Chicken in the Van (Chicken Divan)

I embarrassingly and hilariously thought this meal I ate once, made by my mother-in-law, was called “Chicken in the Van”… it’s chicken, baked with creamy, cheesy, breadcrumby goodness. I’m pretty sure no one out here talks faster than I do, so I must just listen too slow. What sounded like “Chick-in-da-van” had to be “Chicken in the Van” in my mind! Since being corrected, I learned Chicken Divan was a dish named after the place it was created, the Divan Parisienne Restaurant in New York City.chickendivan2

Ah well, I blame it on the fact that casseroles weren’t a thing in the house I grew up in. However, Chicken, Broccoli, & Cheddar is seriously one of my favorite combinations ever. I just had to try out this recipe while my husband is out of the house and will come home later looking for food.

I used 1 package of broccoli and 1/2 of a cauliflower. Carb lovers are encouraged to serve with rice! As a low carb option, you could do cauliflower “rice” on the side and keep the amount of broccoli. It takes a good amount of motivation for me to pull my food processor out, so I opted for mixing the two.


*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • 2 bunches broccoli or 2 packages frozen
  • 16 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts (whole, sliced, or cubed)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • paprika to taste

For the sauce: you can use 2 cans of cream of broccoli, chicken, etc. soup -or-

  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 5 tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons medium-dry Sherry


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add cooked broccoli to a 9 x 13 baking dish. Season the chicken breasts with salt & pepper, then cook in olive oil until lightly browned. Place/arrange the chicken on the broccoli.chix

To make the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook the roux, stirring for 3 minutes. Slowly add the broth, sherry, and milk while stirring. Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Add a 1/2 cup of the cheese and whisk until it’s incorporated.chickendivan1

Pour the sauce on top of the broccoli. and chicken. Melt 2 tbs butter and mix with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese and breadcrumbs on top of the chicken and broccoli. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.chickendivanchickeninthevan

Are you sure those aren’t poisonous?

A good portion of our acreage is this untouched overgrowth (eek). We have been trying to wrap our minds around some form of landscaping. Big ideas also require big budgets and big effort.


We see these tiny, red specks popping up everywhere. My husband, being from out here in the ‘country’ and more of a risk-taker, had no hesitation climbing right up to the bushes (I’d rather be prepared against things such as poison ivy and ticks).

A closer look revealed several wild black raspberry and wineberry (I had never heard of those before) bushes surrounding our little home! I won’t lie, my first response was… “Are you sure?” “You’re sure those are safe to eat?” “Are you sure those aren’t poisonous?” “How do you know they aren’t poison?”berries

He was sure, and I was delighted when he came back inside with a pile of juicy black raspberries! I’m more familiar with typical blackberries and don’t know if I’ve had a black raspberry before. They’re sweet little morsels and such a yummy treat on a summer day.


James 5:7-8 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

A neighbor stopped to chat while walking his dog and admitted he’s picked the berries in the years no one lived here. I laughed and told him he can still do that for being an honest man, and there will definitely be plenty more. Now that I know what they are, I am waiting to get out there and pick some myself as they ripen. I am so looking forward to eating these raspberries sitting in what will be our patio. I cannot avoid feeling grateful for such a blessing we have been given to enjoy and share with others in the midst of all the wild brush.



The Giving Garden

The company I work for has an employee-run, charitable, organic and sustainable vegetable garden of 22 4×12 foot cypress beds, appropriately named the Giving Garden, that was built in 2013. We donate 2,000+ pounds of food per year to people in need in our local communities. It’s amazing to see the produce that has grown from seeds/seedlings we planted just two months ago!lettuce

My heart aches thinking about all of the people in need and children starving because they cannot afford grocery store prices, and even worse healthy options, while I am able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I have always felt led to do something about it besides the holiday season food drives and clothing drop-offs.

This past week, I’ve dedicated more time to weeding and harvesting in the garden. I’m discovering what foods should look, feel, and taste like. I also had the privilege of delivering 85 lbs of produce to a local food pantry, and went on a tour of the facility to learn about poverty and hunger in our own town.


(kohlrabi & zucchini)

1 John 3:17-18 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

I’m thankful we can share this deliciousness with others and enjoy some of it, too, as a reward for our work. There were a couple of too big and too small, yet beautiful turnips I got to take home.

I pray that one day we will grow a Giving Garden on our property and provide for others as we have been blessed.

(swiss chard – boil or sauté)
(hybrid cabbage – slaw, boil, sauté) cabbage(dino kale – sauté or braise in broth)kale

(almost a cherry tomato)
(yellow zucchini – raw, grill, sauté, “zoodles”)yellowsquash
(purslane *a weed but also a nutrient-rich food source* – raw & soon to be sweet potatoes)
(green/string beans – raw, blanched, steamed, sauté)beans
(kohlrabi: bulb – bake slices, slaw or fry matchsticks, roasted, sauté; stems – sauté)barrow
(turnips – any way you’d use a potato)turnips
(green/string beans)


Protein Bowl

When in doubt, make a hash! I had to come up with a way to use the massive butternut squash that’s been sitting on our kitchen counter. I basically threw a cornucopia of veggies, protein, + seasoning in a pan. The first of a few upcoming “clean out the fridge” meals.

