Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Project

I am starting a food blog! I will try not to neglect this personal blog...which I will use for trip reports, fun stories, life updates and pictures I remember to take. I wanted a more structured way to share recipies I'm working on, trying and enjoying. I am, however, limiting the blog to a certain type of recipes. I kind of wanted to start with a niche and then expand later if I want.
The Blog will be called "OnlySoups". Click Here to get there. Come on over and follow me there too! First recipe post will start next week. Invite your friends if you enjoy what are you reading there!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Merry Married Sickly Holidays

I hope everyone's holidays were happy and bright. Ours turned out a little different than planned.
   Ben got sick...all week, so much he actually cancelled the private ski lessons he was supposed to teach-that almost never happens so he was really ill. So much that he finally let me take him to an instacare. Poor guy. Luckily, the antibiotics finally won the war and he is finally feeling better...just in time for me to catch it. :( Even though I was extra careful not to get it: I even slept in a different room and attended the family holiday parties by myself (I am used to that by now) and left him at home so he wouldn't spread the germs, took Zicam, vit C and drank water like a fish. Still not enough prophylaxis. My immune system has never been a strong player.
   Even though he was sickly, Ben was still very sweet to me. I need to work on being extra nice even when I don't feel good. He was excited to tell me what he got me for Christmas, that he woke me up at 7:00am to let me know. (I got a ski helmet, ipod shuffle for exercise, and subscription to Bon Appetit).
    All that really matters is that we were able to think about Christ and his birth and life. What a wonderful gift we have from Him, the power to bring us back to perfection and into His presence. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ask Me...

Ask me what on earth came to my house in such a huge box...
Ask me how much it weighed...
Ask me how only 2 of us were able to get it out of the box and down the stairs...
and then back up 2 flights of stairs and then down the stairs again... (not without casualties, I assure you)

Ask me how I like my new Tempurpedic...

We've been in the market for a new bed for a couple months.  We shopped stores, laid on many a mattress, did a lot of research asking personal friends and looking up surveys/reviews, etc. online and finally decided on a Tempurpedic Cloud Supreme.

So far, we LOVE it.
Here's my case any of you are considering one:

  1.  It is awesome for the back or back pains, etc. support, support, support.
  2. Soft enough for a princess like me who can feel a pea, firm enough for the guy who can sleep on a hard floor without trouble.
  3. I think it feels like it just hugs your body curves all over. It lets my bony shoulders and hips dig in without pressure.
  4. Softer than the original Tempurpedic or other versions we tried...doesn't have that initial hard feeling on first contact.
  5. We are still debating whether it sleeps "warmer" than any other bed because heat gets trapped. It is firmer when cold, though.
  6. There is definitely a smell with the newborn mattress. Not too bad for me, but then again my allergies make sure I don't have a very discerning nose like Ben-it does bother him some.
  7. VERY heavy, even the bottom box support. Get friends to help you move it if you are going to do stairs. 
  8. Much less residual bouncing when a spouse tosses and turns in the night
  9. Whoever told me that I probably need a tempurpedic pillow as much or more than a mattress, I agree. Gotta get me one of those so my neck feels as good as the rest of my body.
  10. Can be pricey...but there is a reliable company on eBay that sells original products for about $500 less than retail. :) 

Christmas Craft

My token craft of the season this year was a new wreath for my front door. My wreath from last year was way cute...and ended up being very versatile. The fabric flowers' colors were diverse enough to leave around through Valentines and then by spring the fabrics had faded enough to pass as a spring wreath and then... let's be honest, I was just lazy to take it down. Anyway, with all the wreath ideas floating around on the internet and blogosphere, you'd think people were making them all the time for every holiday, and yet, where do they find space to store them all?? So, this year's wreath is generic enough to be able to work for several seasons...maybe I'll get ambitious and change the ribbon color!
I branched off from my usual twig type and got a foam wreath. Then, wrapped it with white yarn (this is not hard but time consuming, unless you have a couple hrs watching a movie or chilling with your sisters at "craft day"). Then I added some bright red and brown artificial hydrangeas and a ribbon.  Here's how it turned out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pie Convert

   My assignment for Thanksgiving, 9 times out of 10, is the vegetable dish. Either because they think I am the "food police" and want at least something healthy there, or because no one else actually likes cooking vegetables or maybe they don't want me "improving" or "experimenting" with the traditional staples. I don't mind though. I usually come up with something fun and even get my dad to to try a vegetable he only has bad memories parsnips!
   Anyway, this year I also got to make a pie! I was excited to try this recipe for Creamy Pear Pie I got from my friend Kate at OurBestBites. Her recipes always turn out... so there were no qualms about trying something new, especially something you can't taste beforehand (it's impossible to sneak a piece of pie without everyone knowing). 

