Saturday, August 29, 2009

Food For Friday: Basil Parmesan Orzo

Food For Friday is back! We've been cooking simple for most of the summer since we've been in transition, staying with friends, and then getting settled in our new home. Now that we are back into more of a routine and I'm back in the kitchen, I'm looking forward to sharing more recipes every Friday.

This is a favorite dish in our house! It is quick, flavorful, and healthy. If you are not familiar with orzo, it is a pasta that looks more like rice. Cooked in broth, it absorbs the flavor of the liquid and makes a delicious and tender pasta side.

1 tbls butter
1 cup orzo
1 1/4 cups fat free low sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cups grated fresh parmesan
2 tbls chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add orzo & cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir in broth & water, bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is absorbed, and orzo is done (about 15 minutes.)
Stir in parmesan cheese, basil, salt & pepper.

I saute or grill boneless chicken breast to serve with the orzo. You can serve the chicken breast alongside the orzo for a more formal presentation, or cut the chicken into pieces and stir it into the orzo before serving. If you cut the chicken into small pieces before sauteing, it will speed up the cooking time if you need an extra quick dinner! I like to serve the chicken and orzo with steamed broccoli.

I love snipping some fresh basil from our garden for this dish. I highly recommend using fresh basil for added flavor, but if you don't have any on hand, substituting dried basil works just fine. If you use dried basil, reduce the amount of basil from what the recipe calls for! Dried basil has a much stronger flavor than fresh. Season to taste, but start with just a few shakes of dried basil, then taste, adding more to your liking.

(Orzo recipe originally from Cooking Light.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Place for Everything and Everything In Its Place

I won't claim that this is the most interesting post I've ever written, but if you've wondered what we've been up to lately, this pretty much sums it up! It's hard to believe that it has been two weeks since we moved into our new house. We've been tackling boxes and putting things away, and it's really starting to feel like home.

My mom was here for the whole first week and worked so hard to help us settle in! We were able to get rid of most of the boxes that week and we were so thankful for her help! You should have seen the gigantic pile of boxes and trash bag after trash bag of packing paper. We've already made a trip to the local recycling bin with a car full of packing paper, and we will be making several more trips, I'm sure, to clear out the rest of the moving remnants.

One of my goals with this move was to organize as I unpacked, rather than filling the cabinets and closets with things just to get them put away, knowing that I would have to go back later and rearrange and organize them. I hate that feeling of things being a mess, not ever being able to find what you need, and knowing there is a list of closets and cabinets that need an organizational overhaul.

My mom and I made several trips out to search for space specific organizing tools for each of the rooms as we unpacked and put away. I didn't want to spend a fortune on bins and organizers, so I spent a lot of time at Walmart, The Dollar Tree, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

I was thrilled to find these sturdy plastic bins at The Dollar Tree that were the perfect size to fit in the shelves in both our bathroom cabinet and our pantry! They were so useful to separate our toiletries in the bathroom, as well as to corral granola bars and snacks in our pantry, so I could get rid of the bulky packaging that just takes up space.

One compromise we made when buying this house was not having a master bathroom. Since friends will be using the main level bath when they come over, we needed storage solutions that minimized clutter and let us easily pull out what we needed when we were getting ready, but easily store it away when we were finished. These bins and a couple of plastic caddies have worked perfectly!

In my bedroom closet, I finally broke down and switched out my sad assortment of plastic hangers, misshapen wire hangers and clear store hangers that I've collected over my lifetime for fabulous new slim line hangers. They have a velvety feel that keeps clothes from sliding off the hanger and they are extremely thin which equals more room in the closet. Love them! We found the boxes of 50 for a great deal at Costco. You can get two boxes at Costco for the same price as one box (with a coupon!) at Bed Bath & Beyond. I also love my purse organizers (also from Bed Bath & Beyond) which strap onto a wall and provide vertical hanging storage for purses. They fit perfectly in each end of my closet.

One of the things that was a definite perk of this house was that it has tons of storage. I love that there is a place for everything so that everything can be in its place! It feels so good to open a cabinet and see a neat and organized space, rather than digging behind things trying to find the one thing you are looking for or catching falling objects whenever you open a door. It's the little things in life, right?

