Tomato-Mushroom Basil Chicken Pasta

This is the perfect pasta for those allergic to dairy, like myself, who also dine with people that aren’t allergic to dairy! No “normal eater” would think this is lacking on taste or flavour.

This pasta makes for the perfect lunch or dinner.

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Tomato-Mushroom Basil Chicken Pasta

Ingredients

1/2 cup ground chicken, light and dark meat

1/4 white onion, diced

1/3 green bell pepper, chopped

6 baby carrots, diced

3 large cremini mushrooms, chopped

2 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp dried basil

1 tsp salt

2 tsps Montreal chicken seasoning

1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 cup cooked brown rice noodles, or other pasta, cooked

14oz canned diced tomatoes

Method

  1. In medium skillet, saute chicken about 3-5 minutes, or until cooked, over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic, and saute about ten minutes, until very fragrant.
  2. Stir in all spices and balsamic vinegar; mix well. Add tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer about 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning; add more basil/salt as desired.
  3. Serve chicken mixture over pasta topped with parmesan cheese (for dairy-free, use nutritional yeast!)
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Embracing Change… Mourning, Too

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 

Psalm 118:24

Lord, I will rejoice and be glad in YOUR day, no matter what it brings.

Today I woke up extra early to spend some time with Jesus and reading the Bible before getting ready for a training shift at my new job!

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I have always wanted to work at a local, privately owned coffee shop– and particularly this one. I have admired its versatile menus, coffee offerings, and atmosphere for several years, amazed by the work it must have taken its owner to put together. And, now knowing her, I already feel blessed by this passionate, glowing woman who cares for this store and all her customers, is passionate about “healthy” food and brownies alike, and loves serving downtown Kitchener local food and coffee.

The first shift went well, and I am so grateful for my Starbucks experience that helped me to learn quickly and efficiently, allowing me to focus on customers without feeling frazzled. I cannot say enough good things about Starbucks, and the amazing job that it is.

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After this exciting shift, I ventured to a different Starbucks to meet Pastor Nat to go over some important things regarding Youth and Young Adults. I am the youth ministry intern at a church in Waterloo called Creekside, and Nat has been the pastor I’ve been shadowing the past year. I also cannot say enough good things about Nat. And today, what was supposed to be a “work meeting” turned into an incredible conversation about Jesus, pastoring, and some theological sort of stuff. Nat has become a bit of a mentor for me, and I so admire his humble, compassionate spirit after Jesus.

After this meeting, I did a bit of shopping…

I mean, I was right next to the mall…

😉

Many of my friends will tell you I’m the best “saver” they know, and recently I’ve been thinking a lot about just how blessed I am… and how much I sort of “hoard” money. By no means am I saying saving is bad thing– or that I should be spending more on myself. But that I have a lot to give; of myself and gifting that Jesus wants to use, yes, but also tangibly in money. And I save strategically in order to give back, because all money is God’s money and for His purposes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t buy myself a pair of pants every once in a while!
And so I excitedly expanded my wardrobe just a little bit today for the first time in a while with some new capris and shorts.

One of the highlights of my day was a lovely phone call with my mom, where I told her about my new job. My mom is so lovely, so congratulatory and expressing her pride in me so emphatically. I love her so much, and just hearing her voice made me so joyful.

Colouring much of my day was EXCITEMENT in that my JOHNNY is home in like three days for the whole summer. So much is changing– getting used to two new jobs and no classes, plus my wonderful boyfriend here– but it’s all so good and excited, and I’m rejoicing in all that GOD is doing and grasping for Him moment by moment. Your will be done in this job, in my relationships, in my every second, my Jesus. 

The hardest change by far will be Maddie and Autumn moving out of our house. While Beth, Mary, and I are staying together for the summer in our little apartment, Maddie and Autumn are working from their homes. We will still see them loads, but our house is truly a beautiful little family of the most rare kind. I will NEVER forget this amazing year with four girls who I look up to in different ways, and love with all my heart. But the Lord is doing new things, and they will always be some of my best friends.

