Happy New Year! Sparkling Berry Baked Brie


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Warm, gooey baked brie covered in honey and berries that shimmer. How I love this appetizer. It's quick to make too, and goes perfectly with prosecco or your favorite bubbly.

I have another New Years post coming, but wanted to get this one up in case anyone is looking for an easy appetizer for New Years Eve. I hope you have a wonderful night, full of thanksgiving for this past year! I am thankful for all of you, for reading and encouraging me, and for many of you who already are or who have become friends. Love you.

Sparkling Berry Baked Brie
{serves 2}

1 wheel of brie
1 C fresh cranberries & blueberries {or seasonal fruit in your area}
3 T honey
gold sanding sugar/dust {optional}
bread/crackers & apple wedges for dipping
fresh mint or basil leaves & pomegranate seeds for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, coat the berries in sanding sugar dust. I took mine straight out of the fridge and the natural condensation made it stick. Place the wheel of brie on a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to ooze. Remove and immediately put on a serving dish and cover the top in honey. {I forgot this step before taking photos! Sorry!} Top the brie with the sparkling berries and surround it with sliced apples and bread or crackers. Garnish with fresh mint or basil leaves and pomegranate seeds. Happy New Year!

Christmas Week Surf & Turf and Winter Citrus Salad


Friday, December 28, 2012

We spent Christmas eve with good friends, and cooked an incredible dinner together. The boys seared fresh tuna while us girls made a huge salad with grilled steak in a raspberry vinaigrette and homemade focaccia. Surf and turf for Christmas! Though not exactly traditional, it was local and seasonal, and seriously delicious. It's also super easy to make, and pretty, which is always a big plus in my book.

One of our sweet farmer neighbors gifted me that morning with an armful of heads of lettuce, deep green spinach and a potted basil plant from his garden that he insisted on carrying for me, though he is upwards of 90 years old. I won't lie. I had a tear or two in my eye from how precious he is. The huge salad we had Christmas eve, and nearly every night since, is thanks to him!

This salad is so good we've already made it a couple times this week with grilled steak, grilled shrimpies and vegetarian. It's loaded with seasonal citrus -- oranges, pomegranate seeds, pink pomelos, apples, red onion, and avocados.

It's mikan {tangerine} and orange season right now on Okinawa but please feel free to substitute whatever ingredients are local and seasonal to your own area!

Winter Citrus Salad {Vegetarian, Shrimp or Steak}
serves 4

1 head of cabbage or crunchy lettuce
1-2 C deep green lettuce like spinach
3 oz gorgonzola
1 pomelo or grapefruit
1 orange
1 apple
1/2 pomegranate
1 small red onion
1 avocado
Your favorite vinaigrette or add 1/2 C crushed fresh raspberries to Apple Cider Vinaigrette 

For the Meat or Shrimp:
2 steaks, preferably free range
1/2 lb. shrimp
1 lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper
fresh rosemary sprigs

Chop the lettuce and citrus and peeled avocado. If you use a pomelo, cut off the white flesh so that only the fruit remains.  Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and also let the juice spill onto the salad. Break apart the gorgonzola and add as well. Use your favorite vinaigrette, or crush about 1/2 C of fresh raspberries in a blender or food processor and add to the apple cider vinaigrette. Shake {lidded mason jars are wonderful to use for dressings} until it's fully incorporated and toss it with the salad just before you add the meat or shrimp, if you are using any. It's delicious as a vegetarian salad, and great for a post-holiday detox.

Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle about a tablespoon of salt and pepper on the steak. Once your grill is hot enough, cook on each side for a few minutes, until it's done to your liking. Cut into bite size pieces and immediately place atop the salad. Serve right away.

Drizzle olive oil on the rinsed shrimp. Squeeze a lemon's worth of juice on top and leave the lemon halves with the shrimp. Break off fresh rosemary leaves and place those, as well as a few sprigs, with the shrimp. Sprinkle on sea salt. Shrimp is wonderful when it's made with only a few fresh ingredients on the grill. Simple is a good thing! Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the tails are a bright red and the flesh is pink. Transfer immediately to the salad and serve right away.

Over the Southern Alps to Franz Josef, New Zealand


Thursday, December 27, 2012

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! 

Before I share new recipes from this Christmas week, I wanted to post some more photos from gorgeous New Zealand...

We can't even count the times that we pulled over, or simply stood still and stared out in awe. Whether it was vast expanse of turquoise water with snow-capped mountains or cascading waterfalls all around us, or sitting in a natural hot spring in a rainforest next to a glacier, there was nothing we could even say, except an occasional, "wow, can you BELIEVE this!?" I can't describe New Zealand properly. It's too wildly beautiful for words.

