Hey Dad, I Miss You…

It seems like I just wrote this post the other day. I can hardly believe it’s been a year since my dad passed away. I’m not really sure how I thought I would feel a year later. I don’t miss him any more or any less today, I just miss him. I don’t want to spend today crying about how much I miss him though. He wouldn’t want that. Instead, I want to spend today thinking about all of the wonderful memories I had with my dad.

A lot of things have changed over the past year, both good and bad. Some things I’m glad Dad wasn’t here for; for others my heart hurts that he is missing out.

I guess I thought I would have some profound writing ready for this day. Maybe I would’ve if I planned this post out a little more. I really don’t have any profound thoughts though. I just feel really fortunate for the 25 years I had my dad in my life. 25 years of laughter, tears, celebrations, and good food. 25 years that my dad taught me to be the person I am today. I’ll forever cherish those years and use them with each decision I make.

So today I won’t cry, I won’t be angry. Instead, I’ll be thankful for what I have and who I’ve become and I’ll remember all of the good times we shared.


Filed under Dad, Family

No excuses

Well friends, I really have no excuse anymore for not updating my blog. I don’t have school anymore, work has been pretty slow, I’m (almost) done moving into my new place, and my computer is working again. Hopefully I can get back on track and stay on track! I do have lots of recipes to catch up on; hopefully I can remember everything I’ve been making. Admittedly, I don’t have any new recipes from the past two weeks because I was busy packing and moving. I might have a fun, cute recipe for this week if everything works out well though.

So what else have I been up to? I finally officially graduated with Master’s from GWU a few weeks ago and had a great weekend with friends and family around to celebrate!

My amazing family was sweet enough to buy me a new camera for graduation too! I got a Canon XSi and I’ve been playing around with it as much as I can between moving and unpacking boxes! I’m definitely excited to have some (hopefully) better pictures for the blog. Thanks family! 🙂

I also moved into a new house last weekend after living with roomie, Evan for four years. It’s pretty different living with new people, but I’m excited to be in a house again instead of an apartment…to have a yard and a kitchen that I’m really excited to use!

Other than that, I’ve just been applying for jobs, jobs jobs. I won’t bore you with the details, or lack of details.  I also have another project in the works, once it gets started I’ll share, but I’m pretty excited about it.

Well, hopefully I’m back for good now and Gretch can leave me alone 😛 (Just kidding girl, I appreciate you bugging me to update!)


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Black Bean Burgers – a few weeks late – ok more like a month

Well I really dropped the ball on updating this guy, huh? I have no excuse really. I did keep up with my recipes though, so I’m going to try to get caught up on them (along with a few other things) this week. For starters…

A few Fridays ago (okay, like a month ago), I hung out with one of my best friends, Alpa, who happens to be a vegetarian. I had been planning on trying to make some kind of non-meat burger, but I wanted to do it when Alpa was around. For years she would come to our cookouts and we would get some veggie burgers just for her. We used to eat the Morningstar ones in college with all the veggie roommates. I was really skeptical of them at first, but with enough cheese, veggie toppings, and condiments, I quickly became a fan. Since then, I have tried to completely get away from buying prepackaged meals. I get migraines pretty regularly and have been struggling to determine different triggers. A big one for a lot of people is MSG, which is in tons of pre-made food. Plus, I like the idea of knowing everything that is in my food, so I’d rather just cook it on my own.

I looked up a simple black bean burger recipe to test out. I actually used the one on Whole Foods’ website.

Ingredients you’ll need:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1-2 tbsp. EVOO
  • Hamburger buns
  • Veggies for toppings

The recipe also called for hot sauce, but I decided to just wing it with all of the spices, I’m not a big fan of spicy (much to Alpa’s dismay)! We mashed up the ingredients into patties (it made 6) and cooked them in a skillet. Very simple. I will say that I made these another time since then. I simply threw everything into my food processor and gave it a whirl. The consistency of these was much better than when we mashed them by hand. Either way, it’s a very inexpensive meal that will leave you with plenty of leftovers!


My dinner date!

