The Great Texan Baking Show

I can't get enough of The Great British Baking Show. Have you watched it? 

I love how kind they are to one another--comforting when a bake turns bad, helping to ensure the item is plated before the bell, cheering for successes or crying as a competitor-turned-friend is sent home. 

I love it.

When I have a headache or feel overwhelmed, it's my go-to comfort show. (Like when we were both super sick last Thanksgiving.)

As it turns out, it's not just watching a handful of people baking delicious treats that brings comfort. Baking them in my own home is just as soothing. During the pandemic, I baked something new at least twice a week. 

I couldn't place my finger on why I was too overwhelmed or foggy-brained to completely focus on things like writing blog posts or completing a large work-related task, but I could tune-out my husband's 100-person Zoom meeting (in which no one had figured out how to mute themselves) and make a new-to-me semi-complex recipe... with excitement! 

All I knew is that it was helping. And, based on my Facebook feed, I wasn't the only one. 

After a while, I stumbled upon this article from Delish on some of the psychology behind baking. It's pretty fascinating.

And so I baked. 

I baked for us, I baked for friends, I baked for the staff at our church. When my dad came to visit, I sent him home with two bags of pastries.

This is no overstatement--our house smelled amazing. 

I thought I'd share some of the more successful recipes. These are a handful of the baked goods we had on-hand through our shelter-in-place. 


First and foremost, these Brown Butter Bourbon Dark Chocolate Pretzel cookies (on repeat...) The dough freezes really well, so I will now make a full batch and bake two at a time for dessert.

I woke up at 5am every day for a week or so and all I could think about was baking something that felt semi over-the-top, but comforting. These Dark Chocolate Chip Scones did the trick. I made them about once-a-week for six weeks.

To make me feel a little less ridiculous about the sheer volume of baked goods in our home, I added Chocolate Protein Powder Donuts to the rotation. They were also a perfect afternoon pick-me-up when we needed a push to keep going until 5pm.

Sweet Potato Biscuits. These were a bit complex, but worth every step. We had them for dinner and I dreamed about eating them with a runny egg the next morning. Unfortunately, I didn't think to refrigerate them and they had molded overnight. Needless to say, we'll be making them again.

Who didn't make loaves of bread during quarantine? It started as an experiment using this recipe and this method and then fell in love with the 'knead it and leave it' process. One afternoon, we took a fresh-baked loaf to each pastor at our church. 

I tried my hand at Home-made Pop-Tarts. While they were really easy to make--and would be a very fun recipe to bake with kids--they're not totally worth it to me.

I also made this Chocolate Banana Bread at least five times. I somehow missed taking any photos of it in our house, but this one from the original recipe does it way more justice anyway.

When our local grocery store stopped producing fresh tortillas, Josh was heart-broken.  Since I'd had such great success with two other King Arthur recipes, I figured we'd give the tortillas a whirl. They're delicious.  

I'm tempted to justify all of this sugar by telling you we had balanced meals in-between snacks... lots of fresh veggies and healthy fats. 

The truth is, sometimes we did... and sometimes we didn't. 

But we laughed a lot and snuggled a lot and played a lot of board games and watched a lot of movies. So I'm calling it a win.

How about you? Did you bake or cook anything out-of-the-norm during shelter-in-place? Any recipes you think we should try?

Date Night: Brought To You By Wikipedia

{photo from the night we moved all of my stuff into our house}

Josh and I have been on a pretty strict budget as we work to pay down student loans and save for the future. (Thank you, Dave Ramsay.) 

While we're all for making a new dinner at home or watching something on Netflix, we've been trying to come up with more creative ways to connect.

In my hunt for cheap/free date night options, I stumbled across this list of 27 Stay at Home Date Nights.

What I love about this list is that the ideas range from high-energy (lip sync battle) to mellow (taking a stroll down memory lane through videos on your phones). 

For now, we’re deep in an on-going WikiWar battle. Here's the description:
Choose a random Wikipedia page topic. That will be your end page destination.  Both of you are trying to navigate to that page starting from two totally different and random Wikipedia pages (i.e. you start on Kerri Strug, he starts on The Death Star and you are both trying to get to Tiananmen Square).  The catch is that you can only do it by clicking on links from Wikipedia pages!  Whoever gets to the end destination first, wins. Whoever learns the most interesting factoid wins second place.  

It’s only gotten more fun—and more competitive! And it's created some great conversation about how differently we approach a project. (I just click like mad on links until I find something that might lead me where I want to go while Josh pauses to think through what a logical thread of connections might be and then scrolls through until he finds the perfect link. We both think the other is never going to win with that approach, and it's somehow about 50/50.)

It's a full night of fun for $0. (I mean unless you're a stickler and choose to count the cost of internet, but in that case, you could probably play for free using side-by-side computers at the public library... or using the wifi at Starbucks... the possibilities are endless.)

I'd love to hear if you try anything from the list. There are several fun ideas that I think we'll try at some point... but I'd love to know which you've enjoyed!

