Gratitude, Main Dish

Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala (Crockpot)

Chicken Tikka Masala
Photo by Greg Rakozy

I am Grateful…

During worship on Sunday, we sang songs of faith and hope. Singing such songs after what happened in Paris on Friday felt rebellious. I felt like we were saying to all the terror in the world, “We will stand up and hold onto each other in faith. You cannot take away our joy in each other and each precious day we are given.” We may falter… but we are determined to get back up and live… continued prayers for those around the world who are reeling from the terror… we stand together in honor of your grief.

I lean into life with gratitude for precious friends, loving family, kind words, delicious food (especially in Houston), smiles, laughter, chocolate, flowers, acts of compassion, and a loving community of faith.

Today I am especially grateful to try out a new Chicken Tikka Masala recipe inspired by the blog, Table for Two. My daughter is allergic to dairy, so I experimented with soy yogurt and coconut milk. I am thrilled to say the dish turned out fabulous! My kids said to make it again. These seemingly insignificant moments are so precious, moments that make life meaningful.

I would love to share in your gratitude today. Please leave a comment and let me know:

“Today I am grateful for…”

Dairy Free Chicken Tikka Masala (Crockpot)

5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 lbs.) – cut into 1.5″ cubes
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 (29 oz.) can of tomato puree
1 ½ cups dairy free yogurt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. Garam masala
1 tsp. tumeric powder
1 tbsp. cumin
½ tbsp. paprika
2 ½ tsp. salt, or to taste
¾ tsp. cinnamon
¾ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup premium coconut milk
3 tbsp. cornstarch
Lemon juice from half a small lemon
Chopped parsley or cilantro, for topping


  • Place everything except the bay leaves in a large bowl. With a spatula, stir to combine everything, and make sure the chicken is coated well.
  • Gently place the mixture in the insert of the crockpot and add the two bay leaves.
  • Cover and cook for 8 hours on low (or 4 hours on high).
  • When done, in a medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk and corn starch, then pour the mixture into the crockpot and gently stir. Let cook an additional 20 minutes to thicken. Squeeze half a lemon over the mixture then stir to incorporate.
  • Serve hot over a bed of white (or brown) rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
Chocolate, Gratitude, Main Dish

Time to Celebrate: Birthday Cake and Shepherd’s Pie

Grateful for birthdays! We spent the entire day celebrating our seventeen year old son:

  • Homemade french toast for breakfast
  • Some pretty intense battles via Smashbros
  • Our favorite Shepherd’s Pie – recipe below
  • Dark Chocolate Cake
  • And, cozying up with a cup of tea and “The Imitation Game”

At the end of the day, I could not stop smiling. I love birthdays. Everybody needs a special day to be celebrated because each one of us matters. You matter! I matter! The world needs each one of us!!! Many years ago, I got some wonderful advice from a dear friend. She suggested on my birthday each year, I bake my own birthday cake and share it with others so that no matter what, even if no one else has time to plan a celebration, I will already have the party started. If someone else happens to surprise me with a cake, there is just more joy to share! Over the years I have come to enjoy the ritual of baking my own cake and inviting my dear friends over to celebrate together. And, most of all…  I love the ritual of baking a cake for my precious kiddos. I just cannot stop smiling.

I am also grateful for favorite family recipes. One of my favorite Shepherd’s Pie is served at a quaint little British pub, “The Black Lab” in midtown Houston. With some trial and error I think I’ve come pretty close to their recipe. Although, my friends from Britain have assured me that this is actually a “Cottage Pie” because I use beef instead of lamb. Also, my son does not like peas, so I use celery as a substitute. Regardless, the only thing left to say is “YUMMO!”

Shepherd's Pie

Our Favorite Shepherd’s Pie (Glutton and Dairy Free)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • 3 -4 large carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup peas OR diced celery
  • 1 lb ground beef or 1 lb lamb
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme (or 3-4 sprigs fresh, finely chopped)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon margarine (Smart Balance is a healthy alternative)
  • 1 glass red wine (I prefer Malbec)
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 heaping tsp. “Better than Bouillon” beef base
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch or potato flour
  • 1 large quantity mashed potatoes – Boil potatoes for about 45 minutes. Drain potatoes and let cool until all of the steam is released (makes them lusciously creamy!). Mash with melted smart balance margarine, chicken stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Estimate about 6 cups, fresh or leftover.
  • If dairy is not a concern, 2 cups white cheddar cheese