On the way to Franz Josef was also when I had my low point. Cams looking over my shoulder laughing, calling it my "meltdown."  Let's just say it had to do with the tiny "shower room" in our campervan that did not have a pleasant aroma... me being in it covered head to toe in soap suds, shivering, the water running out... and my husband pouring a water bottle over my head trying so hard not to die laughing.  No, he was of course laughing, rubbing his hand in my soapy hair, holding back jokes. That's about when I made him promise me through clattering teeth that we would never rent a campervan ever again. 

{all photos copyright @Amanda Marshall}

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

{Christmas sunset & the pink gardenia tree Cam got me}

Hoping you all are filled with love, joy & peace as we celebrate Christ's birth.
Merry Christmas!!
Love, the Marshalls

Simple Peppermint Hot Chocolate


Friday, December 21, 2012

 I felt a little ridiculous making hot chocolate earlier while wearing a sundress and watching the sunset... but we are in the Christmas spirit and this is too good and way too easy not to share! This is inspired by the hot chocolate Ahn and I drank in Italy. It literally looked and tasted like thick, creamy melted chocolate -- and I have not forgotten it after all these years! I made mine a little bit healthier with less chocolate and less fatty milk, but still as delicious.

{It was gorgeous earlier tonight!}

Simple Peppermint Hot Chocolate
{per serving}

1.5 - 2 oz good, quality peppermint chocolate {I used Ghirardelli's peppermint bark}
1 1/2 C milk {your choice! I used 1%}
1/2 candy cane or peppermint stick
Whipped Cream:
1 small carton heaving whipping cream
1/2 C sugar
1 T vanilla extract

To make the whipped cream ahead of time: using an electric mixer, combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream into an oiled 9x9 or small baking pan and place in the freezer. Once it's frozen, use your favorite cookie cutter, or simply skip the freezer step and use fresh whipped cream on top of your hot chocolate.

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt the chocolate pieces. You can use all peppermint bark, or add some milk chocolate chips in too -- or if you don't have access to peppermint bark you can use plain milk chocolate and melt in some candy cane or leave the peppermint out altogether. It's up to you! Whatever you decide, make sure your chocolate is high quality. I like the all-natural Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips or pieces of Lindt. {Spoken by a chocoholic!} Stir the chocolate pieces the entire time it's on the stove. Once it's broken down and there's only a few lumps left, take the saucepan off the heat and continue stirring until all of the chocolate is melted. This will prevent your chocolate from burning or becoming like paste.

Pour in the milk and return the saucepan to the heat, stirring rigorously until the chocolate is incorporated in the milk and it's hot. Serve immediately. Add a cut-out of whipped cream {or fresh dollop} and sprinkle on smashed candy cane pieces. Enjoy (:

Merriest Christmas weekend!!

A Note of Hope in the Wake of Last Friday


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My heart is still breaking for the families who lost their loved ones in such a horrific and evil act last Friday. I cannot fathom the pain they are going through this very moment. Seeing the faces of the precious little kids and adults makes me cry. I haven't been able to stop thinking about them and their families. I wrote this post on Monday but felt like it was more important to spend the last few days quiet, praying for them and being thankful for life.

Even just skimming through Twitter or the major news channels, you can see people trying to figure out why this continues to happen, questioning how a person could commit so much evil, and looking for hope.

I actually don't think it's wrong to wonder or say that humanity is lost and our culture with it. I think it's vital to see that! Not in a depressing way; in the most hopeful of ways, because we realize our own true state and that we need a Savior.

Have you ever read the book, The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis? Essentially it's about the devil masking sin in our lives and culture so that we don't realize how fallen we are. The demon in the book slowly tricks people into not thinking about what's right and wrong.. convincing them that evil is normal and ok and acceptable as they inch closer and closer to hell. That's actually exactly how I see nearly every movie out today, tv show and video game that my generation grows up with. Realistic violence and sex are the norm. Today's entertainment is not like the classic Bond movies where someone is killed far away sans blood. Now you have graphic scenes of people being shot in the face, blood splattering on the screen, single-shooter video games gunning down people in civilian clothes on the street, made to look as real as possible. How many hours a day do children and teenagers grow up playing these or watching movies or tv shows with the same senseless violence? I truly think that because of it, so many young adults and kids have become numb, their minds so skewed that they think killing outside of war is normal -- or the worst and hardest to comprehend -- that it's ok. There's a huge discussion in social media and the news right now about mental health, but I think our failing culture that has turned its back on God is enabling the problem to terribly worsen. And we've been accepting it instead of battling it.

After the Aurora, Colorado shooting, Cam and I decided to no longer watch movies or tv shows {we don't own a tv out here so that makes it easy} with realistic violence and sex... which is honestly almost everything. I saw part of the new Bourne movie on the flight from NZ and had to turn it off because of the laboratory scene when the scientist snaps and goes on a killing spree of his co-workers. It looked so real that it was heartbreaking. I felt nauseous because it's a reflection of what's actually happening today in the States.  Cam and I do not judge anyone who watches any of it, and we are the farthest from perfect. We have plenty of our own problems. But we are trying to live intentionally and keep our minds pure. I fully believe that the way you think is the way you act. What pours into our eyes, mind, heart and body is inevitably going to come out in our actions. We want to love and crave God, and serve those around us.

