Category: food

Summer Weight Loss Competition

J and I have been in a healthy-living rut as of late.

I blame the busyness. One or both of us have been out of town five of the past six weekends, and our weeknights are oftentimes filled with activities. And when life gets busy like that, the first thing to go out the window is time to exercise and well-planned meals. It’s so much easier to grab take out or throw together quick and easy (read: processed) foods.

We are the opposite of normal people and actually travel less during the summer, so we are planning to kick into high gear and lose some weight this season. With the abundance of time, fresh foods and daylight, how could we not, right?

In the past, general “let’s try to eat better and workout more” statements haven’t really helped. So this summer, we decided to up the anty and make it a competition, biggest loser style.

Biggest Loser – J vs G

The Rules:
Whoever loses the most percentage of weight by September 2nd (15 weeks from yesterday) wins. We are going to track our weight every Tuesday in a shared google document.

The Prize & Consequence:
The hardest part was coming up with the prize. Naturally, we thought about buying something, but we kind of buy whatever we want now (within reason), so it wouldn’t be a huge motivator. Then we thought about consequences for losing. That’s how we narrowed down the prize:

  • If J wins, I have to watch the first season of Battlestar Galactica with him.
  • If I win, he has to watch the six-hour BBC version of Pride and Prejudice with me.
  • The loser has to wash all of the dishes in the month of October. And maybe some other chores we decide to throw in there just for fun. ;)

BSG_Season_1_DVD vs. pride-and-prejudice-1995-restored-2010-x-250

So that’s what we will be up to this summer. Neither of us have a ton to lose, but let’s just say we look a little rounder than we did in our newlywed photos. And both of us love a good friendly competition, so I am curious to see how we fare in the upcoming weeks.

Have you ever tried to do a weight loss competition with your spouse or friends? Any tips for how to beat him? ;) 

Tortellini Soup Recipe

Last week I made the first pot of soup for the season and shared a photo on Instagram. I got a few requests for the recipe, so here you go!

Tortellini Soup

My favorite thing about the recipe is the base. It is a good, hearty beef broth base that you can add to or take away from and it’s still good. Below the original recipe are ways I have varied this recipe, and all ways are very good.

I can’t take credit for this soup, nor finding it. My friend Allison made it a few years ago and told me about it, and it’s since then become a cold-weather favorite. It should be known a lot of my favorite recipes come from her, so basically, if you see a recipe on Allison’s blog, chances are it’s a winner.

That said — here’s the recipe, originally found on the Culinary Couple.

Tortellini Soup Recipe

Tortellini Soup
  • 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped, or 1 can whole tomatoes
  • 1 cup carrots
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 8 oz. cheese tortellini
  • 1 package or 1 bag fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • Parmesan cheese
  1. In large pot, cook sausage ~5 minutes. Remove meat and set aside.
  2. Add onion and garlic. Saute.
  3. Add broth, water, wine, tomatoes, herbs, vegetables (except zucchini and spinach), and sausage. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered ~30 minutes.
  4. Add zucchini, spinach, and tortellini. Simmer ~25 minutes.
  5. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan, and serve with crusty bread.

Some variations:

– Omit the sausage and replace cheese tortellini with sausage-stuffed tortellini
– Replace the zucchini with butternut squash in the winter
– Omit tortellini (for gluten free folks) and replace it with cooked quinoa

I’m sure there are many other possible variations and it would still be delicious. Enjoy!


Recipe: Key Lime Cream Pie with Meringue

My sister Carrie got me a pie dish for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure I’ve used it at least once a week so far this year. I have made apple pie, chess pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate silk pie, strawberry pie, tomato pie. I honestly didn’t know I was such a pie person until I had the pretty dish in my house. (In case you think I am obsessed with desserts, I also use it for making savory dishes like roasted chicken and quiche).

One of my favorites is this key lime pie recipe. I have actually made two key lime pies this season (don’t judge, we’ve had lots of dinner parties to attend), and this one is my favorite. It’s the meringue topping. Really creamy and light. The first time I made it I was thrilled that I could make something that tasted like it came from a French bakery. Yes – it’s that good.

Is this recipe easy? Yes. Is it something I can whip up quickly and effortlessly? No. That’s what people really want to know when they ask if a recipe is easy. Any recipe is “easy” if you can read and follow basic cooking instructions (well, except for this icing which is incredibly hard to master), but this one calls for a little more attention and time for chilling.

