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Food chronicles: Summer obsessions

When I tell you my creative juices have been flowing (pun intended😁), I mean it. Two things I’ve been into this summer are 1) propagating my plants (I’ll take a deeper dive in another post) and 2) pickling. I was inspired to try my hand at pickling cucumbers while doing one of my favorite past times: watching YouTube videos. The set of videos I was watching was either on meal prepping, vegan recipe ideas, frugal shopping tips, high protein meals, or all of the above.

Pickled red onions and cucumbers

I’m not sure why I’ve never thought to pickle anything especially when I learned how easy and inexpensive it is. All you need are common household items like vinegar (your choice on what kind), basic spices like pepper, herbs (if you have on hand), and the produce. I collect jars to store foods in (homemade smoothies, juices, broth), so I had a few to spare. I researched some recipes online to determine what appealed to me the most. I generally use recipes as guides and to give me ideas. When I’m baking, I’ll follow the recipe precisely because it’s backed by science.

Prepped vegetables for Pikliz, a Haitian condiment you eat with most anything, especially rice. Vegetables: habanero peppers (a substitute for the traditional scotch bonnet), mini red, yellow, & orange peppers, shallot, and cabbage.

I used the same liquid for the pickled cucumbers and red onions. I combined a recipe that called for vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, and peppercorns. I didn’t use as much sugar as the recipe indicated. The only difference is I added dried dill to the cucumber jars.

The liquid requires heating in a sauce pan over the stove until the sugar dissolves. I placed the vegetables in the jars and poured enough liquid to cover them. I let them cool down on the counter before sealing with the lids and placing in the refrigerator. I began enjoying the pickled onions the next day on my veggie burgers. I let the cucumbers marinate for 2 weeks and WHOILA, I had delicious pickles.

The Pikliz liquid didn’t require heating and only comprised of vinegar. An addition I made was added garlic to the jars. I used black pepper and thyme. I made a whopping 5 jars of that good stuff. I placed 4 in the refrigerater and one in the cabinet as a test. Some recipes didn’t require refrigeration. It’s been a week and I haven’t tried it yet. I’m looking forward to tasting.

Pickled carrots

Two wonderful things about pickling vetables are: the options are endless, from the vegetables, herbs, and spices; and you’re preserving vegetables which reduces food waste. It also presents a new way to eat them with the added probiotic benefits. This pickled carrot recipe was in the cookbook my son bought me for Christmas called Thug Kitchen… This recipe was particularly recommened for burritos and tacos.

I hope you’re inspired to try some delicious pickling recipes this summer. They will add an undeniable elevated flavor profile to your dishes.

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Feeding my soul: 6 months post surgery

Where has the time gone? It feels like a distant memory I had a hysterectomy on January 26th. And I actually started typing this post for a 4-month update, but I’ve finally gotten around to completing it. It’s been a very long 2 months since my last post because I’ve been so busy with life. Without fail, I’ve been consistently exercising, meditating, and eating healthy. My therapist calls these my ADLs (activities of daily living). If you’ve spent any time working with, or know people of the older generation, then you might appreciate the comparison.

I’ve provided several post-surgery updates in previous posts such as Day 1: Post Surgery, How it started vs how it’s going: 2 weeks post surgery , and 4 Week Post Surgery Update, to mention a few. In this post, I’ll provide some updates on what I’ve been up to and my recovery progress. In my very last post in April, I shared we had to put down our beloved kittie, Beignet. It was sudden and traumatic. His death occurred within days of me having to navigate through a difficult work situation that together put be in a high anxiety and depressing head space.

One thing about me and what I hope my readers glean is I ALWAYS turn the situation around to a “light lesson” that will not only propel me forward, but will hopefully help others. It’s simply changing my attitude about the situation. I do have a pattern of retreating to myself and not blogging when I’m embroiled in life challenges. It’s difficult for me to share when I don’t see the way out just yet. However, I’ve ALWAYS returned to blogging because it’s an integral part of my self-care. It’s an outlet for me to express myself.

The grieving process was difficult as you can imagine. I’ve never grieved so hard with losing a pet. My husband, Bryan, and our kids had a difficult time. We’ve since become more at peace and are thankful Beignet is no longer in pain. Beignet loved us with his whole little heart and we loved him with all of ours.

I’m not going to share the work situation because I’ve been actively working on a resolution. I may choose to reveal what it is once it’s settled. I can tell you it didn’t help my recovery one bit. I spiraled into a pattern of poor sleeping habits and eventually getting sick AGAIN. I saw a doctor in early June and this time, the diagnosis is along the lines of asthma likely brought on by allergies. I do live in the ‘Allergy Capitol’ of the United States.

There were some BRIGHTER moments in May such as celebrating Mother’s Day with my family and my birthday. I was initially sad on my birthday because I always think of my mummy who’s passed away almost 5 years ago. I cheered up eventually, especially after thinking about how blessed I am to make it to 49 years old.

We had a beautiful Mother’s Day service at church. I chose to wear my big, barely cream colored hat with the black bow along with my striped maxi dress. Bryan took us out for breakfast afterwards.
Enjoying the sun at the Lazy River on my birthday.
Birthday dinner!

For my mental and emotional health, I journal occassionally, practice mindfulness, am being intentionally self-compassionate, and do all the homework my therapist assigns. Homework usually pertains to exploring a thought through journaling, practicing a technique, completing some research, or following through on something that’ll make me feel better…it just depends.

Spiritually, I’ve doubled down on reading and meditating on the scriptures daily. I pray a lot more too. This year is the first year I’ve been consistent with meditation. I thank my FITBIT app for the variety of options on my phone which make it easy. I do a guided meditation at least five days a week, usually before bed. Bryan has gotten used to it too and now asks me to start it when he’s ready for bed.

For nutrition, I’ve gone back to eating meat though I still mostly eat plant-based. Some meals, or days, I don’t eat meat. I enjoy eating meat and realized after over 6 months of solely eating vegan and plant-based, that my body does so well without dairy. I was even eating plant-based cheese, but since I do not like the taste of most of these alternative cheese products, I decided to stop eating cheese altogether.

I named this post “Feeding my soul” because I feel like I’ve been attempting to bring myself back to myself, and a major way I do this, is through nourishing foods. In the cover photo, I enjoyed a plate of pinto beans and rice, smoked chicken, and collard greens. It was so yummy. I believe the foods I choose to eat keep menopausal symptoms at bay.

One day I even made an old school, delicious version of pot roast. Old school because I used a box of Lipton Noodle Soup mix….a recipe I learned from my mummy years ago.

As I’ve noted earlier in terms of my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I’ve been nourishing by mind, body, and spirit with activities that help me feel good, relaxed, calm, and hopeful. I’ve incorporated more stretching into my exercise routines (I’ve done more downward facing dogs this year, then I ever have.) Through life’s normal challenges, such as helping Bryan navigate his mom’s and brother’s declining health and family situations, I attend to ADLs because they keep me grounded and sane.

In terms of recovery post hysterectomy, I’m doing well. I’ve educated myself to the nth degree on all things hysterectomy and menopause. Education is another line of defense I use to demystify a topic that can feel overwhelming, especially when it’s personal. Below are some highlights of what I’ve experienced with the disclaimer some of the information may be TMI or for mature audiences.

Surgical Recovery. The four scars on my abdomen are healed although sometimes I can feel a tug on any one, or all of them, when I do too much activity like gardening. I had a follow up appointment with my gynecologist at 8 weeks, and after her exam, she said I was doing very well. She encouraged me to not delay having sex with my husband. I’ve been nervous about it. We tried shortly after and the first time was uncomfortable for both of us. For me because my body had gone through a traumatic experience and was out of practice in that regard. For him because I was jumpy, which made him jumpy. Initially, it was a bit painful. After a couple of times, we were back at it like riding a bike. I’m so delighted I can still orgasm with no problem. I’m relieved we get to continue to enjoy each other in this way.

Menopause Symptoms. There are many symptoms of menopause, but the hallmark symptoms mostly discussed are hot flashes, night sweats, cloudy thinking, weight gain, mood swings, and irritability. I’ve not had much of the symptoms noted except cloudy thinking, weight gain, and slight shifts in mood. The tricky thing about the cloudy thinking is that I’ve had that for years as I’m sure it’s a symptom of perimenopause too. What I’m not happy about, but am living with is weight gain. I know my body is a different body in postvmenopause because I’ve done nothing to put on weight. This is an act of my body not having any estrogen, which is a major hormone that regulates so much in the body. In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of weight, but it definitely landed in my already large stomach area and a little bit in my hips. Not only is the scale a bit higher, but some of my clothes fit tighter. I’m glad I still have many options of clothes to wear. I’ve been practicing more self-compassion while continuing to double down on nutrition, weight training, and reducing stress. Sleep is another area I’m working on.

General Health. I met with my oncologist earlier in June for my routine 6-month visit and he always makes me feel like I’m doing something right. It’s been 5 years since my breast cancer diagnosis and I’m still in treatment (oral medications). The doc said my bloodwork was on target (although I thought my glucose was slightly higher than my normal). He said I was doing great and looked great. We discussed a different medication regimen since I’m now post-menopausal. He’s going to run some tests on my old tumor to determine if I even need to continue with treatment since it’s been 5 years. I’ll return to his office in early August for the results. This is exciting news. And I mentioned earlier, a doctor told me I have asthma likely as a result of allergies. He did refer me to a pulmonologist (who I see this week) because of my history of experiencing pneumonia out of the blue last year and bronchitis the year before that.

What’s next. I have so many blog posts topics in my mind. In fact, that’s how they all start…in my mind. My plan is to share them. I will work on getting on a more regular schedule with my blogging. Bare with me because I don’t know what it will look like yet. In the meantime, I have so much existing content on my blog. I appreciate all the new viewers to my page. Feel free to peruse at your leisure and I hope you learn something new or get inspired along the way.

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Did somebody say SALAD and CHA-LUNGE in the same sentence?

March was a busy month. I returned to work after 5 weeks of recovery from my hysterectomy in January. 2022 definitely seems to be another year of firsts for me. Never have I EVER thought someone would think of a CHA-LUNGE that involved salads! REALLY? If you’ve been following me, then you know that eating healthy is my ultimate form of self-care and this blog is all about self-care. I decided to eat about 90% vegan/plant-based from July 2021-Janauary 2022 in an effort to prepare my body for menopause and to just generally eat more plants and clean. I’ve slowly been incorporating more fish and meats because I like them, but it’s still mostly (70/30) a plant-based lifestyle for me.

Back to the salads. My favorite people at Simple Green Smoothies had the audacity to come up with a 10-Day Salad Challenge and it was absolutely FREE. Spring is in full swing here in Texas and I’m more than happy to get ready for lighter eating. I signed up for this CHA-LUNGE on the spot. I received the recipes, including the shopping lists in an email. Initially, I had planned to just use what ingredients I had and modify the recipes as needed. Experienced home cooks like me know that recipes serve as guides. I was mostly ready, but then something happened….My niece visited from Chicago on Day 1 of the CHA-LUNGE. She blessed us for 6 days straight and we blessed her mostly every day with the Austin, Texas food faves.

That didn’t stop me though because I made 6 of the salads and am still going. Of course, I captured every salad in my own personal photos. I also attached the actual recipes/pictures from the CHA-LUNGE. And the salads are out of sequence because I made them when I could. I hope this post gets your mouth watering. LET’S GO!

My version of Strawberry Mixed Greens: Two plates because one was for my niece. I omitted the green apple because I didn’t have one and used a herb salad blend. Fun and scrumptious.
The Sweet and Crunchy Salad: My version did not have pepitas and I used the herb mix again. The dressing on this one was my FAVE!
Bright Berry Salad: This was REFRESHING! I hadn’t eaten grapefruit in years due to my medications, but I thought what the heck, I’m going to commit to this CHA-LUNGE. I’m so glad I did. I missed grapefruit.
Vegan Potato Salad: This version surprised me! I omitted the black olives because I didn’t have any. I probably would not have added them anyway. I served with a side of homemade fried shrimp.
Healthy Pasta Salad: This was the leftovers I served with half a leftover fish wrap. I used leftover garbanzo beans, red pepper, cucumber, and carrots from the Sweet and Crunchy salad recipe. I’m not wasting any food around here. I subbed green olives for black and red onions for green onions and vegan parm for feta. I completed forgot to add the herbs! It was still DELICIOUS and quick to assemble. I made it on my lunch break.
Kale Caesar: Made with no kale in sight. I had romaine lettuce that I didn’t want to go back plus traditional caesar salads are made with romaine, right? I had some produce I didn’t want to waste, so the only thing I followed in this recipe is the dressing ingredients and the addition of garbanzo beans. It was yummy!
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Feeding a healthy obsession

We all have our obsessions and something I learned about my husband, Bryan, over the last couple of months is he LOVES egg rolls. I typed “love” when I jokingly think it’s bordering on obsession. It tickles me every time we, or he, makes a trip to the HEB Plus supermarket, he feels compelled to go to the sushi counter to pick up a pack of egg rolls. In fact, whatever supermarket we go to, he’s checking out to see if there are egg rolls. If we’re eating out, he will order egg rolls at any Asian or non-Asian establishment that sells them.

We may not be able to financially afford this emerging obsession, so over the holidays, I decided to purchase the ingredients to make them myself. After all, it’s more cost effective to cook at home and it will also be healthier depending on the ingredients you choose. Cooking allows me to be creative and since I’m a seasoned home cook, I let my taste buds help me visualize in my head what ingredients I wanted to incorporate. I didn’t use any particular recipe, but I did follow the instructions on the wrapper package for folding the egg rolls. Spoiler ALERT: They were delicious!

I put my mandolin to use and shredded cabbage and carrots. I actually cut myself pretty badly by not using the other gadget that came with the mandolin. Lesson learned. With the cabbage and carrots, I sautéed onion, minced garlic and ginger, edamame, and lots of spices.
I set up my station on the island. It took me a few tries to fold the egg rolls just right.
Whoila! Egg rolls ready for frying in a shallow pot of grapeseed oil.
Vegan wrappers for my vegetable filling was a PLUS!!!

Our love for egg rolls started when we were growing up in Chicago, Illinois where there are many authentic Chinese restaurants around town. In fact, there is an actual China Town in Chicago and the food is amazing. There are also more authentic Chinese restaurants in Houston, Texas. The Asian restaurants in Austin, Texas aren’t necessarily Chinese, which makes a huge difference.

There is an authentic Chinese restaurant in Midlothian, Illinois Bryan introduced me to while we were dating over twenty years ago. We’ve eaten there many times before we moved to Austin, Texas. The owner visits China several times a year and would tell us about it. Upon a visit to his restaurant after we had already moved to Texas, we described to him the difference in the foods. He told us the reason for the difference is because Chinese people aren’t operating the restaurants. There are people from other areas of the world, with different cultures and influences, operating Asian restaurants, which is why it’s more lumped together as “Asian” cuisine.

I’ve made egg rolls several times over the holiday break and since the new year because they’re delicious and easy to make. With each time, I’ve been perfecting the recipe. This post has got my mouth watering and stomach growling to the point I’m comptemplating making another batch for dinner tonight. I like to STAY READY so I have all the ingredients on hand. I don’t think it will take much for me to talk Bryan into shredding the vegetables on the mandolin. That’s the hardest part.

Fried won tons and egg rolls. Yum!
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Bowls of self-care

We are living in strange times indeed. The COVID-19 pandemic is one for the history books. The silver lining to me is we’re being forced as a human race to collectively slow down and rethink how we go about our lives, which I hope allows for lots of self-care.

My type of self-care is nourishing myself with nutritious foods. Three of the four people in my household are high risk if we somehow catch this virus. I’m focusing on our health.

The epitome of comfort in my book is a bowl of soup.  As I’ve written many times, the activity of cooking is soothing to me. Here are two nutritious and delicious soups I’ve made often for my family: chicken tortilla and black bean soup. I used to make chicken bone broth every weekend but I’ve switched to vegetable broth since nowadays I eat mostly vegan/plant-based. My pantry and freezer staples always help me rise to the occassion.

Black bean soup. LPC

I hope you make time for self-care and whatever that means for you. I’ll continue to cook and share, hoping you get inspired by my recipes and even share some of your self-care ideas with me.

What steps are you making to care for yourself?

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Bring on the soups

It’s soup season and last month, I decided to join a 10-day soup challenge brought to you by Simple Green Smoothies. These are my favorite green smoothie people but they also have loads of plant-based recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. Throughout this process, I definitely sharpened my soup-making chops. Of course, I took all the photos myself which enhanced the experience.

The not so secret to stress free cooking is prep.

For me, the ultimate form of self-care is cooking healthy, nutritious meals. I’ve been eating about 90% vegan and plant- based since June 2021. I love comforting foods such as soups which you can read about in my previous posts such as Food chronicles: November comfort and Comfort.

Most of the soups started with this trusty trio of celery, carrots, and onions.

I find cooking to be therapeutic and rewarding. Through cooking, I also remain connected to my mom who passed away 4 years ago because she taught me how to cook. I’ve ventured into cooking different cuisines beyond the Haitian dishes my mom taught me, but she would still be proud. I was fortunate enough to cook for her many times on her visits to see me and my family in Texas.

When you see me, you see my mom. This is me in my oldest sister’s beautiful kitchen in a south suburb of Chicago. On this visit early in November, I made her family the Red Lentil Curry Soup which they loved.

My hope for this post is that you are inspired to cook more meals at home. The more you practice, the easier and more second nature it becomes. You will become more creative. The more home cooked, healthy meals you consume, the better off you’ll be.

Day 5: Ultimate Detox Soup
Day 6: Paprika Corn Chowder
Day 9: Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup
Day 10: Carrot Ginger Soup

Looking at these pictures again is making me hungry. I loved that each soup was unique and opened me up to interesting flavor combinations.

The fun thing about this challenge was that I participated in a live Facebook group where we shared our versions and pictures of our soups. Like many great cooks, I use recipes as a guide and will tweak the recipe according to my taste. I also got some ideas from other participants from all over the world.

Every soup was delicious and I’ve not only made a few of them several times already, I’ve also frozen about 6 of the recipes so I can enjoy later.

I imagine many people in the states are still enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers. Not us though because we had Thanksgiving in Chicago with our family. If you want something different, I highly recommend any one of these recipes, some of which you can find Here.

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Vegan truths I can’t ignore

Hey friends! I’ve officially been on a Vegan journey for 6 WHOLE weeks now. Over the years on my blog, I’ve posted about my Vegan adventures I partake in a couple of times year. The last time was in November 2020. I did a series named Sometimes Vegan Chronicles where I posted for the full 7 days of a Vegan cleanse. This time is different though. In the past, I’ve done Vegan cleanses from as few as 3 days to as long as 21 days. As noted, those were cleanses. This time, I intentionally chose a Vegan diet for all meals as normal eating…sans cleanse. This has been the longest I’ve eaten Vegan and I plan to keep going.

Peppers, okra, and tomatoes washed for the grill

I chose to do this primarily for health reasons. My big issue is fibroids, which I won’t get into too much detail about. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths found in a woman’s uterus. African American women most commonly get fibroids but many women tend to get them at some point. Usually, they don’t require any drastic treatment, but sometimes surgery is needed to remove them. Treatment can range from birth control pills to a hysterectomy. There are other less invasive surgical procedures such as an endometrial ablation which I had around 2007. This was a same day surgery where the doctor thinned the lining of my uterus with a device. Guess what? The fibroids returned and have been wreaking havoc on my body. I won’t go into detail about how, but trust me. I’ve gotten 3 doctor’s opinions that a hysterectomy is my best option.

