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.


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)


Healthy Butters

You guys. It has been a bajillion years since I updated. Life got in the way, yada yada blah blah. The truth is that I really needed to focus on my freelance writing and the thought of writing for fun made me gag a little. But writing for money couldn’t keep me away forever, and here I am again!

So newsflash: I have gained about 40 pounds in the last year through a winning regime of couch sitting, night eating, and a lot of wine. According to Hailey’s Helpful Hints, I have a “spare tire tummy”. Caused by lack of exercise and eating the wrong foods. I’ll admit to too much wine, eating at night, and being lazy as all hell over the last year. I know what’s wrong. What I couldn’t figure out was how to fix it. I’ve tried many things at this point with no luck and was starting to get pretty depressed that I couldn’t shift even one pound. When the little Hispanic ladies in my building start asking if I’m pregnant…sigh. That’s a definite sign it’s time to get serious.

I went back to Kazaxe this week. I can’t even explain the amount of pain I was in after two classes in a row! But it was the good kind of pain, like “Hey! Way to not let your muscles atrophy from lack of use!”  Here’s what the class looks like:

It is the best, most fun work out I’ve ever done. I’m quitting the gym. It’s that fun. Friends in the DMV area: if you want to go, the first class is free. Check it out.

The other thing that is helping is my doctor told me to try the South Beach diet. So far I miss wine, sugar, carbs and fruit, but thankfully this part is temporary and some of that will come back soon. To get some healthy fats in my diet, I decided to make some treats.

Jars of hippie amazingness

Jars of hippie amazingness

So here’s some fun stuff I made this week. I love almond butter and I’m allowed to have almonds on the South Beach thingy, thank GOD. I decided to make my own the food processor!

Almond Coconut Butter
Makes one small jar

1 cup raw almonds
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

1) Throw in food processor

2) Process for about 12-15 minutes or until it’s smooth.

3) Yes, that’s it!

Easy right? And it’s so good. If it’s too thick for you, throw a little melted coconut oil in it or something. If you want it sweetened a bit, add some honey, agave, brown sugar, whatever you’d like. You could also dry roast your almonds for some roasted flavor. Yums.

Amazingly, the coconut cream concentrate is even easier.

Coconut Cream Concentrate

1 bag of unsweetened coconut chips

1) Throw in the food processor and process until it looks liquid, about 15 minutes. Scrape the sides down periodically to help it all get processed.

Here is a great recipe to use this in. I honestly just ate a spoonful of it by itself…oops. might try mixing it with some unsweetened cocoa powder…this is getting dangerous.

So there you have it. Some healthy butters to use in your times of 40 pound weight gain! This week, one pound down, 39 to go. What kinds of diets have ya’ll tried?

Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette

All I can say about this dressing is YUM!!! I found it here.  If you have a ton of basil in your garden like I do right now, this is a great way to use it up and is a bit more interesting than pesto, of which I already have too much. It’s also a nice way to change up my salad lunch routine while keeping everything healthy!


Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 cup olive oil

1 cup basil leaves

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

Just buzz everything up in the blender. That’s it. You’re welcome.

With the rest of my basil, I was thinking about trying a lemon basil dressing next week. Yum. Or maybe this. Or this. So many options! I love basil season.

You’ll love it. Promise. What yummy lunch choices have you made this week?

Skinny-ish Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas

Today was not a great day.

I had a very long meeting. I had a nasty run in with a rude pharmacist at CVS. Most importantly, I came home and realized that I had exactly 1/4 of an inch of wine. BOOOOOOOO. (Update: As I was writing this, boyfriend showed up with TWO bottles of my fave wine. He said “I always know how much wine you have left.” He wins the good boyfriend award.)

The thing that is going to turn this all around is dinner with the boyfriend. We’re having a crazy week and I’m seriously happy that we get to share a meal tonight. Something interesting about us: I am gluten intolerant and boyfriend has hypoglycemia. He’s literally so sensitive to sugar that he can’t even eat most fruits, some veggies, or any Splenda. This makes things challenging but fun and actually I realized this past week that this means we are basically on the South Beach diet!

Still on the healthy eating kick, I decided that I would like some Mexican food. High protein, low fat if you can stay away from overloading on cheese, it’s a great option. No tomatoes (sugar) means no enchilada sauce and no flour tortillas (gluten) means no burritos. So how about some corn tortilla quesadillas?! You’re welcome world.

I think that the taste of this dish really depends on the spices you use. They need to be FRESH, friends. You really shouldn’t be keeping spices so long that they don’t smell anymore…so take a sniff before you get started. I buy most of my spices at Penzey’s, which is a brilliant store with crazy good spices and blends. Check them out, I get nothing for promoting them and you’ll love their stuff. If you sign up for their catalog, you’ll get coupons for free samples on your next visit. Again…you’re welcome.

