Thursday, December 29, 2011


Cat craze!

We all know I love my cats. And I think they're being cute no matter what they're actually doing. But these were some prime photo opps:

Corduroy has found her favorite location at the back of the couch. Sometimes she watches movies with us. Cutie. And Fiero has had a lot of fun with all the boxes from Christmas. I think he prefers them with the lid off, though. Just maybe.

I love my cats. They really are the most perfect pets I could ever imagine. Sheesh. And damn are they cute!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best. Pizza. Ever.

So, Christmas was awesome. Nathan & I got to spend time with my awesome family, and we're going for round two with his awesome family over New Years.

I got some fabulous kitchen gear that I'm super excited about using. :-)

My in-laws got me this book:


I used the pizza dough recipe in this book to make the most wonderful pizza ever. Like most bread-type doughs, it's best to make this dough in advance and give it extra time to rest. Though I didn't give it the overnight treatment, I did allow it the minimum 2-hour rest period, and it turned out pretty awesome. The dough was nice & fluffy, plus we used good olive oil that added a nice flavor. 

Picnik collage

After letting the dough have its initial rise, I formed it into a nice round & allowed it to rest on the pizza pan before pressing it into a pizza-crust shape & allowing it another 45 minutes to rest.

The dough, formed in a ball & resting on the pizza pan.
The toppings (plus tomato sauce. and minus the zucchini)
The pizza crust after cooked for 5 minutes.
The finished product. Best. Pizza. Ever.

We used a chunky basil tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, spinach, vegan pepperoni, and parmesan cheese. I baked the dough by itself to let it set some, then put on the toppings minus the parmesan, baked it for another 5 minutes, then topped with parmesan & baked it a bit more. YUM. 

Now, I never used to be a big fan of meat analogues, but lately I've found some good ones. I liked these pepperoni slices on the pizza. It added a nice spice without the fat and grease of animal-based pepperoni. I've never eaten anything of this brand before, but I'm glad we did. 


Honestly, making this pizza dough was worth starting early & making it from scratch. It used minimal ingredients, was pretty hands-off, and tasted so good. 

I guess that means no more Jets pizza, and I'm fine with that. :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (AKA- I haven't posted in a while!)

So, life has been very busy lately! (I would've said "life has been crazy lately!", but that is not appropriate language to use in my line of work.)

We've been busy getting ready for the holidays, and have spent a fair share of time enjoying the season together. From holiday work parties to starting our own family traditions, we've been staying joyfully busy.

In other news, we got our CSA last Thursday, and it was my favorite bounty so far! Pictured below is our fare, plus a sneaky little cat waiting for an opportunity to steal a bite. From left to right: Brussel sprouts & greens, potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, spinach, kale, lettuce, & fennel. I cannot tell you how much I love spinach, and to have fresh, farm-grown spinach is basically a dream come true. YUM.

Brussell Sprouts & Greens! 

We've been trying to make our cozy little apartment as festive as possible without going overboard. I think it's perfect. Every night I can have a little piece of Christmas when I turn the lights on the tree. Mmmm. And now our stockings are full & the tree is overflowing with presents to & from our families!

Homemade stockings & snowflakes.
Our pretty sparkling tree.
My favorite snowflake.
So full! I wonder what awaits!!!
Corduroy loves Christmas, too!
Scented Glade candle sets the Christmas mood.
Oh, Christmas Tree!
This Christmas has been a very reflective one for me. This is my first Christmas as a married woman-- my first Christmas to share with Nathan fully. Some family traditions have shifted slightly; this is the first Christmas of my entire life when I won't be waking up on Christmas day at home with my family (okay, one year when I was a baby we were all in Naples for Christmas... but, you know what I mean). I'll be waking up with my husband and having Christmas at our home before going to visit my family for the day. Weird, right? It's so very bittersweet. I love my family so incredibly much, and I love the traditions we've built together. I love spending Christmas eve eating white chili & cornbread, exchanging presents with my sister, and going to bed excited for the next day. I'll miss those moments with my parents & sister, but I know that those memories of Christmases past will always be a rich part of what Christmas means to me.

