Archive for September, 2010

The Perfect Storm

Today’s crappy weather turned into the perfect running conditions.

All the rain stopped this afternoon, but the skies stayed overcast and there was a cool breeze in the air.

No run, slight breeze, no humidity = my favorite running weather.

I also think I’ve found the key to snacking before going on a run. I cannot have dairy, so no yogurt or lattes or cereal. I tend to do better with fruit, nuts, bars, or something along those lines. Also, I have to have it at LEAST an hour before I go. That’s longer than most people, but I would much rather eat earlier and run without horrible side stitches than to keep trying my luck. Today I had a banana and a few walnuts + raisins around 4:30.

All that to say – we had a good run today 🙂

4 miles, done. Nice pace, good conversation, crummy (but great) weather.

And we came back to some of my favorite leftovers of all time!


I think leftover split pea soup is my favorite. It gets SO thick after sitting overnight – almost to the texture of mashed potatoes!


Perfect with a little extra salt and crushed red pepper.

Plus 2 homemade biscuits + a little butter.


Full night ahead for me!


Watching football.

The Office.



Peanut butter filled post in the am!


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Thursday is turning into Friday and vice versa.

I usually work from home on Thursdays, but have switched up the days because of some plans tomorrow night, so I’m going into the office for the afternoon to get a few things done and will be working from home tomorrow. That should be a fun way to end the week 🙂

Before I make the drive in, I figured I would go ahead and eat my lunch at home.


We still have about 3-4 servings left of the mac’n’cheese with veggies and ham from the other night, so I heated up a bowl full for lunch.


The weather today is seriously gross. It’s gray, pouring down rain, and the ground is sloppy and soggy. Not a pretty fall day at all!

This bowl of warm, comforting macaroni was just what I wanted.


For some extra veggies, I had a side salad that I prepped last night while I was making my dinner salad. So much easier than having to chop everything at lunch today! The salad was waiting for me, and all I had to do was add a little dressing.

Time for me to finish eating, change clothes, and make the rainy drive into work.

PS: The house smells like peanut butter. You’ll see why tomorrow 😉 It’s probably a good thing I WON’T be in the house the rest of the day…

What tips do you use to prep for meals? Do you pack your lunch/breakfast the night before? Cut up a bunch of veggies on the weekend? Freeze meals for easy weeknight meals?

List them here! I love getting new tips that help keep me organized.

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Fall Favorites

Two of my new favorite breakfasts?


Oatmeal with banana, pumpkin, peanut butter, cinnamon, and dark chocolate chips.



Oatmeal with diced apple, a ton of cinnamon, pumpkin butter, and butterscotch chips!!!

I haven’t had butterscotch chips in the house in months and am so happy to have them back. The bag is already half gone (I mixed up some trail mix for Nick), but they will be in full rotation for breakfasts. The butterscotch chips are delicious on oatmeal – especially with peanut butter and pumpkin butter.

I’m eating this bowl of oatmeal right now, along with a cup of coffee and a side of pouring rain.


It is nasty outside! It will be hard to work and not just cuddle down with Maggie 😉


Do you have any new breakfast favorites?


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Souper Split Pea Supper

Okay, now it’s officially fall in our house.

I broke out the crockpot today!


When I was putting my soup ingredients together this morning, I wasn’t sure it would be a good soup day – but, boy was I wrong!

Today was so dreary. It seemed more like winter than early fall, for sure. Gray skies, cold rain, and only in the 50s, having hot soup waiting for us when we got home was the perfect way to end the day.


Split Pea, Squash, and Pumpkin Soup, inspired by Food & Wine Pumpkin and Yellow Split Pea Soup

  • 2 cups green split peas
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup diced winter squash (I used some roasted kabocha)
  • 3/4 cup diced lean ham
  1. Mix split peas through pumpkin puree in crockpot and set on low for 8 hours.
  2. Add cooked squash and ham to soup and let cook 30 minutes or until warmed through.


