Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Love! {10.21.16}

I's been like two months since I've done one of these bad boys, so let's get started!

one// This Sunday Michael and I are going to Chicago! It's for a conference with Harvest Bible Chapel, and it'll be our first extended trip (3 days!) without Lydia. I'm a little nervous because the longest I've been away from her is a full day/overnight! However, at the same time I am looking forward to learning and becoming closer to God without all the distractions.

two// The other day I took a picture of Lydia sitting in her chair and realized I had taken a similar one exactly a year before. 7 months old vs. 19 months old. I think she was just starting to army crawl at that age and now she's running, climbing and dancing!

three// I am easing back into painting. I got out the oil paints that I had bought over a year ago and forgot about. I am hoping it'll help with relaxation and spark my creativity!

pacifier nostalgia 
four// So, Lydia hasn't used her pacifier in two full days! We have been talking about weaning her off of it, but my instincts just told me to just keep it from her and have her go cold turkey. I told Michael we need to be strong and not cave in when she's upset. Yesterday she was a bit of an emotional roll coaster but we all survived. On the bright side she's been sleeping through the night without a fuss! The next step? Have her sleep through the night in her crib :)

five// I'm happy that the weather is finally cooling down! This week has been so hot, and I have been drinking iced coffee in the afternoon when my soul is craving a hot latte. I also want to retire my sandals already and bring out the cozy fall/winter clothes. Today may be dreary and wet but I think it is refreshing, and I can appropriately wear a flannel and sip on a latte without sweating :)

six// After two years of reading my bible on my phone, I got myself a new bible this week and it's beautiful! Distractions are constant in my life, and doing my daily readings through my phone seemed to open doors to more distractions. I've always preferred reading books over screens so the transition from phone bible to real bible has been seamless!

That's all I have for this week, I hope you guys have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spicy Fried Chicken Thighs

Fried chicken. Where does one begin? I'll start by saying that it's one of my favorite things to cook with my husband. I do all the prep work, he does all the frying, and then we indulge in it together. Fried chicken is a special kind of food that gives you a hug and makes you stop thinking about the craziness of your day and focus on the present moment. Don't be afraid to allow fried chicken's crispy texture and flavor layered goodness to create a party in your mouth! Chances are you will feel a little better while eating fried chicken. Okay it might be temporary satisfaction, but I'll take it, and I'll allow it to be the highlight of my day because life is too short not to enjoy the simple things. 

In my kitchen we use boneless chicken thighs because it's our favorite part of the bird. But by all means you can use chicken breasts, legs, wings, or better yet a whole chicken! This recipe is flexible that way. Fried chicken tastes delicious at room temperature and contrary to belief it can be reheated in the oven, or dare I say it even eaten directly out of the fridge! You can make sandwiches the next day on a nice soft bun or toss it into a salad. The delta sauce recipe is optional but I really love it. It's almost like Russian dressing but much spicier and really elevates the fried chicken. The sauce can also be used on french fries, tostones, and yucca fries.

Fried chicken can be a bit of a messy kitchen adventure that does require a little time but believe when I say that it's absolutely worth it! I like to serve fried chicken with roasted potatoes and either a bright green salad or braised collard greens with a little lemon juice to balance out the richness of the chicken. Though if you decide to serve your fried chicken with flaky buttermilk biscuits, I'd expect an invitation for dinner at your place. ;)

Spicy Fried Chicken Thighs 

The recipe is based off of this one and it's truly a keeper!
Serves 8
  • 2lbs. organic boneless chicken thighs*
  • Buttermilk
  • salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup Frank's Red Hot or other vinegar based hot pepper sauce
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 cups flour 
  • 2-3 teaspoons cayenne powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh pepper
  • peanut or canola oil for frying 
  • kosher salt to taste
delta sauce: 
makes about 2 cups 
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup sambal oelek
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • fresh pepper to taste

*You can absolutely use boneless breast meat just be sure to read my note on the bottom of recipe. 

  1. For chicken: Place chicken in a large plastic freezer bag and cover with buttermilk. Refrigerate overnight or at least two hours before cooking.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, water and hot pepper sauce. Whisk until combined. 
  3. In a large gallon sized freezer bag, mix flour, paprika, pepper and cayenne. 
  4. Remove chicken from buttermilk and sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  5. Place all chicken pieces in freezer bag with flour mixture. Shake until all pieces are evenly coated. 
  6. Remove all chicken pieces one at a time, shaking off excess flour. Dip each piece of chicken in egg mixture, and return to bag of flour. After all pieces have been dipped into egg mixture and put back in flour bag, give another shake to coat the pieces of chicken again.
  7. Heat oil in a deep fryer or dutch oven to 350 degrees. Working in batches, drop each piece of chicken in hot oil. Fry for about 5-7 minutes each side or until golden brown. *If you're using breast meat it will cook faster. Season chicken with a sprinkle of kosher salt.