Even amidst such a horrific tragedy, there IS hope! There IS peace. Most especially this beautiful Christmas season! I pray the brokenhearted see and feel it. We won't find the source of it though in our culture, in humanity -- or anywhere else -- other than Christ's saving grace. It is the very sweetest of words. The Gospel starts where I fall on my knees in utter need of it. And my gosh do we need it!

A lot of you likely have a different view, but thank you for reading my thoughts, written completely out of love and sincerity. If you feel like sharing your own in the comments or over email, I'd love to read them.

Inspired by New Zealand's Cuisine


Thursday, December 13, 2012

I have many more photos to post from our trip but I was so very inspired by the fresh breakfasts, lunches, dinners, produce, meats, road-side fruits, cheese, everything that I've been excited since we've been back to cook the ideas running through my head. The word that most resonates with me is fresh. And that's exactly how New Zealand cuisine is. Each meal we had showed off the region so that you could taste the seasonal freshness and locality; even see it in surrounding gardens, sea sides, pastures and climates.

There was a lot of citrus and strong flavors in the Canterbury & Marlborough regions where we were the first two days. So I made up a bbq sauce for chicken -- it's sweet and saucy spicy all at the same time, really popping in your mouth. It needed something to cool it down so I made a winter cabbage coleslaw, keeping it healthy with greek yogurt and fresh squeezed lemon juice. The pomegranates add a sweet crunch. And because bbq and beer go so well together, we had winter ale :)

Thank you so much for letting me share my cooking with you all. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you not only reading my blog, but also trying out my ideas and giving me such great feedback. Those of you who have written emails lately about every topic under the sun, thank you!! You are the sweetest, or just make me laugh, and are an encouragement to me.

Sweet & Saucy BBQ Chicken
 {serves 2-4}

2-4 free-range chicken breasts
2 T. honey
juice of 1 fresh squeezed lemon
4 T. organic ketchup
about 3 T. olive oil
1 T. apple cider vinegar
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 T. raw sugar
1 T.  worchester sauce
1 teas. red pepper
1 teas. paprika
1 teas. cumin
1 teas. ground mustard
1 teas. salt

 Combine all of the ingredients except the chicken in a bowl. Taste; it should have a kick to it but also very sweet. I don't use exact measurements so feel free to add more of whatever you'd like to according to your taste. Wash and pat dry the chicken and rub in olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place them in a large ziplock bag. Pour in half of the bbq sauce into the bag and get all sides of the chicken covered. Refrigerate for atleast two hours, but overnight is best to let it marinate. Refrigerate the rest of your sauce. Heat up your grill and cook your chicken -- on our old charcoal grill it took about 30 minutes -- basting each side with the sauce as you turn it. Once it's cooked, pour the remaining sauce on top for even more flavor. 

Winter Cabbage Greek Yogurt Coleslaw
 {serves 2-3}

1/2 head of purple or green cabbage, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
handful of fresh cilantro
1/2 pomegranate worth of seeds
8 oz. plain non-fat greek yogurt
1 lemon's worth of fresh squeezed juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
about 3 glugs or Tablespoons of EVOO
1 T. apple cider vinegar
good pinch of salt, about 1 T.

Combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the cabbage, carrot and red onion. Serve with the bbq chicken and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

What Dreams Are Made Of: Biking & Wining in Marlborough, NZ


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cam and I were talking at the end of the week over NZ beers {Monteith Golden - absolutely amazing} about what our favorite day was, and we both agreed it was this one.

We spent the entire day {it's summertime in NZ so the sun doesn't set until 10pm!} in the Marlborough region outside of Blenheim, biking from winery to gorgeous {!} winery under the hot sun, walking through the vines, dreaming outloud about our own while riding next to each other...trying not to fall off. (;  We laughed so much that day. Like the good, belly laughs that make your cheekbones hurt. And in all honesty, every wine we tried had depth and was completely incredible. The region's climate allows the grapes to have a long period to ripen, making them uniquely intense in flavor, being best known for Sauvignon Blancs. We normally drink reds, but my goodness, the Wairau Valley made us believers in whites. If we ever get to be vintners one day, I can imagine how even more thankful we'll be that we got to spend time in one of the best wine regions in the world. It truly inspired us. 

If you ever get to go, we rented bikes from the friendliest couple at Stonehaven Vineyard Homestay. They were wonderful. John gave me a huge hug at the end of the day, making us laugh outloud with his fantastic accent and mannerisms, "It's the Kiwi way, eh!" 

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