All I’m saying is if you are planning to make this pie for a party on Saturday night, the latest you can start on it is early Saturday morning. I made the mistake of making it too late and while it was tasty and still had raving reviews from my friends, the next time I made it I allowed for much more time to chill.

Key Lime Cream pie with Meringue Recipe

Key Lime Cream Pie with Meringue Recipe
Adapted from the Chicken and Egg cookbook


1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
(or just use a store-bought graham cracker crust)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
6 egg yolks
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup lime juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
3/4 sugar


To make the crust:
(Omit this step if you are using a store-bought crust and follow the instructions on the packaging).) Preheat the oven to 350. Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and lime zest. Pour in the butter and stir until all of the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-ince pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes or until set and slightly deeper brown in color. Cool on a wire rack and leave the oven on.

To make the filling:
Beat the cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in the condensed milk and the lime zest until blended. Whisk in the lime juice. Gently fold in the whipped cream and pour the filling into the cooked pie crust. Bake pie for 15 minutes or until the filling it set. Leave the oven.

To make the meringue:
While the filling is baking, dissolve the cornstarch in the water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 30 seconds or until very thick, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and ocver to keep warm. Beat the egg whites and cream of tarter in a large bowl until the whites are frothy. Increase the speed and beat until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in the sugar. Next slowly add the warm cornstarch mixture, one spoonful at a time. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and will hold a stiff peak. Remove the baked pie from the oven and immediately spoon the meringue topping over the hot filling.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the meringue is dry to the touch and lightly brown. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until cold before serving.

What’s your favorite pie?

Strawberry Picking

strawberry pickingOne of my all-time favorite things about living in central North Carolina is the abundance of strawberry farms. There are so many! In fact, I realized the other day there was one just two miles from our home. So Saturday morning, J and I decided to pick some strawberries before we headed to Greensboro to celebrate Mother’s Day with my family.

Strawberry Picking Strawberry PickingStrawberry Picking

Strawberry Picking Strawberry Picking

This is easily becoming my favorite spring tradition. We bought six pounds of strawberries for just $10, and have already used them for my mom’s Mother’s Day brunch, on a cake I made for my in-laws Mother’s Day celebration, and in my morning smoothies. Also I plan on making strawberry pie and some freezer jam later this week. (Have you ever heard of freezer jam? I hadn’t until J mentioned his friends’ mom used to make it, so I will let you know how it goes.:)

What other strawberry recipes do you love?
Do you have any fresh picking produce in your area? 

PS – My first strawberry picking experience last year.
PPS – This (outdated-looking) site is helpful for finding out what you can pick in your area. 

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies


“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say “nothing” I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”

I love that quote from the movie Julie and Julia. I feel the same way when I bake. It is such a comfort that if you put butter and sugar and eggs and flour together, it will create something more delicious than you could ever imagine tasting each individual ingredients. It kind of reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12 and the body of Christ. Now who would have thought there would be a biblical lesson to baking? :)

Moving on, today I’d like to share my favorite cookie recipe. And I don’t take the word favorite lightly.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

It tastes like your basic chocolate chip cookie, except the oatmeal makes it a little more dense and not as sweet. I got this recipe from my first wedding shower, when guests were asked to bring their favorite, and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve made it. My recipe card lives in this sweet box the hostesses gave me:

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

I’m not endorsing cookies for breakfast, but if you happen to dip a cookie in your coffee, you may find the greatest combinations.


Recipe: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 dozen
Note: If you like nuts, feel free to add 1 1/2 cups of crushed walnuts.
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 package (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugars; add vanilla, milk and eggs.
  3. Mix flour, salt, baking power, and baking soda.
  4. Blend butter mixture with flour mixture and stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  5. Put rounded teaspoons of batter on cookie sheets and bake for 12 minutes.
What is your favorite cookie? Sugar? Peanut butter? Plain chocolate chip? I’d love to hear!

Cook the Book: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Review

There are a hundred ways to find new recipes. Magazines, food blogs, Pinterest, online recipe networks. My favorite way to find new recipes happens to be the old fashioned way: Cookbooks. When a new cookbook enters my kitchen, it’s not just for eye candy, I intend to use it.