  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  • Sauté onions in olive oil with a little salt and pepper until tender for about 5-10 minutes. Then add diced carrots and celery to the pan and continue to cook until vegetables are tender 5-10 minutes.
  • Add beef to the vegetables and cook until browned. Drain off any excess fat.
  • If using peas, add after the meat is browned.
  • Add thyme, margarine, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon, and red wine. Stir into the vegetable/meat mixture.
  • Add tablespoon of cornstarch to water and stir until combined. Add water/cornstarch mixture to beef.
  • Cook mixture until sauce thickens.
  • Spray 9 X 13 casserole with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Spread beef/vegetable mixture over the bottom of the casserole.
  • Spread mashed potatoes over the top of the beef mixture.
  • If dairy is not a concern, sprinkle 2 cups of white cheddar cheese over the top. My family sprinkles cheese over half the casserole to give family members the option of cheese or non-dairy.
  • Bake in over for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted or potatoes are browned on top.

Would love to hear what you are grateful for today!

Gratitude, Main Dish

Gutten Buns (Bierrocks)

It’s Friday! I drove the kids to school for the first time in months. Now that my son is driving, it is a rare treat. We played loud music and laughed on the way.

Notice the gift of this moment. Absorb. Smile. 1001895_10200893008880954_1910035649_n We have so much stuff going on today. In preparation, I made some healthy “hot pockets” to eat tonight after the kid’s soccer games. These German meat-filled buns are so delicious! My whole family loves them and we enjoy how easy it is to throw them into our lunches during a busy week. Somewhere along the years, we started calling them “Gutten Buns.” I used organic beef this time and they turned out really good (and healthy!) Bierrocks (Gutten Buns) Dough

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 pkg. Dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 6 – 6 ½ c. flour

Pour yeast and warm water (barely warm or luke warm to touch) in a small bowl and set until foamy on top. In large bowl sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour in yeast mixture, melted butter, and egg. Stir together and kneed until smooth consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours (or overnight). Meat Mixture

  • Sauté 1 cup diced onion in olive oil (I prefer sweet onions)
  • Add 1 lb. Beef and brown.

Then Add:

  • 3 cups cabbage, finely cut
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • dash Tabasco sauce

Cover skillet and continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender. Do not add liquid. Cool slightly. IMG_3496 Roll dough into large thin square (about 1/4 inch thick). Divide into 5″ squares (about 16 squares). Place 2 T. meat mixture on each square. Bring corners of square together and pinch to form a roll. Place pinched side down on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes.

Great ideas for substitute fillings: 

  • Marinara sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese
  • Ham and cheese
  • Chicken salad and cheese
Gratitude, Main Dish, Turkey

Slow Cooker Turkey Carnitas

Today I am thankful for:

Turkey Carnitas

1. Yummalicious Turkey Carnita Soft Tacos. I sautéed the leftovers tonight and the meat was even better the second time. My entire family said we need to make this again soon! Go Mom! Recipe follows below.

Scary Bieber2. Playful fun and laughter. I ended up with a six-foot-tall cardboard cut-out of Justin Bieber today (not to scale). I placed it in our daughter’s room for her to discover when she got home from school. Sneaky sneaky. We waited, breathless, as she went up to her room… and… screamed… and then laughed hysterically. After we calmed down, we put it in our son’s room and managed to scare him, too. Then, we put smirking, flat Justin by the front door for the UPS man. Much mischief has transpired in our home today.

scary Bieber 2

3. I left my door open at my office today. A woman sitting all by herself in the waiting area began to sing hymns of praise in her native African tongue. I just sat back and listened. I felt incredibly blessed during this sacred moment. I was able to tell her what a blessing she was when I went out to get one of my clients. We both smiled… and I know God was smiling, too. Beautiful.

What are you thankful for today?

Slow Cooker Turkey Carnitas

(Adapted from the OH Kitchen Crock Pot Turkey Carnitas)

  • 3 lb. Turkey thighs (skinned)
  • 1-2 tbs. Olive oil
  • 3 tsp. steak seasoning (I used Fiesta Extra Fancy Texas Style Steak Seasoning)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 (4 oz.) cans minced Hatch green chiles
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup dark beer
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 lime
  1. Generously season turkey thighs with steak seasoning. Brown turkey thighs in 1 tbs. olive oil in a skillet on medium heat until browned on both sides. Place thighs in slow cooker on high heat.
  2. Sauté onions in the skillet with the rest of the olive oil for 3-5 min. until translucent (sprinkle a little salt and pepper onto the onions for flavor). Add garlic and jalepenos. Sauté an extra 2 minutes.
  3. Place veggie mixture and bay leaves on top of the turkey thighs in the slow cooker.
  4. Stir together green chiles, beer, chicken broth, cumin, cayenne pepper and oregano. Pour over thighs.
  5. Cut lime in half and add halves to slow cooker and cover. After 1 hour, remove lime, stir, and continue to cook for 5-6 hours on low. Stir occasionally.
  6. The turkey is done when it shreds with a fork. Remove bay leaves and allow to cool with cover removed (to reduce liquid).
  7. Serve on warm flour tortillas with diced cabbage, cilantro, sliced avocado, Herdez green salsa, (or my husband prefers Cholula), and grated monterey jack cheese.
  8. The meat is great “refried” with a little olive oil in a skillet (makes little crunchy bits).

I would love to share your blessings today. It is always a blessing to share gratitude with others!

Gratitude, Main Dish, Turkey

Turkey Florentine, Youth Minister, and Happiness

Today I am thankful for:

1. A new recipe success. I love trying out new recipes, but I also try to prepare myself for the fact that some recipes may not turn out. I even made a deal with my kids. If they do not like a new recipe, my feelings will not be hurt! Quesadilla stuff is always in the fridge. Tonight I played around with a Turkey Florentine recipe (Paleo style). The kids were sopping up the sauce with their un-paleo rolls. The entire house was smiling. Big smile here. Thankful.

Turkey Florentine (Paleo Version)

4 turkey cutlets cut in half

Flour mixture (for dredging):

1/2 C almond meal

2  T dried parsley flakes

2 tsp paprika

1 T dried minced onion

1 tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp ground pepper

2 eggs

1 C white wine

1 C coconut/almond milk

1 T. Turkey Better Than Bouillon

1/4 tsp salt

2-3 T olive oil

3 cloves garlic

Spinach, fresh (about 16 oz)

Combine dredging ingredients in a shallow bowl. Whisk eggs in small bowl. Dip each piece of turkey in eggs and then dredge in flour mixture. Heat about 2 T olive oil in a pan and brown turkey cutlets (about 5 min. on each side). Remove from pan and put on a plate. In the same pan, add a little more oil and add garlic. Saute until translucent. Add white wine and deglaze pan, scraping every bit. Add coconut milk, salt and turkey bouillon. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce thickens and reduces a little. Add chicken back to pan. Cook on low for another 10ish minutes.

Now in a separate pan, heat 1-2 tsp. olive oil. Saute a little more garlic and add spinach. When done, put spinach on a plate and top with chicken piece, and sauce.

2. Our youth minister. She took some of our girls from our church to a girls’ conference in Abilene this weekend. What an incredible experience for our girls! I picked up my daughter tonight and she has not stopped talking. She learned all about being courageous, and knowing she is a beautiful creation because God made her!

3. I wake up every morning to this beautiful statuette called “Happiness.” The birds make me think “sing, laugh, and love.” It reminds me of a wonderful ladies retreat a couple of years ago where we discussed the many ways to broaden our happiness. One of those things is the practice of Gratitude. Thankful for beautiful memories.

What are you thankful for today?

Gratitude, Main Dish

Intinction, Yummy Dinner, and Cards

Today I am thankful for:

1. Communion by intinction. I worship with the Bering Drive Church of Christ. Every Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s Supper through the practice of intinction. It is so beautiful to watch children, moms, dads, young couples, and grandparents walk down the aisle together. I see so much love in faces of those who participate. I glimpse an older man patting the shoulder of a young boy as they walk together to break bread. I watch the youth group sharing time with their prayer partners. Beautiful. Loving. Generous. My heart delights.

2. Shrimp, mussels, and roast veggies. I tried out some new recipes tonight and made the yummiest dinner, according to my taste buds. The onions in the roast veggies were like candy… mmmmm good. It was delightful. Thank you God for the gift of delightful foods to savor. (These are not my pictures, by the way. They are the pics from the recipe sights.) Enjoy.

Roasted Vegetables

3. Playing cards with my son. He and I have grown into the habit of playing a few hands of cards in the evenings as a reward and homework break. It has been good for both of us to have some undivided attention and fun together. I especially like winning… he does, too!

What are you thankful for?