Cupcakes and Sunshine

Friday, January 20, 2017

velvet taco copycat chicken tikka masala tacos

There are two restaurants I can eat at over and over again in Dallas. First and foremost- HG Sply Co.
I think this is my very favorite place to eat... ever! I have only been a couple of times, but it's my goal to try everything on the menu. (& I can do this because the whole menu is gf!! Happy tears!!) Highly considering a second job to fund my HG and Whole Foods addiction. (half-kidding) They are both way too close and convenient for comfort. Last weekend, we brunched at HG, and I really did almost cry at the table I was so happy. If you're in Dallas, put this one on your list asap!

Velvet Taco is the second restaurant I can eat at over and over again. I do not have any good pictures to show for it because all food is gone before the thought of taking pictures of tacos even crosses my mind!

They have really great outdoor seating, it is open almost 24 hours, and their queso is a dream!! So it is a win-win-win. This past time I visited I learned that their Tikka Masala taco is one of their best-selling tacos. I ordered it... and WOW. It. was. incredible.

But I kept thinking...hmmm, I think I can make this too!?!

Tikka Masala is an Indian dish made with chicken and vegetables in a spicy tomato sauce. I got really hooked on Indian food this past summer when our Athen's Earthfare had Indian hotbar Wednesdays. We'd fill up our to-go boxes after working at the church on Wednesdays, head home to our empty house we were packing up, and watch New Girl in pajamas on the floor with our to-go boxes full of Indian food. Ha! (& then we'd follow with a Ben & Jerry's run to Target afterwards) Special days!

So today, I'm bringing you a recipe for Tikka Masala tacos- inspired by Velvet Taco- except you can make and eat them right at home! So you can watch New Girl. in your pajamas. (and if you want to reminisce on college days, then you can eat them on the floor too!)

They are so, so easy. You can make everything homemade if you'd like, but I used a Tikka Masala Simmer sauce packet (Saffron Road) from Whole Foods...

...added some chicken, made some rice, set out all the taco fixings:

and everything was ready in 20 minutes. You really need to make these!! But just because they are inspired by Velvet Taco's, this doesn't mean you should forego visiting there. You need to do that too! Because their queso is a dream!! And I have no idea how they do that.

Velvet Taco Chicken Tikka Masala Tacos

Corn Tortillas
1/2 pound chicken
Tikka Masala sauce

Taco Fixings: 
Greek yogurt
Jasmine Rice
Chick Peas

1. Cook chicken in Tikka Masala sauce and simmer while getting other ingredients together
2. Warm tortillas in garlic oil/butter
3. Assemble tacos by adding rice, chicken Tikka Masala, and chick peas. Top with yogurt and garnish with parsley.

Happy weekend, friends!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wintertime Citrus Sunrise Smoothie with Truvia® Natural Sweetener

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TasteTruvia #CB #CollectiveBias And always, thank you for your support! Life wouldn't be Cupcakes and Sunshine without ya!

Wowow! Am I SO excited to be back in Texas! I've been on the road the past few weeks and it was a very fun time, but I'm looking forward to being back home, hanging with friends, starting some New Year's goals, and getting back to a schedule.

I'm also very much looking forward to getting back to eating healthy foods! With all the holiday and road travel treats (feeling quite BLEHhh), I'm pumped to get back to all the fruits and vegetables and nutritious meals. All the praise hands for this one, friends.

Over the holidays, I spent a lot of time in Florida, where a few family members grow all kinds of different oranges and grapefruit on trees in their very own backyards. In the mornings, we'd wake up and pick fruit right off the tree. (so cool, right?) So I decided to create a Wintertime Citrus Sunrise Smoothie inspired by fresh citrus and with the help of Truvia® Natural Sweetener Spoonable.

Truvia® is by far my favorite sweetener. I use it in my coffee, tea, and in my smoothies too! It is a zero-calorie, stevia-based sweetener and doesn't have that funky bitter taste. You can find it on the baking isle (I shopped at Kroger!) near the other sweeteners, and you can even try a free sample HERE and grab a coupon HERE. As we all know, I have a major sweet tooth. But life with less sugar is just as sweet.

For this smoothie, you will need some fresh oranges, sliced bananas, a few strawberries, some Greek yogurt, a splash of cranberry juice, and a couple handfuls of crushed ice.

Place all ingredients in a blender and get ready for the very best start to your day!

Wintertime Citrus Sunrise Smoothie Recipe

2 small oranges (peeled)
1 banana
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup ice
2 tsp. Truvia® Natural Spoonable Sweetener

1. Add all ingredients above to blender, and blend 1-2 minutes until everything is smooth. Add a straw and enjoy!!

Hope your new year is off to a great start, friends!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

10 Books I'm Reading in 2017

We are snowed in!