With the boxes gone, we have been busy hanging curtains & pictures and decorating, so I'll post photos of our new rooms soon!

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Current Reading List

(Crazy Love, Traveling Mercies, Eclipse, Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey, Blogging for Bliss)

These are the books that are currently on my reading list. There is a library within minutes from our new house, and I am loving being so close to a fabulous library again! After I finish reading these titles, I'll let you know if I have any favorites!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sneak Peak at the Blessed House!

I posted earlier this week that we are officially Denver homeowners! But, there has been such an amazing story behind our transition to this home, and I wanted to share a little bit more about all the ways we've seen God's hand in this process of making Colorado our home.

We first came out to Denver to house hunt in April. We found a home that we wanted, but it sold two weeks before our Austin house went under contract and we lost it. We had 3 homes that were possibilities on our list, and each of them sold before our home did. We had some travel scheduled after our house did go under contract and decided to wait to look again until we actually moved to Denver. We stayed with friends when we arrived in Colorado and were so blessed to have several people welcome us into their home. We laughed yesterday when we realized that we've had 7 different house keys over the course of this summer!

My mom came across the listing for "our" house on the morning of the first day we were scheduled to house hunt after getting into Denver, within minutes of it going back on the market. We later found out that it had originally gone on the market the month before and sold in 24 hours, but the buyers financing fell through. It went back on the market the first day that we were looking. I saw my mom's e-mail with the listing for the house 30 minutes before we met our realtor, and immediately e-mailed and asked her to add it to our list for that day. We looked at 14 houses that first day, and the minute we walked in to this house we thought it was the one we had been looking for.

(This is what we saw when we walked in the front door. Sorry the photo is blurry! I was just taking quick snapshots to help us remember all the homes we looked at that day. The furniture is staging, not ours.)

Nearly all of the other houses we had seen in the area we were hoping to live in, and that were within our budget, needed a lot of work and updating. Think 50's bathrooms, green or gold shag carpet, scary wallpaper, and orange and yellow appliances. All cosmetic things that could have been changed over time, but definitely not "move-in ready." We were short on time and while we would have loved to put some work into a home, it wasn't a practical choice for us with the constraints we were working within. This home was a 1950's house, but had been totally re-done; refinished original hardwoods, a brand new kitchen, fresh paint, new carpet, tons of space and within walking distance to a fabulous outdoor shopping area with stores, restaurants and coffee shops in a desired area. We immediately asked if the listing price was correct. It was.

Master Bedroom Before

After checking out 2 more houses, our agent called the listing agent to let him know we wanted to make an offer. We found out that another couple who had wanted the house the first time it was listed (and had planned to make a back up offer but never got around to it) were still interested and were scheduled to walk through the house again at 5:00 pm. We got busy writing our offer and sent it in just hours later with lots of prayer. It was accepted and we had a house after our first day of hunting! Had we looked the weekend before, like we had originally planned, it wouldn't have been back on the market yet. God already had just the right house picked out for us.

Some unexpected challenges came up in the closing process that caused us more than a little stress. Our lender was being audited and our file was randomly selected for review which pushed our closing date back and forced us to close while we were out of town at a national ministry conference. We had planned to paint the weekend before we left town, but were then unable to. Tears of stress followed, but God wasn't surprised and He had a plan of blessing in store for us.

A sweet friend of ours who was in my bible study when I lived in Denver 2 years ago, came to help us paint our bedroom the day we closed. We had just that afternoon to work in the house before heading back to our conference. She offered to paint our living room and kitchen for us while we were gone and even had her dad come and install the water line for our refrigerator! Another friend brought her vacuum over and they swept all the carpet and dusted the wood floors for us. When we returned from our conference, our house looked like this:

We were so incredibly amazed and blessed by their willingness to serve us and work so hard to get our house ready to move into! We have just a few finishing touches to get ready for the movers to come later this week! I am SO excited for our things to arrive, to sleep in my own comfy bed, and to nest in our new home. My mom flies in on Wednesday to help us unpack and we have one week to settle in before the busy schedule of our fall semester on campus kicks off!

Seeing God's hand in so many of the details has been such an affirmation and encouragement to us in this transition. We feel extremely blessed to have a wonderful home to begin this next chapter of our life in Denver in and we pray that we can bless others for years to come in our new home.