Good Morning from Lake Anna

Not too bad, right?

Someone is making himself right at home.

We rented a house in Lake Anna to celebrate one of our friend’s birthdays. So far lots of eating and drinking has been going on…not so much swimming. Apparently there’s a nuclear plant around that makes half of the water as hot as a hot tub. It’s pretty weird/gross/wrong on so many levels.
If we come back with green hair, an extra toe or so and Reddick turns into a cat. Blame it on the water.
Have a great weekend!

Reddick’s New Life

Until yesterday, I felt a little bad for leaving Reddick alone all day. While he has graduated from being crated all day and has free reign of the living room, it still must suck being here alone all day. He’s been so good. Like, almost too good. I’m so surprised that he hasn’t completely destroyed something at this point. I won’t work him out in the morning because I really think that it just makes him crazy. We spend the afternoon at the park once I get home.

Anyways, I felt bad until yesterday because yesterday was my first Friday home with him and I got to see what he does all day. I’m crazy jealous.

I cleaned my cabinets, did laundry, vacuumed, moved furniture and the kid didn’t budge. If only we could all take day long naps…

Kitchen Tour

I finally started taking pictures! Without going too crazy (and looking like a complete creeper…remember, I’m also trying to make friends here) I snagged some pictures of our kitchens today.
Like I told you before, we start our mornings in lecture. We do this in the James Beard Classroom.

Every morning, recipes are written out for us to copy into our notebooks.

The rest of the day is spent in the Paladin Room.

Maybe next time I’ll remember to snag some pictures with all of us in action. Don’t you wish you had this kind of kitchen at home?! I’m seriously in heaven all day long…even if it’s 110 degree heaven.

Adirondack Love

Hi everyone! I’ve been a little lazy about posting. There’s something about the Adirondacks that just makes me want to tuck my computer and cell phone away and disconnect from everything. I’ve been home since Thursday night and while the weather hasn’t been great, it’s already been an amazing few days.
The first thing I did when I got home was to go and visit my new baby cousin! She is six weeks old and is the smallest little bundle of cuteness. For a little baby, she has so much personality (or it could easily be gas, I’ll go with personality). Her smile is contagious and I’m so happy to have another baby in the family!
Yesterday morning, Reddick and I woke up to run around the lake. It’s about a 4.25 mile run. We were able to squeeze it in before the rain came in (and for the record, the rain hasn’t stopped…). Once we were done with that we made our rounds and visited my grandmother, aunt and her pup and then eventually this little one…
I’m so excited to see my little Reido again. We’re going to have such a fun week.
This was Reid working on her serious face…
Last night was my other cousin’s graduation. You’ll meet the rest of my family in the next post! And instead of going out, my sister and I decided to bake these last night. YUM.

Blueberry Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Here is the story of the almost best vegan baked good I’ve ever made.

I was putting the ingredients together for this cake (adapted by the Recipe Hall of Fame Dessert Cookbook) and saw that I had the vegan substitutes in my fridge. I pulled out my almond milk and vegan butter sticks and went to work. This was going to be amazing.

It wasn’t until right as I was flipping the cake over that I realized the cake was not at all vegan, it had two eggs! Oops. So here is the recipe for another almost-vegan baked good.

Blueberry Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

1 8 oz. can chopped pineapple
1/2 cup blueberries
1/3 cup butter (or Smart Balance sticks)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I only had unsalted peanuts, so that’s what I used)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Melt 1/3 cup butter in an iron skillet.
2. Sprinkle the brown sugar and the nuts over the butter.
3. Lay pineapple chunks and blueberries over the sugar mixture.
4. Cream 1/2 cup butter and sugar together.
5. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
6. Add the flour and milk, a little at a time.
7. Add vanilla and baking powder.
8. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
9. Let cake stand for 10 minutes and flip on to serving platter.

The cake was amazing. It doesn’t surprise me with the amount of butter and sugar in it, but we can all splurge sometimes. Maybe next time I’ll try with an egg replacement to make it 100% vegan.