Since my husband has always told me he doesn't like pie, I haven't made one for a long time. I was surprised that he actually wanted a taste of my slice after Thanksgiving dinner. All it took, though, was one bite and he was converted. He couldn't stop exclaiming how good it was. We brought the leftover pieces to his parents' house the next day and he made everyone try a bite. I agree that it turned out fantastic. He told me a week later that it was honestly the best dessert he had ever tasted. Now THAT's a compliment

 We have now conquered his aversion to soups, pie, fruit in salads, and pumpkin. Now off to convert him to the fruit/meat combo idea he is still wary of.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna

So, I think I started a post about this last year and never finished it. Oops. Since I love cooking and I especially love cooking for my very appreciative husband, you are getting more food posts lately. I don't know if you all like that or not, but it's the most exciting thing in my life right now.

This recipe is one of my most requested recipes.  Friends ask about it every year. I have yet to have anyone tell me they have tried it on their own but maybe one of you will, especially any of you that have unused butternut squashes from their gardens still hanging around. I used the bones of a recipe I found from Bon Appetit but changed it a good deal and have stuck with my changes for years now because they worked well for me.

One of the tricks is to know how to handle butternut squash. Many people tell me they are scared of it or have no idea what to do with it. I have a few suggestions to start with.

First: use rubber gloves to handle it while cutting (If you don't, you will be left with this weird dry film that you can't get off your hands for a day no matter how much you wash them).

Second: use a big knife (this is not the time for your do-it-all little paring knife). Get your large chef knife or any other big and sharp knife to help make this easier on you. Winter squashes are tough when still raw.

Third: Separate the top portion and the bulby portions. They are much easier to peel separately.  If you get to choose your own squash at the store instead of using them from your own garden, get ones with long necks to get more stuff you can use.

Peel it by running your knife down the outside layer of the squash to reveal the bright orangey inside (that's the edible part).
For this recipe, chop it into 1/4 inch slices. Still use the bottom portion of the squash after you remove the seeds, those slices will just look like rings. 
Ok, now the hardest parts are over. Let's get cooking! Here's the recipe.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 9 oz. package of lasagna noodles

2 TBSP olive oil
1 chopped red onion
1 large package (or 2 small) of baby bella or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2/3 C chopped pecans

2 lb butterut squash (peeled, seeded, cut into 1/4 inch slices)
1 14 oz. can chicken or vegetable broth
4 TBSP thyme
4 TBSP sage

2 15 oz. containers of lowfat cottage cheese
1 15 oz. container of blended hard cheeses (romano, parmesan, asiago)
1 egg (beaten)
salt and pepper

Start by boiling the lasagna noodles, according to package directions (you may use the no-boil kind but the edges still come out hard).

In a skillet, saute the mushrooms and onion in the olive oil until just soft (about 3 min) , and mix in chopped nuts. Transfer to bowl and set aside.

In same skillet, layer the squash slices (put rings on the bottom to allow more of the steam/liquid to cook the solid slices). Add in broth plus 1/2 the thyme and sage. Cover and let simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender but not falling apart (about 8 min.).

Mix together the cheeses, the egg and the rest of the thyme and sage. Add several turns of black pepper and a few shakes of salt to season.