I'd love to hear any ideas you have for inexpensive date nights. (Especially any you've come up with during shelter-in-place!) 

P.S. I’ve lived in about a dozen different roommate situations over the years... some great and others not so much... other than numbers 21 and 25, (give each other massages and makeout) the rest of these would work well for your homes, too!

Top 5 Thursday: Shows We've Binged Together

Like nearly every household, we streamed mass amounts of television in the blur of hours-turned-to-days-turned-to-weeks of shelter-in-place. 

Here are five of our favorites:

1) The Crown

{via Netflix}

A Netflix original series recounting the life of Queen Elizabeth II. While Season 3 proved slightly less captivating than the first two, (while episodes move more quickly through time, the overall storytelling seemed slower) we watched all available seasons and will likely pick up when season 4 is released, hopefully, December 2020. 

2) Kim's Convenience

The day-to-day goings-on in and around the convenience store owned and operated by the Korean-Canadian Kim family. This was suggested to us by a Youth Pastor friend of ours and he was not wrong! Josh and I typically choose an hour-long drama and 30-minute comedy we flip between, based on our mood, but after two or three episodes, this became our one-and-only show until we finished all five seasons. We've since suggested it to family and friends who have all watched it in a matter of days. It's so great.

3) The West Wing

{via Hollywood Reporter}

One of my all-time favorite shows. While it slows in the final few seasons, (the pacing and some character personalities change when a new writing staff takes over) it's well worth the watch. There's so much goodness and passion and even levity. A few days after we finished, Josh said, "I wonder what Toby and Josh are up to..." Like any good show, we were invested in the lives of the characters, and (almost) missed them when it ended. I think it'll be one we watch together again in a year or so.

4) Community

This is one Josh had seen multiple times but was new to me. I'd caught scenes in passing over the years, but never thought they were very funny. I agreed to give it a shot and within a few episodes was hooked. I'd honestly watch an entire spin-off starring just Troy and Abed... and I know I'm not alone. 

5) Making It

Okay, this is one we watched pre-shelter-in-place, but still... we watched it really quickly. As each episode ended, we'd look at each other and say, "one more?" While Season 1 feels like it's trying too hard, by Season 2 they'd found their way. The Makers are extremely creative, but also so kind. I love a competition show in which the contestants cheer each other on. It left us dreaming about ways to inexpensively redecorate our house and Student Building at the church. (We just finished a big project. I'll share some photos soon!)

In case you missed it, you can read about five other shows in Round 1. We're currently re-watching The Office (for the tenth or trillionth time, I'm not sure...) and are a few seasons deep in ER. 

What are you watching? Now that you've seen the types of shows we like, is there anything you'd recommend?

Quarantine Youth Ministry

As inconvenient as it may have been for the entire world to shut down for a few months--and yes, there were many stresses and worries and lots of counting pennies--it was also pretty great. 

How many people can say they spent hours upon hours, weeks on weeks, with just their spouse during their first year of marriage? In so many ways, it was a gift to us long-distance-daters-turned-newlyweds.

Josh sporting true Quarantine Chic for his first all-staff Zoom meeting. (Our fashion and interest in changing out of pajamas quickly faded... as I'm sure it did in your home.)

Furthermore, how many people (aside from TV Hosts, celebrities, or actual YouTube Stars) can say their living room doubled as a YouTube Studio during shelter-in-place? I'm willing to bet more than a few Youth Pastors feel me on this.

Unsure of how long the shelter-in-place order would last, we started with "(Lift Our) Spirit(s) Week":

Crazy Hair Day

Decades Day

Meme Day (I'm this little girl) 

Pajama Day (conveniently aligned with Josh's day off)

It was a weekly game of Tetris meets Beat the Clock as we shuffled furniture and scrounged around in the back of the pantry for supplies we welcomed students and leaders into our home (virtually, of course) precisely at 6.

And, man, did we have our work cut out for us as we cleared out expired foods from our pantry and the Student Building... working hard to keep spending--and trips out into the world--to a minimum as we made up games and piled up semi-cool prizes.

One of my favorite segments was Cheeseball Beard. Josh covered his face in shaving cream and I had one minute to get as many cheeseballs as I could to stick in place. (It's Chubby Bunny level of Youth Ministry Classic.) 

We shot this bit at least four times before we got a useable take (to be fair, we had a great second take, but forgot to hit record. Rookies!) By the time we'd finished, there were cheeseballs everywhere! And Josh smelled like Barbasol shaving cream for a week--an unusual smell around here. (A few weeks later, Josh ate a "Sandwich of Doom", built by students who correctly answered trivia questions via chat and smelled like an odd assortment of condiments for about 72 hours. We never learn.)

We made some Dalgona coffee. (Of course.)

Each week we'd give away prizes during the show as an excuse to drive around and deliver them throughout the week (via ding-dong ditch). This also doubled as a break when we got a little cranky, or stir crazy... 

