Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese

It’s finally kinda sorta cold in Virginia. It’s chilly and rainy at least, so it’s kinda sorta fall! My fave. I spent today thrifting with my mom, found a super cute antique coffee table, and found myself wanting a nice hot dinner. Butternut squash everything is all over Pinterest right now, and I had some other produce to use up, so this soup is what I came up with. A true “what I had in my fridge” recipe if there ever was one. Plus I got to use my immersion blender, which is always fun!

Serve this with some toasted bread and butter for dipping. If you have a snoring pug to sit next to while you eat, it tastes even better!


Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large sweet apple, peeled, cored, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 cups chicken broth

chilled goat cheese to top

1) Combine squash, sweet potato, apple, onion, and garlic with 1 tsp of salt  and two tbsp olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot. (I use a heavy dutch oven for soups, always!). Cook on medium for about 15 minutes, covered.

2) Cover with broth and add spices. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 15-20 minutes.

3) Remove bay leaf and transfer to blender. Blend until smooth. I use an immersion blender because you can safely blend hot soup right in the pan! They’re inexpensive and awesome. I have this one.

4) Serve hot with crumbled goat cheese on top. Relax. Your day is about to get better.

Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika and Parmesan

So I live in Harrisonburg again. Ping ponging around Virginia just seems to be my lot in life, and I’ve just accepted that I’m a rambler and am seldom happy in one place for very long. The best part of this move is that I got to keep my job in Northern VA and am now a full time telework employee! I love the freedom this allows me, especially in terms of my meals. I appreciate the fact that I can easily make something healthy and cooked, rather than trying to subsist on salads or leftovers nuked in the microwave. I also got a pug named Mini, and she gets walked 4-6 times per day around our neighborhood, which is so much more fun than sitting in an office.

Now that I’ve unpacked most of my stuff and have settled in, I am finally cooking again and cooking well. South Beach is coming back in a big way in my life, so vegetables are where it’s at! One great thing about moving back to this area has been the availability of fresh produce, as well as the fact that I can walk to the farmer’s market. So even though I’m in a house that has mice, a tiny kitchen with no counter space, no dishwasher, and window AC units (I do not love these), I do have a lot of fresh food and that’s a big deal.

Today I arrived home after a wedding and didn’t feel much like cooking. The problem was, I ate like crapola all weekend because I was traveling. I needed vegetables. I looked in the fridge and realized I had two heads of cauliflower, which is one of the all time easiest veggies to prepare and is low carb and South Beach friendly! Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and within 20 minutes I had dinner ready to go. Try this the next time you have zero desire to cook but need something healthy in your body. I ate about half of it with some sliced tomatoes and cucumbers for dinner and feel completely satisfied. Cauliflower is a perfect blank canvas for the strong tangy parmesan and zippy lemon to play on, spiced up by the smoked paprika and garlic.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika and Parmesan

1 head of cauliflower
Olive Oil
Garlic powder
Smoked Paprika (I used Penzey’s)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
juice of half a lemon

1) Preheat oven to 350 F.

2) Trim the leaves off your cauliflower. Slice cauliflower into florets and spread on a baking sheet or a casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder.

3) Bake for 20-25 minutes.

4) Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Try to save some for lunch the next day if you can stop yourself from eating it all in one sitting!

Ethiopian Spiced Coffee

My favorite thing that I’ve purchased for myself in the last year is a Keurig. It’s red and shiny and adorable. I especially love the little refillable loose coffee pod, because K-Cups are expensive. If you MUST purchase them, I highly recommend these through Vitacost, which I’ve also been able to find at my local grocery store. They are organic and more eco-friendly than regular all plastic K-cups, which is always good.

What I didn’t realize is that you really do, for real, need to clean your Keurig regularly. It will start leaking grounds into your coffee, your hot water will start to have a soupçon of coffee taste and smell, and you’ll get less than a full cup. Unacceptable, especially if you telework a lot and aren’t interested in Starbucks every morning. Also if you’re a grouchy pants in the morning. Which I am.

I remembered finding a couple pins through Pinterest about how to clean your Keurig and since I didn’t want to buy any of those little descaling pods, thought I’d try the method I found at A Few Shortcuts. It was worth the bottle of white vinegar and 35 minutes! I noticed a definite difference in how much water was coming out, and it was clear after the vinegar. Success is mine!

