Simply Noel: December 13 – Let There Be Light

Simply Noel:

December 13 – Let There Be Light

Have you noticed that Christmas has become a hodgepodge of traditions? When I set out to start this devotional, one of my goals was to learn the “why” behind some of the practices. Christmas comes along, and I break out the Advent calendars, the gingerbread houses, the decorations, the wreaths, the lights, the holly, the mistletoe… We bake cookies, special breads, and yule logs… We cook certain meats and seafoods… We sing specific songs and visit Santa at the mall… Those are just some of the traditions we carry on, because our culture has adopted them. I’m sure there are even more, especially when we add in the modern ones…

It can be overwhelming, can’t it? And while I have participated and incorporated many Christmas traditions into our lives here, I refuse to be bound to rituals, especially when I don’t understand them to begin with and it’s become a matter of going through the motions. Are you going through the motions, too?

One of the stories I stumbled upon is related to this day, December 13th – Saint Lucia (St. Lucy) Day, was about a young and devout Christian woman, who was martyred for her unwavering faith in Christ. I’m sure I’ll get part of her story’s details wrong (because I am neither Catholic, Lutheran, or Swedish), but basically, according to legend, in 304 A.D. she “brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs using a candle-lit wreath [worn on her head] to light her way and leave her hands free,” so on this day, St. Lucia (meaning light) is remembered/honored in certain ways, both in places of worship and also in private homes.

One of the practices I read about, in regards to this day, was the eating of a breakfast meal by candlelight. I started imagining how serene and lovely it would be – to serve my family some eggs and Lucia Buns by candlelight one winter morning. There’s something so wonderful about candlelight – so peaceful. Have you ever enjoyed a candle-lit meal on a date, perhaps, or at a wedding? I love the way the light only reaches so far and then fades into darkness. The soft, warm glow that touches each object in front of you… The way it flickers and causes the surroundings to dance… The warmth that it gives off… I simply love candlelight. It’s interesting to me how intimate it makes even the most mundane activity feel. I almost think it brings things into focus, because you have no choice but to only focus on the small area that you can actually see – the face of a loved one sitting next to you, the other end of a table, the page of a book…

I started to think about our candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We could easily flip the switch and illuminate the entire room. Let there be light! Ta-da! But, no, that’s not what happens, right? We start with a real, not artificial, single flame, and person by person, we watch it grow into a sea of the most warm and peaceful light. Furthermore, you and the light are one. It goes where you go, turns where you turn…

There is so much talk about light in the Bible. Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden… He also tells us that while He is in the world, He is the Light of the world.

“The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

– John 12:35-36

Sons of light… light of the world… carriers of light…

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.'”

– Ephesians 5:8-15

Christ is the Light of the world, He shined His light on us, and now we are carriers of that light, making us the light of the world…

So, while we can honor and respect the selfless and sacrificial lives of those men and women, like St. Lucia, who have laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel and for the love of others, we mustn’t get caught up in rituals that might distract from the reality that we are the light. We don’t necessarily need a feast to welcome the light to the darkness… We don’t need a ceremony… We need a breakthrough moment – a revelation – in which Christ cracks us wide open and His light bursts from us, like the sun. And then, as we are going about our daily lives, we embody the Holy Spirit’s flame and we ignite the spirit of each person we come in contact with. It may look like the striking of a match, or it may be the gentle and steady transfer of Heaven’s light, but either way, we are to light the world one heart at a time.

xo,

Kristi

lights

Klover House Christmas:

While we don’t celebrate St. Lucia Day, I do love baking festive breads. If you caught my recent post, What You Do Well, then you’ll remember that I’m not the best baker, but breads, I can handle. I really enjoy the process of breadmaking. I found this post for St. Lucia Buns, and they sound tasty. I’ve always wondered what saffron tastes like, so this might be a great excuse to make something with it. Let me know if you try this out, or if St. Lucia Buns are a “thing” at your house, I’d love to hear from you!

Recipe for St. Lucia Buns – click here.

Fresh and Delicious Dill Balsamic Vinaigrette

You know those salad dressings that just stick with you?  You crave them…you think about them during a particular season…you make special trips to the store or Farmer’s Market just for those special ingredients?