I always forget how much I love using a crockpot. Once fall and winter are here, I love having meals waiting on us when we get home, especially since we’re losing daylight already.

This soup + salad was just what we wanted after a long, gray day today.

Although – I did go out for a run after work! And I felt fast for the first time in a very long time. Just a short 2.5 miles, but I felt great! It’s nice ending the day on a good note and with a full belly.

FOOD & WINE is giving away a year-long subscription to a lucky reader from BranAppetit.  Click here to enter and read official rules here.

This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive.  As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE.  I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.

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I can’t believe it’s almost October! That means November is right around the corner and the 2nd Foodbuzz Festival is coming up soon.

I had so much fun at the festival last year, and Nature’s Pride was the reason I was able to attend! The flights + hotel to San Francisco from Virginia are pretty steep for just a weekend trip, so I’m entering again.

Plus – a food challenge is a food challenge 🙂

I can’t turn them down, and, after the great experience I had last year, I’d love to have another chance to represent Nature’s Pride as a Bread Ambassador!

*Disclaimer: While I did receive a coupon from the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program for Nature’s Pride Bread, this loaf was purchased with my own money. I’m a goof and left my coupon at home when I went shopping. But their bread is worth the $! I buy it all the time.


And these turned out better than I expected – in fact, these two ideas came out so well that I could decide which one to post! So you get to see both 😉


I used Nature’s Pride Honey Wheat bread for both of these dishes. I love how soft this bread is and knew it would soak up the eggs and milk and bake into a beautiful bread pudding.


Carrot Cake Bread Pudding  (My favorite!)

  • 20 slices Nature’s Pride Honey Wheat bread, diced
  • 4 carrots, shredded (about 1 cup shredded carrots)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • 1 cup fat free evaporated milk
  • 1/4 cup half’n’half
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin or apple butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Dice bread and toss with carrots.
  3. Put bread and carrot mixture into greased 9×13 baking dish.
  4. Dollop cream cheese on top and sprinkle with brown sugar.
  5. In large bowl, whisk eggs with milk, cream, orange juice, maple syrup, butter, pumpkin/apple butter, vanilla, and spices.
  6. Pour egg mixture over top.
  7. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes.
  8. While bread pudding is still hot, spread cream cheese over the top of the entire dish.
  9. Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup (optional, but delicious).


The smell of this bread pudding baking in the oven was almost too much for me Monday afternoon.

It took all I had to not dive into it!



The cream cheese layer gives this dish just enough tang and balances out the brown sugar, pumpkin butter, and maple syrup.

The second bread pudding was another idea I came up with a few weeks ago. I’ve been dying to make this.

Brown Sugar Bacon and Apple Bread Pudding


I know.

Brown Sugar Bacon. If you have not tried this yet, please do. Even if you don’t make the bread pudding…just make the bacon.

You won’t regret it.


Brown Sugar Bacon and Apple Bread Pudding

  • 10 slice Nature’s Pride Honey Wheat bread, diced
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the bacon slices on the foil.
  3. Use 1/4 cup of brown sugar and sprinkle evenly over the bacon.
  4. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until sugar is melted/caramelized and the bacon is crisp.
  5. Take bacon out, let cool for a few minutes, and then move to a cutting board.
  6. Once cooled, diced bacon and toss with cubed bread and diced apple.
  7. In large bowl, whisk the last 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 6 eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt.
  8. Pour egg mixture over bread.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes or until set.
  10. Serve.


After tasting this, Nick said he would like this one with a layer of cream cheese, too!

Guess that tang on the carrot cake bread pudding was a good choice 😉


Pairing the brown sugar bacon with the tart local apples was perfect! Sweet, salty, tart – all in one dish.


I don’t think you can ever go wrong with bacon.

Although…if I had to choose one, the carrot cake bread pudding would be my favorite – based on these first 2 trials! You just can’t beat that cream cheese layer and the spices from the pumpkin/apple butter.

