Happy and Merry

Christmas this year was like being on a rollercoaster for me this year. The emotions were high, some traditions changed, and I am exhausted from it all.

My father and stepmother are moving to the Adirondacks so this was the last year I was able to celebrate Christmas in the house that I helped build with my very own hands twenty years ago this year. Let alone this emotional ride, my father had to work and wasn’t able to be a part of it. I am so happy for them and the future that they will enjoy, but my heart aches knowing that they won’t be in my hometown anymore. No more walks in the back woods, no more treehouse and bear traps my siblings and I made when we were kids, no more faces on the pine trees, no more squirrels eating the bird food… Yet, smiling ear to ear to make new memories at their house surrounded by beautiful ADK mountains!!

For my mom’s christmas, my youngest brother wasn’t able to come home so we skyped with him as we opened our presents. It was weird not having him there, first time for everything I guess. Being in my mid-twenties I guess I have to get used to all of this… things just aren’t going to be the same anymore.

So, the happiness that I will always have during Christmas time is cooking with my family. SO MUCH COOKING! My mom and I were like little elves making toys, nonstop!

The day after christmas we spent the morning lounging around and then finally went to the grocery store to stock up for our family holiday party the next day. That night we invited my grandmother over for some homemade gnocchi! Check them out…


I used purple, red, and sweet potatoes – boiled until soft, drained and left on the stovetop to stay warm. Then I mixed in 50:50 white wheat flour. Here’s where things get tricky – there isn’t really a specific amount for this, there more of a science to it – it just has to feel right 🙂

Then I made two different sauces to top the pasta off… a tomato meat sauce made with turkey sausage and roasted red peppers, and a balsamic red wine reduction portobello carmelized onion sauce with cashew cream. Here’s my plate with the mushroom sauce topped off with goat cheese, yum! My mouth is watering right now just thinking about how amazing this tasted!!


The Saturday morning I cooked cookies, salads, soup, potatoes, and these… Vegan pumpkin cheesecakes!

Gingerbread Crust:

*1/3 cup coconut oil

*1/2 cup sugar

*1/3 maple syrup

*1/4 cup almond milk

*2 cups flour ( I mixed wheat, brown rice & coconut)

*1/2 teaspoon baking soda & 1/2 tsp baking powder

*1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

*1 tsp ground ginger

^Mixed & pressed into mini muffin tins, baked for 6 mins on 350


*1 cup cashews

*1 cup water

^blend in vitamix, adding water as needed until creamy consistency

*1 can pumpkin puree

*1 tsp baking soda

*spices – pumpkin pie spice, cinammon, ginger, clove

^I blended these ingridents together in the vitamix and then spooned the mixture out into the muffin tins on top of the gingerbread crusts. Then they were baked for 20 minutes at 300 degrees.

^I cooled them in the fridge for 4 hours and them topped them with coconut whipped cream (full fat coconut cream whipped in the blender) and cinnamon

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My family loved these little cheesecakes and were all so surprised that they were vegan!

Overall, with the high emotions, my christmas was joyful as always. Seeing the family members that I was able to see made it so worth it and I had a blast!


Staying warm…

We finally got our first real snow fall! It was stressful when it came, thick, heavy, wet snow that piled up quickly and kept coming for two days, but it sure is beautiful on the trees 🙂

During the snow filled, cold week- I spent time inside, reading. I read an article in a magazine about food and the luxuries we’ve all come to expect… decades ago our food came from local farmers and families ate seasonally. There was no such thing as processed foods and sushi in upstate NY. I know that I’m too young to have lived like this, but I find joy in thinking about what it would be like. I would say that my family is quite traditional with their cooking. Processed foods weren’t a huge thing in my household and my mothers always cooked a full meal with meat, potatoes, and vegetables. In the summer time we ate fresh salads and green beans. In the winter time, more soups, stews, and casseroles.

After reading this article and reminiscing of my own childhood and my fictitious past life in the early 1900’s I vowed to myself that I would try my best to eat seasonal local foods for the rest of this winter. So, here’s my first stab at it…

I went to the public market Saturday morning and bought: butternut squash, spaghetti squash, carrots, beets and Asian pears. My fridge is fully stocked with winter wonderful foods. I instantly roasted both of the squashes and my mind wandered about recipes.