Well, I have one of those dressings.  I tried it for the first time while I was working with some incredible Italian women and putting myself through college.  These sisters had big hearts and amazing cooking skills.

dilldressing3

One day, they insisted I have some of the salad they had brought in from home.  I did.  Friends, that’s all it took.  I was hooked and had to know how I could make it for myself.

All these years later, I am still making this amazing vinaigrette.  I admit, it’s not the same recipe, because time has tainted my recollection and I probably cut the salt by over half, because salt is a current member on my don’t-even-go-there list, but I think it’s amazing still and my ids seem to agree.  When you’ve got a four and a six year old who actually fought over slices of cucumber for dipping, because they couldn’t get enough, you know you’ve got a winner.

dilldressing1

Friends, here is that winner for your own enjoyment…

Dill Balsamic Vinaigrette

3 full sprigs of fresh dill (more to taste) – remove the fronds from stems and finely chop

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar

1/4 c. olive oil

1/4 c. honey (can also be split as 1/8 c. honey, 1/8 c. sugar)

1 tsp. sea salt & 20+ cracks black pepper (more or less to taste)

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1/4 c. yellow or red onion, chopped

*Even if you don’t care for onions and tomatoes, incorporate them into the dressing, because they are crucial in developing the proper flavor.

Finish with one cucumber, chopped, and 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese (fresh is best, but shredded works well too!)

Pair with a delicious pasta dish or top with grilled chicken for an amazing, stand-alone meal.

That simple.

Enjoy!

Connect with us on Instagram to keep up with all the latest happenings in the Klover House Kitchen!  Also, if Meal Planning is something that interests you, check out my in-depth article explaining my tried and proven process on the incredible site, Money Saving Mom.

Check out more of our Klover House Favorites:

Honey Citrus Grilled Chicken over Black Beans and Rice

Deliciously Sweet and Creamy Pumpkin Pie

Raspberry Almond Sugar Cookie Pie

Salted Caramel Oreo Truffles

Delicious Crockpot Lasagna

 

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bread

Last night, as I burned the late-night oil watching Cake Wars on Food Network, I caught the #BakeItForward challenge presented at the close of the show.  I am a huge fan of the #PayItForward lifestyle, so this seemed like a lot of fun coupled with a wonderful cause – fighting child hunger. Food Network is donating $1 for each original post on social media using the hashtag #BakeItForward.

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and sipping my morning cup of coffee, I came across the video below, featuring banana bread with a cream cheese filling.  I was all out of bananas, but I remembered that I had a can of Organic Pumpkin Puree from Trader Joe’s, so I immediately decided that a swap was in order, since I had everything else I needed to make the bread.

 

Cream Cheese-Filled Banana BreadPIN IT FOR LATER: http://bit.ly/bnnabrad

Posted by Tasty on Sunday, November 8, 2015

 

I followed the recipe shown in the video:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt

I used the following additions:

  • 1 tsp. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie spice
  • 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • HALF of a 15oz. can of TJ’s Organic Pumpkin Puree

and the following variations:

  • 1/4 c. Coconut oil (in place of butter)
  • 1/2 c. half n half (in place of sour cream)

I followed the Cream Cheese Filling recipe as given:

  • 4 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 TBSP flour

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

So that was it!  It turned out well (I think, anyway), but I kept having to remind myself with each bite, “This is NOT a Pumpkin Roll…this is NOT a Pumpkin Roll.” LOL  Because it isn’t nearly as sweet, although it resembles one!  It DID however, make me feel a whole lot better about having three slices!  🙂  Enjoy and please jump on the #BakeItForward train!  It is such a great cause!  We are all baking during the holidays at one point or another, and the challenge is running until December 31st, so as you bake and gift your goodies to others, tag your photos with the #BakeItForward #NoKidHungry hashtags and keep the goodness going!  Tag me too, on Twitter and Instagram, if you heard about it here, because I would be so thrilled to see what you are baking and to see that the love is spreading!

Happy Baking and Giving, Friends! xoxo

bakeitforward

Delicious and Simple: Honey Citrus Grilled Chicken over Amazing Black Beans and Rice

Hello, y’all!

