a few of my favorite things

Here are a few of my favorite things (in no specific order). Hope they make you smile and inspire you to enjoy this abundant life you have been given!

cardigans, my kitchenaid, fresh herbs, sleeping in, good books, church, fresh flowers,   real butter, tea, doughnuts, praying, chocolate, beach days, husband, pinterest, singing, Jesus, The Bible, magazines, being silly, veggies, board games, chapstick, peonies, candles, friends, diamonds, citrus, kissing, vanilla coke, hawaii, tv, rain & thunder, sushi, Instagram, cleaning, chick flicks, long walks, babies, popsicles, black skinny jeans, freckles, list making, crafting, margaritas, blogging, Trader Joes, coffee, honey…

What are your favorite things? I would really love to hear them! 🙂

xo sarah

roasted miniature eggplant

I was at Sprout’s Farmers Market the other week and there were miniature eggplant on sale: 15 for $1.00! Holy cow!

You can’t get 15 of anything for $1.00 these days, so I snatched some up!
However, once I got home I realized I had no idea what to do with them. And, like usual, I visited one of my favorite sites for inspiration: Pinterest!
It’s so fun to take the beautiful and delicious ideas on Pinterest and make it for real!
I found a recipe for Oven Roasted Mini Eggplant that was simple, but looked pretty tasty.

This miniature eggplant dish would be great as a vegetable side dish to dinner, an appetizer served with a dipping sauce and paired with cheese, or on a slice of fresh baked artisan bread with EVOO. I adopted what I loved from the original recipe and modified the rest to my liking. Here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 15 miniature eggplant
  • 2 Tbsp of EVOO or oil of choice
  • 1-2 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1-2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Rinse each miniature eggplant in a strainer and pat dry. Then poke all sides of each eggplant with a fork.

3. Place eggplants on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Toss together to coat each eggplant evenly.

4. Put in your oven for 30-40 minutes for roasting.

5. Serve hot, room-temperature, or cold! I prefer hot.

*Note: The color on the miniature Eggplants changes to a reddish brown after they have been roasted. This means they will not be as visually appealing, but still just as tasty. These would be great dipped in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and oregano!

What deal or special ingredient have you taken a chance on lately? I’d love to hear it!

xo sarah

our first camping trip {part 3: camp meal-planning made simple}

Cooking away from home can be tricky.
Cooking healthy away from home can be almost impossible!
However, I was very determined to make it happen, so I am writing today to share some of the things that worked for me when planning out the menu for our big trip!
Below, you will find a full menu with options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and (of course) dessert! These meals are simple, healthy, and delicious! What more could you ask for while camping?

I did my shopping at 3 different stores for these meals:

  • Sprouts for all produce
  • Trader Joes for meat, eggs, bread and fun snacks
  • Vons for the “just add water & shake” pancake mix and s’mores supplies.

Most of these meals are very self-explanatory and you can add your personal twist however you would like! But make sure to look for a couple helpful recipes down below too. Enjoy!

Breakfast

Day 1: Pancakes, Berries, Canadian Bacon

Day 2: Scrambled Eggs with Homemade Bacon Bits, Skillet Garlic Potatoes, Oranges

Day 3: Pancakes, Chicken Apple Sausage, Berries

Day 4: Oatmeal w/Walnuts and Cranberries, Oranges

* Each breakfast paired with a hot cup of french press coffee of course!

Breakfast made easy and delicious!

Lunch

Day 1: Trader Joes Pre-Packaged Salad or Sandwich

Day 2: Canadian Bacon Sandies, Baby Carrots

Day 3: Leftovers of anything you need to get rid of

Day 4: Lunch out!

Dinner

Day 1: Garlic Sausage & Veggie Foil Dinner

Day 2: Vegetable Soup (Made ahead of time), Rolls

Day 3: Pasta with Sautéed Mushrooms, Green Beans

Day 4: Hot Dogs, Potato Salad, Corn on the Cob

Dessert

Day 1: S’mores

Day 2: Watermelon

Day 3: Banana Boats

Day 4: Watermelon or other fun snacks

RECIPE:  Garlic Sausage & Veggie Foil Dinner

Note: Before you leave for your trip you should par-boil your potatoes until a fork can just barley poke through the surface. This will help the cooking process along while your out camping!