Sort of!

Two inches of snow outside and all of Georgia shuts down. What better day to snuggle in and read a good book then today!?

I've received many suggestions for books to read this year, and I can't wait to start on these! (in between reading for school and studying. hopefully it can be done-ha!) The following are on my list of books to read in 2017:

(sidenote: I don't have many of the following, so if you want to do some tradesies, I can send my books your way and you can send some mine and we can make a book club out of it!?)

1. Present over Perfect (Shauna Niequist):
I read Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine a couple years back, and absolutely loved it. I think it has to be one of my favorite books ever, so when I heard about Present over Perfect, I knew I had to read it as well. The title is already speaking to me. As a self-proclaimed former perfectionist (& still working on it. eek), I'm most excited about this one.

2. Ragamuffin Gospel (Brennan Manning):
I have heard a couple of professors and friends suggest this one, so I'm excited to read it as well. Amazon says... "Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Fifteen Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the "ragamuffins.'"

This sounds like a good one, friends.

3. My Fringe Hours (Jessica N. Turner)
I think I actually heard about this one while listening to Jess Lively's podcasts a few months back. It's an interactive book that dissects how you spend your extra hours and free time here and there.

4. How's Your Soul? (Judah Smith)
My good friend Krista told me about this one. I haven't read any of Judah Smith's books before, but I've heard only good things. PUMPED for this one. 

5. Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis)
I am so excited to read lots of C.S. Lewis this year! I've never read any of C.S. Lewis' books before  and I'm really looking forward to changing this in 2017!!

6. The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

7. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
(so excited)

8. Through the Eyes of a Lion (Levi Lusko)

Speaking of lions, this book has been on my wishlist a long time. I've heard Levi speak the past couple of years at Passion, and this story tells of his family's pursuit of Christ in one of the most difficult times of their lives. It is hopeful and encouraging.

9. Breaking Busy: Finding Peace and Comfort in a World of Crazy (Alli Worthington)
Amazon suggested this one for me, and I think Amazon may know me a little too well. But I think it sounds great! Finding peace and purpose in a world of crazy?! Yes please! Has anyone read this one?  

10. My Utmost for His Highest: (Oswald Chambers)
I've heard from so many that this is a powerful devotional full of wisdom. Ready for it!

Any good reads you're looking forward to this year? Or have any that I should read?!
Happy, happy Saturday friends! Hope it's a good one.

Friday, January 6, 2017

2017 word of the year: community

I think 2016 has been the fastest year yet. I blinked and then BOOM. We're here! Looking right at 2017! The end of some seasons, some big life changes, chapter closings, the start of new chapters, and a few adventures sprinkled in here and there. Through it all, God has been faithful. Through my doubts and insecurities, He provides and loves me more than I can imagine.

The New Year is one of my favorite days. Not because of New Year's eve/day itself (this past one was a great one! More on that in a little bit), but because of a fresh start with new goals and a yearly bucketlist of big dreams and travels. 

A few years ago, I had a friend who told me she started praying about a word of the year to keep in mind and I thought it was the greatest idea so I followed suit! Words are my favorite, and mean a lot. 

In 2015, my word was TRUST,
In 2016, my word was REST,
and I've been praying about my 2017 word of the year and have come to the word  

I was off to a rough start in the beginning of my move to Dallas this past year, and I think my lack of finding community in Texas contributed to that. I knew a couple people from Georgia in Dallas, but besides that- I didn't know anyone! I think things continually spiraled down from there when I made "figuring life out in Dallas" a priority over relationships. I spent more time applying for jobs, studying for classes, and stressing about silly things over finding community. I have to be careful about where I prioritize my time because I can easily start believing the lie that I am doing this life on my own. Scripture says some great things on community, and my life has been changed by community. This year, I'm saying YES to community all around!!

I really want to be PRESENT and to find community in the in the specific places the Lord has me this year. I've broken them down to three areas I spend most of my time. 

School: I don't live on campus, which makes getting on campus a little more difficult, but this year I want to say YES to all school activities and gatherings. I want to study on campus and be present on campus. I crave people and relationships and want to know the people I go to school with!

My "Neighborhood": 

Okay, this picture^^ makes me laugh 1. because we didn't really know each other when we took it and now are great friends and 2. because we are all from Georgia, went to UGA, and WERE NEIGHBORS...and didn't know each other until we moved to Texas and started going to the same school... again. We all once lived in the same small neighborhood in Athens, GA within a couple hundred feet of each other- and really had no idea who each other was until we moved 853 miles across the country. 

I live in an apartment off-campus (my "neighborhood"), and really want to meet and know my neighbors this year. Our apartment has many gatherings and dinners, and I haven't been to one of them since moving to Dallas! (?!) This year, I want to meet and know my neighbors. People from all walks of life live in my apartment, and I am really looking forward to getting to know them. You never know- you might end up 850 miles across the US in the same city attending the same school with these neighbors!

Church: I am leading a small group at my church this year, and each of the ladies in our small group has decided to make our small group community a priority in 2017! I'm so excited for this one. 

The ladies in my small groups throughout the past few years have become some of my very best friends, pointed me towards Jesus, have held me accountable, have prayed with me and for me, and have encouraged me. The Lord has changed my life through small group communities! Can't wait to kick off 2017 with our group. 

I did start off the New Year with great company (/community) back on the east side of the US: 

A few of the old roomies got together for some hiking...


...eating, and board games to ring in 2017 in Chattanooga. And it was the very best time!!

I don't think it gets better than jammies and board games into the wee hours of January 1st. 

and also, everything is funny at 3:30am. 

Thankful to do life with these friends! 

We then headed back down to Georgia for Passion 2017. and WOW was it incredible! Worshiping with 55,000 other students and hearing truth from some inspirational leaders who have lived life saying YES to Jesus no matter what- just wow. God is so good, and I'm incredibly thankful to be a part of this community as well.

If this year is anything like the first week, then I'd be surprised if 2017 is not the best year yet!!

Monday, December 19, 2016

the very best of 2016!!

Can't believe that it is already the end of 2016!! Christmas isn't even here yet, but I have some time to kill in the airport and thought I'd go ahead and share some of my very favorite things about the year!!

(*also airport frugal travel win of the day- just volunteered to pass on my flight and arrive just a few hours later at my destination and received a $1000 travel voucher!! WHERE TO NEXT!?!) 

The very best of 2016....

1. Haiti:

This was the most incredible trip. The Lord changed my heart in many ways through it, and I met some incredible people with hearts ON FIRE for Jesus.

Just knowing them has changed me too. Haiti was my favorite memory this year, and I can't wait to go back!

2. Disney:

The day before New Year's, my cousin and I were hanging out in South Carolina trying to figure out what to do for New Year's Eve. We jumped in the car, drove straight to Florida, and started off the new year with Mickey. (WE MADE IT IN THE PARK 15 MINUTES BEFORE IT CLOSED TO ANYMORE GUESTS BECAUSE IT WAS AT MAX CAPACITY. CLOSE ONE!) It was the best way to start off the new year. We went to Disney again this summer for post-grad celebrations. So nice, we had to do it twice.

3. Graduation:

Graduation was bittersweet! The closing of the best four-year chapter. And the start of a new one.

4. Summer in Athens:

This past summer was one of the best. Sometimes I think I have to travel somewhere or do something out-of-the-ordinary to have a good time. But the Lord's hand is in the EXTRAORDINARY of every day. This summer was just fun- soaking up all of Athens one last time before moving to Texas. Did all the Athens things, ran all the Athens trails, ate all the Athens food, hung out with all the Athens people.

also- Kels got married....

 a lot of ice-cream was consumed...

and we spent much time in the ATL

Athens, you are extra special and I still love ya!

5. Moved to Texas:

I moved to Texas in 2016!! What an adventure. Drove across the United States, moved in with some new roomies, met some incredible friends, have had some wonderful Texas adventures (and made pinky promises of more to come!!)


6. Started at DTS:

Wow, has DTS been incredible too. I learn so much each day and it has been a transforming journey. To be able to dive deep and learn more about Jesus each day has been an extraordinary blessing. The wisdom and discernment of leaders and professors here is magnificent.  I'm so very excited about these next few years!

7. RESTed

In the beginning of the year, one of my good friends encouraged me to pray about a word of the year. REST has been my 2016 word that I've tried to lean into (& something I've always struggled with doing intentionally.) Resting from worry, busyness, anxiety, overthinking, the daily hustle. It's been tough, but I feel more rested than ever!

"Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find REST for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30

8. This post-
I wrote it in 2014, but it has been my most-viewed post of 2016. Over 29,000 people have read it this year. WOW! (thank you accidental SEO-ha!) So if you need some Plato's Closet tips, they're right here.

Some other most-viewed posts of 2016:

2016 has been full of so much JOY and fun. Lots of big milestones and full of friends both new and old! I really can't wait to see what's in store for 2017. Until then, I'm off to finish up some papers and hop on this airplane! Happy, happy Monday friends!


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