Stocking Up

A few weekends I ago I got wild and made 3 different frozen meals to have on hand for when my bandwidth for a home cooked meal is stretched in a few weeks (one more week than I probably would like honestly).   

I made split pea soup, beef stew, and smokey turkey mole.  I wanted to make one easy recipe (split pea), one meal by itself (beef stew), and one option where you can cook some rice, defrost meal and be set (mole).  I also made butternut squash and pumpkin soup for Thanksgiving, froze it, and will bring to my in-laws. 

My split pea recipe is a homemade one, I have been making split pea for years.  An all-time fave.  I started to use beef broth as it gives it such a rich yummy flavor.  You could switch out chicken or vegetable stock easily. 

Split Pea Soup:

2 T olive oil 
1 bag dried split peas (picked though)
3 carrots, diced into small 1/2" pieces
3 celery stalks, diced into small 1/2" pieces
1 yellow onion, diced into 1/2" pieces
6 cups (or more) beef broth 
1-2 bay leaves
Salt and cracked pepper
1/4 t red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 slices bacon (optional) 
hard cheese rind (optional)

If using bacon, cook it in a large pot/dutch oven on medium heat until crispy.  Remove bacon and add chopped onion, carrot and celery.  Cook until soft, roughly 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper while stirring.  Add split peas and let toast for 2 minutes with the vegetables.  Add garlic cloves and red pepper flakes.  After 1 minute add broth, bay leaves, and rind.  Bring heat up to high and once it reaches boil bring soup down to medium low, cover pot with lid half way and cook for 45 to an hour. Check the doneness of the peas and the liquid level.  If needed, add more broth or water to pot while soup simmers.  Once peas are cooked use an immersion blender to blend approximately half (this is my preference) of the soup, leaving some of the texture as well.  

Let soup cool completely (I leave it overnight on the stove, hasn't killed me yet) and then put into medium freezer safe containers.  Good up to 6 months or so. 

A word on containers - eye your freezer and buy containers that will most economically fit your freezer space.  Also unless you have a family of 4-6, buy containers that are on the smaller side so you can defrost portions for 1-2 meals at a time instead of living off a vat of soup for a week exclusively. 

Beef and Guinness Stew 
Adapted from Cooking Light 

3 T canola oil, divided 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes 
5 cups chopped onion (about 3 onions) 
1 T tomato paste 
4 cups beef broth 
1 (11.2-ounce) bottle Guinness Stout 
1 T raisins 
1 T all spice
1 t black pepper 
1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices carrot (about 8 ounces) 
1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices parsnip (about 8 ounces)
1 cup (1/2-inch) cubed peeled turnip (about 8 ounces) 

Heat 1.5 T oil in large dutch oven.  Meanwhile coat all pieces of beef in flour.  Add 1 T of salt and pepper to flour if you would like a bit more flavor.  Take half of the beef and brown on all sides in dutch oven.  Remove beef once browned and add other 1.5 T of oil and other half of uncooked beef to brown.  Remove once cooked and place all beef in bowl/plate for later use.  Add chopped onion and cook on medium for 8-10 minutes, until soft.  Stir in tomato paste, broth, and beer, using a wooden soup to loosen all brown bits from bottom and sides of pot.  Put meat back in pot with raisins, all spice and pepper.  Add any salt to taste.  Cook uncovered for 45 minutes on low.  Then add carrots, parsnips, and turnips to pot, cover and simmer on low for 20 -30 minutes.  You want the veggies to cook through but not be too mushy.  Then remove lid and cook an additional 10 minutes uncovered if veggies are not too overdone.  If they are done, you can skip this step.  Cool completely and put in freezer containers.  

Smokey Turkey Mole
Adapted from Cooking Light
1/2 cup roasted almonds 
1/2 t vegetable oil 
2 dried Anaheim chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (found at Whole Foods)
1 cup chopped onion 
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 7-ounce can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (this is what gauges the spiciness of the dish, adjust accordingly to preference)
1 1/2 cups fire-roasted crushed tomatoes 
1 T sugar 
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t salt 
1/4 t ground cloves
1 1/2 cup corn tortilla chips 
14 1/2-ounce vegetable broth 
1 T white vinegar
3 cups chopped cooked turkey breast
Cilantro sprigs (optional, for serving)

Place almonds in a food processor; process until smooth (about 2 1/2 minutes), scraping sides of bowl once. Set aside.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add Anaheim chiles; sauté 1 minute or until softened. Add onion and garlic; cook 4 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add half of contents of adobo chile (peppers and sauce) to pot. Add tomatoes and next 6 ingredients (tomatoes through broth); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into food processor; process until smooth. Return mixture to pan; stir in almond butter and vinegar; cook 1 minute. Stir in turkey.  Let cool on stove and put into freezer containers.  I used ziplock bags for this for individual portions. I lay them flat so they would freeze that way for maximum storage potential. 