Chicken and Black Bean Quesadillas

The world’s worst picture of the most delish dinner….sorry

I didn’t exactly follow a recipe, so I can give you approximate amounts. So here is what I did:

Mexican Black Beans

1 can of low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic minced

1 tablespoon veggie oil

1 teaspoon Penzey’s chili powder (their chili powder has ancho chili powder, cumin, garlic and Mexican oregano in it)

1/2 c. water



Saute your onions in the veggie oil. Whey they’re translucent, add the minced garlic. Once you start to smell it, add everything else and cook until you notice that the water is reducing and the beans are becoming a paste like consistency (kind of like refried beans. Set aside.

Spiced Chicken

I basically just sliced up some boneless skinless chicken breasts into small flat pieces, across the grain of the meat. I sauteed with some chili powder, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime. These don’t take long since they’re small. Cut one open, check if it’s cooked, and then set aside.

The Quesadilla

Assemble! Take a corn tortilla, put some Mexican cheese  blend shredded cheese on it, then layer on beans, chicken, maybe some veggies (I didn’t have any others around) and then a final layer of cheese. Scoop the whole thing into a preheated pan with a little veggie oil and fry it up crispy on both sides. I made a quick little guacamole to go with and also tried some of the Chipotle Lime Sauce that I made to go with this week’s Zucchini Fritters….the sauce was AWESOME with these! Really tangy. The boy approved of these and actually stopped after one (first time ever).

So cheap, filling, and simple is a good way to go 🙂 What kind of quick Mexican food do you like on a weeknight?


Things I learn from Pinterest

Raise your hand if Pinterest is the best and worst thing to ever happen to your life and productivity!

I’m with you.

I seriously waste more time on that site just looking at projects and recipes than I do making them. That’s kind of silly since I am supposedly doing all this looking for inspiration…but you know how that goes. I have implemented some awesome things so far though! My boyfriend and I put together a date jar with fun date ideas for weekends when we can’t think of anything to do other than sleepy or watch TV. I’m setting up a gallery wall of pictures over my couch for some fun cheap decorating using frames I purchased at Goodwill. And I have gotten some great organizing tips and tricks for my bathroom (which is the size of a large phone booth). So all that creative research is not going to waste.

Most importantly, I’ve found a ton of awesome “skinny” recipes to aid in my journey to weight loss. I really needed to work on getting in more veggies, more water, and more lean protein. It seems so easy…but it’s just not. You get into these bad habits without even realizing it: A little Chipotle here, a little Red Robin there. Pretty soon you’ve gained 20 lbs and can no longer get up the stairs without gasping. So to Pinterest I went, to grab some good but healthy recipes to help.

Today I made this:

Crisp Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

Crisp Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

This is the week of the healthy lunch! This Crisp Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil is scrumptious, and using mostly Greek yogurt in place of mayo lightened it up significantly. You can find the recipe here at Maybe Matilda, which I found courtesy of my best frenemy, Pinterest.  My changes were: omitted shallots, only because I didn’t have any, subbed Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of mayo for flavor, added celery, and added a few dried cranberries, just bc I like a little tart in my chicken salad. 🙂

So let’s chat…leave me a comment with your fave healthy lunchbox meals and tell me what gets you pumped at lunch time!





A year ago at this time, I was unemployed and looking for my dream job. I spent a lot of time thinking about what that meant to me. There’s a part of me that says “Hey! Pay the bills! Sit at a desk and have a reliable paycheck!” There is another part of me that says “Do what you love.” Unfortunately, when you are broke and living at home with your parents searching for a job to pay the bills, opening up your own restaurant is not a viable option. Still….

George’s, Harrisonburg VA

I  have spent a lot of time day dreaming about this local restaurant, which has never been open the whole time I have lived here. Apparently the story is that the owners live upstairs and refuse to sell. A friend of mine told me that a lot of people have approached George about the place, but he utterly refuses to part with it. The romantic in me understands the refusal, but the practical part of me is shaking her head, incredulous that the owner wouldn’t want some extra income and to see the place up and running.

I have a vision of opening it up as a late night diner, complete with retro booths, a flat top grill, and some amazing re-imagined “classic” diner food. My favorite midnight snack after coming from the bars is something I would like to have on the menu. I call these Whiskey Eggs (No whiskey included, just something I always want after several whiskey on the rocks!)

Whiskey Eggs

1 egg

1 piece of cheddar or pepper jack cheese

1 corn tortilla

Frank’s Red Hot sauce

Fry the egg gently in melted butter. Make sure the egg yolk is still runny. Microwave the tortilla with the cheese on it for about 30 seconds to melt the cheese. Scoop the fried egg on top and sprinkle on hot sauce to taste. Eat like a taco. Sleep immediately.\

I’m pretty sure my George’s would be a huge success if I could get the old man to sell the place. We’ll see. Stranger things have been known to happen.