Warm Quinoa & Butternut Squash Salad

1 cup red quinoa, cooked

1/2 butternut squash, cubed and roasted with olive oil (@ 425 degrees)

3 beets, cubed and roasted

1 cup brussel sprouts, quartered & roasted

1/2 cup cranberries (roasted)

*I seasoned with pepper and fresh minced garlic and tossed all of the vegetables together with the quinoa. I plan on eating this over salad greens or just alone for lunches this week. A bit of goat cheese on top won’t hurt either 🙂

*This morning I warmed the salad in a frying pan along with two eggs, it was delicious.

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1 spaghetti squash roasted at 350 degrees for 2 hours

Wegman’s Grandpa’s sauce goes vegetarian

1 head Broccoli, separated

*For dinner tonight I heated the spaghetti squash in a frying pan along with fresh broccoli and my favorite tomato sauce. This heart warming and so very simply dish will keep me happy this week for dinner that’s for sure!


The other half of butternut squash I roasted whole and I am going to experiment this week with baking some sweet treats with it. Not sure exactly what yet, but if whatever I make turns out good I’ll post it!

Dedicated to…

Ashley! Thanks to my wonderful cousin texting me this past week, I’m back! It’s December… I have two more weeks until Christmas break from school. I’ve gotten into another stump. It’s not rare for me to get seasonal depression. The cold sinks in, walking up and driving the work in the dark and then driving home in the dark, it does something to a girl. Well, to anyone. It’s not like I haven’t been cooking. Heck, I’ve even been taking pictures of what I’ve made, it just hasn’t made it here. So, again, thank you to my cousin Ashley for reminding me that I have people counting on me to blog each week.

Cooking today helped me get back into my routine of things and it helped me forget about the cold, sad weather outside. I woke up, watched CBS Sunday morning, went to the gym, went to tutoring, then came home and cooked and lesson planned. Ah, the sweet joy of routines, makes me feel like myself again! So here’s what we’ve got this week… definitely going to be a crowd pleaser… may want to save these recipes for your holiday festivities!

Brussel Sprout Pomegranate Salad

(Inspiration: my dear friend and colleague… whom brought me a cup of her recipe and a fork in the last five minutes of lunch one day this past week. The two forkfuls I was able to get was heaven on earth and the only food that touched my lips since 6am… so, I may be biased, but this one’s a keeper! Also, please note that in her recipe, she used feta cheese… definitely a great choice, adds a bite of saltiness!)

My recipe…


1 pound brussel sprouts (1/2 processed in ninja, 1/2 chopped by hand… gives an added texture to each bite by having the two different cuts, not necessary but delicious)

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

1 small handful pecans, chopped

1 pomegranate

Ginger Jalapeno Dressing–

small piece of fresh ginger, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lemon, juiced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

*I started with the brussel sprouts, processed and hand shaved and the nuts, mixed together in a bowl

*Then, I said to myself… why the hell am I cooking something with pomegranate? I’ve always loved these things but hate opening and seeding them… so I watched a couple of videos and learned the easiest way ever… took me no more than 5 minutes to get this huge pomegranate open and seeded! Check it out…

1. Cut off the top, similar to how you would do a tomato top


2. Score the skin (don’t cut too deep) into 8 sections


3. Gently pull apart into sections


4. Turn upside down and pull at edges of skin, seeds will just pop out!


5. Continue to pull and pick at seeds, or use Martha Stewart’s method of beating the bottom of the fruit with a wooden spoon… (yeah, makes sense for Martha huh)


6. Lastly, put some cold water in the bowl and the extra pieces of skin inside that fell out will rise to the top, simply scoop it out!

Wow! Told ya, super easy! So, then I added the pomegranate seeds to the bowl, mixed, and made my dressing – threw all ingredients listed above into my ninja food processor and drizzled on top of mixture. Mixed with my hands, cause that’s how I am, and bam! The dressing says it all… this dressing is something that comes from an old recipe of mine that it a kale salad and I think it’s even better with this salad! Enjoy! I topped it off with some goat cheese and black pepper for lunch tomorrow – can’t wait!