It doesn’t hurt to have one of these to go along with it either:

I need to start cooking some meals that will result in prettier pictures!

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Life on the Farm

Another much belated post…don’t act like you’re surprised! Last (last) weekend I took a trip down to Louisa to visit my sister, Twila, and her husband, Andy. They live on a small, but growing, farm and it felt great to get out of the city and relax for a few days! I love spending time at their house, it always feels nice and cozy. I was especially excited because it was the first time I saw her since she found out she is pregnant!!! I’m going to be an aunt in September and I could not be more excited. I took her a little UNC onesie and bib, but came to find out that Andy’s mom had bought them two UNC onesies already! Guess that kid will have no other choice now. Smile We had a pretty chill weekend, watching movies and playing with the animals. Some of my friends up here seemed to be surprised that they have a farm.  Here’s the rundown on animals: 1 pig, 5 adult goats (including a fainting goat!) and 2 little adorable baby goats, lots of chickens, a rabbit or two (I haven’t seen them in awhile, are they still around?). Then inside the house, there are 3 dogs and 3 or 4 cats. I think 3. I’m much more interested in the doggies.

Here’s one:


I posted that one online and everyone said “ohhh, he’s so cute!” Here he is showing his true colors:

photo (3)

Just kidding, he’s usually pretty sweet, but he gets out of control with the bigger dog sometimes. He also growls when you pet him, but it’s his way of showing he likes it. What a weirdo.

I snagged a few pictures of the goats on Saturday too, but it was feeding time, so they weren’t too interested. Here’s Twila with one of the babies:

apples and twila 031

Here’s Cookie (I call her Cookiepants), the fainting goat:

apples and twila 033

I didn’t get any pictures with Twila and Andy, sadly. I’m headed down there again at the end of the month for a Spring cookout, so I’ll be sure to get some then. Hopefully she’ll be showing a little too.

Be sure to check out their Facebook page. Andy and his dad have been working hard to build a greenhouse and they’re starting to grow all kinds of fun things!

That weekend was just what I needed. We watched a few movies (Due Date was surprisingly hilarious), ate some bbq while listening to some bluegrass bands, and then surprised my stepmom for an early birthday lunch!

Twila and Andy, thanks for letting me hang out for the weekend. I had so much fun spending time with you guys!!

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A Feast Fit for a President

Screw Presidents Day. I made this Presidents Week! Earlier this week I picked out two recipes I really wanted to make for the week, both related to Presidents Day. I ordered a Colonial-era cookbook (written by Thomas Jefferson’s cousin!) a few weeks ago and had been flipping through that looking for a dinner recipe, but for some reason a roasted calf’s head just didn’t sound too appealing. Then Monday morning, my stepmom forwarded Food Network’s recipe of the day, which came from the Obama’s and the White House kitchen garden. It sounded too good not to cook. So I decided I’d cook that for dinner one night and I’d pick a dessert from the colonial cookbook. I made this on Tuesday for dinner and it was pretty easy to do and delicious to eat.

For this recipe you’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp. of chopped mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley)
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 bunches kale, collar, or mustard greens (or mix), stemmed and corn
  • ¾ cup chicken stock

I don’t want to just copy step-by-step directions, just click on the above link.  The original recipe actually called for using a 3-4 pound whole chicken. It was easier to just get chicken breasts though. I also didn’t have the money for a bunch of fresh herbs (but I can’t wait to snag some from my sis when they start growing.). I did buy some fresh rosemary and then used dried thyme. Still tasted amazing. Coat the chicken in oil, mustard, and herbs, let sit for 45 minutes, and then bake for 30.


Raw chicken just always looks gross



Ok, so the greens…I can’t believe how delicious these were. And I am a greens snob! After growing up eating my mom and dad’s greens, there are little others that taste as good. These were so completely different, but a really refreshing taste. My parents’ were always vinegary, which were good. These are just cooked with the bacon, onion, and broth.  I literally stood in Whole Foods for at least 5 minutes trying to decide what kind of greens I wanted to cook, but I finally settled on kale.


