Archive | July 2012

Jessica’s Baked Oven Fries

This is the simplest thing ever. But we eat them once a week or more because they are so good! The key is to cook for a good long while!


– about 6 potatoes, any kind. Sweet Potato, Red, Russet, and Idaho work great.

– olive oil

-salt and pepper

– 1/2 an onion


Dice the potatoes into pieces about the size of a dice! :) Chop the onion, not too small. Dump them in a bowl and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a good amount of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Spray a cookie sheet and dump the potato mix on it. Cook at 425 degrees for at least 35 minutes. Halfway through, remove pan and mix up potatoes. Enjoy!


Pittsburgh Salad

In Pittsburgh, they have this great tradition of putting fries on salad. It is probably one of the few good things about the city of Pittsburgh. JUST KIDDING!!! Kind of. Anyway, we really enjoy this salad in our house. It even satisfies a hard working man! And it’s good enough for company!


  • 3 russet potatoes
  • grilled chicken breast, cooked and sliced
  • romaine lettuce
  • one onion
  • avocado
  • tomato
  • shredded carrot
  • red wine vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Saute chicken breast in olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Wash and chop salad ingredients: lettuce, tomato, carrot, and avocado. Slice onoin (not chop) and saute in olive oil for a long time, until it caramelizes. Set aside onion. Slice potatoes in long french-fry form. Make sure the slices are small so they cook well. Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay on sprayed pan and cook at 425 degrees. The key is to cook them for a LONG time. They need to be crispy. No limp fries on this salad! Once they are about done, prepare each salad on a plate, in this order: lettuce, tomato, carrot, avocado, onion, chicken, fries.  Then drizzle with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Katie’s Mexican stew

My friend Kate made this for me a week after I had a baby. I devoured it. I am very impressed with the flavors and wholesome yumminess in every bite!
– 1 lb chicken – I boil it and pull it apart (shredded)
– Cooked rice (start with 3/4 c uncooked) and 1.25 c water – I use less than normal so it doesn’t get too mushy when you add it to the soup – I prefer brown rice, but I’m sure either would be good
– can of black beans – rinsed
– can of corn – rinsed
– can of diced tomatoes – rinsed
– a few cups of chicken broth – however much you like, I guess depending on your preferred consistency
– lime juice (usually do about 1 lime’s worth)
– about 1 T of chili powder (again can vary based on preference here)
– about 1/2 T of cumin
– salt and pepper
– a bay leaf or two – kinda weird, but I feel like it really does make a difference
– a little garlic or garlic powder
I just mix it all together and let it simmer for a bit.
– chopped cilantro
– chopped avocado
– slices of lime
– tortilla chips
– (shredded cheese)
– (sour cream)

dairy-free shepherd’s pie (still delicious!!)

I need to shout-out here to my sister Jenny, who makes the best shepherd’s pie ever and was the inspiration for me making this in the heat of summer. I guess I also need to shout-out to her Irish husband John, who makes her cook it. :)  Anyway, this meal is awesome. Of course cheese is a staple for Shepherd’s Pie, but honestly, I don’t miss it. I do sprinkle it on my husband’s plate and put under the broiler, though. He is getting too skinny.


  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • frozen bag of peas, corn and carrots (or whatever you’d like)
  • one onion
  • flour (*Rice flour or cornstarch may be substituted)
  • chicken broth or rice milk
  • allergy-friendly mashed potatoes, recipe here. (Ingredients are 2 lb potatoes, chicken broth or rice milk, olive oil).
  • Worchestire Sauce
  • A1 Steak Sauce


Prepare mashed potatoes and set aside. Keep in mind you will want the mashed potatoes fairly runny, but not too much. Saute ground beef and chopped onion with ground pepper. When it is still pink but almost done, add to the pan a few good glugs of Worchestire Sauce and A1 sauce. Stir in. Then make a hole in the center of the pan and sprinkle 2T of flour. Mix well. Add 1/2 c of chicken broth or rice milk and let simmer until the sauce is thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. When you like the taste, add the bag of frozen vegetables and cook until they are heated through. Pour this mixture into a casserole dish. Top with your mashed potatoes. Then drizzle olive oil over the potatoes. Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

recipe review: black bean soup

Is it weird that I LOVE black bean soup? I was really excited when I saw a recipe on my favorite cooking website, For the Love of Cooking. It is really, really good. Very flavorful. It had such a nice creaminess it was hard to believe there was no dairy. I don’t own an immersion blender, so I scooped out as much as I could into my regular blender. I actually enjoyed that there were a few hearty bites of vegetables remaining.