Assemble the lasagna in 9 x 13 pan by layering cheeses, noodles, squash and mushroom mix a couple times. I usually make sure cheeses end up on top. Cover with foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 min. covered, then 25 min. more uncovered. Let sit about 10 minutes before serving (or it will fall apart more while serving it... but it still tastes good). This works great to make the day before, both waiting to cook it the day of, or cooking it before and just reheating. I've tried it all. Always yummy.

p.s. If you are looking for other ways to use butternut squash, I have a few other recipes here and here

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


We had a great cooking date night with our friends, inspired by the show "Chopped" where we had to make a course with 4 mystery ingredients. It was a lot of fun and challenged our cooking creativity under pressure. We got second place...  the Elkins totally won with what they came up with for dessert (wow!). See my friend Kasey's post ( about it for a longer explanation and pictures. I would love to do it again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

pumpkin oatmeal

An autumn-ized breakfast for you. The inspiration for this came from a visit to my friend Ivy's house last year when she served me this hot pumpkin cereal for breakfast. You know how I love everything pumpkin... I don't remember much about it except that it was yummy so I decided to create a version of my own.

Prepared plain oatmeal (quick, regular or steel-cut oats, steel cut). I will not specify the time you cook it or the ratio of water/milk to oats, I think most people have varying preferences on this. I like mine more watery with still chewy oats, not a congealed I tend to undercook mine, but to each their own.

Add a spoon of plain pumpkin puree (I used a heaping TBSP for my one bowl, which was plenty)
1 tsp brown sugar (you really don't need as much as you used to use when you were a kid)
a dash of cinnamon and allspice

It's that easy. I guess if you wanted to even skip the seasoning part, use just pumpkin pie filling and it would probably be very similar.

p.s. I added a few mini chocolate chips for decoration in the picture, but I have to admit, as appetizing as it sounded, I didn't like it as much with them in there.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Zupa's Pumpkin Coconut soup

This year, I took a break from my usual spicy pumpkin bisque (which I swear I've posted before but can't find) and decided to recreate Zupa's newest seasonal soup that I had the other day on an outing with my sisters.

I think I did pretty good for my make-it-up-as-you-go, knock-off recipe. I figure I need to write it down before I forget what I did (I didn't measure the spices so those are estimates). My picture of it didn't turn out. Here it is:

Pumpkin Coconut soup

2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/2 chopped onion
1 TBSP olive oil
1 C canned pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 potato (chopped into small cubes)
1 large roma tomato (or 2 little ones) chopped into small cubes
shredded coconut

In a soup pot, saute the garlic and onion with the ginger, and nutmeg in the oil until fragrant and translucent (do not brown), then add the pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk. Stir to combine, bring to a boil. Add in the potatoes and tomato and cook until the potatoes are soft (sometimes I precook these to cut down on prep time). Taste and add the salt and pepper (I have to add that in because I break that rule too often and need reminders). Top with shredded coconut and serve.

(I've also thought of adding a few pine nuts or sunflower seeds)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Colors make me Happy!

There are few things that can really change my mood as quickly as seeing nature's beauty, especially the gorgeous autumn colors. I just had to take a scenic drive today. My leg was not up to actually hiking yet after last weeks soccer game injury (I am just not as resilient as I used to be) so I just drove, got out and sat amongst the trees and took pretty pictures.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ben's Lettuce Wraps

I am definitely not the only cook in my house. Ben has some great skills in the kitchen, too. Here's one of his famous recipes that he made for our dinner party the other night. He let me help with some it so I could learn, so this is my memory of his recipe.
1 lb ground chicken
1/4 tsp salt
dash of black pepper
2 TBSP oil
1 8 oz can of water chestnuts, chopped
3 green onion, chopped
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
1 C dry shitake mushrooms (soaked in hot water until soft) chopped
1/2 C pine nuts
1 head lettuce (I suggest butterhead or romaine lettuce, not iceberg or green)

3-4 TBSP soy sauce
3 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP Hoisin sauce

Brown chicken in a skillet with the oil, salt and pepper. Add in the garlic, onions, water chestnuts, and mushrooms. In another dry skillet, toast the pine nuts on med to low heat (shirring or shaking often since they burn easy) until golden brown-add to the meat mixture. Mix together sauce ingredients in a bowl and add to meat. Cook all together until flavors are soaked though and vegetables are soft. Adjust with more sauce ingredients to taste. Serve a spoon of meat mixture on a leaf of lettuce.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vanilla Cider Pork with Pears

Fall is here! And I have officially caught the cooking bug. It's even more fun this year because I have a husband to cook with/for so I get excited to try stuff out on him. He has yet to not like something yet, surprisingly. I am successfully converting him over to the ideas of soups (he has only ever known canned soups), pumpkin-everything, and fruit +meat.  Here was one of our dinners this week that helped with the latter. I got this recipe for a "Cuisine at Home" magazine years ago (I got it for a year-I don't remember why). I've adjusted it a bit, they totally lied about how long everything takes and I've made some substitutions to make it less costly, less fatty, easier to do quickly, and less alcoholic... it's still good, I promise.