My kind of bouquet


Saute the bacon and onion, then add your kale and let it wilt, after a few minutes add the broth, and let them cook for 45 minutes.


Simma down now, kale


The winning combination:


As I sat eating supper, I thought…maybe President Obama is somewhere eating this same exact thing…but probably not. I’ll post my dessert recipe soon! Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend!



Filed under Holiday, Presidents, Recipes

Panda Thanksgiving

I couldn’t decide between the two above images, so you get both! Hooray! Monday was one of my all-time favorite holidays – Presidents Day!! Or as my friend, Steve, dubbed it, “Panda Thanksgiving.” I actually had a day off from work and couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to head down to my favorite historical (and presidential) house, Monticello. I convinced a few friends that going to museums actually can be fun and we made the trip down on what was looking like a beautiful day. We got down to Charlottesville just in time for the beer tasting in the gift shop. Starr Hill introduced a “Monticello Reserve Ale” and debuted it at Monticello for President’s Day – how fitting! It is actually from Jefferson’s recipe (he was quite the beer and wine maker). It has been modernized a bit so that it is more familiar to us as a beer. I’d be interested to taste the original recipe though. I have to say, I was a big fan of this beer, and not just because  it was associated with Monticello! It was a lighter (but not too light) beer with a really smooth finish. We tried some samples and each snagged a few bottles to bring home.

Our friend, Rob, met us there. He used to work there and showed us around the exhibitions and explained how a lot of the interactives work. If you haven’t been to Monticello since they opened the new Visitor’s Center (or ever), you should really check it out. All of their exhibitions are incredible and really let you get a feel for the kind of person Jefferson was. I’ve been to the new center at least 4 times now and I feel like I learn something new each time. We went up to the house for a tour in the afternoon. We couldn’t have asked for better weather – it was almost jacketless weather. We walked around the gardens for a bit while we waited for our tour time and there were workers planting crops for Spring. Monticello is gorgeous in Spring. Our tour guide was one of the better ones I’ve seen. It’s always interesting to see what stories each one tells and of course, to see what they say about Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemmings. After the tour, we checked out the rooms beneath that held the stables, kitchen, smoke house, ice house, wine/beer cellars, and a new exhibition on slave activities at Monticello. I preferred the old exhibition, but maybe I was just annoyed by the school kids ringing a servant bell non-stop.

I really didn’t take many pictures while we were there and I kind of regret that now. I guess at the time I was thinking that I have so many Monticello pictures already back home, but it would’ve been nice to document our day, I didn’t even snag a pic of Rob! There was a storm rolling in and I did get some pretty pictures of the garden. Check it:

And of course the house:

Ben and Andrea checking out the privy:

Hanging out in the gardens:

Overall, a very awesome day down in Charlottesville, despite the 2 and a half hour drive back to Nova in the freezing rain…blech. I could go on and on about how much I love Monticello and Thomas Jefferson, but I’ll spare you. I at least made a believer out of Russell…I think he has a man-crush on ol’ TJ.

It’s been soooo nice having time to actually go to museums now that I am not going to school for museums. Heh. Hope everyone had as awesome of a President’s Day as we did. I’ve worked on a few “presidential” recipes for this week (in fact one is on the stove right now) and I will be reporting back on those very shortly!

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Filed under History, Holiday, Presidents, Tom J

Some more “belated”s

Ok, I vow to get caught up on these weekly recipes. I swear I cook them all on time, it’s just a matter of reporting about them. So this past week, I wanted to cook something for Valentine’s Day, some kind of treat. I decided to get it done Tuesday so that I could take my treats over to my friends at the JBP. I found this delicious recipe over at Bakerella! Luckily it was pretty quick and easy, because I was strapped for time between work and recording.

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature


  • 1/2 c. butter, room temperature
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 lb. of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

I won’t go step by step for this recipe, because Bakerella does a fantastic job of explaining it all. Basically though, you just mix red velvet cake mix, butter, and eggs. It does take a long time to get the mix to the right consistency. When I first added the butter and eggs to the cake mix, I really was doubting that it would cover the mix, but with a little elbow grease, I made it work.