Some of us needed the fresh air more than others.

Sometimes we filmed a few announcement videos during the deliveries.

During the last week of school, before our college leaders headed home (or signed off) for summer, we held a mini-graduation. We played a round of Egg Roulette which ended in an absolute mess since we got our wires crossed about who would hardboil half the dozen.

When Texas started to open up again, we had our final episode of the season and our first guests: Cooper, our Summer intern, and Troy, our Senior Pastor. They were both great sports and jumped right into the food game rhythm, with hilarious rounds of Ce-real or Fake and Burrito of Doom (a sequel to Sandwich of Doom), respectively. 

In addition, we held weekly Sunday Night Family Dinners and invited our students to make some Top Ramen or Mac and Cheese and join us around the virtual dining room table to talk about our week and laugh together. 

These Sunday Night hours will always hold a special place in my heart. They were the times when we heard hurts, celebrated 16th Birthdays, watched introverted students find comfort amongst their peers, and reignited my heart for our students. 

A few weeks later, we went on to host our own in-house camp. We called it Summer Camp of Your Dreams and I can't wait to tell you all about it!

We're currently planning to Season Two of FSM Live to be released during Winter Break. If you have any clever, inexpensive two-person game ideas, we're all ears!

What Are You Reading?

I just started Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue and, while I'm only three chapters in, I'm hooked. 

I've read a handful of books in the last few months, finishing some and giving up on others, but something about the writing style in Mbue's debut novel caught me on page one. 

I don't know much about the story, aside from the online description, but it was enough to pique my interest:

A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream--the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. 

I can't wait.

What are you reading these days? Have you read this book? What did you think? 

Searching For The Magic Words: Round Two

{image via How Sweet Eats}

Back in November, I shared a bit about my husband's diet and my hunt for recipes with the magic words: "My kids loved it." This short phrase assured me that Josh would, at the very least, be willing to try it and if the meat-to-vegetable ratio was just right, might even be willing to eat it more than once.

The six in the original post were on heavy rotation for the several months (this breakfast skillet is still a fixed part of our weekend routine) but, come Spring, it was time to bench them in favor of some new flavors.

This time, I was searching for recipes that not only included (but didn't taste too much like) vegetables but also included items I knew I'd be able to find at our local grocery store during shelter-in-place. To go one step further, we were working to decrease the amount of meat we were purchasing (to both help ensure there was enough to go around and because we were on a bit tighter budget with my nannying job on hold for the time being) so I worked to stretch things into more than one meal. 

We found our way... quite deliciously, I might add. And now it's time to pass these Price household favorites on to you.

Here are the five Magic Word Meals that sustained us through shelter-in-place:

These Turkey Stuffed Peppers (shown above) were our #1 go-to. They are flavorful and filling and stupidly easy to make. We made them at least once a week (if not more) and I'm fairly certain it will be a meal that always reminds me of watching Field of Dreams on our couch on a "who knows what day or time it is" kinda night in the middle of the pandemic.

This Rosemary Chicken is so easy, makes the house smells amazing, and feeds 4-6 people (or the two of us 3 times.) Typically I'd make it without the rosemary so we could season it in other ways for dinner on nights 2 and 3. (Night 1: chicken and veggies from the crockpot. Night 2: chicken and rice (or potatoes) with Trader Joe's yellow curry and cauliflower. Night 3: chicken fried rice.)

Speaking of something ridiculously good that will make multiple meals, this Slow Cooker Pulled Pork! A 6-pound pork shoulder will feed two for a week. (Night 1: w/rice and beans and salsa. Night 2: bbq pulled pork sandwiches w/sweet potatoes. Night 3: tacos w/cabbage or w/ teriyaki sauce over rice. Night 4: Brussels and sweet potatoes or salad. Night 5: nachos.)

When you choose to label your recipe Better Than Takeout Chicken Fried Rice, you'd better be right... (she certainly is.) My favorite part of this recipe is that it's pretty much a 'clean out the fridge' meal (last night's rice with chicken from the night before...add some frozen veggies and voila!) that somehow feels kinda glamorous. It comes together in less than 10 minutes and yet I always felt super accomplished when I take the first bite. 

These Apple-Cheddar Burgers were found for a camping trip that never was. However, they're just as delicious made on the stovetop as they would be over a campfire. This is the one recipe that makes multiple meals and is really the same every night. We'd switch up the veggies to go with it and, one night ditch the bun and replace the onions with a fried egg, but, honestly, even on Night three, these are still 100% worth it. (You could half the recipe, too, I suppose, this was just an easy week of 'don't have to think about it' meals for us which was a BIG win during shelter-in-place.) 

For the record, I did far more baking than cooking during these weeks. There's a full Baked Good Recipe Round-up coming your way soon!


I'd love to know if you try any of these. And, I'd LOVE to hear about the meals/recipes that got you through shelter-in-place! Please leave me a link (or the recipe) in the comments below.