan had the dream. He told his mother about it the next morning. “Mommy, I had a really great dream last night. I dreamt that I was in heaven. It’s really great and I want to go there.” Wednesday morning he shared his dream with a special friend on the school bus.That night he also shared his dream with his father. Thursday morning at breakfast Ryan said to his mother, “Mommy, remember that dream I had? Heaven is really great and I want to go there.” 
That afternoon Ryan was killed and his dream came true.
The Lord had come to take Ryan unto Himself. We grieve and hurt deeply, Jesus did also. “The Lord gave and has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21.
God does not make mistakes. He has given all of us a great gift in Ryan’s dream. His dream is a witness to the world of the reality of heaven. We have also been given grace through his dream to understand, at least partially, the purpose of Ryan’s death. God’s Holy Spirit lifted us up by your prayers and gave us strength.”
– Gary and Barb VanderMolen.
 

My cousin Brett was born fifteen months after his brother Ryan’s death. In Brett’s 2000 high school junior year, Brett wrote in a life history project that two people died for him: Jesus Christ and his brother Ryan, of whom he’d seen neither. Brett thought his family might have remained complete with only Ryan and Megan.

Brett wrote:

Brothers
Where did Ryan go?
He was only so young.
He had a dream one night
that he shared with his tongue.
Two days before he died,
he heard angels that sung.
With those heavenly hosts,
he now is among.
 
The splendor of heaven,
pure as lace.
The sound of the trumpets,
and the look on Your face.
What joy he must feel,
to be in Your grace.
To be in Your arms,
what  a wonderful place!
 
His dream was heard by many,
but followed by few.
Some got the idea;
many don’t have a clue.
That our days are numbered,
for Ryan it was two.
I pray that my loved ones
will also choose You.
 
-Brett VanderMolen.
 
 

Justin’s Jesus

I am not sure how it happened that I live in Iowa Falls and I had no idea about the next mom’s story! Our town is so small and usually stories like these travel fast. But for some reason God didn’t want me to hear about it until months later….

Mary Swick called up my mom’s Christian Bookstore back in December while I was working one day. I was not suppose to be working and had actually switched days with other employees two times. (God doesn’t make coincidences, I was meant to be working that day!) Mary called to see if our store would carry the book that she was about to have published.

I began asking her questions about the book and she told me about her son Justin that had passed away of SIDS at 3 months old back in August. She also told me about her son Riley that had began telling them stories about the night Justin died. Riley kept telling them he saw Jesus and an angel in the room that night. He also told them they shouldn’t be sad, they should be happy because Jesus took Justin up to heaven. Riley even told them stories about heaven like he had been there.

Mary shared this story on her Facebook page back in August and had a bunch of people tell her to read the book Heaven is for Real. Of course, she couldn’t put it down and finished it in a few hours. Mary was so glad she read the book when she did because it helped give her a road map on what questions to ask her 4 year old son. She didn’t want to lead him to a certain answer but wanted to know more about what he had seen in the room the night their baby boy had died. She wanted Riley’s story to come out in his own words.

During this time Mary began writing a blog. Click here to read her blog. (And grab a box of tissues while you are at it) She talks about her family’s tragedy and writes more of the accounts that Riley has shared with them over the last five months. But, what I love reading most is about how her family’s faith in God has grown exponentially in the few short months since Justin’s death. She is so very candid about her pain, sadness and even her joys!

Mary decided she wanted to help other families heal from the loss of a child. I am not sure exactly how it happened but she began using some of her blog posts to write her book Justin’s Jesus. She also put stories in her book that she hasn’t shared yet and were very hard for her to write about, like what happened the day Justin passed. It has been published by WestBow Press. Mary is very adamant that this book is for her family and friends and if it helps other’s along the way then that is what God wanted. Even if she only helps ONE other family, it is worth it. She wants other families to know that in losing a child you can find hope, because you will one day see them again in Heaven. That is what gets Mary through each day. She wants others to find that same comfort.

I was so touched by Mary’s story and she was gracious enough to get off the phone with me and immediately send me a copy of her manuscript. I.Could.Not.Put.It.Down! Again, I finished it in a few hours, bawling my eyes out the entire time (ask my husband haha).

I have only met with Mary a few times but she is such a blessing! I hope that her and I have many more years of friendship because it is so refreshing talking with her! 

If you are interested in reading her book you can purchase it online at Barnes and Nobel.com

But of course, you know me, I always push the BUY LOCAL route. So you can call up your local bookstore and request a copy. Usually books come within a few days of the store ordering them (so about the same wait time as ordering online). The store will need the ISBN number: 978-1-44973-616-3

If you live in Iowa Falls my mom’s bookstore The Living Well is taking orders right now for it and it will be available in about a week. Call 648.3611 to get your name on the pre-order sheet.

I guess you could say I have kind of made it a personal mission to help Mary get the word out about her story, in hopes that it will help other families dealing with loss or even help those that are questioning the reality of heaven.

My Thoughts

I think all three stories have remarkable similarities! The message is simple.

Heaven is REAL!

Jesus LOVES us!

Are you ready?

I grew up my entire life being scared of death. When I was young I hadn’t faced much death yet but like my cousin Ryan I knew I would miss my family and friends if I were to die. In high school and college I didn’t want to die because I still had so many goals left to accomplish: my degree, finding a job, getting married, having children of my own.