Well I have been back and forth about getting back into posting things for a few months now. This year has been a whirlwind of change, good change. We moved to back to Chicago, switched jobs, bought a place, and are waiting upon a new addition scheduled to show up in early December.  We are grateful for this time in our lives.

I wanted to attempt to restart sharing a few things with my little readership.  Holidays are almost upon us.  I relish in being back somewhere with four seasons (even though one is a bit too long and cold, cannot have it all).

Here are a links for this Friday.  Have a nice weekend!

These one room challenge reveals could take a few days to look over in a procrastination daze. So wonderful.  (I LOVED these sconces from one of the bathroom reveals.)

I am again in charge of soup for Thanksgiving.  This year I'm going classic with Ina and this recipe. I will make it this weekend and freeze it (omitting the cream and adding that when we reheat on Thanksgiving day). I make a few tweaks in adding more spices and garlic, will try to post when I make it.  

Just bought this book.  My friend just read it and I asked if I had.  No, and I like a good cult classic. A little dark, a good read I hope!

Next week a small group will launch an articles club via A Cup of Jo.  I will update on how it goes.   Everyone was so relieved to be in something with not as much of preparation commitment, we have a fun group of ladies and I will make good dips with wine on hand.  Not much else you need for a weeknight success I think/hope.

Images via 1, 2


Recipes on the list - spring theme!

Warning: if you hate peas, come back to this blog another day.

I'm not sure if everyone knows my love for peas.  I have a bag or two of frozen in my freezer at all times.  They are sweet, add such nice color to dishes and are cute.  That cute comment is a serious one. Peas make the composition of dishes look much better, and I love the taste.  Fresh peas in spring are a real treat.  Here are a few pea recipes I will be making in the coming weeks.  Let me know if you try one and what you think!

Toast with lemony pea mash from Bon Appetit  magazine.  I cannot WAIT to make this. Also something you could make ahead for a party/cocktail spread which is nice.

Springtime frittata from Yummly.  Frittatas are a great weeknight dish.  Scrambled eggs in a more civilized form.  This also makes a great leftover lunch on its own or served on top of arugula with a little vinaigrette.

This Minty Pea Soup from Bon Appetit looks so light and springy.  Reminds me of a dish served at a bridal or baby shower, ladies lunching in the best possible way.

Ina's Pesto Pea Salad is amazing.  My mother in law made it a few years ago and I still remember it.  A great spring/summer side dish with grilled chicken or by itself for a light dinner maybe even enjoyed while sitting outside!

All images from links provided.


Spring doors

Spring is not really kicking into the gear at the pace desired (so I hear).   I wanted to post a few doorways with a spring theme as a mini pick up for this Tuesday.  

Here's to wishing for little buds blooming as soon as possible!

All images via my Pinterest


Weekend recap

Happy almost spring!  It happens Thursday!

I'm off a great weekend, my dad and stepmom came into town.  We went to our favorite treat Miami spot for dinner and then crossed off a Miami bucket list activity on Saturday.  On Saturday night we went to Whisk, our cozy neighborhood locale for an easy, tasty dinner or brunch.  Their avocado BLT, Pimento cheese toast, and BBQ chicken salad are my faves.


Images via and.


On my Spring list

For Spring I am eyeing a few things I might nab. They are....

New makeup brushes.  I have this Sephora brush (great for gym bag/travel) and one Bobbi Brown eyeliner brush, then applying everything else with my fingers.  It may be time to refresh this.  These brushes from Target are right on the price.

These shoes are adorable.  I saw them first on Sequins and Stripes and the more I see, the more I want to have!  Great shoes to pair with all my solid clothing....

These linen tops from Old Navy look much more expensive than they are.  I have the blue, but think I the black and white will be a solid staple update.

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Recipe recap - mango salsa

It is Spring in Miami.  It is like everyone puts on a fresh pair of contacts each morning.  The air is free of humidity.  It is clearer, crisper, and what everyone loves about South Florida this time of year.

On Sunday I made fish tacos for dinner.  I found another Trader Joe's staple, their corn taco shells.  I like the texture of a corn soft tortilla.  Here they are in case you want to try - 

Onto the tacos. I sauteed some white fish in a pan with cumin, salt and pepper, served with shredded cabbage, black refried beans (another pantry staple in our house), feta crumbles, and a fresh mango salsa.  I winged the salsa recipe, it turned out quite nicely.  I thought I would share - 

Mango salsa 

2 mangos - not too firm, not to ripe, just right if you can...diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced into small pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced into small pieces
1/2 red onion, diced into small as you can get pieces
1/2 cup cilantro chopped and destemed
salt to taste

This made a lot. I have been eating it as a salad dressing on a fish taco salad of sorts for lunch yesterday and today.  You could half this recipe if it was for two people and still have leftovers for sure.  

Tortilla image via, all the rest via my iPhone. 


What I'm reading

I have read a few very good books lately.  Here's a brief run-down, as well as a couple on my short "to read" list.  Any suggestions I'm missing?

The Silver Star by Jeanette Walls.  Years ago I read The Glass Castle and remembered really enjoying it.  Full disclosure - I bought this book in the SFO Hudson News airport kiosk, as it seemed the pick of the litter.  I read it all the way back east. And it was. Her descriptions of people and their interactions are true and lovely.

Going Clear - Hollywood, Scientology and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright.  This book is insane.  The first hundred pages are a bit dense and then you feel as if you are reading science fiction, but nope, it happened.  Wright did painstaking research and I recommend reading this NYT review for more info.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.  A piece was done on Meg yesterday on NPR.  It is a great coming of age, Reality Bites type theme but with the creative detail and imagination of a wonderful story. Friendships change over time as life develops and plays out.  These friends meet at summer camp, exploring their successes in life as viewed through their own lenses and their friends as they grow into adulthood.  A great book. 

To Read 

The Most Of Nora Ephron.  I gave this to a friend for our Secret Santa exchange.  Wry humor about women in the world and all the roles we play and dodge and embrace.  This is most of her essays over time compiled into one volume to keep for a long time.

One More Thing by GJ Novak. Honestly, I do not think about reading this book.  A Cup of Jo's review convinced me to give it a shot, "It's one of those books you're excited to read at the end of a long day—you actually laugh out loud and then think about the story as you're falling asleep."

Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and The Wild Heart of Football by Rich Cohen.  I learned about this book from a WSJ review and knew I had to give it to R.  This is a great book to give any guy (or girl!) in your life with a love for Chicago and the Bears.  I gave it to R for Christmas, then gave it to his brother for his birthday, then we just gave his dad a copy for Valentine's Day.  Sometimes you really hit the mark with a gift, and this did it.  

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Be my guest - part two

January to April is high visitor season in these parts.  Family and friends from the north trickle down in search of Vitamin D and in hopes of replenishing color to their extremities.

The first thing I do is a sweep of the guest bathroom in preparation of their arrival.  This includes bleaching shower, sink and toilet; putting out fresh towels and bathmat.  I put a new guest soap by the sink and in the shower, making sure there is tons of toilet paper below the sink (so no one has to ask).  I keep my old blowdryer below the sink and also have a little first-aid kit with bandaids, nail clippers, Advil, and nail polish remover.  On the back of the toilette I keep a stash of sunscreen and a bowl with q-tips and cotton balls.  I try to put a single bloom on the sink and ta-daaaa the bathroom is ready for guests.


Breakfast rotation weekdays

I literally do not understand skipping breakfast.  I shut down mentally and the day is off to a hangry (hunger mixed with anger - anyone?) start.  Some mornings I sit down in my kitchen, but most days I am eating in the car on the way to work or once I sit down at work to do my morning email scroll.

My weekday breakfast rotation is greatly helped by a Sunday afternoon meal prep which normally includes hard boiling 4-6 eggs to keep in the fridge for the week.  I stock up on yogurts, put breakfast cereal in snack sized ziplocks in the fridge next to yogurt, and slice up fruit and keep in the fridge.  I keep a jar of peanut butter at work so I can get protein with a piece of fruit or toast if I just grab an apple or banana with a slice of bread.  Overnight oatmeal is a fun breakfast if I it prepare the night before.  I will post on my overnight oats the next time I make it.  Smoothies also make themselves into the mix, but I need to have enough time to prepare and clean up, so they are sprinkled a bit more rarely into my rotation.

I try to make my next day lunch when I'm cleaning up the kitchen from dinner and packing it all up so it is taken care of in that moment.  Preparation my friends.

The hard boiled egg piece has gotten much better with time.  My personal method is as follows -

  • Use older eggs (not straight from the market), they peel easier.
  • Put eggs in pot covered with room temp water and bring pot to a boil.
  • Remove pot from heat, cover with lid, and set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Have colander ready with some ice and with slotted spoon.  Remove eggs and put in colander with ice water running over eggs sitting atop the ice.
  • Clean up kitchen and then place eggs in bowl in fridge, peeling before eating.
Start your day off right dear readers!

Images via My Pinterest


February here we come

January flew.  We had an out of town wedding, my mom came to Miami for a ladies staycation, and I just got back from a long work trip to DC and Baltimore.  February I can already feel is going to move. This is quite different from living in the north, when this month is normally the slowest 28-9 days of the calendar year.   The weather is beautiful in Miami.  I am intent on doing plenty of things that I still have not seen nor experienced.  

On my short list:
Venetian Pool
Coral Gables Farmer's Market (have been, but not yet this year!)
Knaus Berry Farm
The Kampong


Old Navy perusing

In the post holiday daze, I have curbed my shopping.  But when that retail itch strikes, I turn to Old Navy to pick up a thing or two without taking a hit.  Here are a couple things currently striking my fancy.

A plain black maxi skirt has been my mental list as a staple for awhile.  Great for flying in, beach cover up, and work "meh" outfit days.  

I have a light chambrey shirt from Old Navy, andit is in the normal rotation. This dark one, for under 30 dollars, is a good investment. 

Cute red flat, under 20 bucks, get it ladies. 

Look at these little french knots!  A twist on a classic cream sweater, my cup of tea exactly.

I have seen this print in person and it is great.  Paired with above sweater and you've got a nice little outfit on your hands.

Now this to some may seem moo-moo esque, but I love it.  A scarf, flat sandals, big earrings and a jean jacket and I am picking groceries not in my yoga pants.  Running errands in an outfit is taking care of yourself in the littlest of ways.

The word culotte caught my eye, zapping in on the print and seeing a tiny floral print - sold.

Hope this inspires some chic budget staple shopping!

All images via Old Navy


Friday round up!

Happy Friday!  We are celebrating a birthday this weekend - Miami Beach style.  Think less models and bottles and more Thai food at 6:30pm and drinks with friends at 9pm.  Hope everyone has a lovely weekend!  xo

As I mentioned, Thai food and drinks on Saturday.  HBD!

New staples that I have not taken off since Christmas.

Recipe for inventory.

I boil eggs almost weekly - good to know.  Plus 29 extra know-hows.

Can we talk about how great these flat sandals are?  So Miami and fun!

Image via my Pinterest


Recipe recap - Miami Winter meal

Last night I got to the gym, opened my trunk and no gym bag to be found.  On the kitchen counter...I took the hint, got home and decided to take my extra time and make a "special" weeknight meal which in my book equates spending more than an hour and making more than two parts (last night - mushroom gravy, pork tenderloin, mashed potatos, and peas).

This is something I would normally reserve for a Sunday supper, but I had the gift of time and I took it. When we sat down to dinner I commented, "Isn't this a nice Winter meal?" Response: "The front door is open, this is a nice 'Winter' meal." Regardless, I am wearing a big scarf and booties today and not sweating. It is Winter in Miami!

Here is a recap of how dinner went down:

Pork tenderloin:

I made a quick marinade of  2 T dijon mustard, 1 T fish sauce, 2 T maple syrup, 2 T Worcestershire, 2 T olive oil and 1 T chopped rosemary. Threw it in a ziplock with the pork (poking holes in the pork with a fork to help absorb the marinade), and kept it on the counter for 20 minutes while I walked the pooch.

I preheated the oven to 400 and got a skillet up to a high set on the stove.  I seared the pork on all sides, discarding the marinade, searing about a minute a side.  I then put the skillet in the oven and set the time for 10 minutes.

