Chipotle Salad

What I Ate Wednesday #4

Well folks, it’s Day 6 of my second round of Whole30! (Technically it is about my fourth attempt at Whole30, I’ve successfully completed one, but once again, I’m going for a successful round two— it’s wedding season, you guys…)

More importantly than that, today was the last day of school! :-D
:::insert cheers and tears:::funny-school-signs Thankfully, this sign is not from our school, but the giggles are wonderful.

The last day, I knew, would consist of extra goodies and treats. I took extra precaution to fill my lunch box with delicious, healthy things to ward off the temptations sure to be lurking.

Breakfast: Running late to work, I quickly threw three eggs in boiling water to prep my Hard-boiled Eggs while I ran around my house trying to get ready. My Green Smoothie was also prepared, but devoured before it was photo time. Oops!eggsThe students got out of school early today, so the teachers were celebrating with an Italian Feast after school. During my break I opted to snack a little bit and wait to bring my Whole30 Italian Lunch to the feast.

Snack: Simple and delicious. An Apple Pie Larabar and 1/2 cup of Strawberries did the trick! Along with copious amounts of water.Larabar & StrawberriesAs I planned, the Italian Feast was overwhelmingly delicious looking AND smelling. And so NOT Whole30! I’m talking bread, cheese, and more bread… and cheese. With this in mind, I intentionally planned my lunch to be “Italian-themed”.

Lunch: Incredible. Say hello to Fresh Zoodles with homemade Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Ground Buffalo Italian Meatballs. Can’t forget the Fresh Basil! Presentation, people.Zoodles with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce & Ground Buffalo MeatballsDinner, on the other hand, was an absolute mess. For starters, there was a piece of fish I was itching to cook, but apparently I waited too long since buying it. I also wanted to make some plantain chips. And you can see how that turned out…Burnt Plantain ChipsDinner: Chipotle saves the day!! Carnitas Salad with TomatoesHot Salsa, and Guacamole! Thank you, thank you, Chipotle!Chipotle Salad Chipotle Salad2And so, we end another scrumptious Whole30 day! Please say a little prayer for me as my roommate sings, “I love feta cheese! It’s delicious! And it’s yummy!” for the rest of the evening. Okay Sarah, I get it, cheese is delicious and not Whole30 approved! ;-)

Happy Wednesday, everyone! :-)

Sweet Potato + Bacon Hash

Sweet Potato + Bacon Hash

The school year is coming to a close, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve always been told that as a first year teacher, your main goal is to survive. “If you finish with your head above the water, you’ve succeeded!” as they say.

Well… I MADE IT! On top of that, I feel confident that I got to show lots of love to my students, aid them in their learning, and challenge them on their way of thinking and doing life. Does this mean I get extra credit?

The downside, however, with “just surviving” the school year is that I let many of my healthy habits slip. Exercise was a nice treat once a week, if I was that lucky. Healthy eating only happened if I meal prepped on Sunday– and if I didn’t? Well, let’s just say the people over at Wawa started saying “See you tomorrow, Victoria!” as I walked out of the store with my usual breakfast order. #whatamidoingwithmylife

Here we are now. I’m getting back on track after falling off the wagon a bit. I might as well celebrate with a new mouth-watering breakfast dish! Which brings us to the star of this post…Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash

Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash (serves 3-4)
Ingredients:
– 2 small sweet potatoes
– 1/2 yellow onion (about 2 cups diced)
– 1 green bell pepper
– 3 slices Maverick Ranch Sugar-Free Bacon
– 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1 tsp rubbed sage
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp black pepper
– 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakesSweet Potato & Bacon Hash

Directions:
1. Peel sweet potatoes and finely chop. Also, finely chop green bell pepper and yellow onion roughly the same size for more even cooking.
2. Heat 3 tbsp EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in potatoes, onion, and green bell pepper.
3. Add in all spices listed and stir to coat veggies.
4. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, heat a separate skillet to medium heat and cook bacon to desired crispness. Once bacon is to your desired crispness, take off pan and blot extra grease with a paper towel.
5. After the 10 minutes has passed, lower the temperature to medium-low and pat down hash into the skillet. Let it cook for another 5-6 minutes without stirring to allow potatoes to crisp up on one side.
6. Check potatoes for tenderness. If ready, give one last stir and take off heat. Then, chop bacon into similar-sized pieces and sprinkle onto hash.
7. ENJOY!

Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash

Today, I enjoyed my hash topped with scrambled eggs, chopped scallions, a dash of hot sauce, and an extra sprinkle of chopped bacon ;-)
Hash & Egg BreakfastSweet Potato & Bacon HashNow if this doesn’t inspire you to a healthy breakfast, then I don’t know what will! The tenderness of sweet potatoes mixed with the salty crunch of bacon will make you rejoice! The best part about this dish too is it’s Whole30 compliant! (As long as you use approved bacon) BAM! Now get cooking–you can have this dish anytime of day! :-)

Sweet Potato & Bacon Hash

 

Video

1-Minute Inspiration

I don’t know about you guys, but when I first saw this commercial by Reebok, I was instantly jazzedInsta-jazzed, if you will.

Anyway, I hope this commercial also pumps you up a bit too. Plus, whenever you have friends or family asking why you’re changing your diet and exercising at crazy hours in the morning, you can just send this in their direction. ;)

Here’s to:
Being better, period.
Better leaders.
Better parents.

Better, stronger, more determined humans.

Finding Storm: A Reflection on God’s Love

Exactly three weeks ago was the night we (or I, rather) lost Storm. She crawled out the window I accidentally left open overnight—a window without a screen. Way to go, Victoria, I thought. The next few days were filled with nothing but searching. I didn’t go to bed on time. I neglected all chores and healthy eating habits. My mind was filled with one thing and one thing only: finding Storm.

Simultaneously, these past three Sundays were titled “The One Worth Finding” at our church. Stories of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son were told, analyzed and reflected on. Maybe I was just searching for some kind of meaning throughout all this, but I couldn’t help but think God was trying to teach me a lesson through these parables and the searching for Storm. Turns out, there were multiple lessons to be learned.

The week before Storm ran away, I mentioned to Austin how she brings me joy in loneliness. When I am by myself in the house, I love when she cuddles up, gives a sweet meow, and licks my face. It isn’t a bad thing to enjoy such a sweet animal, however, when I felt alone, rather than running to the Father, I embraced Storm. Rather than spending time with Him, I picked up the kitten, sat her next to me and turned on Netflix to remedy my feelings. Interestingly enough, I later found out my sister said a similar thing about Storm. Maybe God took her away so that we no longer had any one or any thing to run to in our loneliness. We needed to learn to run to Him.

If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and look for the one who wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14

This verse resonated with me throughout our treks in the woods, through neighbor’s backyards, and walking around the streets at midnight. I had lost sleep, skipped meals, and counted over 40 mosquito bites on my legs and arms from the ceaseless searching. I was afraid she was going to be found wounded, starving, or the most horrific, dead. I hoped to see her sitting at our back sliding-glass door so that we could celebrate her return, but it did not happen. Is this a small sample of what God feels like when one of His children wanders from Him? Does he pull out all the stops, constantly pursing until the lost child is found?