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Tonight has been full of cleaning, a great trip to the gym, catching up on writing work for LeadManaging, the company I’m curating blog content for, amazing conversations and laughs with my roomies, and trying to savour every moment and give it to Jesus. He is so good, and I pray that my days only flow more in His Spirit.

Jesus, I know you’re all I want when I turn to ______ instead. I know YOU’RE all I need when I think I want something else. I know You’re the answer, the source, the Beginning and the End. May my days glorify You, my life be an outpouring of Your Spirit, and Your Spirit fall afresh in every new thing You’ve called me to this summer. 

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19

 

Top 5 Favourite Things About Being a Barista

My beautiful friend and Starbucks co-workers, Ashlie , decided to take some photos of me on the job. The photos inspired my work, and me to dwell on some of the things I absolutely adore about being a barista.

5. My co-workers inspire me.

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If I’m having a particularly unmotivated day, or just feel like going through the motions, sometimes all it takes is a wonderful co-worker to motivate me, and remind me of what is truly important. For example, my wonderful co-worker Mason today slowed down every customer I saw him interact with, asking everybody how their day was, chatting with them as if they were long lost friends, and truly caring about each individual. I work with great people, and can learn something from everyone’s walk.

4. I’m passionate about coffee and food.

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I dream of opening a coffee shop/eatery myself one day, and am very passionate about good quality coffee, food that is delicious and food that is healthy, and all the many types of lattes and espresso beverages that exist. It is truly an art!

3. I love making beverages and challenging myself to move more quickly without sacrificing taste and quality.

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Coffee is an art; literally a visual art, as baristas can create designs with their milk in the espresso, and an art in learning exactly how espresso works. I have so loved learning how to make all Starbucks’ standard beverages, creating combos of my own, and improving upon my ability and skill on the bar.

2. I love the atmosphere, and am passionate about the community feel of coffee.

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Sometimes I will just glance over the espresso machines at the cafe and smile over the full room of conversations, studiers, and laughter; first dates (my first date with Johnny was in a Starbucks!) and business meetings. I love that people can come together over a good cup of coffee.

1.My customers inspire me. IMG_9269

There is nothing like having your day made by a person whose path you never would have crossed without the connection of coffee. I seek to see all those I interact with through the Lord’s eyes– as His beloved children.

Why I Believe the Butterflies Never End: Love that Grows

This weekend, I had the honour of being a bridesmaid to such a beautiful and inspiring woman in my life, Emily.

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Here is the speech I gave at the reception:

I first met Emily when I was this awkward grade nine and she was in grade twelve, in school choir. To me, Em was the beautiful senior who was simply waaaaaay older than me, with her life already together. She also always wore sandals, always wore sunglasses on top of her head– even inside and even in winter– and was always so simply beautiful. Like an actual naturally beautiful cover girl.

Flash forward, and Em asks me to sing in a worship band with her when she found out I was a Christian. Through and through, I got to know the sweetest soul and most angelic singer. And, most importantly, I got to know her heart for our mighty Jesus.

When high school was over, we didn’t see each other… until one day, I ran into Em at a bus stop. It was one of those “am I gonna say something?” moments, but Em came right over to me. “It’s been so long!” she said. And we took the bus together, talking all the way and just feeding off each other’s energy. I remember feeling God’s Spirit in her so tangibly.

Em was so intentional about planning a coffee date, and from there, it was like the most natural, beautiful sister-ship formed. Jesus had said quite simply, “here’s a sister for you who loves Me most. Who knows that I’m who she’s meant to live for. Who will challenge you and point you to Me.”

And, my word, who is refreshingly honest, humbly sweet, and amazingly compassionate.

Emily has amazed me from that day forward with grace, strength, and a fierce heart for Jesus. She has been such an exceptional friend and light for Jesus in my life, and has made a huge impact on me. She reminds me that His strength is made perfect in weakness.

All these past few days leading up to the wedding, I’ve been thinking about my vision of Em as a cover girl. She’s been so chill about this wedding because she just cares that Jesus is here and given glory. I know why I thought she was a cover girl: she’s “easy, breezy, and beautiful.”