For the delta sauce: combine everything in a small bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lydia Renee's { 19-month-update! }

I always find myself in awe with this little girl... Even when she drives me loco, I am always finding myself awestruck that she is my daughter and that I’m her mama. She just turned 19 months which means in five months she'll be a two-year-old! Her personality is really blooming. She’s strong-willed, passionate, and independent yet somehow still clingy with me especially. Independent in the sense that she's capable of playing by herself and not big on being spoon fed or having her hand held. Yet, clingy in the sense that she craves cuddles, which is fine, until she demands cuddles whenever I am in the middle of cooking dinner.

On talking: She doesn’t form sentences yet but is an excellent babbler! The words she says most have been very enthusiastic greetings such as “hi!” and “bye!!” She also likes to point to her head and say "head-head", and then of course she points to things and asks "whatsthat?!" I'm mama and Michael is "da." Sometimes she tells me "no!" which I don’t always agree with but it’s slightly better than her yelling or grunting her foreign language at me. She also barks. She seems to understand more than she can speak... Kind of like me with my Spanish skills! Though she's not a lost cause like me, and will learn to speak English fluently as time passes.

Lydia's daily activities: Besides babbling, Lydia's days are filled with what I think she believes as "organizing." She likes helping me clean by stuffing her toys in between the sofa cushion or slipping the really small stuff inside the vent.  She is big on reading and spends quite a while engrossed in her animal alphabet book. We are trying to teach her how to make animal noises and decipher which animal makes which sound. She loves playing hide and seek, and being chased too, though she's the happiest when she's outside and exploring nature. She's also happy when she is allowed to watch her nursery rhyme videos. She gets her groove on and I get a work out in, it’s a win-win. The YouTube channels that she loves (and that I can tolerate), are ChuChu TV, Dave & Ava, and occasionally The Farmees. If I sing the songs to her she tries to sing-a-long with me and does a little jig too.

What she's eating lately: Lydia is still a great eater! Her favorite are still blueberries, but now I can confidently add bananas and avocados to the list which were off limits before! During breakfast she’s currently loving oatmeal with cinnamon and maple syrup with a side of blueberries. She will usually have chocolate milk and juice throughout the day. Lunch varies between peanut butter and jelly, Annie’s mac and cheese, or whatever leftovers from last night’s dinner. She gets hungry in between meals and typically eats an applesauce or yogurt kefir squeeze packs. And when dinner rolls around, she will eat whatever we’re eating and sometimes a Biscoff cookie if most of her dinner goes into mouth and not into Zoe’s! 

Sleep: Lydia is still sleeping in crib in our bedroom and manages to sleep through the night. She's been having a hard time going to sleep earlier than 9pm but we are working on it. We are planning on moving her into the spare bedroom once it's cleaned up and painted. I have been wanting her to sleep in her own room for a while now but of course life gets busy and it will be a big adjustment for her. It's one thing to have her sleep in her crib for most of the night in our bedroom (she always winds up in our bed somehow), it's another thing to have her sleep in the crib and be in a separate bedroom all night. Sleep training is hard but I think it'll be good for all of us!

To wrap this up I will say Lydia you are a crazy little girl, and we love you so much. You create messes and have a fiery temper that tests my patience but you make both Michael and I's (maybe even Zoe's) hearts so full, and life just wouldn't be as fun without your silly antics. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

24 things about me

Guys, last week I entered my mid-twenties! I thought 24 years old still qualified as being in my early-twenties but my husband told me otherwise and after a playful argument I finally accepted the fact that my early-twenties have expired, and that's okay! The first three years old my twenties consisted of life changing experiences like having major surgery, becoming a wife, moving to western PA, and giving birth a darling little girl. Each of those events came with their share challenges and adjustments but without them I wouldn't be the woman I am today. My hearts fuller, I'm better with managing time and focusing on the more important things in my life. I'm totally looking forward to the new experiences God will provide me with this upcoming year!