**This is my official entry for the Natures Pride Bread Ambassador contest to win a trip to the 2010 FoodBuzz Fest**

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Lazy Night In

Some nights, I can’t wait to get home and cook a lengthy and involved dinner.

And some nights (like tonight), dinner is an afterthought.

I was working on my second bread pudding recipe trial in two days and had no idea what we were having for dinner.


Thank goodness for Annie’s and a stocked fridge!

I cooked up some whole wheat shells and cheddar and tossed in some diced lean ham, leftovers peas, green beans, and snow peas.


Topped with a little extra sharp cheddar and some crushed red pepper, I was happy 🙂


This meal took about 15 minutes, start to finish, and left me with plenty of time to finish up my bread pudding trial, pack lunch for tomorrow, and still have time to get some posts ready for tomorrow.

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Dream Bed


After driving 2.5 hours back home this past Sunday afternoon, in the pouring rain, with a new mattress and box springs in the back of the truck, Nick and I had the fun(?) job of moving our old bed downstairs and the new one inside.

I should take pictures to describe how we had to do this, but it wasn’t very easy.

Our house is old (built in the late 30s). And small. And each room is tiny and only allows furniture to be in one specific place because of all the doorways and windows.

Because of this, we have to move big furniture outside and down the stairs on the deck to get them into the downstairs. So we had to move the old bed frame, mattress and box spring outside in the rain, down the deck, and in the front door before we could move the new one from the truck –> up the deck –> in the house.

It’s tough getting furniture in the house and finding the one spot for it.


In all honesty, this bed is much too big for our room.

But after laying on it in the store, we just had to have it. Plus, this mattress/box spring set was a gift! Nick’s dad won it in a giveaway and they’re stocked on beds in their house, so they offered it to us since ours is old and we had no guest bed.


This bed is huge compared to our old one. It’s a pillow top and a queen. Going from a non-pillow top full bed to this is quite a difference.

But seriously – Nick and I are already having trouble getting out of bed, and we’re only 2 days in! It is so comfortable. The mattress envelops you, like a fluffy cloud and invites me to stay instead of getting up when my alarm goes off.

I’m also in love with our new quilt.

This is the 3rd one we’ve bought in the past 3 weeks. The first two were returned once we found this one at Kohl’s this weekend – it’s light, airy, and keeps this monster bed from looking even bigger in the room.

While it’s not a huge change (like painting or rearranging – which we don’t have the option to do here), walking into the bedroom is like a breath of fresh air.

I love the new quilt, sheets, blanket, and pillows.


It may take up our entire room, but I think it’s worth it.

Besides, we won’t be in this house forever, right?


Have you done any redecorating lately?

Now I have the bug! I want to paint, purge old stuff, and/or move so we can have more space for this bed 😉


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Scratch Made: Vanilla Sugar


Out of the all the containers on my kitchen counter, this one is my favorite.

I first received this jar of vanilla sugar from my friend, Christie, and I’ve been keeping it going ever since.


This may be the easiest “recipe” I’ve posted.

To make vanilla sugar, you need two things:

1. A whole vanilla bean

2. Sugar


That’s it!

No cooking, boiling, roasting…nothing.

Fill a container (with a lid) halfway with regular, white sugar. Add in an entire vanilla bean and top with more sugar.


Let this sit in the closed container for a few days so the oils and vanilla essence can get into the sugar.

And you’re done!


My favorite ways to use it:

– As regular sugar in baking (if I use this in baking, I leave out the vanilla extract).

– In smoothies.

– In homemade lattes.

– Sprinkled on fruit.


The best part is that you can just keep it going. Add more sugar when you’re running low. If you’ve had it for a while, you can replace the vanilla bean if you want.

Having vanilla sugar in the kitchen is fun. My sisters add it to their coffee when they visit, Nick loves it on fruit, and I like using it when I’m baking. It’s such an easy ingredient to have on hand, but it seems so special.

