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Announcement

If you’ve been waiting impatiently, wondering about the lack of updates recently, the wait is over!

http://www.coachandcounselor.com/

I will no longer be using my wordpress blogs.

Thanks to my brand-new, designer-computer know-how, does-this-for-a-living brother-in-law I have my own website!  The great part about this is that it allows any readers who read it all to find it all in one place.  And for those of you with a particular interest, there will be no more need to wade through boring, unrelated posts!

If you’re in it for the cooking, recipes, and food photos check out In the kitchen

Love my son almost as much as me and like to know about his latest slurps, giggles, and faces?  Then Canaan’s Land is still around with lots of new content (I couldn’t let Grandpa go that long without some new pictures!)

And we’ve got two new sections.  Around the house combines all of the fun events, travels, and every day life reports that I like to record and At the office is all new content, specifically designed to keep you updated on our work in Quito, Ecuador.

 

Check it out and let me know what you think … on the new site!

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10 years!  It’s been 10 years since Nate & I left Ecuador, 10 years since we graduated from high school.  That meant that this summer was reunion time.  Our class reunion was in Costa Mesa, California where the reunion planner lives.  People flew from all over the US, including Maine, Texas, Colorado, etc.  We had people come down from Canada and up from Ecuador for the event.  Just over half of our class was able to make it.  And wish us we brought new spouses and a pile of kids.

The reunion was pretty low-key planning wise.  It was three days of time to hang out.  We all stayed in the same hotel and had a conference room for our group that we could come and go from whenever.  World Cup games were watched together in that room.  Our first night we had a picnic in the park.  The next day people did what they wanted.  Some people went to Disney Land, some to Cristal Cathedral, the pool, or the beach.  Nate, Canaan, and I spent time with our friends Jeff, Mackenzie, and Jayden Rollins at Downtown Disney where we ate some spicy Cajun food and looked at the shops.  Canaan needs a few more years on him til that place becomes fun.  At night we had a campfire on the beach with hotdogs and s’mores.  The plan was to have a sing-along once it got dark but since it doesn’t get dark til after 9pm all of the kids were melting down long before that and we had to move the party back to the hotel!

The next day was another chill day and I spent time with my friends Rachel, Darryl, and Ellie as well as Sara, Matt & Bella.  At night we had our main reunion event.  We had catered South American food.  They played the video from our Senior Trip and a slideshow of many, funny old pictures.  There was one child who exclaimed at seeing his mom with a boy other than “daddy.”  Greg Collord was able to attend this night and he read our Senior Story that included everyone’s first and last names.  The group moved up to the conference room afterward and stayed up way past our post-baby bedtime talking and watching old videos of vocal concerts.

On Sunday we had a little mini-service and then watched the World Cup final together.  After that people started departing.  Nate and I had made plans to stay an extra day so we could see some friends from the Redlands/Yucaipa area so we did that Sunday afternoon.  Then we headed back to the hotel for dinner and afterward I was able to spend on last out with Sara, Sara, Erin, Rachel, and Jess.  I’m really glad I had that extra night and had fun exploring our thoughts on parenting, how our own experiences have impacted us, and what we might do different with our kids.

It was fun to see everyone’s spouses, kiddos and different parenting styles.  There were many kiddie meltdowns and lots of kids being passed from one person to the next.  Bonus for Nate & I was that the conference room was right across from our hotel room so we could let Canaan nap with the monitor on and be relatively free.  Other bonus was Jayne Lee, who loved holding Canaan and took him off of our hands often.  I enjoyed connecting with some people that I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with in Ecuador too.  I also enjoyed watching how people’s lives have turned out.  I’m amazed at some of my friends and where they were at along the way and where they are now.

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Dinner Conversation

Canaan talking to his dad as he eats dinner

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Summer Salad

Mmh salad.  Let’s commemorate this salad as the last good, fresh-tasting, healthy ingredient-ful salad I will have eaten until my sister comes to take over my kitchen next week.  Somebody is taking up too much of my time to spend 15 minutes on a salad, or more importantly 45 minutes in the produce market getting the ingredients.  But I’m a lucky duck because my sister is coming to my rescue, my sister who loves salad like I do, whose husband hates salad almost as much as she loves it, my sister who is always happy to add a salad to a meal where everyone will rejoice over it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself because this post is about the last good salad I ate, not the next.  What caught my eye on this one was the dressing because it was a far cry from your standard vinaigrette or cream-based dressing.  Though I am generally not a fan of fresh tomatoes it sounded so delightfully summery and appropriate given the 75+ weather we’ve been having to highlight the unheated tomato flavors in the dressing.  With the addition of the red wine vinaigrette I found the tomato-y flavor to be totally palatable and scraped my plate clean.

Of course it wasn’t just the tomatoes I was finding so palatable, but I’m thinking it doesn’t take much to sell people on the merits of bacon, avocado, and fresh mozzarella.  Sheesh.  Who wouldn’t eat those three things together and smack their lips?

