Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie with Kohlrabi Turnip Mashed Potatoes

Sunday Meal Planning: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers, Enchiladas with Mole and Shepherd’s Pie

This week’s CSA brought us a variety of fresh summer vegetables including tomatoes, green bell peppers and beets. We had some cucumbers left over from last week’s CSA and from a co-worker’s garden so we made a quick tomato, cucumber and Thai basil salad with a red wine vinaigrette that we’re snacking on this weekend. What to do with the rest of harvest?

Here are the ingredients we have to work with:

Green Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Thai Basil

The Plan:

  • Morrocan Stuffed Peppers — green bell peppers plus spices, tomato sauce, chickpeas and pine nuts, all of which we have on hand.
  • Black Bean and Pumpkin Enchiladas with Mole Sauce — to use up a can of pumpkin we have hanging around, the hot peppers that came in the CSA and general pantry items.
  • Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Kohlrabi/Turnip Mashed Potatoes — best vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie recipe hands down; using the eggplant in the vegetable hash and kohlrabi and turnips in the mashed potatoes.
  • Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Blue Cheese — for a delicious lunch.
  • Tomato and Thai Basil Salad with Vinaigrette — also as a side for lunch.

Because our pantry is always stocked with beans, grains, oils and vinegars and spices, we won’t have to buy very many additional ingredients to make our dinners for this week. Yessssss.



Vintage Magic Eight Ball Advertisement

Magic Google Eight Ball: “How to survive…”

Search engine suggestions for “how to survive:”

How to survive game
How to survive a plague
How to survive in the woods
How to survive a zombie apocalypse 
How to survive middle school

I chose to go down the zombie apocalypse path to find out how to survive should zombies invade Charlotte, NC. AMC actually has a quiz to find out how long you would survive, so I took it. The quiz asks questions like, “you and a person from your group are trapped in a burning building that’s surrounded by walkers, what do you do?” So, I don’t watch The Walking Dead and I don’t know much about zombie lore, but somehow I managed to survive for a year in a zombie apocalypse. I feel really proud of myself.

The “how to survive middle school” is at once depressing, relatable and predictable. Having grown up and actually survived middle school, I know that pretty much everyone hated middle school at the time, even if they didn’t show it. But when you are actually in it, you don’t realize that everyone feels as insecure as you. Does it feel better to know you’re not alone?




Asparagus Gruyere Tart Recipe Puff Pastry

First Dance Charlotte, Homemade Salsa and Asparagus-Gruyere Tart

Spring has sprung in Charlotte and my body is reacting negatively to the pollen swirling in the air. Unlike last weekend, when I spent four or five hours planting herbs and weeding in the backyard, this weekend I’m stuck inside. To make the best of it, I decided to focus some energy on promoting my wedding dance business, First Dance Charlotte, through a new blog post, some Twitter outreach and a lonely post on Facebook. All the while, the rest of humanity was hanging out outside, posting pictures of cherry blossoms and otherwise enjoying breathing in the toxic spring air. I tried to stay positive.

After I fretted about whether to paint the hallway gray or start over and find another color that’s more interesting, I fell into a Pinterest trap and spent a few hours searching for images of contrast molding. We might try it. Though, when we attempted to buy the paint, Benjamin Moore was already closed. Woops.

Then, onto something productive! I decided to whip up some homemade restaurant style salsa for the week. Jordan and I eat a lot of salsa–too much probably–but making a big batch of delicious salsa means we have it on hand and no one gets upset because we don’t run out. Is salsa the key to a happy marriage? Maybe.

As I type this post, I am patiently waiting for the puff pastry to thaw so I can make an asparagus tart for dinner. If only I had taken it out while I was preparing the asparagus! Here’s a quick recipe for sticking with me:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Prepare the asparagus–snap the ends, blanch for one minute in boiling water, rinse in cold water and dry well on kitchen towels.
  3. Thaw your freakin’ puff pastry. Or, if you’ve already done that, lay it out on an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Shred or grate about a cup of gruyere or parmesan cheese and sprinkle on the puff pastry.
  5. Lay out the asparagus in pretty rows and bake for about 15 minutes.

Easy peasy. Enjoy!


Liberty Wool Seed Stitch Knitting Project

Liberty Wool Seed Stitch Knitting Project

When I go to the yarn store, I always end up buying something without a project in mind. I should probably only go to the yarn store with a project in mind, but that would make too much sense.

