Living, Learning & Loving La Vida Nueva

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Graduation Day

 My baby graduated to a bigger floor quilt this week.  I absolutely love this brightly colored ABC's quilt our friend, Jean, made.  Kyle will be ahead of the game as he studies his alphabet and animals during tummy time.  

Don't mind the blur.  It is hard to capture Mr. Wiggles without a little fuzz.

Hope you are having a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blackened Chicken Pasta

I hope that by divulging this all time favorite recipe I do not become excommunicated from the St.Clair family.  Anytime we get together as a family, we are almost guaranteed to share this scrumptious pasta.  The blackening seasoning, which I ordered in bulk online, absolutely makes the meal!  We made this for Jonathan's birthday dinner, since it is always his first pick when the dinner choice is left to him.

The only real challenge to preparing this dish is timing it so that everything is finished at approximately the same time.  Sometimes I get it exactly right, sometimes I'm a little off.  Nevertheless, it is always superb!

First, prepare the chicken. I like to slice the chicken breasts in half so they are not so thick and cook up quicker.  Just start by cutting into the middle of fat side of the breast and carefully work your knife through to the other side.

Then, start your sauce.  Begin by bringing cold milk and cornstarch to a simmer.  If you are familiar with cooking at all, you know that the objective is to keep the cornstarch from clumping.  Always start with cold ingredients, dissolve the cornstarch before you turn the burner on and stir frequently as it warms.  Then, add the butter, salt, pepper, blackening seasoning and garlic powder.  Be sure to stir often so that the milk doesn't scorch on the bottom of your saucepan.  If you are nearing the end of your meal preparation and the sauce isn't thickening quick enough, you can always thicken it a little with more cornstarch.  Just remember, add cornstarch to a small dish of cold milk to dissolve before adding it to the warm sauce. You are aiming for the consistency of a thin alfredo sauce.

As soon as you get your sauce going well, heat the butter in your chicken pan.  When that is melted, liberally sprinkle the chicken with your blackening seasoning and place seasoned side down in butter.  You can then sprinkle the top side with seasoning, so it will be ready to flip once the first side is finished cooking.

We had to use an electric skillet to accommodate all of our chicken, but unless you are cooking for a small army like we were, a regular frying pan should suffice.  If your chicken is completely thawed, you will likely want to use a lid on your pan while it's cooking.  This should keep your fire alarms from going off.  For this meal, our chicken was still slightly frozen, and it added a decent amount of water to the pan.  I skipped the lid and it still never evaporated all the liquid.  If you are lucky, the chicken will be a little more charred than ours was this time.  In any case, it was lip smacking good as always!

Once the chicken is settled into its butter bath, start your pasta water and drop pasta when it comes to a boil.  Don't forget to continue to stir your sauce; you want it nice and smooth. 

Flip chicken once first side is finished cooking.  One flip, people.  Let the first side cook, then cook the second side.  There is no need for the birds to do somersaults all over the pan.

When chicken is finished cooking, transfer into a separate dish.  If you are cooking for some who prefer a little more kick to their meal, deglaze chicken drippings by adding some sauce to the pan and stirring for a minute or two.  We typically keep about 1/3 of our sauce mild and make 2/3 spicy. 

We like to serve this pasta with roasted broccoli on the side.  Of course, Jonathan doesn't fancy this part, but we don't make him eat it.  This has become our preferred way to eat broccoli; it is delicious!  Simply cut up fresh broccoli crowns, drizzle with EVOO and add some fresh ground sea salt and pepper to the top.  Pop the pan in the oven and roast at 400 degrees for around 20 minutes.  You can start the broccoli about the same time you start the sauce.

Now for the star of the show, Chef Paul Prudhomme's magic seasoning:

I ordered the large canisters at his website but, you can also find this in a consumer size in some nicer grocery stores, like Kroger.  Personally, I advise that you bite the bullet and order the 24oz can.  My family likes to sprinkle it on tilapia.  I like to toss frozen french fries in it to make them cajun.  I've even thrown it in some rice which made an otherwise plain side dish something worth remembering.  It not only has a nice heat, it has a great flavor to go along with it.  The canister comes with a plastic lid, so you don't have to worry about moisture getting in and spoiling it. 

Blackened Chicken Pasta:

3 Cups cold milk
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 stick butter
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and blackening seasoning to taste.