Grilled Zucchini, tomatoes and peppers with a mustard green garnish over rice

This act of changing my diet (not using the term as a temporary restriction) is my way of gaining some control. My hopes are that this diet infuses my body with ample nutrients, causes me to lose a little weight, shrinks the fibroids some, and prepares my body for surgery (in the late fall) and the resulting menopause. Yes, MENOPAUSE….at 48 years old. I’ve been working with my therapist on processing and navigating all of this. Due to the type of breast cancer I had ( read any of my previous breast cancer posts such as What breast cancer has taught me), I won’t be able to do any type of hormone therapy during menopause (not that I would anyway, but it won’t be an option at all). I’ve read several articles on how the proper diet can help relieve menopausal symptoms. So I’m going full force.

Sesame bagel, cashew cream, and Everything Bagel Seasoning
Quinoa corn muffins

If you’re considering becoming Vegan for whatever your reason is, I do want to share a few truths I’ve learned thus far:

  1. Plan ahead – Eating Vegan didn’t come naturally to me 6 weeks ago like it does now, so I had to plan and prep my meals to ensure success. But truth be told, I still plan and prep every weekend because I don’t want to be caught hungry without a plan. This entails literally writing down a few ideas for meals for the week and reviewing my trusty Vegan cookbooks. I spend my weekends washing/prepping produce, making at least one batch of soup, and making sure I know my options. It’s just better to be prepared, especially if you’re serious about not eating meat or dairy.
  2. Your bowels will change – I’ve read this previously and have heard people talk about it, but it’s always been vague….accompanied by a joke about “beans”. Good thing I’m here to tell you EXACTLY what will change about your bowel movements or poop. It took about a month to kick in, but my bowel movements have gone from a trusty one poop a day to 3, 4 and sometimes A WHOPPING 5 times a day! You may not experience as often as me, but I think if you embark on a Vegan diet, you will notice a change. Will this last for the duration of my Vegan journey??? I don’t know. I’ve read that this change occurs when you first become Vegan but will eventually level off.
  3. People will think you’re crazy – I’m proud of myself for all the research I’ve done. It’s become my new normal, so sometimes I forget this may be considered extreme for many people. I find it to be a nice challenge. I mentioned my journey to some staff on my team and there were lots of GASPS and questions like: “How do you get protein?” “Aren’t you always hungry?” There are also comments like: “I can’t live without my burgers!” “I like meat too much.” Regardless of the feedback, I’m going to continue along this path because I believe it’s right for me plus I’m enjoying it.
  4. Be open to new foods – When I’ve done cleanses in the past, they’ve been whole and plant based with no processed ingredients. Because I’m not on a cleanse, I’ve been open to try some of the Vegan options in the grocery stores which I’m very happy about such as “Beyond Meat”, prepared Vegan frozen items, and alternative options such as Vegan cheese, butter, and eggs. I’ve even been experimenting with tofu. (Yes, I know there is controversy about its potential impact on hormones). Some restaurants offer more Vegan options besides just salads. I don’t partake every day, but I find these other options help make the experience more enjoyable. Some people may feel strongly against this, but it works for me and keeps me satisfied.

Even if you don’t embark on a Vegan diet, I hope the photos I’ve taken of my delicious dishes inspire you to eat healthier and try new meals.

Fried teriyaki tofu my son made with sauce, green onions, & peanuts with jasmine rice
Light breakfast of protein packed edamame, heirloom tomatoes, and a hash brown.
Avocado toast with Everything Bagel Seasoning on sourdough bread
Cajun grilled vegetable pasta with Okra, mushrooms, and peppers.
Roasted vegetables over grits
15 bean soup
Air Fried Oyster mushrooms with watercress salad
Grilled asparagus, rice, tomatoes, and watercress salad
Hummus and tomato sammich on sourdough bread
Fresh raspberries with cashew cream, roasted almonds, and maple syrup
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Good bones: The kitchen

Living in my new home has been everything I dreamed of and more. One of my favorite spaces in the house is the KITCHEN. After living in a much smaller space for years and being cramped in our small kitchen, this was my time to plan for a large, functional kitchen. You see, I love to COOK. And EATING is the one activity we all love to do in my family and we do it often. In the next post, I’ll share photos of the delectable food creations I’ve made in the new kitchen. For this post, I’ll share the kitchen metamorphosis and the good bones (pun intended) which make for a great, functional space.

Before and after: Kitchen a week prior to closing and a couple of weeks post move in. One of the first things we did was change the light fixtures. I prefer clear glass and was intentional about introducing more rounded shapes to balance out the many sharp and square shapes in the home.