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 squares of 1-foot foil
  • 4 garlic chicken sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 4 baby potatoes – I used purple potatoes!
  • (remember: parboil at home before you leave!)
  • 4 Tbsp cold butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • season with salt & pepper

Directions:

1. Make sure fire is hot and ready to cook with.

2. Chop all veggies and potatoes into bite-size chunks.

3. Slice sausage in 1/4 inch thick slices.

4. Mince or mash garlic cloves.

5. Cut butter into little cubes.

6. Lay foil squares flat on a table and place even amounts of sausage, veggies, and potatoes into each piece of foil.

7. Scatter butter, garlic, red pepper flakes, and S&P even throughout each foil square.

8. Bring opposite corners of foil square together and seal together tightly. Make sure nothing will leak or fall out and that the seal is secure.

9. Roast on campfire grill for 15 minutes. Turn every 5 minutes.

10. Enjoy a healthy and hearty campfire meal! And treat yourself a glass of bordeaux if you can!

RECIPE:  Skillet Garlic Potatoes 

Note: Before you leave for your trip you should oven-bake your potatoes. Wash each potato, rub with kosher salt, wrap in foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. This will help the cooking process along while you’re out camping!

Ingredients:

  • Cast iron skillet
  • 3-5 russet potatoes (remember: oven-baked ahead of time!)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Season with salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Make sure fire is hot and ready to cook with.

2. Mince garlic cloves.

3. Slice potatoes into 1/4 inch think slices.

4. Melt butter in cast iron skillet. Add garlic shortly after.

5. Add potatoes to skillet.  Season with S&P. Turn every couple minutes.

6. Your potatoes will be done in 5-10 minutes. They will turn golden brown and the garlic will get crispy!

7. ENJOY!

RECIPE:  Vegetable Soup

Note: This soup is made entirely ahead of time at home. Bring the serving sizes you need in an airtight container to place in the cooler. The soup can be warmed in a pot over the fire and served with rolls.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of dried beans (I used black eyed peas)
  • 1 cup of red or gold potatoes, cubed
  • 2 medium leeks, rinsed well and chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 3-4 red plum tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • season with salt and pepper

Directions:

1. In a large pot, cover your beans with 6 cups of water. Cover and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Drain and rinse the beans. Return the beans to the pot and cover with 12 cups of water.

3. Add the thyme and bay leaf and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to simmer.

4. Add potatoes, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, and broth. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

5. Add the green beans and zucchini, and cook uncovered for 20 min.

6. Add the peas and cook uncovered for 5 minutes, or until soft.

7. Stir in granulated garlic and season with S&P.

8. ENJOY!

RECIPE:  Banana Boats

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana per person
  • 1 foil square per person, measured
  • chocolate chips/square from a hershey bar
  • marshmallows

Directions:

1. Make sure fire is hot and ready to cook with.

2. Carefully cut open each banana without cutting through to the other side.

3. Stuff with chocolate and marshmallows to your liking!

4. Wrap each banana up in the foil so there is a tight seal.

5. Cook over the fire for 5 minutes. Eat with a spoon and enjoy!!

Thanks for reading, friends! I hope you enjoyed this 3 part series of our first camping trip! Please don’t hesitate to ask me about any of these menus or recipes!

xo sarah

our first camping trip {part 2: the ultimate camping checklist}

I don’t know how many people can relate to me with this, but I LOVE making lists!

I love writing out each item I need to purchase at the store or ranking each chore/task in order of importance or necessity. The wonderful feeling you get when you get to cross something off the list is the best! Yes, I may be a little OCD when it comes to organization and list making, but I am realizing now how my acute attention to detail can really help others…especially if a list is the last thing you want (or even have the time) to make.

That being said, getting ready for our camping trip was a blast for me. I was excited to list all the items we needed to buy and pack. After our multiple trips around town, I felt very accomplished. As you can see below, my original “Ultimate Camping Checklist” was handwritten and once I was done everything was crossed off and impossible to read. So, I typed out EVERYTHING you will need to bring with you for a perfect trip to The Great Outdoors! Feel free to add or subtract according to your needs. Simply, click the link for a free printable PDF: The Ultimate Camping Checklist!!!