In a medium sauce pan, dissolve cornstarch in milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Add butter and seasonings, reduce heat to medium low, stirring often.

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half length-ways
1/2 stick butter
blackening seasoning

Wash, trim and slice chicken. Sprinkle with seasoning and cook in butter until done.

1 lb fettuccini or linguini pasta, cooked al dente

Assemble and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Parenting 101

While I am certainly a rookie Mom, I am convinced that these baboons have parenting down to a science.

You're not going down there.

I said no, and I meant it.

Not that way either.

Mommy loves you.

Very much.

But, you're still not going.

These photos were taken in this exact order.  I get a kick out of them every time I see them in my iPhoto and thought I'd share with all of you! 


Saturday, August 13, 2011

"What exactly ARE you doing?"

Little did I know when I purchased this mobile for Kyle that learning the safari animals might come in really handy in his future.  He loves to lay in his crib, watch them spin and talk to them.  It never ceases to amuse me how entertaining he finds these little guys.  He smiles every time he sees them begin their waltz round and round.

There have been many occasions in my nearly twenty-one years when God's leading was crystal clear to me.  Some of those times involved His calling on my life into missions ministry.  There was no mistaking that He had placed a desire in my heart to meet the needs of the world I live in.  It was on that premise that I was introduced to my husband and with that future in mind, I married him.  While our heart call is unmistakeable, our direction is fuzzy.  During the past year, since we moved back from Mexico to pursue where the Lord would have us serve Him full time, we have explored many open doors which we saw as possibilities.  Yet, each door we have attempted to walk through, the Lord has undeniably closed.  At times I have wondered how difficult it could possibly be for a couple willing to go anywhere and do anything to find a ministry fit.  While it has been tempting to be discouraged by these "failed attempts", it is more exciting to know that we serve a God who will direct our steps into exactly what He has prepared for us!

Over the past year we have been asked by many people what our plans are now.  And since we have been in the States much longer than we expected without any set plans for the future, I can understand everyone's questions about what we are doing here.  Recently, it seems that the questions have gone from "Where are you going next?" to "Are you still going at all?" Yes, we are still going.  No, we still don't know where yet.

For someone who thrives off having a plan, this past year has tried my patience more than any other year in my life.  It has been increasingly difficult to sit back and wait as we pray and watch the Lord lead us to ministries and away from ministries.  Yet, I have a peace in my heart now as we wait, because I know He is in control and He has a plan.  And His plans are much higher than my insignificant ideas of what we should do, where we should go, or how we should get there!

Likely are you wondering where the mobile comes into play.  I'm getting there.   Two years ago, before Jonathan and I moved to Mexico, we were at our home church in Illinois.  A Kenyan missionary couple was there speaking about their ministry at a Bible college and orphanage.  Jonathan and I were still trying to raise support to move to Mexico, as well as learn Spanish in order to communicate with people once we got there.  When my dear husband learned that they teach the college students in English so that each student can go back to his tribe and translate into their dialect, he broke into tears.  Frustrated that support raising was going slowly and seeing that there are ministries where all you need to do is GO, he was overwhelmed with the desire to meet the call to missions.  On many occasions he and I have mentioned the possibility of moving to Kenya and working with our friends the Manyaras.  But, it wasn't until this spring, after being denied by OM, that we were reconnected with them at a missions conference and really began discussing with them this possibility.

As of now, it is still just that, a possibility.  Jonathan has written the academic dean at Moffat Bible College and expressed our interest in serving there for an initial term of two years.  Paul Manyara was the college's president for the past 7 years and his suggestion was to communicate with the school before applying to Africa Inland Missions (the mission organization we would go through to get there).  Daily we are praying that the Lord would swing this door wide open.  Although I know it would stretch me, likely even more than I was stretched living in Mexico, I am excited at the prospect of serving beside people who are so excited about the ministry the Lord is sustaining there.  Jonathan would teach classes at the college and I would be able to serve with orphan programs when my mommy schedule permits.  As we are still waiting, praying and communicating with Moffat, Jonathan is planning on beginning seminary classes next month.  We both believe that whether we serve with Moffat or another ministry, additional Bible training could only be beneficial.