In my post Home stretch of our new construction build, I mentioned our closing was delayed, which was a huge disappointment. Imagine the excitement and anticipation of building your dream home for months and then you have to keep waiting. During our first walk through with the construction manager, a leak had spread from under the dishwasher location, to the dining area wall, and even to my daughter’s room….all on the same wall.

I tried my best not to get too worried after they pulled apart the cabinet, my beautiful backsplash, and the wall. The reassurance from the construction manager and our real estate agent that it’ll only take a few days to repair once they determined the source of the leak was helpful. It turns out a nail caused the damage, but they had it all repaired in about a week.

I think it’s important to go through the new construction home building process understanding nothing is perfect. You want them to do an excellent job, but things go wrong at times. You want the materials to be free of imperfections, but that’s not always possible. You want your move to be smooth and seamless, but things happen.

For example, we noticed days after our new refrigerator was delivered there was a dent on the upper lefthand side of the door which you’ll probably notice in the above picture. We contacted Lowe’s (where we made the purchase) and they returned some of our money (over $200), which we preferred rather than replacing it. My husband, Bryan, suggested if I didn’t like the dent to put some magnets or a dry erase board at the location, but I like the clean look. I may add something later.

Coffee/tea/recipe nook next to dishwasher (where the damage occurred).

I’ve slightly reorganized this nook, added more books, and switched out the plant for a different one. The photo reflects what I did in the first week post move in. I’m so glad I was able to put this shelf to use in the new house and I love how the color is similar to the cabinet. We invested in larger purchases such as new furniture and other items for our home and also used what we already had. I love that! Everything doesn’t have to be new.

The details: What a difference personalization and cabinet hardware makes! We purchased the hardware from Lowe’s and Bryan installed them about 3 weeks after we moved in. The photo of me with the sunglasses is on the day we closed on the house.
Our son admiring his dad’s handy work.
Photo of the hardware after Bryan installed them. That AIR Fryer next to the sink is going to be shipped to my brother in Chicago. It was only out because it’s my daughter’s fave and she just had to make something. It’s since been removed from the kitchen counter.

Cooking in my new kitchen has truly upped my cooking game.

First of all, I have a stove with an AIR FRYER setting. Genious! Everyone in the house loves that feature. Now, I can keep my Ninja Foodie in the cabinet until I need it for the crockpot or pressure cooking setting and give the other air fryer away to my brother. The fridge is pretty neat too. I love that the handles aren’t visible.

I love my SPICES and every good cook has their favorites. I now have an actual spice drawer and it’s huge! Top photo is my work at one week post move in. Bottom is recent. I’ve had to make room for a few more bins to keep my measuring utensils. I am at CAPACITY with my cabinet space. One day I’ll have all the same jars for all spices.
Spice cabinet at the old place
Spice holder at the old place, which we purchased from Ikea. We have no use for it in the new house. I still use the jars and Bryan has since bought me a label maker. I haven’t looked back. It’s a GAME CHANGER!
Dear friends of ours sent us a house warming gift which was right up my alley- UNIQUE SPICES!
I’m in SPICE HEAVEN.
The pantry: I love organization including organizing products. This new pantry was smaller than the old one, and much smaller than I was hoping for. I was determined to make it work. With the products I purchased from Ikea, The Container Store, and At Home, AND MY LABEL MAKER, I made it WORK.
As of today, the pantry is a lot more packed because I like a well stocked pantry. There isn’t much room for anything else but that won’t stop me from trying. I can’t help myself.
Simple things make life more pleasant…instead of a bottle of Dawn or Palmolive on my kitchen sink, I purchased this neat contraption from The Container Store. I find that my dish soap lasts a lot longer too. I love my backsplash!
My label maker is a GAME CHANGER.
Kitchen view from the back door and prior to installing the cabinet hardware. Hydrangeas (see table) are becoming one of my favorite flowers. I keep fresh flowers on the table all the time now.
View of living space from kitchen. We have two bar stools with backs on each end of the island and two backless bar stools in the middle. We bought them in pairs at separate times. The store actually discontinued the bar stools with backs. Although it wasn’t planned, I love that the middle stools don’t obstruct our view of the beautiful window and view.

This was so much fun sharing why I love my new kitchen. I hope you got inspired in some way. Stay tuned for more posts of my favorite rooms in the new house, and of course, the delicious food I’ve cooked.

Lights above the cabinets.â˜ș
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Festive feasts

Happy New Year all! One thing that’s not changing in 2021 is my love for cooking. It’s day 10, a Sunday, and here’s a TWIST… at 8:00 p.m., I made a grilled cheese sandwich with dill pickles for dinner. Sunday is the day where I usually put forth effort to make something a little more extravagant. I almost didn’t make the grilled cheese sandwich. I ended up seasoning my 2 bone-in chicken breasts a little later than intended because I’d spent hours packing. Yes, you read that correctly. We’re moving into our new home in a couple of months and I don’t want to wait until the last minute. I was on the fence about what to make with the chicken breasts anyway – chicken tortilla soup, a pasta dish, chicken and rice, or chicken pot pie. I can use each breasts for a different dish.