Vanilla sugar would make a great homemade gift for Christmas – it’s something that most people don’t have in their kitchens, but everyone could use.


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Great Gratin

I’ve been all about the comfort food today.

Thankfully, the rain held off long enough for Nick and I to get in a 4 mile run when he got home from work, but otherwise, it’s been extremely gloomy today!

We definitely need the rain, and I’m happy it’s here – plus, it’s given me a good reason to indulge in comforting meals.

I’m not sure why, but I had never made a potato gratin before tonight!

It’s a good thing I’m trying all these recipes from Food & Wine 🙂 It gave me a good reason to finally try it.


Ham, Potato, Spinach, and Cheddar Gratin

Inspired by Food & Wine’s Canadian Bacon, Potato, and Swiss Chard Gratin

  • 4-5 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1.5 lbs yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3.5 oz. sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1 cup diced lean ham
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Peel and sliced potatoes and grate cheese.
  3. In 8×8 or oval baking dish, layer 1/3 of your potatoes and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
  4. Layer 1/2 of ham on potatoes.
  5. Put all of spinach on ham.
  6. Layer another 1/3 of potatoes.
  7. Sprinkle on 1/2 of cheese with salt and pepper.
  8. Do one more layer of potatoes, salt and pepper.
  9. Layer the remaining cheese on top.
  10. Pour broth over dish.
  11. Cover baking dish and cook 15 minutes, covered.
  12. Uncover dish and bake another 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender and cheese is browned and bubbly.
  13. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

I actually had swiss chard in the fridge, but I have another dish I want to make with it this week so I used the rest of my spinach instead. It saved me a step in the recipe and helped me clear out a little produce.


The sweet potatoes were a last minute addition. I weighed out my yukon golds and was a little short, so I subbed in one sweet potato and I loved it!


The little bit of sweetness from the sweet potato went so well with the creamy yukon golds and the sharp cheddar and salty bites of ham.

A perfect meal for a drizzly, rainy evening at home.


FOOD & WINE is giving away a year-long subscription to a lucky reader from BranAppetit.  Click here to enter and read official rules here.

This post is part of a series featuring recipes from the FOOD & WINE archive.  As a FOOD & WINE Blogger Correspondent, I was chosen to do four recipes a week from FOOD & WINE.  I received a subscription to FOOD & WINE for my participation.


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Cheesy Toast

The gloomy gray weather today had me wanting one thing and one thing only for lunch.

Tomato soup.

Specifically, Campbell’s Tomato Soup.


One of my favorite comfort meals growing up was regular old Campbell’s Tomato soup, along with either a grilled cheese or cheesy toast.

And since I have a bunch of great produce in the fridge, I knew it would be a soup + salad + cheesy toast kind of day.

Our weird summer weather is catching up with our garden – our tomato plants are still producing!


And I’m definitely not complaining. We don’t have enough to put away for the winter, but I was so excited for a salad today and one more taste of perfectly vine-ripened tomatoes.


  • romaine
  • carrots
  • scallions
  • tomato
  • raspberries (most likely, the last I’ll have until next year)
  • avocado
  • homemade dressing: olive oil, dijon, balsamic, salt, pepper

I always put my salad toppings on top, but then I mix everything together so I can have all the avocado + fruit bites for last 🙂


As for the tomato soup, I just followed the directions. 1 can soup and 1 can water. Heat. And I added just a splash of milk. Mine tasted good, but my mom’s always tastes better! Not sure why that is…

Cheese toast is something I used to eat all the time growing up. I didn’t get it perfect today, but my process was something like this:

– Heat toast to melt cheese (on low)

– Turn heat on high to get cheese to bubble and brown/get a tiny bit burnt on the edges.

– Save those burnt edges for the last bites 😉


Do you have any super simple comfort food memories?

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