This Christmas is also my first Christmas out of school, meaning my first Christmas without a lengthy break. It's strange- I thought that it might be harder to get in the Christmas mood while having to go to work every day until Christmas, but it's actually much easier to feel Christmasy and festive. For one thing, I have had no final exams or papers to worry about, which has been so incredibly wonderful & magical. Seriously, so good. But perhaps more importantly, I'm in an office with a bunch of awesome people who know how to enjoy the holidays & who are also just really fun. Our office is decorated, and I've been playing Christmas music at my desk. A lot of my clients are pumped about the holidays, and I've gotten to spend a lot of time this week getting them presents! It's been a very festive environment, and has really helped get me in the spirit.

And, most notably, this Christmas is my first Christmas working with low-income, mentally ill adults, and it is completely humbling my perspective. This month has been an incredibly hectic one at our agency. A lot of my clients have struggled to stay well, and I've seen some take pretty hard punches from their illness. This is a really difficult time for some of them: not only is it cold & dark all the time (depression gets worse), but the holidays puts a huge burden on them. I delivered some gifts today, and a few of my clients remarked on how this was their only Christmas present. But perhaps the most humbling thing I have seen and heard from my clients is their deep desire not to receive any presents, but their longing to give, & give abundantly. The population I work with is living with very little; their income is tiny, their illness are overwhelming, and for many of them, there is no family to turn to. Yet their deepest desires for the holidays are to be with loved ones & to be able to give them meaningful, expensive, personal gifts. For most, both of these desires go unfulfilled. My heart has been so deeply touched by my clients. Seriously, they're awesome people. I have the most fun job in the world- I spend all day hanging out with amazing individuals, talking with them & learning from them. And for some reason, they pay me to do it! All joking aside, it actually is an incredibly intense job, but I love it to pieces. My clients live with very little material goods. They don't get to go shopping for new clothes; they don't eat out; they don't take vacations; but they live fully & love well. It's taught me a lot. I have so much more than I could ever possibly imagine. Sure, we don't make "tons" of money, but we certainly have enough. And we have family support, insurance, cars, education... things that we should never stop being thankful and cognizant of.

Life is good. I was worried that being out of college would make me stop learning things.... boy, was I wrong. I'm learning a lot right now. And it's the fun kind of learning- from people rather than from books (Nathan would probably disagree on what the "fun" kind of learning is. haha).

I am so blessed by all the people in my life- my family, my friends, my co-workers, my clients. We seriously have it all. How did we get so lucky?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


It's that time of year again.... finals time. Not for me, thank goodness, but for poor Nathan. He is stressed, busy, & sleep-deprived. He's been spending his time writing what I know will be a wonderful Sociology paper. Since I come home at 4 & don't have anything to actually do, I decided to surprise him with one of his favorite meals: Philly Cheesesteak! Now, I don't think I've ever had a philly cheesesteak, meat-laden or vegetarian, so I had to do some research. I think it came out pretty darn well.

The "steak" part of the cheesesteak was Seitan (which sounds uncomfortably much like "satan" when I say it, for some reason), browned on a skillet with some worstershire sauce.

Veggie-Friendly Philly Cheese "Steak"

  • 1 package Seitan "wheat meat" (cubes or strips)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Worstershire Sauce (a few tablespoons, to taste)
  • One Green Pepper, Sliced
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow or White Onion, Chopped
  • 1 1/2 Cup Sliced Baby Portobello Mushrooms
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste
  • Hoagie Buns
  • Provolone Cheese

Heat vegetable oil in two separate skillets. Cook Seitan in one skillet until browned, adding Worstershire to taste. Cook peppers, onion, garlic, & mushrooms until tender in the other skillet. Once both skillets are cooked completely, spoon vegetable mixture onto bottom half of hoagie. Place a slice of provolone cheese on top of Seitan & cover skillet until cheese has melted. Spoon seitan/cheese mixture on veggie mixture & top with the other 1/2 of the hoagie. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve while melty!

Seitan- before browning. 
Seitan- after browning.
Chopping the baby bellas.
Sauteeing the veggies.
The spread.
The Philly Cheese "Steak"
Oh gosh, yum. 

We cooked up some creamed greens and french fries to enjoy with our sandwiches. It was a seriously wonderful dinner. Mmmm! And while Nathan spent the rest of the evening doing homework, I admired our Christmas tree & ate peppermint ice cream.

