Monday, September 29, 2014

Dream Worthy Taco Pizza

Guys. This pizza is great. I've made it a few times and it has topped Joel's dinner favorites list. I HIGHLY recommend!! This is my version of the Taco Pizza that I first tried at The OP.

1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough at room temperature (mine is this one by Bobby Flay)
1/2-3/4 lb ground beef (depends how meaty you want it!)
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
2 cups  shredded cheese (I use a blend of mozzarella and mexican blend or cheddar)
2 tomatoes, diced 
1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, rinsed and thinly sliced (or you can buy shredded lettuce)
A few giant handfuls of Taco doritos (crushed)
Taco Sauce and Sour Cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 475

Brown beef, drain and rinse. Pour taco seasoning and 1/3-1/2 cup water into the pan. Mix well, set taco meat aside. 

Stretch dough out using your favorite method on pizza pan or stone. I swear by my 16 inch Calphalon pizza pan I got at target -- perfect crust EVERY TIME! Spread 1/2 can refried beans over dough like sauce. Spread meat mixture over beans, then sprinkle cheese on top. 

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and dough is medium brown (bake this slightly longer than your normal pizza time - we need the crust to be kind of crispy to hold all of these glorious toppings!).

Pull pizza out of of the oven once it is browned to your liking. Generously sprinkle with diced tomatoes and lettuce. Crush 2-3 handfuls of taco doritos (OR MORE) over the top of the pizza. Drizzle with taco sauce of your choice. Serve with extra taco sauce and sour cream. Cut and eat immediately. ENJOY!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Burger Cravings

Big huge juicy beef burgers are my thing. I'm the girl that ordered a huge burger at my bachelorette party two days before the wedding. One that orders a burger when all the other girls order salads. The girl that once cried when they brought me a veggie burger when it was supposed to be a turkey burger (it had been a REALLY long program and the turkey burger was the one redeeming quality of the hotel). 

I've found a veggie burger that I reallllly like. Not like as a back up burger -- as the burger I've starting craving on a semi-regular basis. I know, I KNOW. Dangerous words from a carnivore like me. 

It's worth sharing. I know.  A blog post on a veggie burger from ME. Alas. I digress. 

It all started when Joel and I had our friends over for a grill out. They are vegetarians, so we wanted to honor them with the food we had (we were still in the -- do they eat fish? part of the friendship -- answer, yes they do). I went on a search for a great black bean burger. Of course I had to make it myself. I started reading -- these were the links that tickled my fancy the most. Being Anna, I couldn't just follow a recipe - I combined a few. 

Serious Eats - Best Black Bean Burger
Oh She Glows - Our Perfect Veggie Burger
Skinny Taste - Spicy Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle

Disclaimer -  this recipe has quite a bit of prep and ingredients, but I definitely think it's worth it. Spices and mix ins are totally flexible if you're not a fan of one or two - these are just what I like. 


  • 1 cup oats, pulsed in a good blender or food processor (doesn't have to be ground down to flour, but chopped work better than whole oats)
  • 1.5 cups bread crumbs (I use whatever I have on hand - usually comes out to about 3 slices)
  • 1 cup grated carrots (I use the largest holes on my grater)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed, drained and mashed (I mashed with my potato masher for a chunkier mash or you can use a fork for more pasty mash -- up to you)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped KIND of finely. but still enough to be crunchy in the burger patty! (I've also used cashews successfully)
  • 1 chopped bell pepper (I used a mix of red/yellow that I had leftover, doesn't matter what kind!)
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 2-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped finely (I used 4 of them and the burgers are not overwhelmingly hot) 
  • 1 tsp minced garlic 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp onion salt and 1 tsp black pepper)
  • Chipotle mayo (Use a 3 to 1 ration of mayo to adobo sauce, leftover from can of chipotle in adobo peppers used in the recipe)
  • Sliced avocado
  • Additional items I like: cheese (favorites are pepperjack or provolone), Sliced tomatoes, lettuce, pickles
  • hamburger buns
Prep ingredients. Mash up the black beans, pulse the bread crumbs and oats, chop the almonds / peppers / onions, shred the carrots 

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, oats, carrots, almonds, bell pepper, chipotle pepper, onion,garlic and black beans. Mix together thoroughly with a spoon or your hands. 