To commemorate my clean Keurig, I’m sharing a “recipe” for Ethiopian spiced coffee, which I first tried at The Blue Nile in Harrisonburg, VA. I’m friends with many of the bartenders and was able to find out what to add to my ground coffee to get the same spiced flavor.


Here's my grumpy pants morning face

Here’s my grumpy pants morning face

Ethiopian Spiced Coffee

Mix equal parts ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground cloves, and ground ginger ( I did about a 1/2 tsp of each) in a small dish or jar. Thoroughly mix until completely blended.

Fill a reusable Keurig cup with 1 to 1 1/2 tsp of ground coffee* and 1/8th tsp of the spice mixture. Brew normally. I doctor mine with cream and sugar to keep the morning grumpies at bay.


*Ground coffee, any dark roast that you’d like (I like Italian espresso!)

South Beach Phase 1 Cream Cheese Pancakes

Enough is enough, I thought to myself, as my heart sank into my toes. The 3rd person in a week, my normally very nice manicurist, had just asked when I was due. Fighting the urge to ask what the ugly lump three feet above her ass was (OH IT’S YOUR FACE?! I HAD NO IDEA!), I smiled, laughed and said “oh no, I’m not pregnant, just fat!” I am tired of uttering that phrase and cannot believe the number of people who think it’s totally acceptable to comment on my body.

I hold my weight around my midsection. I know it looks like a tiny person is growing there. However…not pregnant. Even if I were, I would expect NOBODY to ask when I was “due” until I brought it up myself. It’s just common courtesy.

Anyway, all that being said, it’s time to get back on the diet/exercise train. I had unexpected surgery about a month ago and then promptly got very sick with an upper respiratory infection/sinus infection for 2.5 weeks. Food wasn’t tasting good to me and I could barely drive, let alone work out. I am FINALLY all healed up and healthy and ready to go!

South Beach Phase 1 is my nemesis. I tried it before and had no luck, but I am going to give it another go. High protein, low carb, NO SUGAR. Arg. It’s so hard. The hardest part is no sugar, because oh my gosh, do I ever have a sweet tooth!! Especially when I’m upset or stressed. So the worst parts of the day are first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I scoured the internet for some good breakfast recipes that don’t involve eggs, because while I love them, eating them for breakfast every day WITH veggies makes me wanna barf.

I found this recipe on 3 Fat Chicks on a Diet, which might be my new favorite place on the entire internet. Cream Cheese “Pancakes” are the best! Since no fruit or sugar is allowed in Phase 1 of South Beach, I paired these with some Walden Farms Calorie Free Pancake Syrup. It’s sugar free, gluten free, and calorie free. I know I know…it’s not exactly an all natural organic product, but I really don’t care at this point since it helps me get a little sugar kick! The sweetener I used in the batter is erythritol, which I use rather than Splenda, stevia, etc, all of which I hate. If you haven’t yet, read about erythritol, it’s amazing and tastes great! Because you are supposed to have 1/2 a cup of veggies at breakfast (which is also hard for my sweet tooth to handle), I grilled up some tomatoes in the pan and ate those along side my pancakes with some salt and pepper. Yum.

I am going to add 1 tablespoon each of almond meal and garbanzo bean flour next time I make this to see if I can get a thicker pancake. These taste amazing but were a bit thin, and who doesn’t want more healthy protein in their pancakes?

I’ve had some questions about where I get a lot of my weirdo ingredients. I buy most of them through Vitacost.com, and here is a referral link if you’d like $10 off your first order :) 


South Beach Phase 1 Cream Cheese Pancakes

2 oz. Neufchatel cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp. no-calorie sweetener
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1) Blend all ingredients together in a blender or food processor. Let batter rest for about 2 minutes to let the bubbles dissipate. The batter will be very thin.

2) Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat with a tsp of coconut oil.  (Here’s why I prefer coconut oil)

3) Pour batter on skillet in pancake sized dollops and cook about 2 minutes per side or until golden brown. Serve with calorie free syrup (or berries if you’re out of phase 1)


What I Love: Small Batch Prints

It’s time to feature another amazing friend with an amazing business. Allie Hasson did this interview with me forever ago, and I am just now getting around to blogging it, but the plus side is that my lazy assness allowed her the time to get a gor-ge-ous Etsy shop up.…go laziness? Let’s also talk about her unbelievably beautiful website. I can’t even with this girl, she’s much too talented.

This is Allie. She's so pretty.

This is Allie. She’s so pretty.

So Allie makes these custom hand lettered signs, stationary pieces, invitations, etc. THEY ARE INCREDIBLE. Buy them. Buy all of them now before she is so famous that you can’t afford her anymore.

Obsessed with gold leaf things right now!

Obsessed with gold leaf things right now!


1) What is your business all about?

I’m a hand letterer and graphic designer making graceful and approachable correspondence and communication for print and for web. I make logos, invitations, maps, monograms, custom paintings, illustrations, and bespoke stationery. After several years of research (working at the National Postal Museum), I use my knowledge of and knack for casual and elegant lettering styles to create work that features letterform design specific to each client.  Custom work is made beginning with a conversation between my client and I where we find out what their vision for the piece is or, if needed, we create a vision for the piece together.  From there, I make work that is both classic and thorough, as well as fresh and well-aligned with its function, purpose, or meaning.  


2) Do you have a day job in addition to your “fun” job? If so, what is it?

Yes!  I’m fortunate to work at Columbia College in Chicago, where I manage a large interactive space in the Art + Design department called the Materials Lab.  There, I curate a collection of materials (of all kinds) for the students to come and take from and be inspired by and use in their projects.  The materials come as donations from all over Chicago, many times they’re material samples from architecture firms, and they vary widely from paint chips to fabrics, resin, stone, glass and paper goods, and are free for students.  It is fascinating to see/touch/smell so many new colors, textures, patterns, and resources on a daily basis.  I think it keeps my aesthetic eye fresh and discerning.
3) Where do you find your inspiration for what you do?

In addition to my work at Columbia and a long-nurtured fascination with handwriting (I took a calligraphy course in elementary school), my paramount source of inspiration for this project was my time at the National Postal Museum.  Prior to moving to Chicago, I was so lucky to work in DC at Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.  During my time there, I made digital images of thousands of historic stamps and letters from all over the world that were being prepared for exhibition.  For that year and a half I would spend the day at work and getting so jazzed about seeing the amazing hand-lettering or intricate design up close, and then go home and try to develop my own interpretations of those styles.  The stamp layouts and patterns (particularly the ones from the 1940′s) also really stuck with me.  


4) Tell me something about your business that you wish everyone who bought from you knew?
I think I’d like people to know that each piece of my work, and specifically custom pieces, is a labor of love.  One of my favorite parts of this process has been getting to work with people on making pieces that commemorate something important in their lives, whether it’s illustrating words from their love story or crafting an heirloom family crest.  I feel so fortunate to be able to spend time on these projects, and I really enjoy creating work that can exist indefinitely as a reminder of the best moments in life and ideally can be passed down through generations.
Family Crest

More things about fat

Hey friends! Time to update you. I’ve lost…not that many pounds. BUT! I have noticed that my bumps are getting less bumpy, my cellulite is going away, and my energy level is going up up up. So I count that as a big FAT win. I honestly had to give up South Beach because oh muh guh. Sorry. I can (if I must) give up sugar, and starch, and caffeine. But fruit was my downfall. I LOVE IT. I can’t take not having an apple or some blueberries or something. So you know what?

I PUT IT BACK IN MY DIET. As my friend Heather says, if it grows on a tree, it’s pretty healthy, so don’t stress too much about eating fruits and veggies, you know? I love her. She’s so wise.

So crazily, even though that last entry was in February, some of ya’ll must be Facebook stalking me because it blew the hell up this week. I got a ton of comments on it. I also got private messages from friends doing their own diets, workouts, etc, just sharing stories. And guys, let me tell you…I know a lot of determined people. And you guys are warriors. And you know what?

Fat is just FAT. It’s not a measure of your worth, it doesn’t determine your coolness, your prettiness, your confidence. I know I sound like a fucking self help book right now but SERIOUSLY. Some of the shit I’ve heard girls say about their gorgeous perfect selves just because of a little fat?! COME ON. Get it together now, people. You are awesome. Fat doesn’t make you less awesome! Fat wants you to make it CRY because you’re sweating and getting healthy and having fun. Even if I stayed fat forever but was working out every day…I could live with that as long as I got that work out high and felt good about my efforts.

So please friends…keep working, keep making wise choices, but don’t forget to have fun. One Reese’s cup or a glass of wine will not kill you or make you gain 5 pounds. LIVE A LITTLE! Or a lot.

And just to drive this home, here are some pictures of full figured models that I’m in love with. Tell me you don’t think they’re sexy. I DARE YOU.



Crystal Renn




Kat Denning