I am a huge fan of writing lists and because it's been a long time since I've done much of an intro on here and my about me page is only a couple of paragraphs, I thought it would be fun to write up a list of 24 random things about me.

one// I was born in Long Island, New York; lived in Queens, New York for six years of my life, then moved to central New Jersey because of my dad’s job. After Michael and I got married we lived in an apartment in New Brunswick, New Jersey and then moved about 382 miles away a few months later. I really miss my family and living close to the shore but I’m also loving our home north of Pittsburgh. The small town we live in has lots of parades, friendly people and it is just so peaceful which is perfect for our family. Pittsburgh is about 40 minutes away from us and I feel really lucky to be nearby such a spectacular city! 

two// My all-time favorite scripture is “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” -Philippians 4:4

three// I have three tattoos. A half a heart on my ribs (my sister has the other half), “Rejoice” written in Hebrew and a fuchsia Gerbera daisy watercolor tattoo on my left shoulder. For some reason all tattoos are on the left side of my body, and I’m thinking I might keep up with that trend!

four// I love Thai, Mediterranean and Indian food.

five// Cleaning relaxes me. If you would have told me that when I was about 10 or 11, I wouldn’t have believed you! I was the kid who stalled cleaning her room and dreaded Saturday morning chores. Something clicked when I got married and had my own house. Sorry mom. I guess you're getting your revenge with my messy toddler undoing all my chores. 

six// My favorite genre for movies are dramas, off-beat comedies, psycho-thrillers, and of course the occasional romantic comedy!

seven// I'm dreadfully shy. However I’ve been pushing myself to be more social, make phone calls, and get involved with others. It can be challenging and sometimes uncomfortable but it’s always worth it. 

eight// My current Netflix binge is Grey’s Anatomy and occasionally Prison Break with Michael. It’s so funny because a lot of the cast of Prison Break have been patients or loved ones to the patients at Seattle Grace!

nine// I feel more natural and confident as a savory chef than a pastry chef, mostly because I am more skilled in that area but I am working on that.

ten// I love earth tones: taupe, grays, yellows, browns and greens. But my favorite colors are turquoise, most shades of purple and red.

eleven// I was homeschooled through 4th-11th grade. It was a great experience, going to school the one year wasn't so great for me!

twelve// I've been drinking coffee regularly since I was twelve years old... I don't know if this something to be proud of? I like my coffee strong with a little creamer or in the form of a latte!

thirteen// I was a vegetarian all throughout High School and a little while after. It wasn’t until I studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute and read Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules” that I became more aware of the better quality and sustainable meats options out there. My boyfriend-now-husband is who really inspired my transition to go back onto the path of burgers and bacon though. I quickly learned that adding meat into my diet opened more culinary opportunities in my kitchen, improved my health and feel overall less restricted with my diet. 

fourteen// Autumn is my favorite season!

fifteen// I have Ulcerative Colitis and have been in remission for about four years now. Daily medication, exercise, probiotics, a healthy diet and quality sleep are essential for me.

sixteen// By nature, I am stubborn and don’t always handle criticism well, but fortunately God’s been working on me in that area. Michael makes sure of it :)

seventeen// I’m a Puerto Rican woman who barely speaks Spanish, but I think my skills in the kitchen make up for it.

eighteen// I am allergic to cats but that’s okay because I’m a dog person.

nineteen// My old-standby wine is a Pennsylvania made wine called Buffalo Blush, it goes with mostly everything and taste nice too.

twenty// I am a homebody and most of the time I prefer staying in on the weekends writing, baking, or working on a project in comfy clothes.

twenty-one// I love ice cream especially soft serve, and making me choose a favorite would be like choosing a favorite child!

twenty-two// Quality time and words of affirmation are my love languages.

twenty-three// I am a daydreamer sometimes this is a good thing because it can be inspirational and other times it can be annoyingly distracting.

twenty-four// If I had to choose between running a mile and two minutes of non-stop burpees, I would choose the burpees. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate running.

And that's twenty-four things you probably didn't know about me!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Autumn!

Last Autumn when Lydia was 8 months old, now she is 18 months old!!

"Life starts all over again 
when it gets crisp in the fall."
                       -F. Scott Fitzgerald 
For as long as I can remember autumn has always been my favorite season, and I'm pretty proud of being born around this time of year! I love when the weather slowly begins to cool down and the leaves start changing shades of color. The smell of the air is crisp, and cinnamon sugar becomes the signature scent of my home. Everything just feels cozier. I'll be able to start wearing my fall uniform: a chunky sweater or flannel, jeans and boots. I cannot wait til I can wear boots again!! Food seems to taste better this time of year too. Winter squashes are at their peak, and boy do they taste mighty fine roasted, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and served over kale. I also like pumpkin pie, pumpkin oatmeal, and pumpkin smoothies heavy on the spices.