Once the pork was cooked, I took it out of the oven, put on a cutting board and covered the pork to let it rest.


Meanwhile I got a pot of salted water to boil with 2 lbs (cleaned) red skin potatos.  After cooked, I drained the water, returning the potatos to the pot (less to clean), and added 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan, 1/2 t ground pepper, and 1 T butter. Mash and keep in pot. Add more stock if it looks dry.

A little tip - if you put a skillet with warm water underneath the pot of mashed potatoes, it will stay warm on the stove.

Mushroom gravy:

I took the pan I made the pork in and added 1 cup chopped mushrooms (any will do) to the pan with a dash of olive oil and 1 t of salt on medium heat.  Cooking off the liquid of the mushrooms takes about 6-8 minutes.  I then added a packet of dried mushrooms I rehydrated in 1 cup hot water and chopped up. Saute another 2 minutes and add 2 T of flour, until the mushrooms cover the flour and it becomes a paste, but not burned!  Then add 1 cup chicken stock, 1 cup mushroom liquid, 1 cup dry red wine. Added 1/2 t pepper, bring to simmer and let reduce to half of liquid.  At the very end add 1 T of butter and swirllll around to make it silky smooth.


Remove from freezer, add 1.5 cups to bowl of water, heat up in microwave and drain.  Mmhmm.

Dinner is served!  All images via my shoddy iPhone.


Recipe recap - Almost Vegan Soup

Last night I tried a new recipe I snagged from my friend Read's blog.  It was delicious and had few ingredients which is great for weeknights.  The cauliflower made it seem creamy and hearty. Perfect for a Miami "winter" night.  It was 55 and we were cold, oh how the mighty have fallen.   

I used chicken broth, but if you used vegetable broth it would be a vegan recipe.  It was a complete success and I will be making this again.  

  • Roasted Cauliflower and Kale Soup (adapted from William and Sonoma)
  • 1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 1 large bunch curly kale, stems removed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss the cauliflower with 2 T olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and the edges are browned and crisp, about 22 minutes. Take out of oven. Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees.

Toss half of the kale with 1 T of olive oil and season with a little salt. Roast, stirring once halfway through, until the kale is crispy, about 25 minutes

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 T olive oil. Add onion and celery , cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and stirring constantly for 1 minute. Until you smell the garlic, make sure not to burn it.  Season with s & p. Add cauliflower and broth, increase heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining kale, increase heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 10- 15 minutes.  You want some of the broth to evaporate.

Using regular or immersion blender (if you don't have one, buy one this second, number one kitchen gadget I use).  Serve with toasted pine nuts and crispy kale immediately. 

Here is a picture of the magic happening.  I enjoyed the soup with some crackers and cheese and had a nice weeknight meal.  


Happy 2014!

We're a week into 2014 and I am revamping a couple things. Nothing major and most are a reaction to holiday indulgences and relaxation, and it is time for a bit of a reboot. Others are small things lingering on back burner of the brain in terms of "I really should X." I believe January is not the only month one should examine changes. I try to make small, manageable tweaks to be happier, healthier, and live a more balanced life year-round.

That being said, here are the top things I want to concentrate on as 2014 launches off -

1.  Eat less fake sugar.  I do not consume a great deal, and the diet coke, tuna melt, chip lunch combo I cannot see ever fully going away in my life.  I aim to not add sweetener to coffee/tea and be more conscious of when I do choose to have sweetener in my meal/snacks.

2.  Drink less coffee, drink more tea.  We'll see how this goes.  So far, medium.

3. Try to enjoy my day/week more and stop slow down my continued planning of next month, next summer, 2018.  It is not productive, this is going to be a life long battle.

4. Write more letters/cards.  This is something I enjoy and I have fallen a bit off the wagon.  Probably attributed to wedding thank you note anxiety.  I love to send real birthday cards via snail mail.  Trying to get back on my game on this.

5.  Keep up with my tennis.  I took group lessons all Fall and have gotten a wee bit better!  I want to carry it through instead of letting the momentum fall.  This tends to happen after I have invested time/effort into something structured, then have to continue with just my own will. Once a week I want to go to the public courts/back wall - pretty realistic I think.

6.  Be thankful and enjoy what I have instead of pushing forward to the next thing.  Again, continual growth area.

Happy 2014 dear readers!