And, for all you fellow-list makers, make sure you add “pick up a special souvenir” to your Camping TO-DO List. You will want to remember your amazing trip for years to come. We picked up a nifty little refrigerator magnet in a crafty shop by the lake called Looped Handmade. So cute!

Thanks for reading!

xo sarah

our first camping trip {part 1: the great outdoor experience}

Summer 2012 was an eventful season for Bret and I, in which we shared some beautiful “firsts”: our first art purchases, our first Tower 30 Beach Night with The Fields, our first visit to Milk + Honey, as well as our first camping trip together!

In June, we traveled through the backroads of California up to June Lake. We saw some interesting things along our way (like the creepiest beef jerky stand on earth), but nothing compared to our destination. Beautiful cannot begin to describe this little piece of God’s glorious creation! I had been camping there a few times with my family while growing up, so I really wanted to share that with Bret and hopefully it now holds a little piece of his heart as well.

One of the best ways to travel is with the one you love. Being married is such a huge blessing for that reason (and many more obviously!). You just get to hang out with your best friend all day! In addition – getting away from the stress and responsibility of day-to-day life is such a treat. From the 16 hours (round trip) we spent in the car together and the 4 nights we got to snuggle up with each other in the freezing tent, I think we got our much-desired/ fair share of quality time.

Some of the most enduring things you take home from a vacation are the memories you make with each experience. Here’s what I will remember: we caught up on reading, took a long drive around the June Lake Loop, went on a gorgeous hike, memorized Scripture, went horseback riding (another first for Bret), watched a movie on the iPad, took quite a few naps, played mancala a lot, picked up a Christmas ornament (a little traveling tradition of ours) and an ice cream cone from Cathy’s Candy Shop, Bret built fires, I cooked meals and, finally, we both just RELAXED! We really needed it and I will never forget what a delightful time we had.

Although, don’t get me wrong, after 4 nights away from home, we were dying for a hot shower and we couldn’t wait to crawl into to our fluffy white bed again!

Now, that you have read a little bit about our fun experience, I wanted to give my two cents about how to pack smart and still eat healthy while camping. I really empathize with all you first-time campers out there…camping can be daunting as heck! However, I think I can help to make things more simple and as fun as possible. So please check back in for {part 2: the ultimate camping checklist} and {part 3: camp-meal-planning made simple}. Please take a second and check out some of our treasured family photos from the trip:

Our Campsite in June Lake on Reversed Creek Campground

Our afternoon on the beach at June Lake…and yes it was incredibly beautiful!

Our horseback riding adventure was such a blast!

And some of our best times were spent around the campfire: talking, praying, laughing, and scaring away the bears (no joke)!

Thanks for reading, friends!

xo sarah

my abundant list

Below is a list that describes why I believe my life is truly abundant:

1. My Lord, Jesus – He is God and my salvation. My hope and my King. He carries my burdens and gives me my joy through His undeserved grace! Ask me about Him sometime!

2. My Husband – Bret is my best friend ever. He is strong in character, tender in heart, a true leader and protector of my heart. Did I mention handsome? HUBBA HUBBA

3. My Home – We live in a little 1 bedroom apartment in South Carlsbad California and it has become more of a home to me than anywhere else I have lived. I take pride in my home, I keep it tidy, and I make it safe. I love that God has given me a heart for my home…I didn’t know I had it in me. {blog/photo-shoot “Our First Place” coming soon!}

4. My Church – We are a part of a church called The Fields. I love my church family so much! My husband leads worship some weekends and the Jr. High Ministry which I help with too. Being able to serve is a huge privilege and honor for us both.

5. My Family – I have been blessed with a truly wonderful family. Yes, every family has it’s imperfections, but I love them all so deeply and wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I also married into an amazing second family…baby niece included (she melts my heart)!