Jay, nurture that goofy, strong, beautiful soul and let it soar, because she’s a powerhouse. I so trust you with Em, and I have come to so trust the kind heart you are and the Father you’ve found in Jesus. Thank you for loving her preciously, and being her second love!

I love you both, and am so honoured and privileged to know you and the love that Jesus has united you in.

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I have always been a romantic person, and believed deeply that, in marriage, one should fall more in love with their husband or wife every single day, that love growing deeper, seeing new heights, and discovering new butterflies.

Obviously, by no means am I an expert on marriage. I’m not married, and you have every right to think I’m a naive 20-year-old.

But I have reason and evidence for believing this that begins with what– WHO– I believe to be the purpose of life.

Jesus Christ, who sacrificed His perfect self for a sinful people so that we might live to serve Him, also came to dwell in us. And when we ask Him for His understanding– when we ask Him for His eyes to see our spouse/significant other/friend the way HE sees and loves them– when we know that He died just as much for that person as He did for any other– when we know that His love is one that surpasses all understanding…

When HE is our first love, first priority, and go-to person, and NOT our significant other, we don’t stop loving, because He doesn’t.

Isn’t that pretty amazing?

Emily’s vows to her husband were really special. They went something like, I vow to love you second. I vow that I will screw up, but look to Jesus.

Jay vowed to be rooted in the Holy Spirit and His Scriptures.

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I believe that broken marriage can be redeemed by the love and Spirit and work and life of Jesus. Jesus has already won the battle over death and the enemy, and by accepting Him, He promises that we enter into new life.

And that “love is patient” verse you always hear at weddings? That’s Truth, and it’s the LIVING Word.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I can say that I love my amazing boyfriend more every day. That I get more butterflies every day, more grateful for him every day, more excited about doing life with him every day. And that’s meaningful only because Jesus has gone before us, called us to love each other and for Him, and for His ETERNAL purposes. What a Kingdom, and what a God! What a romance we have with Jesus alone, and Jesus first.

Deconstructed White Fish Souvlaki

Ever crave seafood?

I don’t know if I’m maybe nutrient deficient in omegas or something– possibly because I don’t eat fish very often at all– but when I was grocery shopping last week, the seafood aisle was just calling my name. I was suddenly so intrigued by the possibilities of different ways to make different fish I’d never heard of.

I roughly followed a recipe when I made the random fish I purchased (orange roughy fish– it was cheap and DELICIOUS), but this is ultimately my own recipe.

This was flavourful, quick and easy, and filling!

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Deconstructed White Fish Souvlaki

Ingredients

200g roughy fish, or other white fish fillet, chopped in thick pieces

1/2 red onion, quartered

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into eight even pieces

2 Tbsp Italian dressing

pinch salt and pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp oregano

2 tsps lemon juice

1/4 large cucumber, thinly sliced

drizzle peanut butter

Method

  1. Arrange the fish, onion, and pepper on a baking sheet. Drizzle on the dressing and spices.
  2. Broil in the oven on the highest heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring veggies and fish every few minutes.
  3. Serve fish arranged with veggies, cucumber drizzled with peanut butter, and drizzled with lemon juice.

 

 

When We Least Expect It

This conversation came up for me multiple times today.

A conversation that involved the words, When we least expect it.

I woke this morning having slept a little later than I wanted to. I had told Autumn I would wake her and we would make breakfast together early, but I was a little late for that. We still got ready together in the morning, but not before I stumbled into a hand-scrawled note at the foot of my door.

Cass, I know you need a printer today, but that you were gonna go to the school cuz you didn’t want to wake me to use mine. I put it in the living room, please use it!

It was from Madds, and the little bit of thoughtfulness made me want to cry. We had a long prayer session last night, when I least expected it. I have been so busy lately and sometimes worldly anxieties try to say, “You don’t need group prayer.” But oh, Jesus knows that’s when we need to be hearing from Him most.

This morning I printed off my longest (and most complicated!) essay of my English major thus far to hand in to my prof, as well as my updated resume. I headed to downtown Kitchener to drop off my resume at a local coffee shop I’ve admired since it opened years ago… and the manager asked me straightaway if I’d like to interview for the position.

Not expecting that.