Reading Heaven is for Real was amazing for me. It really validated my cousin Ryan’s story. My family has believed this story for 30 years, but to have other children’s accounts of Heaven is very reassuring. Hearing Mary’s story was no coincidence either and has made me realize how much we need to be a WITNESS for Jesus. Even if we haven’t had glimpse of Heaven, we can still share our story.

I can now say from my strengthened relationship with Christ, studying and praying His word, and also from reading the books like I mentioned above: I AM EXCITED! I can’t wait to go to Heaven. Are you kidding me?! I get to see JESUS FACE TO FACE! There is no pain and suffering. What a glorious place it will be……We can’t even begin to imagine!

Posted in About Faith & Family | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mashed Huh?

So I apologize in advance for the next two to three months recipes. They will be really boring or really quick and easy. I am currently doing a homeopathic diet that ranges anywhere from 1 month to 3 months depending on how much I would like to lose. So the food I am feeding my family is less than stellar.

I went my whole life not really understanding why women always said “Oh I *NEED* some chocolate!” Anytime someone would talk about craving sweets I couldn’t relate. I had (and still have) a major “salt tooth.” Back in elementary school my friend Jessie and I had been known to down a whole family size bag of Doritos during one episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? (Who’s with me? That was some scary stuff to watch on a Friday night in 3rd grade)

Anyways, after I got pregnant with my daughter Kenley, I finally realized the problem all women were referring to. I *craved* everything sugary and sweet, I even began enjoying FRUIT! But let’s not kid ourselves, I gravitated more towards the chocolate cake then that strawberry. I figured after the pregnancy the cravings would leave and I would go back to my “salt tooth”

Wishful. Thinking. The cravings never subsided and we are going on year FIVE of my sugar addiction.

So that brings me back to my diet. I want to ENJOY carbs and sugars. I don’t want to CRAVE them. I don’t want to feel like I have to have them every day to get by.

As you can tell from my blog I really enjoy making food for my family and trying new recipes and foods I have never had before. I think I would be insane to force myself to totally eliminate carbs from my  life, but I would like to adjust the amount I am taking in each week. Also, after my diet I plan to make desserts more of a “treat” and allow myself to indulge only once a week.

So I decided to start from square one and totally cleanse and detox my body and the way it processes and metabolizes food. So far the diet has been great and pretty easy (lost 8 lbs so far!). I haven’t been craving anything, I feel energized and refreshed. I still have a ways to go though. So keep me in your prayers these next couple months as I try and continue cooking for my family while I limit the foods I eat.

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Now back to this recipe.

Ya’ll are gonna think I’m CRAZAY!!! (apparently the diet makes me southern).

But this is something my mom has done for years, and I of course have now followed suite.

She makes mashed potatoes but uses CAULIFLOWER.

You are probably thinking DISGUSTING! Right?

Wrong!

The first time my hubby had this my mom and I didn’t tell him what it was. Half way through dinner Marcus says “Heidi, these are really, really good mashed potatoes.”

We looked at each other like ‘Ok, who wants to tell him?’ My mom replied, “Well actually, its cauliflower.” He was surprised and couldn’t believe it, but that didn’t stop him from scarfing it down.

I kid you not, every time we make this dish EVERYONE thinks its mashed potatoes. Sometimes we don’t even tell them our little secret. So please, TRY IT! You won’t be disappointed.

Mashed Cauliflower

Ingredients

2 heads of cauliflower

Milk

Melted Butter

Fresh pressed garlic (or garlic salt)

Fresh cracked sea salt and black pepper, to taste

(Below are substitute ideas for ingredients)

Directions

Cut off the leafy part of the cauliflower. You don’t have to cut off too much because you want to use the stems.

Wash the cauliflower, cut it into large chunks, and place it in a large pot with water filled to the top.

Note: One head of cauliflower only yields about four servings. So we usually make two heads of cauliflower because it stores well in the fridge for leftovers if we don’t eat it all.

Boil for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is fork tender.

Mash with a hand mixer and then add your favorite mashed potato ingredients. I usually just use some milk, melted butter and fresh garlic or garlic salt. Little by little I add the milk and butter until it gets to be the just-right-creamy-goodness consistency.

You could also substitute half and half for the milk. Sprinkle on some cheese. However you make your mashed potatoes. Doesn’t matter. A friend asked about sour cream and I have never made it that way so I am not sure? Hmm. I was just thinking. I wonder if bacon would be good in it. I mean bacon does make everything better. Also more fattening. But you are eating mashed cauliflower for heaven’s sake, a little bacon can’t hurt 🙂

I served our mashed cauliflower with some chicken and (over cooked. OOPS) broccoli. I just put some broccoli in the bottom of a crock pot and placed the chicken on top. Seasoned and poured 1 box of organic cream of chicken soup and 1 box of organic cream of mushroom soup. Cooked on low for 6 hours. Next time I need to figure out how to not cook the broccoli so long.

I also served it with my favorite salad but added some avocado chunks to it (find that recipe here)! YUM!

There you have it. Now go make yourself some mashed cauliflower. I promise it will change the way you eat the stuff 🙂

I would love to hear from any readers that try this. Let me know what you think!

ENJOY!

Posted in About Food, Main Dishes, Sides & Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments