Food with Friends

I heart food.

I heart people even more.

The two together…all I can say is wow.

We make food, not only because we like the taste, but because we want to share life with people. Well, most of the time. Let me tell you, there are days… 😉

Food tastes better, smells better, looks better with conversation, stories, and laughter, even with tears.

Recently, Sarah Baughman at Grafted Heart asked me to share some of my meal planning ideas for her Masterfully Crafted series going on at present. I didn’t create a system for her to post. I’m not great at systems, and you’ll find out about my love/hate relationship with meal planning on the post, but I am great with ideas. If you can take any of them to use in your own planning, I’ll be happy! The goal is to get to a place where we want to share grace and affection, with the people we live with and the people that visit us, via our family table. While sometimes this task seems like a never-ending chore, I hope that some of the tips will bring some joy, laughter, and grace into your meal planning process.

Here’s the link to that post:

Intimacy, Sharing Meals, and Planning Tips and Laughs

To encourage you in the process, I also would like to share three of my favorite recipes to have with friends. These are bigger batch recipes, call for a little work, not-slave-in-the-kitchen-all-day-and-collapse-on- your-couch level work, just enough to add pizzazz to the table for guests.

Food pizzazz says, “I love you and I’m glad you’re here.”

Am I right?

Food with Friends Recipe #1 –

Good Friday Baked Potato Soup

We call this Good Friday Baked Potato Soup because once upon a time the Baughman’s were over for Good Friday and we made it together, start to finish, and then we sat back and dipped our bread hunks in the thick, creamy broth and talked way too late.  Since then we make it every Good Friday and it connects us to them in a weird and wonderful way that I can’t quite explain. It is also not a pretty soup, but tastes amazing…much like Good Friday.


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 gallon of milk

8 medium or large potatoes, baked and cut into small pieces

1 white or yellow onion, minced

1 package of bacon, cut into 1 inch or smaller pieces

2 cups, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, yellow or white

10-12 oz. of sour cream

salt and pepper

In a dutch oven or large pot, cook up your bacon and onion together. Remove cooked bacon from the pot and save for later. Add 1/3-1/2 cup of butter to your pot, depending on the amount of bacon grease left over. Melt over medium heat. Stir in flour to form a roux (Google it if you’ve never done this. It’s a fun term to throw around at parties.) Whisk all of the milk slowly into the roux and let thicken slightly, turning down heat if the bottom sticks terribly. (I always have a crust on the bottom of my pot for this soup, so fear not if you do as well. Just ignore it and instruct your family not to speak of it if they would like to eat dinner.) Add in the potatoes, onion, and bacon to the soup. Add liberal salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer while whisking in cheese and sour cream. If there are sour cream chunks, know that they will taste divine even though they don’t look pretty. Serve with fresh bread and any baked potato garnish for a fun touch- shredded cheese, bacon bits, tiny chopped broccoli bits, more sour cream, etc. If you are serving an extra large crew (8+ adults) add more milk and/or 4 cups of chicken broth to spread it out.

Food with Friends Recipe #2 –

French Bread with Turkey and Spinach

This recipe was invented by my mother-in-law, who can cook like nobody’s business and who also manages to make everything pretty when she makes it. I have learned more from her in the kitchen than probably anyone else in my life and I am grateful! She stuffs the filling into a wreath of frozen bread dough and bakes it with a brush of egg white until golden perfection. I, on the other hand, make the super easy filling in my giant red dutch oven, setting it on the table with slices of french bread and let people slather the bread silly with the garlicy, meaty filling. This saves my sanity and makes me a nicer person.

2-3 lbs of ground turkey or ground beef, whatever is on sale or in your freezer

1 bag of fresh or frozen spinach, if frozen thaw and squeeze dry

2+ cups of mozzarella or other white cheese

1/4-1/2 cup of shredded or grated parmesan cheese (only really necessary if it’s on sale)

1/2-1 tsp. garlic powder (or more, I mean…garlic…yum!)

1/2-1 tsp. onion powder or one white or yellow onion, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 loafs of Italian or French bread

Cook ground meat, spices, and onion until browned, drain excess. Add spinach and stir until beginning to wilt. Stir in cheeses and if you’d like to stretch it further add a can of condensed cream soup or one batch of your own recipe for cream soup. This recipe is pretty top notch dairy and gluten free, by just forgoing the cheese, being generous with the spices, and serving with g-free bread. I make a mini batch like that on the side for myself and allergy concerned guests.

Food with Friends Recipe #3 –

Guatemalan Rice with Black Beans and Peppers

I have a secret. I make this recipe mostly for myself because when the aromas of the peppers and the oil start to sizzle in the pan with the garlic and cumin, I imagine myself in a kitchen in Guatemala with a woman three inches shorter than me and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, showing me a display of different peppers. Food transports us to memories and I will often purposefully make cultural foods just to remind me of our adventures and the people we love and who have loved us around the world.

This one is a family and guest favorite. I haven’t perfected, nor desire to perfect, making taquitos to go with the rice and beans. I buy a box from the store when it’s on sale. Thank you, Señor Jose.

4-6 cups of cooked rice depending on the size of your crowd

2-4 colorful bell peppers, cut into small pieces (I like one each of red, yellow, and orange, but will go with whatever is on sale in a pinch.)

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 can of black beans, drained or 2 cups dried black beans, cooked

1 Tbsp. fresh minced garlic or 1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder

1/2-1 Tbsp. ground cumin depending on your desire for zest and flavor

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4-1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (again with the zest factor)

Cook rice according to package directions and set aside. Sauté peppers and onion in 2-4 Tbsp. oil of your choice over medium heat, in a large pan or dutch oven until sweaty and a little tender. Add black beans and spices. Stir thoroughly. Turn heat to low and add rice, stirring only to warm. Serve with 2-3 taquitos per person with fun bowls of salsa, sour cream, guac, a squeeze of lime, or anything else remotely festive for garnishes.

What are your favorite recipes to share with the people you love and the ones you open your doors to?

Share some ideas with us in the comments!

Food with friends makes life a little bit sweeter, a little bit zestier, and a little bit less lonely any way you dice it. 

Dating My Family

We are a family of adventurers.

We enjoy grand road trips, wild untamed cuisine, and spontaneous events.

We also like parks, hammocks strung between any two trees, a walk to the library, and a fifty-cent pop from the soda machine at the used car dealership at the end of the block.

Adventure can look big and bold, and it can look regular and every day. I think it’s the spirit of the moment that creates adventure no matter where you are.

Today, my goal is to convince you to adventure this summer.

You can stay home, or you can go and do. Either can be considered within the realm of adventure.

You can create intimate moments or you can imagine meet-ups and celebrations, but I believe that every family needs a touch of adventure.

Why? Because curiosity is not only healthy for our development and continued learning and growth. It keeps our grey matter ripe with plasticity (a fancy word for able to grow new brain cells), but most importantly curiosity encourages our relationships to good health.

We are people created by God to connect. This is not an optional life skill. Connection is life to our souls. The more we find out about how our brains work, the closer we get to understanding the link between connection and every other human need and growth area. (For more on this, findfun research links at the end of this post.)

Isn’t it nice when science catches up to what we already know from God? The first thing God does after creating man is create connection between people by creating families.

The struggle is that most days we just have so much to do, so much to accomplish, that real, meaningful connection can fall to last place on the list, and if you’re like me, last place looks like the scary mom, crabbing at people to get into bed, trying to grab a moment for a book and a prayer, and hoping no one was scarred for life. Praise the Lord for Jesus and the connecting grace He brings into our homes. Because of the hectic of life…

in our family, we date.

We have been able to hold on to connection – solid, deep, meaningful family connection – in the day-to-day hectic of our lives, by setting time aside for adventures.

This summer, I’d like to help you date your family.

What does dating your family look like?

It’s more a mindset, but it’s also tangible action.

Mindset: We actually want to spend time together, even though it’s really, really difficult sometimes, so we will need to be creative.

Tangible action: Put it on the calendar.

Put up a tent and have a campout in the backyard, but put it on the calendar.

Is it someone’s birthday? Share one entree between everyone at four restaurants, rather than simply going out to eat.

We call this Foodabration. Put it on the calendar.

Parks are great and free. Make one evening park evening and visit three local parks instead of haphazardly meandering to the park down the street.

If you have little kids, three playgrounds in one night will sound to them like they won the Powerball. If you have teens – picnic food for the win! Put it on the calendar.

Anything to prolong the moments and actually make them happen.

Do you have sports and lessons and…and…and…and on the schedule? Yep. Pack a gallon ziploc bag with a seek and find book, mechanical pencils, and pieces of candy or star stickers. Pass the book around the family for the evening or a week, challenging everyone to find one word and pass it to the next person, around and around. When you get a word, you get a sticker or a piece of candy. Am I confusing you? Maybe, because I’m making it up as I go along, but the point is to make it up, to try it, and you guessed it:

put it on the calendar.

Anything to create connection, to create a moment in the middle of this running, going, doing life.

Maybe the extra boost we all need is to know it’s good for our brain health.

Maybe the extra boost we need is to know summer is really only two months long and the kids will be in our house non-stop anyway, so something to look forward to will be good for all of us anyway?

Maybe the extra boost we need is to know there are only so many two month summers left until they have their own lives, their own commitments, their own plans.

Maybe the extra boost we all need is a little friendship, fun, and accountability, so I’m starting a summer hashtag – #datingmyfamily. There are only 15 prior posts for #datingmyfamily on Instagram, so I’m pretty sure we can easily make this a thing.

Show us how you date your family. Make it simple, make it big, make it both. The moments matter, but how you do it really doesn’t. We’ll get ideas from each other and share in this beautiful life together. Use the hashtag on any social media or don’t use it.

This summer, let’s date our families.

To help you out, my friend and early childhood guru Jamie and her nephew Zach, a creative and fun-loving college student, helped me to compile this stellar and creative list –

90 ideas for Dating Your Family

Remember – put it on the calendar this summer.

If you need me, I’ll be #datingmyfamily this summer. 😉


On Curiosity and Relationships – Berkley

The Basics of the Brain and Curiosity – NPR

My All-In Strawberry Patch: Risk and Relationships

Two years ago I planted a plot of strawberry plants.

I had dreams of juicy red fruit growing organically in my backyard, picked by my minions – er, children – and overflowing bowls of pretty red jewels set out on my table for guests to enjoy.

I asked a friend to come over and dig up the soil. I had my husband line the plot with two by fours. I tended and watered and weeded.

If I had a nickel for every time someone stopped to tell me how hard strawberries were to grow, how the effort wasn’t worth it, I could have paid for a much nicer plot.

I just smiled and nodded and shoved the words deep down inside.

What I should have told them was:

“I’m not growing strawberries. I’m growing commitment.”

Let me explain.

I had thought about growing strawberries for years. Friends grew strawberries and would leave little boxes on our counter. I looked at other local’s raised beds and wanted some for myself. But then I would almost instantly think, “Well, who knows how long we’ll be here.”

Here is where ministry life enters in. It can be weird. Change and calls can enter at any time and plans have to remain flexible. Hearts have to remain flexible. That’s hard for someone like me who is whole-heartedly in, and easily whole-heartedly disappointed.

But you know what…

Life is weird. Change can happen anytime, anywhere, in any profession, in any relationships.

I realized that I was saving half of my heart for what might be. Keeping it safe, committing only pieces of myself so that I wouldn’t have to hurt, to say goodbye. At some point I realized that I was robbing myself of real relationships for what might be, even what would be. I was giving half-heartedly of who I was and expecting whole-hearts back.

Friendships need to be made, and wholeheartedness is not really an option, in life or in ministry.

And so I planted a strawberry patch.

I planted something large, that would take effort, and that I might have to walk away from.

It was beautiful. And it grew 14 strawberries.

Look at this bounty –


Then, God called us away.

He called us to something new; to plant somewhere else. Oh goodness, it was hard. And every day I fight to be all-in here as well. Questions assail:

Will they like me?

Will they want me?

When will they get tired of me?

I know it’s not about me, but I have to be real. Relationships are hard and hard work and sometimes it seems that finding other people who want to be all-in are scarce.

Because of Christ, we can do it anyway.

Give your whole heart.

Plant something.

Start something.

No matter what tomorrow brings, no matter the response, grow love, and grow commitment to that love.

Christ stands as a constant reminder of the all-in love that our Father gives to us. He gave His whole heart, knowing what would come eventually, knowing that He would have to say goodbye, but trusting the Plan.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)

All-in, my friends. All-in.