“Absolutely” was my response, and I was so excited and anxious. With a prayer that Jesus would guide, I interviewed for the spot and had such a wonderful conversation with the talented owner.

After the interview, I headed just up the street to meet my beautiful friend Kathryn, who I haven’t seen in much too long. Our coffee catch up was long overdue and much needed, and I praise the Lord for Kathryn in seeing the genuine healing that has taken place in her life. She is such a special, sweet, beautiful human.

To check out Kathryn’s blog, head here.

After coffee with Kathryn, I headed to meet some girls for a study session for my exam tomorrow.

These are two girls in one of my English classes who just simply out of the goodness of their heart have sent me notes, gone out of their way to encourage me, and invited me to prep for the exam with them. Not whatsoever expected of them, but out of their way. Studying with them, I feel so much more prepared for this exam. We talked about relationships and they asked me about “how I found mine.” I think they often happen when you’re not really looking, I said. It’s true that I met Johnny when I least expected to, that’s for sure.

After the study session, I headed home to beautiful roommates. All of us a little stressed, and a few of us confused about some big next steps, frustrated with hard work and no certainty of what’s next– my roommate Mary said something profound: “Jesus so often works in the last minute.”

The unexpected. In the midst of overwhelm, I know Jesus has gone before me. And it’s all for His sake, my life devoted to Him.

After a bit more studying, I headed out to teach a hip hop class at what I was told was a ” kids’ health fair.” I was hired to teach a 20 minute condensed version of one my the classes I regularly teach.

What I didn’t expect was a public school full of people of all ages, excited to learn hip hop.

I had about 10 minutes to think on my feet, pray, and rework my workshop to make it applicable to all ages at all levels. It was also by far the largest class I’ve ever had.

And by God’s Grace, it went so well, and it seemed everyone had so much fun, including myself. I had honestly been stressed about the little class for no reason at all– and also kindly was paid my regular dance salary for an hour plus a bonus.

I choreographed this all-ages-friendly routine last year, and felt very grateful to have it in my back pocket;).

Talking to the Lord about all these little moments of the unexpected, I am reminded that I wasn’t called to expect of myself, to make the rules, or call the shots. I was called to obey, to expect God’s greatness, and to prepare for it. He is teaching us along the way, and it’s a joyful, often spontaneous ride of service to a mighty, loving Lord.

My Morning Routine

Different things in terms of routine work for different people and lifestyles.

I have found that having a small routine every morning works really well for me, and sets me up for the day. It incorporates a few things I suck at doing right away that ultimately make me feel so much better, and enable me to pour into others because I’ve been poured into, myself.

Bible before phone. “Jesus before anything else,” I remember. Sometimes I wake up and just call His name, and thank Him for being the first person I get to see every day! Naturally, why would I ignore His presence in my room? So I talk to Him, I pray, and I study and read the Bible first thing— and have made it a habit to do so before picking up my phone. Awhile ago I would scroll through social media first thing in the morning, and I don’t think I ever truly realized the negative impact that had on my mentality. But adhering to the truth has helped me; why would I want the first thing I see in the morning to be images of others’ lives when God can help me instead to see why He’s called me to this one?

Up and dressed and make-up. The very next thing I do is get up and choose an outfit for the day. If I’m going to the gym early that day (I’m flexible with workouts depending on my schedule for that day) I’ll get changed into workout gear first thing. Otherwise, my motivation for getting out of bed comes from the fun of picking out an outfit! I’ll go and start my make-up and put my contacts in right after that.

Finally, I make breakfast, and answer emails and texts. I usually have a slue of work emails, texts, and blog comments to reply to, and having this time every day to do so ensures they aren’t piling up. I set my laptop out in the living room, often with some of my other roomies already up and studying, and reply to them whilst eating breakfast. I always make a hearty breakfast— usually banana peanut butter pancakes, or different combos of oatmeal, and it’s almost always a sweet food— and a good coffee.

I give myself a whole three hours just for this routine, so I don’t feel rushed, so I can just talk to the Holy Spirit before immersion in the busy world, and so I’m properly nourished. I really cherish my mornings, and enjoy them.

Do you have a morning routine?

If not, what might work for you?