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Next up, breakfast… It’s been awhile since I’ve made breakfast for the week. I’ve been stuck on eggs or granola and yogurt for weeks. So, I brought back a winner — Quinoa Banana Bake! I made this a lot last year, especially during the winter season , but here’s the recipe again for ya…

1 cup quinoa, cooked (2 cups water, boil, simmer)

2 over-ripened bananas

1/2 cup almond milk

1/3 cup almonds, chopped

cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger

2 tbs maple syrup

*Baked at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes just to let everything meld together. Can’t wait for this tomorrow morning warmed and topped with more almond milk, yum!


Lastly, I tried to remake one of my mom’s recipes… Mushroom Black Bean Soup. Key word here is “tried”. My stepmom has taught me so much about cooking and yes, I am a better cook because of her, but I will never be better than her and some recipes, I just won’t be able to make as good. Either way, this soup is still a winner and will keep me nice and warm this week when its 20 degrees and starts to snow again. Frankly, I’m looking forward to the snow… better than this dirty muddy grass we have.

Mushroom Black Bean Soup

1 pound black beans, soaked and cooked in pressure cooker (20 minutes)

2 portobello mushrooms, chopped coarsely

2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced

1 cup carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

3/4 cup frozen corn

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, sliced thinly

seasonings: oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, bay leaves

*All vegetables were sauteed together in vegetable broth

*black beans were cooked in vegetable broth in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes

*sauteed vegetables were added to the pressure cooker and cooked for another 20 minutes

This soup’s flavors are great, its nice and comforting. I think that the flavors could be more bold and melded together better if I slow cooked it… I may put it on the slow cooker for a few hours tomorrow just to see. I remember when my mom made this that it was so cooked down that it stuck to your insides and the garlic and mushroom flavors would burst in every spoonful. Hopefully slow cooking it will help. If you are only using a slow cooker, my mom slow cooked to bean on low overnight and then added the vegetables and let it slow cook for another 3 hours.

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Have a fabulous week, ya’ll. Turn on the Christmas music, light up the tree, and snuggle on the couch with one of these beauties! Enjoy!

True Happiness

I write to you tonight in true happiness. My life is good, it’s really good. I just spend a full week with my boyfriend, loving every minute being in his presence and creating memories together. We spent my birthday weekend in NYC, where I was able to meet his father, fall absolutely in love with him, and see my best friend from college. This weekend, I graciously enjoyed my four day weekend in remembrance of our veterans. I spent time embracing my freedom as an American, having the ability to do whatever I please in that very moment. Like going for a two hour walk today with a friend on the boardwalk of the Genesee River… yes there is such a thing. Like driving around the city with the top down, hair blowing in the air, sun kissing my checks and brisk air chilling my lungs. Freedom. Happiness. Bliss.


Anxiously awaiting school tomorrow morning, I find myself in bed, at 8 o’clock, writing this blog, checking things off of my do-to list, and hoping to fall asleep quickly. Three day week, but a long three days ahead. Lunch tomorrow whistles to me, hey, Lisa, come here, come and get this delicious stew.

Yup, stew. Venison stew. My body aches for homemade food as its endured restaurant cooking for the past week. Joyful enduring, of course, but still, unnatural at times causing stomach growls. Meat you ask… yes. I know, I need to cleanse, maybe next week. For now, the weather is going to change from 68 degrees to 42 degrees in the matter of 12 hours and I need warmth. I need stew.

Backwoods Venison Stew (in the pressure cooker)

*2 pds venison stew meat (shot in the backwoods of my hometown, thanks to my dad and bro)

*1 pd red potatoes, quartered

*1 cup frozen pearl onions

*1 cup frozen green beans

*1/2 cup carrots, sliced and quartered

*3 cloves garlic, minced

*1 container vegetable stock

*2 tbs tomato paste

*sage, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt, smoked paprika

The venison was browned on a medium high heated frying pan and searing for about 2 minutes in total. I then added this to the pressure cooker pot with the rest of the ingredients, all raw. Stirred everything together and placed the lid on the cooker. I set the timer on high pressure for 20 minutes. The beeper went off, 10 minutes later (allowing for natural release of pressure), I opened the lid and BAM! BAM! BAM!