Recently, I purchased one skein of Liberty Wool in the cupcake color. This yarn is so fun to work with, especially if you are like me and you get bored easily while knitting. The color changes as you knit, so no need to add on new colors and you get this really cool tie-dye effect.

I decided to use a seed stitch with this yarn and the effect is really nice. The yarn introduces new colors gradually and the seed stitches show off the new colors in a cool, pixelated way. I’m not sure what the end project will be–I started with the idea of a cowl, but am now thinking pillow. The colors would actually be nice in our living room, if a little bold.

I finished up the first skein this weekend and will need to add on a new one. I do wonder how it will blend together since my current skein ends with solid dark blue and no hint of a new color. Have you knitted with this yarn before? Any tips for connecting skeins to create a seamless design?

Weekend Project Knitted Hat with Pom Pom

Weekend Project: Knitted Hat with Pom Pom

What you need:

Knitting needles
Tapestry Needle
Pom Pom Maker (optional)

This is a general recipe for knitting up a simple winter hat. First knit a swatch of yarn in stockinette stitch (knit row 1, purl row 2, knit row 3, purl row 4, etc.) to determine your gauge. The gauge will help you figure out how many stitches to cast on. The finished size should be about 18 inches in circumference and 8.5 inches in height for a woman. If your gauge is 3 stitches = 1 inch in stockinette, you will need to multiply your gauge (3 stitches) by the desired circumference (18 inches).

3 x 18 = 54

Cast on 54 stitches

For the ribbed base:
Round 1: *knit 4, purl 4, repeat from* to end of round

Knitting and purling will create a rib around the base of the hat. Be creative and try different combinations of knit and purl. You could knit 1, purl 2 or knit 2, purl 2, or knit 2, purl 3, and so on.

Repeat Round 1 until the fabric measures 2 inches from the needle.

For the rest of the hat:
Round 1: Knit
Round 2: Purl

Repeat until the fabric measures 8.5 inches from base. If you want the hat to be a little floppy, keep knitting an additional half inch or so. You can also add a different color or multiple colors to make stripes. Just make sure you add the new color on the knit side of the fabric every time. When you’ve knitted to the end, cast off and leave a long tail of yarn, about 12 inches.

Sew the hat together:
Use a tapestry needle to sew the hat together on the short side. Your ribbed portion and the body of the hat should now be sewn together with a gaping hole at the top. Use your long tail from the cast off stitches to weave through the cast off portion of the hat, scrunching it and gathering it at the top of the hat (like a drawstring). Finish by inserting the tapestry needle into the top of the hat and knotting it underneath the gathered portion.

Make a pom pom:
You don’t need a fancy pom pom maker to make a cute, fuzzy pom pom.

  • Cut two circles out of cardboard (I used a cereal box).
  • Cut into the circle and cut out another small circle inside the larger circle.
  • Then cut a little extra room on the side where you originally cut into the cardboard. It should look like a bagel with a skinny triangle cut out. The triangle makes it easier to wrap the yarn around the cardboard.
  • Wrap the yarn around and around circles, through the smaller circle and around the outside edge of the two pieces of cardboard.
  • Then cut the yarn between the outside edge of the two pieces of cardboard. Don’t worry, it will hold together.
  • Take a piece of yarn and slip it between the two pieces of cardboard. Tie as many knots as you’d like.
  • Slip the pom pom out of the two pieces of cardboard, use the tails from the tied off yarn to thread the yarn through the top of the hat. Tie a knot inside the hat and you’re done!

If you need to see how to make a pom pom, this video is pretty good.

Happy knitting!

homemade grapefruit soda recipe fresca

Homemade Fresca – Grapefruit Soda

I read American Wasteland by Jonathan Bloom a few years ago, and ever since, I’ve made a very strong effort to not waste food by letting it go bad before I eat it. If I know something is on the verge, I try to use it or freeze it for another day.

We had some grapefruits in the fridge that we just weren’t eating — they were sent to us by my mother during Christmas. For one of our Christmas desserts, I used grapefruits to make the most amazing grapefruit vanilla curd that I served in a pie crust. So good.

This weekend, there is not enough time (or eggs in my fridge) to devote to making a curd so I decided to try a grapefruit soda recipe from Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss. The recipe capitalizes on the bitterness of the grapefruit by mixing fresh grapefruit juice with a simple syrup made with sugar and flat tonic water, which contains notoriously bitter quinine.