Vanilla Cider Pork with Pears 
4 pork chops
2 pears (cored and quartered)
2 TBSP butter or margarine
1/2 C flour
1 C chicken broth
1 C apple cider (not juice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP water
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat (not high...don't be impatient you'll burn the poor pears). Saute the pears until lightly browned, remove from heat. Set pears aside.

Season pork with salt and pepper and dredge lightly in flour. Saute pork (in same pan pears came from) until cooked through, about 5 minutes each side (or more if your chops are huge like the ones from Costco). Set pork aside.

Deglaze that same blessed pan with the broth, cider, and cream. Bring to a boil and add vanilla (or vanilla bean if you are really going all out). Reduce the liquid to half (this takes about 4-5 min). Add a little roux (flour and water mixed to a paste) to get it a little thicker. Put pears and pork back in the pan and cook all together a few more minutes. Serve! (I always like to serve it with the recipe below)

Pecan Wild Rice
1 C wild rice blend
14 oz. chicken broth
1/4 C apple cider
1/4 C pecan pieces

Boil chicken broth and cider in a saucepan, add rice mixture. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 min or until liquid is absorbed. Stir in pecans and serve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Book Club

I'm in a real book club! I've never actually been a member of one before, and I quite like it. The closest I ever got was being a writer of a book blog that we wrote synopsis and critique about each book we read. That fizzled after several months.
      There's only 5 of us that come regularly to our current club although there are a lot more that are invited. They invited me a couple weeks after joining my ward and it's been good to know these girls (neighbors) that I've lived by for 3 yrs and never knew! We've read some interesting books the last couple months. Everyone has their opinion and take on things so it is fun to discuss. It makes me think more about the books I'm reading and the themes, hidden meanings and agendas of the writers. I haven't done that since High School English class.
    I like having book suggestions from others, even though my random picks at the bookstore sometimes surprise me in how good they are. We put together our list for this next year, and now I think I shouldn't have given so many suggestions because that means I've already read several of the books on there. Oh well. There should still be enough to keep me engaged. Anyone have any of these books I can borrow in the coming months?
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
The Wise and Joyful Potter of Niederbipp
The Help
Devil in the White City
Peace Like a River
The Poisinwood Bible

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recipe Shortcut

I have heard from a reader or two that they wanted to go back and find a recipe I posted once upon a time and had a hard time finding it. I admit, I actually go back frequently to see my version of tikka masala, etc. So, I finally got around to putting in a new gadget on the side with links to a few favorite recipes I've posted in the last couple years for quick access. It also made me think I haven't posted a recipe in a while...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Did you know I have mad tiling skills? neither did I. You never know until you try it. I've had plenty of opportunities of late, helping Ben and his dad remodel their old house to sell. We tiled the kitchen floor, bathroom floors, and the shower walls. I'm pretty proud of my work. I guess it's a little hard to see in this picture.

 I also helped install a tub, lay rockerboard, and remove wallpaper. Not to mention cleaning out 50 yrs worth of stuff, including large food storage bins from their crawl-space basement. I feel so handy. This is leaps and bounds above changing a furnace filter. It is always easier when with people who know what they are doing, too. What a smart and handy hubby I have!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Bride

The Dress
The Side View

The Dress Back
The Shoes

Hair, Flowers and Veil

The Bustle
Side Flowers


The Bottom View
The Dress Front

The Curly Tulle Skirt

The Train


I finally got my wedding pictures back from my photographer. Here are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Yes, I am still alive! I've been a little busy getting married to the most wonderful man. It has been a long-awaited change and I'm excited to start a great new life with him. Here's to you Ben, my love! (thanks to Stacey for this photo)

p.s. I promise to post more pictures from the wedding and honeymoon travels soon.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

17 days to go

Yup, time is speeding up and I am realizing all the little detail things I didn't think of before.
Invitations are finally OUT! Well, except for the few addresses I'm still waiting for...

Here's some of our favorite engagement pictures for those of you who haven't seen them on facebook.