Our tree, with plenty of presents underneath. =)
Someone will be receiving Corduroy as a present this year. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winter Soup; Cat in a Bag.

Well it doesn't seem like I've done a food post in a while, and I know all 3 of you readers have been on the edges of your seats waiting for me to blog. Sooooo.... *sigh of relief* here you go! 

We got a big, lovely butternut squash in our CSA last time (and this time. Yay!), and I knew immediately that I wanted to make soup with it. I looked at several recipes online, and then ended up just doing my own thing. It ended up being even more delicious than I could have ever imagined. The natural flavor of butternut squash is fabulous, and paired with fresh herbs & onions, it's the absolute perfect-tasting dish. Seriously. We also had a yummy side of steamed broccoli & asparagus with a parsley lemon butter sauce. Mmm.

Butternut Squash Soup
One beautiful, fresh butternut squash, peeled & cubed
Butter (3 or 4 tbsp, but really as much as you want)
1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
1 can vegetable broth
Fresh rosemary & sage, chopped finely
A dash of milk or cream
Salt & pepper to taste

First, sautee the onion in the butter until translucent (but not brown). Add vegetable broth and bring to boil. Add butternut squash cubes & simmer until tender (you can add salt & pepper to taste here, if you'd like). Scoop out chunks with a slotted spoon & puree in a blender or food mill & until desirable consistency is reached (I like to leave a few chunks). Add fresh rosemary & sage to taste. Stir in a dash of milk to make it extra creamy. ENJOY!!! 

It's seriously the most delicious soup ever. Yum. 

Cubing the peeled squash. I actually used a potato peeler, which worked fine.

I love sauteed onions, don't you?


In the blender.

Our delicious dinner.

The finished soup. Yum.

The only part of this soup that was any trouble at all was having to use the blender. It had me seriously wishing I had a food mill. A friend of mine has one, and I am having serious kitchen-envy. I'd make soup every night if I had one of those things (so perhaps Nathan is glad that we don't have one...).

Food Mill. A thing of dreams.

After devouring our dinner, Fiero decided that he was not getting enough attention. Thus, he nestled inside of our bag, being really cute. Nathan decided he'd join in & be cute, too. This is the end result:

This picture explains why my life is awesome.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Egg Nog, Gardening, Food, & Friends

This weekend was the perfect way to celebrate our 6-month anniversary- by working in the community, eating good food, and spending time with friends. We've been really blessed in our marriage to have supportive friend groups & have been richly blessed by new friendships.

Friday night we had over three awesome friends & watched my favorite holiday movie together- White Christmas. One of our friends is apparently particularly hard to please when it comes to movies... but she liked it! I mean really, who doesn't love dancing, Bing Crosby, and Christmas all rolled into one fabulously cheesey movie? Oh it's so grand.

We celebrated the holidays with cookies, coffee, & egg nog! Yum. And of course we talked for a good 2 hours before we even started the movie, so it was a very well-rounded evening. I love our friends. 

Saturday was also a fabulous day. We started the day off by working in one of the gardens at Nashville Food Project. Anyone who is unfamiliar with them should really check them out- NFP Website. Nathan is doing his field-education (internship) there this year and has been learning a lot about gardening and serving food deserts. It's a great organization with some wonderful people, and I've been really glad to be a part of some of their work, by extension of Nathan. Currently, the organization has an incredible garden space that has been offered to them by a community member. It has incredible potential, but needs a lot of cultivation. We spent the day hauling manure and cardboard to trap nitrogen in the soil & get it ready for some serious crop-planting come springtime. 10 other members from the community came to help us as well. With some extra man- & woman-power, we were able to get a lot done. 

The rest of the day we spent with a fancy dinner out & then went over to some friends' house for dessert (bananas foster.... yum!) and conversation... their 2-year-old even showed us her christmas tree & her scooter! It was a very rewarding day. 

Happy anniversary, darling.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

6 months

6 months ago today, I married my best friend. 
Nothing in my life has made me so incredibly happy.
Our wedding was the most perfect day I could have ever imagined, 
and I can't believe it's already been 6 months. 
The best 6 months of my life.
And there are still so many wonderful months to come.