The icing was really easy too. Just combine those ingredients and beat with a hand mixer. Once the cookies have cooled, spread a generous amount and make a sandwich! The guys gobbled these up! Happy belated Valentine’s Day everyone! What did you do to celebrate?

I’m all caught up with recipe posts now, so be ready for a fun one this week to celebrate one of my favorite holidays!

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Filed under Holiday, Recipes

Happy Birthday Dad

Unfortunately, this post is a lot later than I had planned. I don’t know what happened last week, but I did cook. Tuesday, the 8th, would have been my dad’s 59th birthday. My stepmom and I talked last week about all of the “firsts” that occur after a loved-one dies. Thankfully, we’re almost done with all of those firsts, and family will be around for the ones that remain (birthdays and the first anniversary of him passing), so that eases the pain a bit. I knew Dad’s birthday was coming up, but it really kind of snuck up on me and I started the morning feeling a little down. My friend Jamie made a wonderful suggestion. She knew I’ve been doing my weekly recipes, so she suggested I go home and cook one of my dad’s favorite recipes. It was the perfect way to celebrate my dad’s birthday, doing something that he loved to do.

I wasn’t able to cook the meal on his actual birthday, but it gave me more time to plan, so it actually worked out pretty well. I decided to cook his chicken and dumplings recipe and then his strawberry pie for a bonus recipe and dessert! My stepmom sent me his recipes and I made a few slight modifications.

I’ll start with the chicken and dumplings. I decided to scale down the recipe because I didn’t really need to feed an army. I also decided to make my own dumplings instead of buying them from the store. I’d never made dumplings before, so I’m sure my dad would’ve approved of that change.

Here’s what I used:

4 chicken thighs
1 qt. Chicken broth

1 c. Flour
1/2 c. Milk
2 tsp. Baking powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 tbsp. Butter

Boil the chicken and pull the meat from the bone. Heat the chicken broth and after a few minutes, add the chicken. Cook on medium while you make your dumplings. Don’t try to also make your pie while this is going on. You’ll end up going insane and might burn a perfectly good pie crust (not that that happened or anything). For the dumplings, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter (make sure it’s around room temperature). Finally, add the milk until it reaches a doughy consistency. Drop globs into your chicken and broth, they don’t need to be perfectly shaped, they look better with a little bit of character! Simmer for 10-15 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste!

Now for the pie you’ll need:

1 qt. Strawberries
1 baked pie crust
3 c. Heavy cream
1/3 c. Powdered sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla

I decided to make my own whipped cream for the pie, but to be honest, I wish I had just bought a tub of cool whip. So if you do that, forget those last three ingredients.  First, wash and quarter your strawberries. Don’t forget to sample a few as you go along! Sprinkle with a bit of powdered sugar (maybe 1/4 cup) and let them marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. Bake your pie crust as directed. Then combine your whipped cream and strawberries and fill your cooled pie crust.

If you’re making the whipped cream, start by whipping the heavy cream. I was using my hand mixer and really wished I had a stand mixer. I was getting impatient and didn’t want to ruin my chicken and dumplings, but then I remembered hearing about using a food processor to make whipped cream. Ho-ly crap. After standing there with my hand mixer for a good 10 minutes, I broke out the food processor…10 seconds later it was whipped. Add 1/3 c. powdered sugar and tsp. of vanilla and blend well.

Now my problem was that my whipped cream just wasn’t quite right, it tasted good, but it wasn’t completely smooth and it just didn’t look as pretty as store-bought. I also didn’t eat any of the pie until the next day and it had soaked through the bottom of the crust. Overall, the pie was kind of a flop, but I think if I did it a little differently, it would’ve been amazing. I still ate some and it tasted delicious, despite how it looked!


Now, embarrassingly enough I forgot to take a picture of the pie when it was done. Oops! Overall, chicken and dumplings were quite successful. The pie…could be improved, but that was my fault. My dad’s was always delicious! I had fun cooking these and trying some things I hadn’t done before. More than anything though, it was really nice to cook foods I knew my dad loved and to just spend a few hours in the kitchen with my dad again.