Wow.  It’s been a looong time since the last post, and I’m starting things back up with a recipe!  We had this one for dinner a few nights ago and, to be perfectly honest, I was a bit unsure as to how the family would react.  My hubby is NOT a fan of beans of any kind.  In fact, I usually puree them when I am making a Mexican dish or chili.  Saves me an earful, if you know what I mean.  😉

But…he loved it!  Yay!  So here it is:

Grilled Chicken with Citrus Honey Marinade over Cuban-style Beans and Rice:

For the marinade (place in a large Ziploc bag with 5 chicken breasts):
3 small, ripe oranges, quartered (I used Cuties / Halos)
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
1-2 tsp cracked pepper (your preference)
** Seal bag securely and press oranges well, massaging into chicken.
** Store in refrigerator 1-2 days prior to grilling.

For Rice and Beans:
Brown 2 cups of rice in skillet with 2T olive oil and 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
Once rice is a golden color, add seasonings
1 heaping tsp oregano
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cumin
Stir in seasonings until thoroughly distributed
Add 2T red wine vinegar
Add 2T favorite pasta sauce (our’s is Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce, 24-Ounce (Pack of 4))
Add 1 Bay leaf
Add 2 cups water
Finally, stir in one 10-ounce bag of black beans

Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, until rice is tender and fluffy.

Serve with grilled chicken breasts.
Garnish with cilantro, fresh lime juice, sour cream, etc.


 photo a9de1fdb-52d3-4604-a79d-ba7ee6db5adb_zps8f990315.jpg

deliciously sweet and creamy pumpkin pie

Well, the hubs thought that I was nutso for baking a pumpkin pie in January, but truth be told:

I.Don’t.Care.

1) It’s my all-time favorite pie.
2) I still have 2 cans of Trader Joe’s Organic Pumpkin (15 oz) in the pantry.
3) It’s my favorite pie.
4) I had the other ingredients.
5) I’m very pregnant and it’s my favorite pie.

None of the recipes that I came across really struck me as perfect (and I didn’t have any evaporated milk or whipping cream), so I decided to just skim over a few trusted sites and kind of make things up on my own.

I am happy to report: It turned out perfectly!

Here’s the very simple recipe. (It took literally 5 minutes to whip up in the KitchenAid mixer.)

 

Deliciously Sweet and Creamy Pumpkin Pie

1 15 oz can of TJ’s Organic Pumpkin
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 c. half n half
1 c. soy milk (or coconut or almond)
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (I use TJ’s)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. corn starch
1/2 c. brown sugar

Mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust. (I had a pre-made one on-hand and thawed out.)

Bake at 375 for 65 minutes. I covered the crust edge with a pie shield for the final 15 minutes.

Check for doneness by inserting a kitchen butterknife into the center. (It will still wobble, but if it comes out clean, it’s done.)

Chill in refrigerator overnight, and devour way too much with your kids during breakfast.  😉

signature2

Delicious Crockpot Lasagna

Well, I did it, friends. I made a lasagna in the crockpot! You may be thinking, ‘hmph, I do that all of the time!’ but this was totally new to me! I have this incorrect notion that my crockpot is strictly for soups, stews, roasts, etc., so the idea of creating an ‘oven’ meal in it was a big deal for me. I am happy to report that it went perfectly! It was way easier than the oven, and in the summer months, it’s extra great, because you’re not heating your house up!

So here it goes… (oh, and I noticed as I was mentally recapping my ingredients that every single thing was from Trader Joe’s, and it was perfecto!)

**Update** Find my notes regarding a vegetarian variation below this recipe!

 

Ingredient list:

*marinara sauce
*6-8 oven-ready lasagna noodles
*1 lb. ground turkey
*1/2 red onion
*fresh basil
*fresh kale
*4 garlic cloves
*fresh parmesan
*fresh mozzarella
*15 oz. ricotta cheese
*1 zucchini squash

I had left over TJ’s marinara sauce in the freezer, so I thawed it out overnight in the refrigerator. (I usually take a jar of marinara and a big can of crushed or pureed tomatoes and mix them for my sauce.)

In a skillet prepped with a drizzle of evoo, I sauteed 1 lb. of ground turkey and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. Once it was nearly cooked through, I added a half of a red onion (diced), a hand-full of fresh, chopped basil, about 1/4 c. of fresh, chopped kale, and 2 cloves of minced garlic.

Once that simmered for a few minutes, I added all but about a half cup of the sauce and mixed it together well.

The 1/2 c. of sauce that I reserved went into the crockpot first, and I covered the bottom evenly.

Next, I prepped all of my ingredients for layering.