We had a wonderful Christmas at our household. In my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020 , I indicated that I would be making rib roast for the first time at Christmas. When I think of Christmas dinner, I think people tend to make something special. Well, I was NOT feeling that rib roast and it was probably the most special meat I had in the freezer, so I changed my mind. Chicken enchiladas, shrimp fajitas, and black beans sounded like a winner to me.

Chicken Enchiladas 2 ways ready for the oven: red sauce with corn tortillas and green tomatillo sauce with flour tortillas. LPC

On Christmas day, my niece on my husband’s side visited us from her Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. She didn’t want to be alone for the holidays so she joined us in Austin. She loved my enchiladas. I was especially pleased since I rarely make them.

Vegetables for the shrimp fajitas. LPC

My husband bought a huge tub of pre-sliced vegetables from the grocery store. I don’t normally buy pre-sliced vegetables because it’s much cheaper to buy the produce and slice it yourself. However, one thing I’ve learned in 2020 is to give myself a break. Those pre-sliced vegetables made my life easier on Christmas.

Homemade black beans. LPC

My son, Caleb’s, comment after he confirmed the food was delicious: “Why did you make so much black beans?” I don’t know. I got excited I guess. They were so good. One of my goals for 2021 is to reduce my cooking portions. I have a heavy hand. I inherited that from my mom. You can read about some other goals I’m working on in 2021 here: Tops things I’m letting go of in 2021.

Black bean and cheese quesadillas with jalapeños and avocado. LPC

One thing I’m getting better at is repurposing leftovers. I’m proud that my daughter and I ate up that big ole pot of black beans because I hate to waste food.

Black eyed peas with smoked ham hock. LPC

It’s an American southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s day for good luck. There is also a Haitian tradition to make soup joumou on January 1 as this day is also Haiti’s Independence Day from France. On the Haitian American sites I follow on social media, I could see many Haitians were preparing to make this soup. The main ingredient is pumpkin or a vegetable in the squash family. A few years ago, when my mom was still alive, I asked her if she had ever made soup joumou. I don’t recall her making it growing up. My mom didn’t know about the soup which I thought was interesting. I shared some leftovers I made with my mom and she didn’t like it. I think my aunt on my father’s side made a version of this soup. One day, I will ask her. Whatever the case, I decided to go with the black eyed peas instead. They were delicious.

Prime rib roast, well done. LPC

After watching a few YouTube videos, I felt confident about making the Prime Rib Roast. I think I called it Chuck Rib Roast in my Fall Food Chronicles 2020 post. For my first time, it came out pretty good. I’m so glad we had a fairly small piece because it turned out to be a lot. Would I make it again? I can wait until next Christmas, maybe.

Pan fried Brussel sprouts with sautéed onions and pancetta (not shown). LPC
Freshly sliced organic gold potatoes soaking in salted water for potatoes au gratin. LPC

My husband loves to buy me gadgets. One day I will write a blog post of them all to share. I used the mandolin he bought me for the first time to make potatoes au gratin with our Prime Rib Roast dinner and my life changed. Why has it taken me so long to use that thing?

New Year’s Dinner 2021- Prime rib roast, black eyed peas, corn bread, brussel sprouts, and potatoes au gratin. LPC

New Year’s dinner was special indeed. My plans for food in 2021 are to make new recipes, create new recipes, eat simply, eat more plant based, and foster a healthy relationship with food. What about you? What are you cooking up this week?

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Fall Food Chronicles 2020

This is my season! As much as I love warm weather, I really do LOVE a change in season. I think mostly because I like transition, change, new things, and fresh ideas. Growing up in Chicago, fall has always been my favorite season. Not only are the colors outside vibrant and beautiful with the falling leaves, but there’s a crispness in the air that brings about an indescribable ummmph. It’s also sweater weather…..MY FAVORITE. I’m good with layering up as long as I don’t have to wear a coat. I’ve already had to wear my coat a couple of times here in Austin, Texas. Let’s hope not too many more times.

I haven’t posted since the week of Thanksgiving, so you might be wondering what I’ve been up to. Aside from being CRAY CRAY busy at work, I’ve been visiting our new house currently under construction, dreaming about the day we move in, giving and gifting, reading, trying new workouts, and mostly minding my business. In the midst of all of that, you better believe I’ve been cooking, though not too much on the actual turkey day.

Thanksgiving feast 2020

In my previous post Thank-FULL, I mentioned that we were doing something different this year for our Thanksgiving dinner and WE DID. We ordered our food from a restaurant, picked it up, heated the precooked food in the oven on Thanksgiving day, and ATE IT UP THE WHOLE WEEKEND! AND YOU KNOW WHAT!!! IT WAS DELICIOUS! Ok. No more caps….just my excitement from remembering how much I enjoyed it and enjoyed not being exhausted from cooking. I did make 2 sweet potato pies and a big pot of mixed greens though.