6. My Friends – I have been blessed with many friendships, but not many girls can say they’ve held strong to the same group of friends they made in middle school! I love you girls. Here’s a picture of my best friend Jocelyn and me blowing out our birthday candles:

7. My Kitchen – Getting creative in the kitchen, whether that be cooking or baking, has been such a joy and pleasure for me. I love putting a meal or dessert down in front of my husband and hearing him go “MMMMM!” But trust me…I’ve heard my fair share of “hmm…well, you’ll do better next time.” He’s sweet, but to the point. Needless to say, I’m still learning!

8. My Health – I love eating right and making healthy choices; so finding fresh local produce and natural ingredients is a must! Exercising is very important to me as well. I am not an expert or professional in either area, but I try my best to honor my body.

What makes YOUR life so abundant? I would LOVE to see and hear all about it!

xo sarah

peanut butter banana & nutella cupcakes {gluten free}

I don’t know about you, but I am pretty obsessed with Pinterest! However, the only pins I seem to be able to actually follow through with are the recipes (the simple ones that is!).

This recipe attracted me because it is gluten free and almost entirely sugar free! Also, it gave me an excuse to use my cute Martha Stewart cupcake liners!

Like most recipes I find, I add my little spin on it, but the original recipe can be found by clicking here. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup of natural peanut butter
  • 2-3 small ripe bananas (I like banana!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 12 Tbs of Nutella

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place desired liners in cupcake pan.

2. In a food processor, mix the peanut butter and bananas until smooth.

3. Add the eggs. Blend well.

4. Add the baking soda. Blend well.

5. Add the apple cider vinegar. Blend well.

6. Using a large spoon, fill each cupcake liner half way.

7. Drop a tablespoon of Nutella in the middle of each cupcake.

8. Top each cupcake with more batter so the Nutella is covered.

9. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

10. Frost if desired and drink with a tall glass of cold milk!

Yum! I brought these to a dessert night for some friends who are gluten free and they raved about them! A big hit 🙂

xo sarah

graduation day

Bret Graduates Biola!

This day will go down in the record books for our family. Being Bret’s wife has been a blessing in so many ways and on his graduation day, he gave me one more reason to think he is the most amazing man in the world. So proud!!!

When I first met Bret he had no goals of ever completing his degree. He took a couple classes at community college, but that’s about it. However, the more Bret grew in his relationship with Jesus and really began to listen to the call to vocational ministry, the more he felt getting a degree would be a pivotal first step.

The only problem was that Bret worked full time 8-5pm M-F and served at church 4 days out of the week in Jr.High ministry and leading worship for college age ministry. It seemed impossible to fit school in there! But God is good, and had a plan the whole time!

Bret heard about a degree completion program created by Biola University (Bible Institute of Los Angeles) called Biola BOLD. It was going to be a long shot getting in since they were in the process of shutting down the program…and did I mention expen$ive?! But, Praise the Lord, Bret was one of the last students to be admitted into the Biola BOLD program before it closed! It was such a huge blessing! Bret was shocked and excited, to say the least. God had made a way for him to finish school, even with a hectic schedule, AND pay for it with help from his family. So amazing.

To make a long story short, by the grace of God, Bret finished his degree in 2 1/2 years…and was elected into the University’s Alpha Sigma Lambda Honors Society! I call him a genius all the time, no joke. There were great times and hard times through those years in school, and worth every second for the both of us.

On May 25th 2012, Bret walked across the stage, received his diploma, and the whole family was cheering and tearing up all at the same time. Bret was the first in his family to graduate college, so this was a big deal! And let me tell you…we celebrated!

We spent that weekend in LA with his dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law and our beautiful niece. We stayed in a nice hotel, ate great food, got massages, shopped, and his parents surprised him with a brand new car!!! We were shocked and so grateful…talk about spoiling someone rotten 😉 Thanks mom & dad!

Here are some pictures from this big, memorable, wonderful weekend:

Celebrating with Family! We are all so proud!

Bret is so excited and thankful for his graduation gift from mom & dad!

We had lots of fun in the hotel!  Especially with our niece Lucy!

Lastly, some Instagram pics from the trip! That amazing drink is some strawberry lemonade from Lucille’s BBQ. The building sign on the left reads: “Above all give glory to God,” & the building sign on the right reads: “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” I know Bret could not agree more when it comes to the accomplishments we achieve!

Thanks for reading!

xo sarah