Summer Salad
Taken from Kayotic Kitchen

4oz bacon
1 avocado
romaine lettuce
mozzarella
red onion
rocket (or other salad leaves)

Tomato Dressing:

3 Roma tomatoes
1 garlic clove
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp oil
pepper
salt

Directions:

I’ve got 3 gorgeous, juicy and bright red Roma tomatoes here. I’ve cut an x at the bottom of each tomato.  This will make the skin slide right off. No more butchering those poor defenseless tomatoes, you hear me!  Squeeze out most of the seeds. Don’t fret about a seed or two still being in there.  Give the tomatoes a rough chop.

Transfer them to a blender, or be like me, and use your immersion blender. I use my immersion blender for almost everything. Add 4 tbsp oil, 1 coarsely chopped garlic clove, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and a really good pinch of salt and pepper.

See where we’re going with this? Blend or blitz until you have a smooth, cheerful orange dressing chock-full of flavor. This tastes like summer to me. Check the seasoning, it might need an extra pinch of salt. This dressing is highly addictive and works beautifully with the avocado and bacon. I even dip my bread in it, but well, that’s just me.

I’ve cooked the bacon over low heat until it was golden brown and crispy. Drain them on a paper towel.

Finely slice the red onion.

I’m using 3 crispy baby romaine (little gem) leaves per person. Wash and dry them.

Just break a boll of mozzarella with your hands. Don’t cut it; that looks way too clean. You want it to look a little rustic, so just yank it in coarse pieces.

I’ve also picked a handful of rocket from my back yard. Wash and dry the salad leaves.

I’m going for 1/2 an avocado per person. I cut each half in two, so I end up with four parts.

Just start layering them anyway you like. Get creative. I always start with the romaine, toss the mozzarella, bacon and onion on top. Kinda squeeze the rocket leaves in between and end with the avocado pieces.

Drizzle the tomato dressing over the avocado, crack some black pepper on top and serve the rest in a separate bowl.

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About a month ago I made the WORST RISOTTO EVER.  I did something I rarely do and believed someone when they said a recipe was just as good as the original when done in the slow-cooker.  I was skeptical, but thought this could be a great time-saver.  So one Sunday morning I pulled the crockpot out and left it to work its risotto magic while I went off to church.  The result was that I served up saffron and white wine GLUE to a friend.

I was left both with a sense of disappointment and a taste for good risotto.  Fortunately I had this little gem of a recipe flagged and all of the ingredients on hand.  It’s perfect comfort food, hitting your stomach all warm and creamy.  It’s also perfectly decadent without leaving greatnutritional value behind.  It’s rich in butter and lycopene, iron, calcium, and vitamin C.  And flavor.  Yes, it’s definitely rich in flavor.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto
Found at smittenkitchen.com, adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food

Serves 4

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes in juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring occasionally, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).

Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately (risotto will thicken as it cools), and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.

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Last Saturday

It was a great day in so many unexpected ways.  We went to bed Friday night knowing it was going to be a full-blown schedule and we would end the day tired.  We did end the day tired, but we also ended the day feeling really blessed.

We had a great morning coffee date with someone who I’ve just gotten to know recently.  Their faith and exposure to worldwide ministry is pretty new.  It was such a delight to sit with them and just have them be genuinely excited about the path Nate & I are headed down.  I’m excited to continue to get to know them.

The next mini-blessing came as an unexpected (read: we got lost) detour through downtown Glen Ellyn.  Though I’m usually extremely anxious about being late to places, I was so enamored with the beauty of God’s creation of Fall colors all around us that I couldn’t help but be calm and glad that we were a little late.  It was a fun moment just the two of us as we exclaimed over deep reds, pure yellow, and even bright fuschia.  We also exclaimed over the gi-grande-normous homes that boasted these trees but that has always been a favorite past time.

We spent our afternoon meeting with someone Nate has known a number of years.  Everything about the hours with him was a total blessing.  He did photography for us for ministry purposes – something he offered freely that we had no idea he even did.  After the photo session, he came together with us over coffee and just delved into our lives.  We left feeling astounded and grateful for the time with him.  We came to this meeting asking for one thing and we feel like we left with our hands brimming with more than we ever could have asked to receive.  Definitely a God encounter, particularly when we felt like he really spoke into our lives in a meaningful way.

God has really been expanding our hearts and our thinking about this “initial phase” of the journey that we are on.  It’s exciting to watch and leaves me full of expectation for how much He is going to grow our faith and develop us in this time.

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Only in the Midwest

This weekend we helped celebrate my friend Mel’s birthday by heading out to the world’s largest corn maze.  Only in the Midwest do we pay to go lose ourselves in a giant field of corn.  Besides the maze, this farm boasted a 50 foot slide and a 700 foot zipline that some of our group tried out.  Me?  I was pretty exited to feed the goats!  It was a little anti-climactic when they gobbled half of what was in my hand and pushed the other half onto the ground within ten seconds.  We had a nice bonfire barbeque with way too much food while we waited for nightfall.  It was fun to catch up with some of my grad school friends who live in Wheaton since we rarely make it out that way.  When it was nice and dark, and we were thoroughly bug bitten and plump with food, we took a stab at the corn maze.  It was super muddy but we managed to make it through with all our hole-punched marker spots, thanks to Nate and a few others who were actually paying attention to the map.

(Cheering on the zipliners)

(The farm with the corn mazes to the left)

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