There's a lot to love about this season. It seems to always inspire people to get together more whether it's to watch football (not me, I'm just there for the food), go to harvest festivals, host seasonal parties, go apple picking, etc. There's really no solid reason not to fellowship with your people when autumn is here! I am most looking forward to starting traditions with my family. I think Lydia will love jumping in freshly raked leaves, going to our towns harvest festival and helping me bake lots of delicious treats in the kitchen.

What are you most looking forward to this autumn? 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Changing my perspective of time...

I am generally a creative person. I am passionate about cooking, trying new recipes, writing and often dabbling into photography. I would definitely say I am at my happiest when I have the time to do those things. It's funny because I thought being a stay-at-home mom would grant me the free time necessary to create and quickly learned that was not the case! Don't get me wrong being a wife and mom is the most fulfilling experience in the world for me, it's just when I don't always get a chance to create it makes me a little sad and moodier. 

Some days that special time I have to create comes easier and other days my time is limited. I'm actually thanking God as I type this because Lydia is playing by herself and not demanding me to pick her up! A big turn around indeed. I was dealing with a needy chub over the last couple of weeks, and by the time she would go down for a nap, I'd have to prepare dinner or was too exhausted to tap into creativity which made me feel discouraged. However it helps when I remind myself that I'm doing a good thing by placing my family first and my passions second. No I can't do everything all at once, but I can do everything I desire to do in increments. Having this perspective has really changed my attitude when my time is limited and it is key in surviving the epic burn outs that come from being a stay-at-home mom!

As a Christian, I depend on Christ for everything, including my time and without Him I doubt my perspective would be positive when I'm burnt out. Through Him I am a more patient, industrious and kind woman, He even gives me a peace of mind when time isn't by my side. I am learning that I have to pray for myself to find that special time and wholeheartedly trust that God will open a window for me. I am also learning as a wife, it's okay to ask for help when I'm feeling exhausted and that I'm not being selfish if I ask for alone time to create. It's what makes me a happier wife and mom after all. The scripture above is one that I'm holding onto when I am feeling especially burnt out. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.” -Psalm 34:17-20 

I have to say I feel a lot better writing what’s been on my mind lately, and I am slowly working myself back into writing more content!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Peach & Walnut Smoothie

I think I may have hit the mommy brain trifecta! It all started a couple Friday's ago, when I made these lovely peach pie bars and without realizing until after they were in the oven, I put 1 tablespoon of BAKING POWDER instead of 1 tablespoon of CORNSTARCH in the peach filling. What the heck. The result wasn't pretty, the peach filling was gray and as expected the taste was completely off. I didn't beat myself up about it because the baking powder and cornstarch containers were quite similar looking. I only knew it wasn't cornstarch because I had recycled that container, and had opened one that comes from a bag. Oops!

Last week I did a lot of cooking/baking, because it was Michael's birthday, I also cooked for a family who recently had a baby, and baked a cake for the church picnic, etc. I guess my brain was a little fried from all the planning, prepping, cooking, and eating because my mommy brain (or maybe Jessica brain would be the correct term here) was back in effect this Sunday. We went straight to the grocery store after church, and I got more Brita filters and smoked salmon from Costco thinking we ran out of both. Michael insisted we still had both but I was positive we didn't. As soon as we come home and were putting away our groceries, he finds both an unopened box of Brita filters in the cabinet and vacuum sealed smoked salmon in the fridge. All I could say was "at least we don't have to buy either for a while..."  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Now that all of that is out in the open, let's focus on this Peach & Walnut smoothie that I like to believe redeems me of my Jessica/mommy brain tendencies. We received gigantically beautiful peaches from our CSA, and I used a couple to bake with, devoured whole ones with Lydia, and froze the rest for smoothies. When ripened aren't peaches the most succulent and delicious summer fruits you've ever eaten? Messy but so worth it. I especially love them in this smoothie! I added walnuts because I like a thick smoothie that will keep me full and satisfied, two admirable qualities in a smoothie if you ask me.

Peach & Walnut Smoothie (vegan, gluten-free*)
  • 1 peach fresh or frozen, sliced 
  • half banana, peeled and frozen overnight
  • 1 medjool date, pitted or 1 tablespoon maple syrup for sweetness
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats*
  • 1 handful raw walnuts (about 2-3 tablespoons...)
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2-3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
*Use gluten-free oats if necessary. Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until thoroughly combined. Pour into a glass and enjoy immediately!