Learning to Love New Foods

A few weeks ago one of my friends asked for me to write a post about liking new foods. I am not a very picky eater at all. Growing up I was always ready (ok, forced) to try new things. I can’t thank my parents enough for forcing us to try different foods when we went on vacation. It was a great idea and something I highly recommend to avoid picky eaters in the future.
For those of you who are not open to eating everything you may be looking for a few ways to get some new flavors into your meals. But first, why do you not like these certain foods?
If you don’t like something is it because…
…you haven’t tried it?
…you tried it and didn’t like it?
…it made you sick?
…you just think it looks gross and looks like it tastes gross to?
If you haven’t tried it, try it! Seriously, what do you have to lose? If it’s a little scary for you, try it with something that you like already, but not one of your favorites. Sometimes if I mix a food with something that I love and it doesn’t turn out so great, it taints my favorite forever. I don’t want you to be adding more foods to your “do not eat” list, I want it to grow! Some simple things to try foods with are sauces: ketchup, ranch dressing, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, sour cream, plain yogurt etc. They have enough flavor that your new food won’t shock your taste buds but are simple enough to let enough flavor come through.
If you tried it, and didn’t like it, give it another shot. Was it too mushy? Was the flavor completely off? I think every food deserves at least two chances. If the food was baked before, try grilling it or (god forbid) frying it. If it doesn’t work the second time around, it is what it is.
If it made you sick, make your peace. For the longest time I couldn’t eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because one made me sick while taking medicine while I had the flu. It was awful. After a little practice, I slowly made peace with peanut butter and jelly because honestly, who wants to live without that? At this point, it’s mostly a mental thing. Is it weird to say to eat that food in a “happy place”? It makes sense to me. It really sucks when food makes us sick, but it’s usually a one time thing (if it’s food poisoning, allergies/intolerances are a different story) and we can go back to those foods.
If you think it looks gross…it might be, but that’s ok. In the office on Friday we bad a bag of melted chocolate toffee to share. Once broken up you can imagine what it might looked like…but it was still amazing. Some foods are just not pretty. Some consistencies suck (and so do their adjectives: mushy, moist, etc.). Polenta isn’t the most beautiful food in the world, and is usually a big yellow slab of mush, but it’s delicious. Throw some veggies and a good sauce on top and you won’t even know it’s down there. Cover up what you think is gross. Make it a sandwich or a wrap or even toss in some pasta or lettuce. The options are endless.
I hope you find these tips a little helpful. I completely understand though that there are some foods out there that are just not for you. For me it was olives, until I literally forced myself to like them and lemon jelly beans.
Challenge me! Tell me a food that you absolutely hate and see if I can come up with a solution. I need the practice! I have a success story to share with you on Monday!

Confessions to my Readers

I haven’t exactly posted much about what is going on in my head as far as the blog’s future goes, but I thought of a creative way to reveal these ideas to you. My life is changing and I want the blog to reflect the amount of excitement that’s going on in my life. I don’t have too much going on in my regular life right now (until things get crazy) so that’s why you’re seeing these kind of posts. There are some things I share with you and some things I don’t on the blog. I hope this posts helps us get to know each other a little better and keep your attention until school starts.
I’m just going to jump right in and reveal my little confessions to you:
  • My day to day life is not all that exciting. I don’t really think that blogging about my breakfast, lunch and dinner is all that entertaining. Now there are some blogs out there that I read every day that do just that. It’s not wrong, but I think my life is kind of regular most of the time. I eat a lot of Larabars and eggs. If I have a massive waffle with strawberries, bananas, whipped cream and nutella, I promise…I’ll show you.
  • I spend way too much money on froyo. I preach to you guys a lot about spending and saving money, and although I only go once a week, it still adds up. I should stop. Although I do make a rule for myself, if I spend over a certain amount, I’m not allowed to go back for a week.
  • I eat Pringles. MJW loves them and I always steel some when I put them on his plate.
  • I also eat Nutella right out of the jar. Don’t tell me you don’t. I know that you do.
  • Blogging about who to invite and picking our bridal party is therapeutic, unnecessary and completely stressful. I’m still on the fence.
  • I don’t like oats in a jar. I tried, but it’s not working for me. Sorryyy.
  • I want to blog about most details of the wedding but I will not talk about our budget. I will tell you how we are going to do everything we can to save money though.
  • I love sugar. I crave something sweet after every meal and usually it’s ice cream. I probably have a bowl every night. I don’t blog about it, but it’s 100% ok.
    • I’m slightly nervous as to what culinary school is going to do to my weight. We eat a four course meal every day. I have some ideas on how I’m going to deal with this (like not eat the whole thing) but I’m still a little nervous.
    • A few bloggers wrote whole posts on this topic, but I’ll just say it – MJW and I are far from perfect. He rocks and our marriage is going rock, but he makes me slightly bonkers sometimes. We have our issues and just because I don’t blog about them, doesn’t mean they aren’t shaping our relationship and making us stronger.
    • I love to lay in the sun. I use sunscreen, but let’s get real, this girl looks way better with a little color and sun-kissed locks. Although I’m going to work my butt off this summer, there will be some pool time.
    • And the biggest one at all…I’m going to start eating meat again. More on that tomorrow.
    Phew, that feels better.