Ground turkey is still super weird to me but it was on sale, so some fresh herbs, lemon garlic dressing, & Sriracha give it the flavor it’s lacking.

Don’t these baby potatoes look like gemstones?! We still have half the squash left, too, if you have any ideas!


*note: we strive for organics + grass-fed meat/dairy

  • A handful of baby potatoes
  • 1/2 of a large butternut squash
  • 16 oz ground turkey (or other protein)
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 6 oz white sweet corn
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh (or dried) thyme, parsley, rosemary, and sage – to taste
  • Garlic powder, onion powder, paprika – to taste
  • Salt & pepper – to taste
  • Fresh lemon (juice) – to taste
  • Tessemae’s Organic Lemon Garlic dressing/marinade
  • Chicken broth for deglazing pan


Marinate ground turkey with herbs and lemon garlic dressing (you can make your own w/ lemon juice, minced garlic, OO, S&P). Saute diced squash, potatoes, onions, and garlic in olive oil on med-high heat. Add 2 tbs olive oil to a skillet and brown the ground turkey. Season with other spices to taste. Deglaze the pans with chicken broth to add extra flavor and moisture. Mix the meat into the veggies or serve on top. Drizzle with extra dressing and/or Sriracha sauce.

To eat organic, or not to eat organic… That is the question.

I am a proud penny pincher and generally a skeptic, but I decided to make some changes for my health and wellness. My mentality had been “take it or leave it” in regards to organic food, and I am not as active as I should be. (I just got a FitBit through a program at work, so this is on the up and up.) We used to live two traffic lights away from the grocery store which was so convenient. When I go grocery shopping, I’m in there for at least 2 hours checking the circular, coupons, and most importantly labels. I make up meals in my mind as I go through each aisle thoughtfully. I enjoy seeing the produce and finding new inspiration for my cooking.

It was a struggle to not crunch numbers and pick things up-put them back-pick them up-push the cart and not look back. My goal has always been to get enough food for a couple weeks at a time. I made it out alive with a cart full of organic foods and convinced myself it’s worth investing in our health first and foremost, rather than saving money (though I still love a good deal). Educating myself on the current food/agriculture industry in the US has been mind-blowing. I personally was not paying any attention to added hormones, antibiotics, and preservatives. I understand that the labeling system is all sorts of marketing jargon, but it’s just not possible right now for us to get all of our produce from farmers’ markets or really know what “cage free”, “free range”, “vegetarian fed”, “grass fed”, etc. all means. I am committed to the new diet, and am truly curious to see if we notice changes in our bodies.

1. Where do you get your organic produce?
2. How do you stay motivated and away from processed or packaged food?
3. What are some organic or grass-fed meat/dairy brands to look for snacks, easy meals when in rush, breakfast foods?


Welcome to Willow Creek Cottage

oursWe weren’t planning on buying a house. Only three months had passed since our wedding when we decided to casually check out some houses, and ended up putting in an offer. We went in low and were beat by another couple. Cue a big, fat reality check. You would think that we would reconsider buying, but now we wanted to find our first home. We had already envisioned our future Christmas mornings and elaborate renovations of making a house our own scribbled on napkins and scraps of paper. By mid-October, we found a traditional Cape with a ton of potential in our top location, only to have the deal fall through weeks before closing due to the appraisal.

peonyThe stress and emotions between negotiations, paperwork, the winter season, full-time jobs, and money lost on the process got the best of us. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into at this point. With the added pressure of a lease renewal and stalking the MLS and Zillow 24/7, my husband sent me a listing of a house I had already seen and added to Trash weeks ago. The moment we heard the seller was going to pull the house off the market the day they received our offer, we knew this was providential. I’ll save you all the drama that followed (i.e. do NOT switch jobs when applying for a loan) and fast forward to the happy ending. That modern Saltbox nestled in a patch of woods at the bottom of a big hill is ours. I never could have imagined this. I’m a Jersey girl with an affection for vintage style. I don’t understand streets without streetlights or sides without sidewalks or neighborhoods without neighbors close enough that you basically live in each other’s homes.

Hosea 6:3 “Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”


The weekend before we closed on the house in March, a snowstorm came through and had us on our knees praying everything would finally work out. I totally get why the real estate market dips through winter. My husband was also away for the whole first week of our home ownership! But, the snow started melting, the air got warmer, and soon enough green was bursting everywhere. I’m still in awe that we actually did it. We are three months passed our move-in day, and feeling pretty settled.


We’ve had some funny moments (i.e. do NOT keep a lawnmower in your basement) and some frustrating moments (i.e. so. many. bugs.) and some real, sweet moments (i.e. watching a mama deer with her fawn from our back deck). I love stepping outside, hearing the small creek flowing, and seeing, smelling, discovering new things on our little piece of land in this big world.






Into The Wild

“I’d like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” – Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

In the past 5 years, I have encountered a new state, a new life, a new faith, a new marriage, a new job, a new house, and now a new blog.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Throughout it all, there has been trial and there has been abundant joy. My joy is found in good conversation, in my kitchen, and in Christ. My hope is to share it with the world!

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