In a small bowl, I combined a small tub of ricotta cheese (15 oz.), 2 more minced garlic cloves, and about 1/4 c. of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Next, I peeled and thinly sliced a zucchini and cut all of the slices in half, so that each was about 3 in. long.

Then, I sliced a a ball of fresh mozzarella into thin slices (i think it was around 8 oz. whatever the baseball-sized ball is??)

Finally, you are ready to layer!

On top of the sauce, my layers went like this:

*TJ’s ‘oven ready / no boil’ pasta (cracked in half, using 4 halves per layer)

*zucchini slices, filling in any gaps left by the noodles

*meat sauce (I wanted to put the sauce and zucchini right on the noodles, because both are full of moisture, and those oven-ready noodles really suck up the moisture in the dish if you aren’t prepared for them to do so.)

*ricotta/parmesan mixture

*mozzarella slices

*pasta, zucchini, meat sauce, cheeses, repeat…

Finish off the dish with any remaining mozzarella and a fresh layer of parmesan. I rinsed my crockpot lid off, prior to putting it on, in order to really add some extra moisture. I think all of the steam helped, b/c not a single noodle was dried out.

Let it cook on low for 4 hrs. (or on high for 2 hrs.) Easy and delicious. I will definitely be making lasagna this way from now on. My house stayed cool, the aroma filled the kitchen, and it turned out perfectly.

 

Try it, and let me know if you like it as much as we did!

 

 

 

crockpot_lasagna5 

I recently made a meatless version with half the ricotta, and it was also delicious!  Instead of kale, I used frozen spinach (just enough to sprinkle two light, even layers), and I also added thinly sliced portobello mushrooms (6 mushrooms / 3 per layer).  For the ricotta portion, I used half of the 15 oz. tub, 1 egg yolk, 1 large clove of garlic, 2 tbsp. Italian seasoning, and a pinch of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  In place of the fresh mozzarella, I used layers of Trader Joe’s shredded Quattro Formagio and sliced provolone.

 

 

 photo a9de1fdb-52d3-4604-a79d-ba7ee6db5adb_zps8f990315.jpg

 

15-Minute Method: How to Boil the Perfect Egg…

One Good Egg

I am one of those people that has had to ask Google “how to boil eggs” probably more times than I should admit.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t remember!  I must also confess, I would just pick a suggestion randomly, and they often didn’t even turn out well!

At last, by trial and error… I have finally achieved trial and success! These eggs are perfect!   Yes, I said it… PERFECT, and I’m happy to share the super-easy-to-remember process with you too!

egg

The “15-Minute Method”

Okay, I start out with my 2 quart pot (it’ll usually have a label on the underside or handle) – it’s like a medium sized pot.  I like to stick with 7 or 8 eggs at the most.

I cook several at a time, because my Avey-baby will gobble them up like nobody’s business.

Plus, they fit perfectly in this sized pot…

Place them in the pot filled half way with tap water before turning the burner on – for obvious reasons. If you try to place eggs into hot water, it will hurt, people! Plus, you can’t drop them in, because they’ll crack… so, unless you want poached eggs, trust me.

Then bring it to a rolling boil and set the timer immediately to 10 minutes (once it’s boiling). I usually have to turn the heat down a bit halfway through, because the roll gets a little violent, and I’ve quickly given myself a poached egg or two. Do not, I repeat, do not put a lid on it.

Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the pot from heat and let them sit in the pot for an additional 5 minutes – still uncovered.

Once the 5 minutes is up, drop them into a prepared ice bath – I like to use this large, glass measuring cup, because it’s easy… I use it to scoop up a bunch of ice, and then I just pour the water out when it’s time to stick them in the fridge.

Plus, being that it’s glass, it’s easy to see how many eggs I have left and identify them as hard-boiled…  You don’t want to stick ’em back in an egg carton and grab the wrong kind when you’re in a hurry.

These eggs have been perfect every time, and they’re a cinch to peel…

Quick Re-cap

I call it the “15-Minute Method, because it takes exactly 15 minutes to achieve perfectly hard-boiled eggs.  Lucky for me, it’s such an easy phrase to remember.

So, 10 minutes boiling and 5 minutes sitting in the hot water, removed from heat.  Ice bath, peel, DONE!

See??? Perfection!

eggs

Miss Avey would have to agree… She just downed three!

Enjoy!

 photo a9de1fdb-52d3-4604-a79d-ba7ee6db5adb_zps8f990315.jpg