Life is Good

First things first, have you all checked out my new header? I thought that considering the blog (and my life) is moving in a different directions, it was time to get a beautiful header to go along with it. I am in love with it and crack up every time I see it and see Reddick’s face. He wasn’t part of the original plan, but after learning how much you guys love reading about him and the suggestion from my sister, he got added in. I have to give a shout out to Char who designed the header. She was phenomenal to work with. I only wish that I had the funds to redesign my whole blog because I was so impressed with her work. She also designed Lisa’s blog, The Splattered Apron (which is so cute, by the way). If you ever need any design work done at an incredibly reasonable price, please contact Char at Delight Designs.
I’m in a pretty good mood so I thought I’d share this glow with all of you. Weird? Maybe. But you all know enough about me by now that I’m barely two shades of normal.
Life has been amazing lately. For the first time in years I feel like everything is falling into place.
I’m marrying my best friend. He really is my best friend. He was my best friend before we started dating. I’ve been waiting to marry him for over seven years now. I’m so excited to go home in a few weeks and start the process. We’re going to look at a few venue options at home and have an engagement party!
I’m living the dream. Honestly. It’s cheesy, I know, but looking back on old conversations I would always say “my dream would be to work for myself and work with food”. I don’t know why I ever thought that I didn’t deserve that dream. I’m glad I got my sh*t together and finally took the plunge. Life is way to short to be anything less than 100% happy.
I like living here. I always liked living here in Maryland/DC, but it was always really hard for me to be away from my entire family and most of my friends. I still get a little homesick and I still miss everyone, but I’m making a place for myself here. I’m not afraid to go out alone and talk to a stranger (not in a creepy way). I’ve made friends in my building, through blogging and many other ways. It took a little while for me to get comfortable enough to open myself up to these new groups of people, but it feels great to have friends here and to have a calendar full of plans. (I’m not that big of a loser, I promise.)
I’m over my fears. My grandmother always says things like, “oh you don’t have any problems starting anything, you make friends so easily, your so outgoing” and I was like that, until I stepped out of my little hometown bubble and saw how big and scary the world was. I admittedly hid under a rock for a long time. I didn’t want to meet new people. I didn’t want to try new things. I just liked being comfortable. Again, life is too short to be comfortable. Now I’m organizing blogger meetups, hosting parties, entering recipe contests and going on weekend trips without knowing anyone. I’m out of my little slump and it feels great.
I honestly don’t think I have any complaints right now. Things are stressful, sorting out my tuition, part-time job, bills and the tons of traveling we have to do this summer, but I’m ok with it. We will deal. I’m actually embracing my to-do list.
A lot of you have told me that you are envious of the courage that I have to quit my job and follow my dream. I can’t sit here and tell you that everyone is in the perfect place to do the same thing, because that’s not reality. But I do hope that somewhere in the near future you are at that place – mentally and financially – so that you can, too, follow your dreams.
If you don’t have the funds, start saving today. I’ve been saving for three years and it’s providing me a good cushion for the next few months.
If you don’t think you have the support system, look around this world. Your family and friends might take awhile to wrap their heads around your decision. The blogging community has been so incredibly supportive. It’s such a positive group.
If you have no idea what this passion is, it’s ok.  I honestly had no clue what I was doing until a few months ago. I talked to a lot of people. I visited different schools. I asked a million questions. I became quite the pain in the butt to those who are around me a lot (thanks MJW, Mom and Sister). It didn’t come to me overnight. You will sort it out. It might be tomorrow, it might be five years from now, but it will come.
Thank you for all your support! You have been amazing and I can’t wait to tell you all about the crazy year ahead of me!