Dad, I miss you tons, but I’m thankful for the things we have here to keep us connected and celebrating the wonderful father you were. ❤

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Playing Catch-up

I’ve gotten just a little behind on posting my weekly recipes, but I have been keeping up with the recipes themselves, I promise! Last week (or last last week I guess) Erin came over for dinner. It’s always more fun cooking with a friend! Erin became a vegetarian a few months ago, so she brought over a cookbook, the most gigantic cookbook ever! It’s called How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, so I guess it makes sense to weigh a ton. It was overwhelming trying to pick out a recipe, but we both decided something cheesy sounded good. It’s probably not the most healthy recipe (ok, definitely), but we found a delicious sounding mac and cheese recipe. I’m a sucker for good mac and cheese. It was actually pretty similar to how I usually make my mac and cheese, but the recipe used cheddar and parmesan, plus it is baked with bread crumbs on top, yum!!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
2 1/2 cups milk
2 bay leaves
1 pound elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups grated cheese, like sharp cheddar or Emmental
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup or more bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.
2. Cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.
3. Cook the pasta to the point where it is almost done but you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender.  Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in a large bowl.
4. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter; when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk all the while.  As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk and continue to do so until all the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth.  Add the cheddar and stir.
5. Pour the sauce over the noodles, toss in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Use the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9×13 -inch or smaller-size baking pan and turn the pasta mixture into it.  Top liberally with bread crumbs and bake until bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, about 15 minutes.  Serve piping hot.

Swimming bay leaves


Cheddar and Parm - mmm!

Cheese sauce!

Erin stirring the mac and cheese


I’m not going to lie, I ate more than my fair share of mac and cheese, but still managed to save room for dessert. Erin told me about her aunt’s recipe for apple dumplings and I love anything that has apple in it. She didn’t have a recipe written down, so we just winged it and they tasted delicious!!

Apple Dumplings
1/2 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 peeled, cored and quartered Granny Smith apples
1 can crescent rolls
1. Melt the butter, sugar and water together on the stove.
2. Roll each apple piece in a crescent roll.
3. Place in a baking dish and drizzle the melted mix over rolls.
4. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and back at 375 for 25 minutes.


Wrapping the apples in dough

apples in their "bath"

I could've just eaten them raw.

While we ate, Erin and I watched Food, Inc., a documentary about the food industry. It was really eye-opening and equally depressing. I could probably write a whole separate post about the film (and I might). I definitely recommend it though (as long as you don’t mind some chicken killing). Erin also made good on her promise to teach me to crochet. I must say, it’s much much easier than knitting. I’m almost halfway done with a scarf that for the first time doesn’t even remotely resemble crap. I sat around yesterday watching tv and working on my scarf for several hours. I’m becoming an old lady. Thanks Erin for being patient with me, you’re a great teacher!

I know I’m a bit behind. I’ll post my recipes, yes plural, from this week, tomorrow. Getting back to my southern roots this week! I have a few non-food related posts coming your way too. Look out!

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Wise Old Panda

I’m really becoming an old lady recently. In the past week, I’ve started to spend my lunch break working on the crossword puzzle from the Express. For a long time I wouldn’t even let myself get the Express in the mornings because I knew I should be reading articles or books for school. Now I can do whatever I want on my metro ride – oh the  perks of having a Master’s (ha). Over the weekend, I also taught myself how to knit. I tried it once before, but didn’t go very far with it. It was one of those things that I always wish I knew how to do growing up, but the ladies in my family are not knitters, crocheters (is that a word?), or sewers (people that sew, not the poop tunnels, yes I just said poop tunnels). I watched a few videos to learn how to knit left-handed, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I even have a knitting date tomorrow night with my friend Erin (who is also going to help me with my recipe for the week!)!  There are three things I wanted to learn when I finished school. Knitting is the first one I’m tackling. I don’t want to spill the beans on the other two just yet…

Do any of you knit or have family members that do?


Filed under Post-grad