Chili cheese stuffed sweet potato with fresh guacamole. LPC

What would fall be without a steaming pot of homemade chili? I decided to do something really different. I enjoy a chili stuffed baked potato on occassion, but I was very curious about how it would taste with a SWEET potato. It’s interesting because I had been craving chili and sweet potatoes simultaneously so I put them together and WHOILA! It was like a party in my mouth, especially with the added touch of guacamole. I’d do that one again. Leftover chili is in the freezer.

Sautéed shrimp with pigeon peas and rice. LPC

My mom, Solange, surprised me one time when I was in my twenties. I thought I’d tasted EVERY dish she knew how to make and ONE DAY, she layed it on me. She made pigeon peas and rice! I had never heard of pigeon peas. It was so delicious. She showed me how to make it.

Pigeon peas and rice. LPC

I’ve only purchased pigeon peas in a can. A couple of months ago, I purchased a large bag of basmati rice that was on clearance at my favorite grocery store. This was my first time using basmati rice in the dish and it held up nicely. I think I prefer it with jasmine rice though, but IT’S ALL GOOD.

Chicken Tostadas. LPC

We eat a version of tacos for dinner every week. I believe my daughter, Elise, can eat tacos every SINGLE day. She loves simple beef tacos, but I think my chicken tacos are becoming her favorite. I cubed and seasoned chicken breasts, pan fried them, added onions, garlic, jalapenos and plenty of spices, toasted tostada shells in the oven, and added shredded cheese and a lovely pre-shredded cabbage slaw with red onion. Delish!

Steak, organic roasted golden ranch potatoes, and organic mixed veggies. LPC

I mentioned in previous posts that I shop the sales ads at my favorite grocery stores. It’s how I maximize our grocery budget. For the last few months, I’ve been finding great sales on meat despite the fact that groceries have generally gotten more expensive. I purchased a couple of packs of steaks (T-Bone and New York Strip) and I’m so glad I did. As my normal process when preparing meat, I made a flavorful marinade and allowed the steak to soak it up for a day or two. I used my cast iron skillet to develop a nice crust on both sides, then finished it in the oven. YUM!

Roasted chicken, dressing, gravy, macaroni and cheese, and green beans. LPC

Since I didn’t make my dressing recipe on Thanksgiving, I decided to make some for Sunday dinner. I think I can make dressing in my sleep, after all, I’ve been making it for over twenty years. I was talking to one of my mentees about Thanksgiving prep and she mentioned that she had never made a full Thanksgiving meal herself although she’s married with children. She said that her mom has taken on the tradition after her grandmother passed away. I didn’t have that luxury as a married woman because we moved to Texas, away from our families, right after we got married, so I learned to cook all the Thanksgiving favorites.

My prized possession. LPC

I purchased this cookbook at a gift shop in the mall about twenty three years ago and it was been my best friend during the holidays. I’ve always gotten compliments on every dish I’ve made for potlucks from recipes in this book.

Buttermilk fried chicken and green beans. LPC

Sometimes you have a taste for fried chicken…at least I do. I don’t regret for one minute making my fried chicken wings…neither does my family.

Cubed steak with rice. LPC

I attribute all of my cooking to my mom. You may want to read my post Solange taught me how to cook to get more insight into what I learned from her. Cubed steak was another inexpensive meal she made when I was growing up. I rarely make it (maybe once a year), but this is what my husband, Bryan, said he wanted for dinner when I asked last weekend. In case you’re wondering, it was very tasty though Bryan thought it needed more pepper.

Pot roast, garlic mashed potatoes, and roasted mixed veggies. LPC

The secret to flavorful food is to give the meat a running start by seasoning it in advance and just letting it sit in the glorious rub, marinade, or brine for an extended period of time from a few hours to a few days. This does take foresight and planning, but it’s worth it. Bryan put this lovely roast in the crockpot last night on low. When I got up in the morning, the setting had automatically changed to “warm” but I turned it back to low and let it simmer all day. At around 4:30 pm, after my last meeting for the day, I peeled and boiled the gold potatoes and put them in a pot with garlic cloves and water on the stove. I roasted the veggies and baked a few rolls. Dinner was easy, peasy, and decadent.

Baked pears with walnuts. LPC

I do love desserts but want to reduce my sugar intake, so I’ve been thinking of healthier versions of desserts. I’ve been craving dishes like apple crisps. I also love pears and decided to roast them with a bit of maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and walnuts. It looks dry, but when I cut into them, the pears were juicy. I served with a dollop of light whipped cream. It hit the spot!

All of these dishes have a slight twist from what I normally make. Perhaps the fall season has gotten my creative juices flowing. I’m excited about our Christmas meal. I’m realizing that I can’t think of the name of the meat we bought because it was my first time buying it, but it’s going to be so good.😁 (Update: chuck rib roast) Can’t wait to share the picture of our meal with you.

What have you been cooking up? What are your plans for the holidays? I would love to hear from you.