Please pray with us as we seek God's face and His will for our lives.  We are thrilled to imagine serving our Lord in Kenya, but, if not Kenya, somewhere in this world.   We are asking that He show us exactly where!

"Can Changito come, too, Mommy?"


Friday, August 12, 2011

Jonathan's Birthday

My favorite man left me behind and entered into his 30's this week.  I have a long way to go before I catch up with him there.  It doesn't bother me, though, because I still think he's the best looking old guy I know.  For Jonathan's birthday, he requested a dirt cake with gummy worms.  I had plenty of help making this decadent dessert.  While Kyle was napping, I put loud very energetic little brother on crushing Oreo cookies.  Outside.

As you can see from the photo above, he thoroughly enjoyed this task.

Meanwhile, cut up the butter and cream cheese and let them soften on the counter.  Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.

Oreos sufficiently mangled.

Mix pudding packets, milk and whipped topping.

Combine pudding mixture with butter, powdered sugar and cream cheese combination.

Holly helped me layer the pudding with crushed Oreos, adding the gummy worms in between each layer.

Dirt Cake

20 crushed Oreo cookies
One package gummy worms

1/2 C butter, softened
8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 C confectioner's sugar

Combine above ingredients in a medium size bowl until smooth.

Two 3.5 oz packages of pudding. (I used 1 vanilla and 1 chocolate)
3 1/2 C milk
One container of whipped topping

Mix pudding, milk and whipped topping until creamy.

Incorporate both concoctions together.  Layer pudding, Oreos and gummy worms in a flower vase or pot.

Next, I located a very cute baby, just up from his nap and had him assist me in making a card for the birthday dad.

Almost ready....

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband!  I hope it was the best one yet.  Kyle and I love you so much!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simple Joys

I always like to have something to be excited about.  Whether it's a date night with my honey, a yummy dinner, clean sheets or a big trip, I am constantly looking forward to something.  Believe it or not, often times I am anticipating something edible.  I decided to steal my mom's idea of short posts on the little things in life that make each day special.  She and I like to refer to these simple pleasures as "happies."  For my first happy, I am sharing with you my new favorite sweet treat.

Mascarpone cheese.  This light and fluffy italian sweet cream cheese is simply delightful spread atop a piece of toast with a drizzle of honey.  Located in the specialty cheese case near the deli in good old Wally-world, it boasts a slightly steep price tag.  However, I am able to stretch a tub of this yummy goodness over quite a few occasions and I don't exactly use it sparingly.

I prefer using Sara Lee's soft sourdough but any bread will do.  Paired with a mug of OJ (yes, I drink my OJ out of a mug because it makes me happy) this makes a delicious snack, or in my case, lunch.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Night Fun

While most people my age are out doing who knows what on a Friday night, I'm at home waiting for bath time.  At times I think about how different my life could be if I wasn't already a wife and a mother.  I have no desire for that freedom people talk about.  I don't feel tied down or like I'm missing out.  Quite the opposite in fact, I can't imagine life could be any sweeter than this.

 Jonathan cracks me up with how he records things for Kyle to watch.  I'm not convinced that these recordings aren't as much for Jono as they are for Kyle.  Inevitably I'll find some Looney Tunes or a Disney waiting for us in the morning.  For the last few days, we have been working our way through Charlotte's Web.  I absolutely love this classic movie.  

To say that Kyle likes his daddy is a hilarious understatement.  He lights up the second he lays eyes on Jonathan.  Maybe he notices that they look exactly alike.  More likely he has made the connection between Daddy and fun!  Jonathan loves playing with him, talking with him, singing to him or just sitting with him watching a movie.

It is now bath time.  Goodnight, moon!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

5 Month Baby

Every month birthday calls for a celebration!  This month is no exception.  Today for Kyle's big 5 month birthdayday we went to Chick Fil A to see Daddy and eat an ice cream cone.  Lacking any teeth, Kyle couldn't exactly eat all of it, so I had to help him out a little.  I'm sure it tasted a lot different from the Mommy milk he's used to but, he seemed to enjoy what little he could slurp up.

LOVE that tongue!

I love my 5 month baby more today than I did the day I met him.  He is such a precious gift and I cherish this sweet time with him.  It's hard to believe that before long he'll start eating real people food and I won't be his sole source of nutrition.  Until then, a little lick of ice cream here and there will do.