Homemade Grapefruit Soda Recipe:

2 grapefruits
1 cup of sugar
8 oz flat tonic water
1/2 tsp sea salt

  1. Heat sugar with flat tonic water and the zest of two large grapefruits on medium until it boils and the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and let the syrup come to room temperature.
  3. Stir in juice from two large grapefruits and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
  4. Mix 2/3 cup syrup with 2/3 cup seltzer for one serving.

Yum. Homemade Fresca without artificial sweeteners, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, and potentially harmful preservative, EDTA. Keep it clean, friends.

Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee bathroom, Behr Rain Forest bathroom, Benjamin Moore Classic Gray hallway, Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee guest bedroom, Benjamin Moore Bird's Egg guest bedroom nursery, Benjamin Moore Tranquil Blue sunroom, Benjamin Moore Slip bedroom

Planning a Whole House Color Palette

Nothing pains me more than to see a colorless home. I guess I understand why someone would choose a color like beige for the entire house, but I couldn’t imagine living with it in my home. Now, I shouldn’t totally discount beige, because it can look great in the right shade with the right furnishings. I think I’m biased because my current living room features a dirty yellowy beige that makes me go “blech!” everytime I look at it.

Color choice is very personal and can affect the way you feel, so it should be considered carefully. Also, colors for the home should be considered together, so you don’t end up with your home looking like a crayon box (unless that’s the look you’re going for.)

When we chose a color for our kitchen, Behr Rain Storm, we didn’t really think about how it would work with the rest of the house. Whoops. Then, we chose a color for the sunroom, Benjamin Moore Tranquil Blue, and again didn’t think about the rest of the house. Double whoops. Luckily, these colors actually work together and are on opposite sides of the house, so no lasting harm done.

Once we started down the painting path, we decided we should make a plan for the color in the home. We wanted to make sure the rooms flowed into one another with purpose and that the colors didn’t clash when viewed through a doorway. We also considered our current furnishings, since we don’t have the budget or the will to shop for new furniture.

Here’s the plan for the main floor, which consists of the entryway, kitchen and living room. Yes, we are planning on painting the living a beautiful shade of pink called Wild Aster. It’s not meant to be feminine; rather, the idea was to find a color that looked great against the dark blue and worked with the peachy-pink sofa and red chairs already present in the room.

Benjamin Moore Wild Aster living room, Behr Rain Storm kitchen, Benjamin Moore Classic Gray hallway

Clockwise from L: Benjamin Moore Wild Aster (living room), Behr Rain Forest (kitchen), Benjamin Moore Classic Gray (entry hallway)

For the upstairs, we’re planning the same color for the hallway, Benjamin Moore Classic Gray, and most likely will use our leftover Rain Forest blue for the hallway bathroom. Waste not, want not. The beige-y looking color (I know!) is actually a beautiful off white called Swiss Coffee that we will use in the first guest bedroom and the master bathroom. The second guest bedroom actually flows into the sunroom and can be seen from the hallway, so we chose Bird’s Egg, which is one color lighter than the color in the sunroom.

Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee bathroom, Behr Rain Forest bathroom, Benjamin Moore Classic Gray hallway, Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee guest bedroom, Benjamin Moore Bird's Egg guest bedroom nursery, Benjamin Moore Tranquil Blue sunroom, Benjamin Moore Slip bedroom

Clockwise from Upper L: Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee (master bath), Behr Rain Forest (hallway bathroom), Benjamin Moore Classic Gray (hallway), Benjamin Moore Swiss Coffee (guest bedroom), Benjamin Moore Bird’s Egg (guest bedroom), Benjamin Moore Tranquil Blue (sunroom), Benjamin Moore Slip (master bedroom)

What do you think of our planned whole home color palette? What colors do you use for the different areas of your home?

How to Decorate a Sunroom on a Budget: Before

I feel so lucky to have a sunroom. I feel very lucky to even own a home, but having a sunroom is really the icing on the cake. For those who know me well or have worked with me in an office building, they’ll confirm that I’m like a full-sun plant. A few cloudy days and I’m drooping all over the place.