After I went to the Smitten Kitchen book signing, a reader asked if I could share some of my favorite recipes from the book. So I decided to start a new series on here called Cook the Book (and no this isn’t a reference to Fahrenheit 451 or fraudulent business transactions). I will review some cookbooks I have and share which recipes were good and whether or not it’s a book that should grace your counter too.

It’s only appropriate that we start with the Smitten Kitchen now isn’t it? :)

CooktheBook Smitten Kitchen

After being a long-time fan of her blog, my sister gave me this cookbook for my birthday last year. I mentioned this a little bit a few weeks ago, but I love the practical details that she put into this book: a photo for every recipe, lay-flat binding (so your book doesn’t flip to the cover in the middle of making dough and you have to get your book all messy finding your page again), and detailed stories and instructions for each recipe. I also love that you can take the flap cover off and there is another beautiful cover underneath. My one complaint on the book itself is that many of the recipes start on the lefthand side and continue on a separate page. There were so many of these that I felt she could have organized the recipes a little better so there were more complete recipes on a spread without having to turn the page while you make a dish. But that’s a minor preference.

As for the recipes themselves, almost all of them are make-again recipes. Here are the ones I have made:

  • Almond date breakfast bars – Good breakfast bar or snack to eat on the go.
  • Big cluster maple granola – My new favorite granola! I made it twice, the second time I added coconut for extra sweetness. 
  • Vinegar slaw with cucumbers and dill – This slaw was perfectly fine, but since it was a cucumber-based salad, I admit I prefer my cucumber salad over this one.  
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes and carrots – A great, easy side. I’ve made this twice for weeknight dinners.
  • Pork chops with cider, horseradish and dill – Very good! Has a tangy taste 
  • Salted brown butter crispy treats – This is my favorite rice crispy treat recipe. I made these first from her website. I have made them a few times and added a layer of melted chocolate or Nutella and sprinkled salt on top for extra richness.
  • Marbled pumpkin gingersnap tart – I made this for Friendsgiving last year and there wasn’t any leftover. Rich and decadent, perfect for holiday parties or dinners.
  • Chocolate silk pie – I made this the other night and it was delicious. I had a normal pie crust on hand, so I bet it’s better with her homemade chocolate crust.

Verdict: Overall, a wonderful cookbook. I like that a lot of the recipes are meals I don’t naturally make, so it’s been nice to expand my cooking repertoire. Deb cares more about taste and flavor than whether it’s healthy or not, so the recipes tend to be more decadent than healthy (although sprinkled in each section are a few healthy ones).

Have you made any of the recipes, either in the book or on her site? I’d love to know which are your favorites!

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Signing

I found out last minute (thanks to my sister Carrie!) that Deb Perelman, the writer behind the Smitten Kitchen blog, was in Raleigh for a book signing last Friday. I was feeling particularly tired that day, so I had to ask myself: Should I stay inside on this wet, cold Friday night and relax after a long week? Or should I brave the gross weather and see one of my all-time favorite bloggers? 

Thankfully, I chose the latter.

The Husband of the Year came with me, and we were lucky to get a good seat near the back. The Triangle loves Deb! The Quail Ridge Books & Music was packed.

It fascinates me how the blogging world has changed publishing. It was obvious that many of the people in the room (myself included) were long-time fans. The weekly, daily connections she makes with her readers (combined with her fool-proof recipes and winning photography), is what brings people back to her site each week and will make people go out on a gross, rainy night to hear to meet her.

Deb talked for maybe 15 minutes about her book, and then spent the next 30 minutes answering questions from the audience. She was just as witty in person as she is online. She spent the better part of 4 years declining a cookbook until she finally gave in with ridiculous requests, such as lay-flat binding, photos on every page, and a long description for each recipe. She admitted she doesn’t really like cookbooks (I love them!) and shared stories of how she tests her food, who does the cleaning in her house, and her obsession with Ina Garten.



J and I were lucky to be one of the first few in the line to get my book signed. She was so down to earth and really easy to talk to. I told her I’ve been reading her blog for a while and love her cookbook, but that the only complaint I had was that I wanted more photos of her son in the book. She laughed and said that reviewers on Amazon complained that there were too many photos.



Look, she spelled and pronounced my name correctly! #gushing

smitten kitchen


Have you ever been to a book signing before? This was my first, and most definitely not my last. I look forward to see which of my next favorite bloggers will publish a book and visit to Raleigh-Durham for a tour… :)