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BAM! Delicious venison stew. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about this for lunch tomorrow. Again, I anxiously wait. YUMMMM!

Fall warmth

All of the leaves have fallen off my trees out back, my lawn is covered and crunches as I walk across to my garden. Fall is definitely here and I need soup!

I realized that the three dishes I made last week was just too much. I got sick of them by yesterday and ending up tossing some of the stuff out. I even brought the butternut squash soup to a dinner at my friend’s house! So, I’ve learned that I need to keep myself to a one or two dish minimum. This week I’ve made one soup for myself. I have a dinner party tomorrow night, tutoring Tuesday and my boyfriend comes back into town toward the end of the week, so really this will be lunches and maybe one or two dinners at home.

Fall Harvest Minestrone!

1 container of vegetable stock, organic

2 small zucchini, halved and thickly sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

4 small carrots (from my garden) sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

a handful of asparagus sprigs, chopped

a handful of tuscan kale (from my garden)

a few mushrooms, quartered

1 red potato (cause I needed to use it up)

2 cans of stewed tomatoes

1 can black eyed peas

1 can garbanzo beans

4 cloves garlic, minced

“parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”

*I threw everything into my crockpot and let it cook down for 4 hours.

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So fresh and yummy! I look forward to warming up this week with this delicious soup!

Regaining my motivation!

Well, I fell of the wagon there for a few weeks. I cooked every Sunday still but nothing new and exciting, and nothing worth blogging about. Thanks to my wonderful friends at dunch yesterday, I’ve regained my motivation and love for cooking new dishes for myself each Sunday for the school week!

One of the dishes from dunch yesterday, made by my dear friends, was a sweet potato and turkey chili. It was amazingly addicting and inspired me to make my own today. What was so great about it you ask? Cocoa. I’ve heard of this in recipes before, to add cocoa powder to your chili, but I had never done it. Woah, is it good.

So, here’s my rendition of a fall comfort chili…

1 pound ground lean turkey, pan fried and crumbled

1 large sweet potato, peeled and coarsely cubed & roasted

1 delicata squash, coarsely cubed & roasted

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 can pureed pumpkin

1 can kidney beans

1 can black beans

1/2 red onion

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

1 tsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp thyme

1/2 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp sage

2 tbs Siracha hot sauce

*All ingredients went into my brand new slow cooker/ pressure cooker duo that my best mommy in the whole world bought me for my birthday! Check this baby out…

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*3 hours on slow cooker later, bam! Delicious! I have to say my chili doesn’t even come close to my friends’ chili from yesterday, but its still pretty damn good.

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Rain and 50 degree weather all week, I’ll be snuggled up with a big bowl of this yummy goodness when I get home from work.

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Fall is my favorite season, for many reasons. Reason number 1 is my birthday, obviously. All other reasons are because of the weather. Yeah, I complain about the cold a lot, but I love the leaves changing and the crispness in the air. The sunshine peeking through the trees and glistening on the wet pavement sidewalks and roads around the city. I love the variety fresh squash at the public market and the apple cider warmed and topped with cinnamon.

My friends have inspired me. Fall has inspired me. It’s time for some new squash recipes! So, I vacationed from lesson planning for a few minutes and perused Pinterest for some ideas. With a large butternut squash, I wanted to make two different dishes for lunches this week as well as the wonderful chili. So, I roasted it!

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First up, a soup. Of course.

Maple Apple Butternut Squash Soup!

I combined some different ideas from Pinterest and thought of my own palate and the flavors I’ve been craving to come up with this beauty…

1 honeycrisp apple, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 small red onion, sliced

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, cubed & roasted with olive oil

I sauteed the apple with onion and maple syrup on medium low heat with the cover on the pan to soften the apples and get a golden maple syrup flavor mixed in. I tossed this into my food processor with the cooled roasted squash and pureed with some freshly ground black pepper and unsweetened almond milk (about 1/2 cup).

The finished product: a simple, not to sweet, delectable soup. I think this will be best warmed, but would also be good cold for breakfast in the morning! Oh, mix a little into my oatmeal. Yes, re-inspired for sure!

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Lastly, a salad. My body craves greens on an hourly basis, so not making a salad for the week would be devastating. A roasted butternut squash & quinoa salad!