Despite the fact that the sunroom feels 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house, it’s still my favorite room. It has windows on three sides and ample space for multiple activities. Up until a week ago, the room served as a messy multi-purpose space for making DIY wedding decor, exercising, storing craft supplies and watching TV.

But, when I decided to officially launch my wedding dance business and operate out of our sunroom, I realized the room needed a makeover, and quickly. Here are some pictures of the room in its messy state. My husband, Jordan, can be seen crouching in the front of the frame, gamely putting away Christmas ornaments.

How to decorate a sunroom on a budget: before photos How to decorate a sunroom on a budget: before photos

To make the room functional as a multi-purpose space and acceptable for visitors, we identified the following as our plan of action (plaction!):

  • Reorganize the layout to meet the needs of the three primary activities that will take place in the room: dance lessons, crafts/art projects and leisure activities, such as watching the two or three channels we receive from our antenna.
  • Find a paint that will make it appear as if the crazy floral sofa was a logical choice and not the result of a five minute deliberation in the Habitat ReStore. (More on that later.)
  • Spend as little money as possible bringing the room up to acceptable standards.

At the end of this project, we won’t have something that would ever be covered by interior decorating magazines like House Beautiful. But it will be cute and functional and livable, and that’s really all that matters, right?

How to Meal Plan for a Week

How to Meal Plan for a Week

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to get your life organized on the weekend and free up extra time during the busy week ahead. How many times have you looked at the clock at 4:30 pm and thought, “What are we having for dinner tonight?” If you haven’t planned ahead, you may have to stop on your way home at the grocery store or heaven-forbid, a fast food restaurant. The healthiest, least stressful and most frugal option for weeknight meals is to plan ahead.

Here’s how to do it.

Browse Cookbooks

Sometime during the weekend, I sit down with two or three of my cookbooks and flip through them for ideas, usually for about 15 minutes. I go in knowing I want to make soup or an interesting salad this week or, during a particular season like winter, I’m looking for recipes with winter fruits and vegetables and avoiding summery dishes. If you own a lot of cookbooks but feel like you never use them, start using them! You’ll get to try a lot of new recipes and you won’t get bored with the same old chicken and rice recipe. Plus, the best cookbooks include an estimated prep time or total time and a number of servings, which will help you determine what day to make that particular recipe. Some of my favorite cookbooks are:

  • The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
  • Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver
  • The Best 30-Minute Recipe from the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Choose Recipes that Have Similar Ingredients

Often I’ll start my planning out with a particular recipe in mind. Say I’m craving fish tacos. The recipe I usually make requires purple cabbage, cilantro, yogurt and lime for the slaw, breaded fish and tortillas. Pretty simple. But, you’ll be left with extra cilantro, cabbage and tortillas. So I’ll find other recipes that use the leftover ingredients like purple cabbage salad with apples and pecans or a curry recipe that uses basic pantry staples and cilantro in the dish and as a topping. Or, if you’re buying celery for a soup recipe, plan to either take celery with peanut butter for a snack that week or if you’re not going to use it, spend a few extra minutes to chop and freeze it so you can pull it out when you want to make soup the next time.

Assign Recipes to Days of the Week

If you have time on Sunday to prepare one or two things in advance, do it. Make the most elaborate meal on Sunday and make extra so you have leftovers you can either eat for lunch during the week or freeze in portion-sized containers for a particularly busy week in the future. For the rest of the dinners, assign recipes that will be easy to accomplish depending on your schedule and your needs throughout the week. If you know you don’t have a lot of time to cook on Tuesday and Wednesday night, dedicate Monday to making a big pot of stew or a casserole that will last for a few lunches and plan easy and quick recipes for the busy nights.

Also, don’t forget to plan for breakfast and lunch. I prefer simple things for both of these meal times that are quick and easy to throw together the night before or in the morning. For breakfast, some quick, healthy options include yogurt, granola (preferably homemade)  and fruit, oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts or a fruit smoothie and a boiled egg. For lunch, I like to take leftovers or a vegetable salad with protein and grains along with fruit, almonds and yogurt for easily portable snacks.

Shop, Cook, Relax

It may seem obvious, but try to get all the shopping for the week done in advance. This will make it much easier to get dinner started as soon as you get home. And, since you’ll know which recipe you’re following on each day, you won’t have to spend time thinking about what to make. This means you’ll have more time to exercise, spend time with your family and relax!

Do you have meal planning tips? Share them in the comments below.