In a small bowl, combine dry spices and mix together. Add spices to the big bowl along with soy sauce and olive oil. Stir together. Stop. TASTE THE MIX - do you like how it tastes? No? Add more spice / soy sauce / garlic to taste. I loved that one of the recipes I read said that if you don't like the mix- you won't like the burger! Once you like how it tastes, add the egg and mix thoroughly with your hands or a spoon. The mix will be pretty gooey (similar to how a beef burger mix feels). 

Grab a big cookie sheet and put wax paper down to cover the whole cookie sheet. Form the mix into patties and evenly space patties on the wax paper. This recipe made 8 generous patties for me. Once you are happy with how the patties look, put the entire cookie sheet into the freezer (if your freezer is smaller than your cookie sheet, you might need to use 2 smaller pans like cake pans or pie tins for this part). Freeze for at least one hour, or until patties are firm. Once frozen, cut squares of wax paper around each burger, then place the individual burgers together in a large ziplock back. Store in the freezer.** 

Once ready to cook - peel off the wax paper. 
Grill - brush the top of the patty with oil and place frozen patty directly on a medium heat grill - oil side down, about 4-6 minutes. Brush the top of the burger with oil, then flip and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes. I'd suggest adding a slice of cheese in the last 2 or so minutes of cooking! 
Skillet - place frozen patty in a highly sprayed or oiled skillet at medium heat, cook about 4-5 minutes per side. Sometimes I have to get a lid from another pot to put over the top of the burger (it gets a little smoky). I'd suggest adding a slice of cheese in the last 2 or so minutes of cooking!  
Oven- I'm sure you can bake these in the oven. The other recipes said a 375 degree oven

**If you are wanting to make these right away and NOT freeze them, I'd suggest putting in an additional 1/4 cup pulsed oats to hold them together a little better. 


ENJOY. I really hope you do. These have made me into a veggie burger fan. My new summer favorite thing is to keep these in the freezer for an easy and super yummy lunch. 10 or 12 minutes later, and I have an awesome burger to eat. Just as good without a bun if you're avoiding gluten - pile toppings on and knife & fork the heck out of it! I would post a picture of the veggie burger I ate for lunch-- but I ate it too quickly. oops. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spring makes way to Summer

Married life. Minneapolis. Working remotely. These have all been new territories for me. 

Married life is good. Hard at times, but great. Joel is wonderful. He is a servant. He's ornery and gives me crap (which I totally need), but also loves me so well. These first 5 months have been a challenge as we learn to navigate the waters of the forever "us" -- with budgets, friendships, everyday life, disagreements, family time etc. When two become one, God miraculously joins them together -- but a lot of human JUNK remains (opinions, pride, independence). These things in and of themselves aren't bad or wrong, but they are learning opportunities and struggles in a new marriage. Joel and I are both in our upper 20s -- that means we had a lot of time to learn independence / living alone / managing our own time. Walking and talking through how our individual ideas of a great plan become OUR idea of a great plan is still a work in progress. We are learning new things about one another regularly -- about family history, about personal quirks. It's fun. 

One of the things I"m most thankful for in marrying Joel is the way he loves family. The day we got married, I became his family. Joel is protective of me physically and spiritually, exceedingly kind to me in the midst of my emotional highs and lows, and shows patience and encouragement towards me as I navigate the newness of being a wife. Joel learned much of this from his family. They are now my family too -- I'm so grateful to be joined into a family who loves Jesus first. This family also loves through food (I feel at home). This family treasures building up children through encouragement. This family ENJOYS being together. I'm glad that I'm a part of it all. 

Minneapolis is a fun city to live in. Once the snow finally melted and the polar vortex dissipated, spring made way to a beautiful city. We are enjoying new restaurants, the huge farmer's market downtown, and seeing the city transition from hibernation to life. One of my favorite things in the city (big surprise) are all the bike trails! Joel and I have been on a few bike adventures. The trail network is extensive with lots of options for afternoon or evening explorations. Just last weekend we biked to the summit brewery to meet up with friends of ours from church then came back for a bbq. As biking has come into season again, I've realized how much I miss McKenzie Sauser. She was always my biking pal in Des Moines, and the afternoon rides and conversation are missed even more as the physical distance between us grows. Mack and I have transitioned to late night phone calls for encouragement and accountability. I love how deep friendships don't end with distance - they change and sometimes 'grow up' -- but in a really neat way. 