1/2 butternut squash, peeled, cubed & roasted with olive oil

1/2 cup dry quinoa, cooked in a cup of water

6-8 sprigs of asparagus, cut & sauteed with red onion and minced garlic

2 cups wild arugula

*Toss all of the ingredients together and top with some fresh goat cheese. Oh wow, this is a keeper too!

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So happy to be back at my cooking again. Inspired to create new dishes with my pressure cooker for next weekend, stay tuned!

A pound of bacon…what?!?!

It all started with my aunt bringing me two gigantic and beautiful tomatoes last week when she visited. And to think I hated tomatoes when I was growing up… now, I could eat them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if the opportunity arose. Tomatoes, loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals, specifically lycopene, which fights off cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, are boasted to be the most nutritious vegetable. I would disagree based on the lack of protein, and most importantly the sugar content, especially when cooked down into sauces and things. But I sure do love a fresh tomato.

So, these fresh tomatoes sat in my fridge, and I thought of my stepdad and his love for a thick slice of tomato smothered in mayo and topped with salt and pepper. I thought of BLTs. One of my favorite sandwiches once I started eating tomatoes as a teenager. There in lies the bacon. Organic turkey bacon. Pork bacon, well I haven’t eaten that in over two years. Not to say that turkey bacon is any better for you, yes the fat content is much less, but its still animal product that is processed and molded together into a slab. Hm, just talking about it makes me not want to eat it. But in any case, some turkey bacon every so often (maybe once every 3 months if that I buy some), won’t hurt.

A pound of turkey bacon, which is 10 slices in total, cooked for the week — created three dishes as well as leftovers for eggs (free-range, organic of course) in the morning if I really want to get crazy.

I started out with braised red cabbage (also from my aunt — she’s just the best, really). This simple dish started out with the pan used from frying the bacon (with basically no fat in it, again, turkey bacon has very little fat content), seared with vegetable stock to get all of the salty scrapings from the pan up. Then I added one whole red onion, thinly sliced. I sauteed this until soft and added the red cabbage. Look at how beautiful this glorious vegetable is…

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Red cabbage is a million times more nutritious than green cabbage, and much more tasty. Its loaded with polyphenols which offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. Red cabbage is low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber and a rich source of several vitamins such as A, C and E.

I let the cabbage simmer with the red onion and 1 cup of vegetable stock until it was tender and soft. I topped it off with 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic minced and some black pepper. This dish is great hot or cold – perfect for this week since it will be sunny and in the 70’s…wahoo!

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Then it was time for two dishes with the turkey bacon. The first, one of my favorite dishes that a dear friend of mine makes — sweet potatoes, avocado, and bacon mash. I did a little twist on the recipe:

2 strips of turkey bacon, cooked & chopped

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled until fork tender

1/2 small red onion, chopped

1 avocado, cubed

1 cup arugula

*I mixed all of the ingredients together and topped with some ground black pepper. The combination of the sweet potatoes and avocado is good enough for me any day, but the addition of turkey bacon gives an added flavor and chewy texture that makes me feel like I’m consuming much more food…which I am, and more protein, which I always need!

When my friend makes it, she cooks the sweet potatoes a little longer, creating more of a semi-mashed potato dish and using a ton of fresh cilantro (I didn’t have any in the house, but I 110% recommend adding this!).

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Lastly, the BLT. A paleo version. I took romaine heart leaves and stuffed them with the fresh tomatoes and 1 slice of turkey bacon. I topped each one with freshly ground black pepper. That’s it. Seriously, nothing else. The tomatoes were perfectly ripe that I didn’t need any sauce with this, especially not mayo. I think my stepdad would enjoy these alot, mayo added, of course.

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Taking bets now on what I’ll use the extra bacon for this week — my moneys on the paleo BLTs.

Speaking of money, since my aunt brought me the tomatoes and cabbage, and I bought the red onions last week from the farmers market (6 for $2), I spent about $10 on these recipes for the week–

$5.99 for turkey bacon, $2 for sweet potatoes, $1 for avocado, $2 for romaine hearts. Even including the $5 or less that my aunt spent on the cabbage and tomatoes, thats less then $20 for the week. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Enjoy the sunshine this week ya’ll, I know I sure will 🙂