Recently, I’ve also been feeling a bit convicted about my relationship with my sister. She doesn’t know this (well, now she does), but I believe I haven’t been the best sister to her. This belief wasn’t attributed to any negative behaviors toward her, but it’s what I’ve lacked—a listening ear, someone to spend time with, and seeking ways to show love and serve her. We live under the same roof, yet have been miles apart. The most incredible part of all is that losing Storm was 100% my doing. My fault. Not for a second did my sister make me feel guilty or point blame. In fact, when she told people about Storm missing, she would say just that. She was missing. She got out. But nothing about it being her big sister’s carelessness. Losing Storm united us. We had a common goal. Our times spent creeping in the woods, laying trails of food back to the house, or coming up with the next “great plan” to catch Storm, brought us closer. Maybe God took Storm away so that in her absence, Jacqueline and I could learn to enjoy each other’s presence again.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Surrender. Surrender has always been hard for me. Is it really easy for anyone though? How do you hold onto hope, but yet still surrender? Storm is a cat for goodness sake. Some people don’t even like cats! In fact, if you’re not an animal person and are reading this, you probably think I’m a tad nutty for coming up with all this just because of a cat. Well, my challenge to you is to think of whatever it is that you hold so dear. What if God took it away? After all, all things are His and we are just stewards of it. Would you be able to come to a place of surrender? That’s what we had to do. By the end of the first week, we knew it was time to close our garage door. We spent countless hours searching for Storm that we started to neglect responsibilities and priorities. This may have been the hardest part of the experience—laying down a life we treasure so much in God’s hands. If He wanted to bring her back, He would. If He didn’t, He had His reasons and we can treasure our memories with her, but we had to come to a place of peace and trust in our Father. Maybe God took Storm away so that we could learn to trust Him in all circumstances. Maybe we needed to reevaluate the things we treasure most. Maybe I haven’t been treasuring my relationship with Him the way I most definitely should.

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20

During the second and third week of Storm’s absence, we kept our blinds open. We carefully scanned the streets as we came and went from our home. We left a little can of food out just in case. While we surrendered the situation, we still kept hope as we went about our lives. We even caught a few sightings of her and so had our neighbors. What a relief to hear she was alive! Then it got me thinking again. In the parable of the lost son, the father awaits his son’s arrival. While the father still went about his life, he kept hope for his lost son. He even saw him “while he was still a long way off”. Did he keep his curtains drawn open? Did he glance out the window often, or look to the horizon whenever he was outside just in case? Is this a bit of what God feels towards us when we choose to stray? He actively waits for our return, not so that He may scold us for leaving, but so that He can wrap us in His everlasting love and rejoice over us. Maybe God took away Storm so that I may understand no matter how far I wander for Him, He will always, always be right there, awaiting my return with His unfailing love.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26

Around 9pm last night I saw Storm sitting in our driveway. In my eagerness, I opened the door a bit too violently and she ran off, scared from the noise. Stupid cat, I thought. We’re trying to bring you home! My sister had bought a crate earlier that day and we left food inside it hoping we could catch her. Then, 3am strolled around and I woke up. I sprung from my bed to check the crate—nothing. Frustrated, I made my way back to my bedroom. Before I fell asleep my sister came running into my bedroom “STORM IS BACK!! STORM IS HERE! I HAVE HER!” Impossible, I just checked the crate 3 minutes ago. Sure enough, battered, skinny, and with a scratch across her little nose, Storm was in our living room. 3 minutes. Storm was only caught in the crate for three minutes. She could have been in there all night until we awoke the next morning, but instead God chose to only allow her to be trapped for no longer than three minutes. How incredible is that? I asked my sister this morning. How incredible is it that we have a God that cares about little kittens who have strayed from their home? And as Matthew states, “Are you not much more valuable then they?” Think about how vast His love for us is.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10

Jacqueline immediately gave Storm a bath, combed lifeless fleas from her fur, and cut off the burrs entangled in her freshly cleaned coat. She finished Storm’s primping with a blow dry. Good as new. When we all awoke again this morning, we checked on her. She hasn’t stopped purring since. She gives little kisses on your nose. She shoves her face against yours to cuddle. My roommates, sister and I have already posted several pictures of her online and told our friends and family who were praying for this silly, little kitten. We are rejoicing her arrival home! So maybe, just maybe, God took Storm away so that He could bring her back. Maybe He wants you and I to know that whether we are coming to Him for the first time at the realization of our need for Him, or for the umpteenth time due to our human nature causing us to stray and falter, He always rejoices over us. He always celebrates the return of His dear children. His mercy and grace is overflowing. His love never fails.

Little Storm