Reddick’s First Swim

Well, he’s no Michael Phelps…(from MJW)

He gave it a good shot, but our boy is not a great swimmer. It was a little cloudy today, so instead of going to the pool as planned, we went up to a trail that runs along the river in hopes of getting Reddick in the water. I’m sure he would have rather stayed home and done this all day.

We walked for about ten minutes before finding a good spot that you could walk right into the water.

Reddick was not having it. Treats and all, he was not getting in the water on his own.

He seemed a little curious…but still, not the excitement we had hoped.

Go save Dad? Nope. Just watching from the shore.

Finally the boys went off on their own and had a little success in their alone time.
Yes, MJW and Reddick are so amazing that they can walk on water. I’m a lucky girl.
 At this point, we were ready to just drag him in. He can’t learn without getting out there and giving it a shot.
Minor success. I wish I had a video camera. Reddick’s swimming form is hilarious.

Suddenly another couple and their dog showed up, offering to help get Reddick in the water. This was definitely our best shot. He was chasing after the other dog and finally getting all the way in.

After his little swimming lesson, He hung out in the sun giving us all nasty looks.
I hope he forgives us.
I know he had fun. He was pooped and passed out with the other boys as soon as we got home.

Tips for Vegetarian-Friendly Dining

Is it just me or are most restaurants lacking vegetarian-friendly options?
I know that I am pretty late and probably not even “qualified” to make such a plea, but this is for the lifetime vegetarians, experimenting vegans and debating flexitarians…please restaurants, have some more vegetarian options.
Since making the decision to not eat meat in January, I’ve been out to eat plenty of times. Some restaurants were very catering to vegans/vegetarians (Ohana Cafe) and some weren’t. While eating out last month, I was given a menu that was enormous in size and had over one hundred things to choose from. How many dishes were deemed “vegetarian”? Just one.
Now, the menu did have mozzarella sticks, nachos and french bread, but that doesn’t really constitute a meal to me. The vegetarian dish was a sub and it looked pretty similar to Subway’s Veggie Delight sub. I was looking for a real meal, something with a little substance. I browsed through the sandwich list and found an Italian style sub with meats, cheese and homemade tomato sauce. When I ordered, I asked if I could substitute the meat for mushrooms and got a response with a “are you sure?” kind of attitude. “No meat at all?” Nope, I replied, just the mushrooms please.
I got the sub and it was very tasty and the waitress checked in a few times to make sure they got it right. It was obvious that they didn’t get vegetarian requests often.
In my eyes, it doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but then again, I haven’t worked in the food industry…yet. So if anyone out there ever gets their hands on creating a menu for a restaurant before I do, keep these things in mind:
  • Offering vegetarian options brings a healthy element to your menu. Marketing gold right there. Healthy living is huge right now.
  • Some people want to experiment with vegetarian dishes and aren’t really able to in their own kitchens. They might look to you to offer them something new that they might not buy for their own kitchen.
  • Substitutions are just as important. List veg-friendly substitutions for sandwiches, pasta dishes, etc.
  • People might be to cook tofu or other meat substitutes at home, but will give it a shot in a restaurant. It’s fairly inexpensive and super easy to offer as another protein source in your menu.
  • It’s all about the sides. Often times at restaurants if there aren’t a lot of vegetarian meals, I’ll just order a handful of sides. When I do this I’m looking for more than just mashed potatoes, french fries and macaroni and cheese. Keep fresh, seasonal veggies on hand or other healthy sides like sweet potatoes, brown rice or whole wheat pasta. I think vegetarians can get really creative and make an awesome meal out of side dishes.
What do you wish restaurants would do to be more vegetarian-friendly?