There is a certain loneliness in starting over with community. I've gotten pretty good at starting over in new places over the years. In the past, my singleness has created an urgency for community. I've lived alone and not really known ANYONE, meaning that it was on me to dig in and start relationships or suffer the consequences of not doing so. Being married, specifically a newlywed, changes the urgency. Since Joel and I were long distance for so long, I craved time with him. So the balance of learning to lean into other people is hard. I need friends, I need women to walk alongside me, WE need other married couple friends -- but sometimes it's hard to get outside of just us. God is providing us with community through our church. I'm finally starting to feel rooted to the point of friendships going beyond the surface. SUCH an answered prayer. I'm hoping that this summer will be a season for those friendships to deepen as we explore the city together.

As the days turn into months of working remotely, I see what a blessing my job is. I was and am so fortunate to be in the position of keeping my job despite moving a state away. Having my job be a constant in the midst of so much change has been life giving. Although the transition to being a one woman office is a challenge, the camaraderie with my teammates continues over email / chat / phone calls. I miss seeing those friends a lot. It makes me a treasure my trips to Des Moines even more and VERY thankful when I get paired with a co-worker on big programs. 

Life is still good. I'm looking forward to seeing more Des Moines friends this summer at weddings, to my big work trip next week where I get to see more friends, and for endless long weekends at the lake this summer. This post is a lot of words and no pictures, but it will have to do.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Life Happened...


After my last got a little crazy. 
I had a wonderful time with Joel. I  continued to enjoy a few weeks of bike riding, farmer's market adventures, and general summer merriment. Two weeks later, my dad had a really serious stroke (my blogging went here to his caring bridge site instead of my usual blog). We had been out on a bike ride when things just went sour. Two nights in Ames hospitals then a life flight to the Neuro ICU in Iowa City had us pretty shaken up. 

Life stood still. It was like watching from a distance while another family went through chaos and terror -- but it wasn't someone else. It was me. And my family. All of the little things I had been so worried about before - traveling, missing friends, wondering if Joel was going to propose - they seemed so trivial. We trucked on...making trips to Iowa City until my dad got released from their Neuro ICU then back to Ames to see him enter inpatient rehab at the hospital. He stayed in inpatient care for a little over a month. We visited frequently to chat and encourage him as he started the journey to recovery. 

Two weeks after my dad's stroke, Joel proposed. 

The back story is that Joel had set up a time to have dinner with my parents and ask permission to marry me. The dinner never happened because the date that was set was just days after my dad's stroke. Joel loved me and my family well through that trial. He listened, served. and represented what a Godly man he is. 

My mom and dad encouraged Joel to still propose, even though my dad was still in the hospital recovering. They didn't want my dad's health to be a barrier to something wonderful happening. 

August 10th, I said yes to Joel's proposal. We settled on a winter wedding date and started planning for a December wedding. 

In that 4 month span, I gained 3 more nieces and a nephew. Ha - my sister in law had twin girls the last week of August, then she and my brother's adoption waiting game finally came to an end. 

I spent a month and a half living up in Ames with my dad while my mom was out of the country. My mom was in the Congo with my brother trying to get his two kids' adoption documents finalized so they could come home. A process we initially guessed to take a few weeks turned into 40 days of praying, waiting, and trusting God to move. 

I flew out to the East Coast to present an Account Review for the main account I work on the first week of October. It was a great opportunity to stretch my comfort level and strengthen my analytic portfolio. I was terrified, but it went really well (better than I expected!). 

Joel and I made it through another turnaround for his work. I saw another great friend get married -- Amy and Dan are on the left. They got married in November. Amy and I work together -- we had a great time planning winter weddings concurrently. I've been so encouraged by her. 

Our whirlwind 4 month engagement passed (rather quickly!!), and we got married December 14th. Highlights of the day were sunshine, a bit of snow falling, my dad being able to walk me down the aisle, my brother performing the wedding ceremony, and the 16 piece live band at the reception. 

(wedding pics by Libby Asay Studios)

THEN Joel and I went on a honeymoon to Punta Cana. 
Went straight from our honeymoon to Christmas in Iowa with my family. 
THEN drove up I-35 to our new house in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 
We've spend the past few weeks getting our house to feel more like a home. It finally does. 

My life is full. Gloriously full.