Black Bean Soup, courtesy For the Love of Cooking website

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 5 cups of chicken stock OR vegetable stock (I used chicken)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 14 oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained, (divided)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp corn starch (combined with a bit of cold stock – mixed thoroughly) (optional)

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot add onion, bell pepper and carrots, saute until slightly tender. Add garlic and stir frequently for 45 seconds. Add stock, seasonings and half of the beans. Cook over medium low heat for 1-2 hours. Remove bay leaf, and blend using an immersion blender. Add the remainder of the beans and corn starch slurry if you desire a thicker soup (make sure the soup is boiling when adding the corn starch). Taste and re-season if necessary.

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Cotija cheese, shredded (optional … I substituted avocado.)

Garnish the soup with toppings. Enjoy.

Getting rid of ANTS: tips for anxiety

image by Asif Akbar

A couple years ago, my mom gave me a book that she thought was very insightful. I should reword that. It  WAS insightful. However, at the time it went over my head like my husband’s explanation of how fertilizer works.

The book was about “ANTS” : “Automatic Negative Thoughts.” And you had to squash them. Certain thoughts were “red ants” because they were so dangerous. Clever.

Although at first I thought the list of “ants” was obvious and unhelpful, I don’t think so any more. In fact, I have that list sitting next to my nightstand. It’s dog-eared, with drippings of coffee and afternoon snacks and watermarks all over it, because I love it so much.

It’s funny how God works. During the same time I got busy conquering the ants in my head, our formerly adorable and clean kitchen became infested with millions of the real thing. I am not trying to sound ungrateful that the Lord provided me with an object lesson, but it was disgusting. Just disgusting. “Honey, just try to keep the crumbs up,” my husband offered helpfully. Oh, sure. Because it’s not like two us of eat 75% of our meals with our hands, throw spoons of oatmeal on the floor when we’re bored, smoosh up jelly sandwiches on the crevices of our high chairs, open the jar of raisins and jam them under the wheels of a pretend shopping cart. No, it’s not that easy!!!!

Anyway. Point being, my house was a jackpot for these things. They would literally throw parties off the rooftops of the traps we placed.

Over the weeks when I battled the ants, literally and figuratively, here are some things I learned about them. I guess it was God’s way of punishing me for not taking the “ANT” book seriously the first time around. 🙂

-At first they’re a nuisance. But if you don’t deal with them, eventually they interfere with everything.

-They keep coming. The battle is never-ending.

-You can’t let your guard down (aka leave splatters of chicken broth unattended) for a minute.

-In their full-blown aggressive state, they are so disgusting. And embarrassing.

-Sometimes you need professional help.

-Even one ant is a problem. You know why? Because there’s never one ant. There are 34,942 of them in some invisible mountain behind your outlet cover. And eventually you will see all of them in shifts.

Luckily, I found some things that do work in fighting these ANTS. In this part of the blog series, I’d like to share a few things that have (and haven’t) been helpful to me. For this post, I want to focus on one particular thing I learned that has been really helpful.

In short, I have learned that while I can’t control my feelings of anxiety, I can control my thoughts. And thoughts change feelings.

Read that last paragraph again. Really, do it. I cannot put into words how revolutionary this one fact has been for me. I realize that to some it’s the emotional equivalent of discovering facebook. Hellooooo, old news. But not to me. For years I felt powerless against my anxious feelings because I couldn’t change them. And I was right, I couldn’t; sometimes I just feel anxious.

I can’t control those feelings, but there is hope if I change my thoughts. The book on “cognitive therapy” for anxiety (where I got this information) pointed out that every time you have a thought, it affects your body in some way. Think about something troubling, and a flood of negative feelings comes into your body. Remember a fun vacation you’ve had recently, and your heart rate slows, endorphins enter your blood stream, and you take nice deep breaths. In other words, you feel better.

How wise our heavenly Father is. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7) And, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov. 4:23)

This next part may sound confusing, but I’ll try to say it. I think I used to think this meant I should be more positive about a situation. You know, if I’m worried about Sam getting sick, to try to tell myself it won’t happen, etc. etc. Now there is probably a place for that. And, heck, maybe that is best. I don’t know. All I can say is that for me, what worked best is just to stop thinking about the thing altogether. Period. To dump out that whole batch of cookie batter, throw it away, wash the pan, and begin again. (Geez, my life is narrow. My analogies are really suffering. But you get the point.)

So if I am worried about Sam, I clean out the closet. I plan a party. I book a vacation. I paint my toenails.

I switch gears.

And I guess I’m jumping ahead of myself here, because this is my next tip. If thoughts control feelings, then actions control thoughts. At least this works for me – I put my hands to work on something. My brain follows, and then my feelings.

In the process, I have discovered something remarkable: People who are suffering can still get things done.

I would be lying if I said that anxiety medication didn’t help tremendously in this process. Also, I would be lying if I said that every time I felt anxious, those feelings dissipated when I redecorated the guest room. But you know what? Sometimes they do.

There are quite a few other things…more to come. I am sure you are all hanging on the edge of your seat here for “tips from the anxious person #3.” Oh well. 🙂

Oh, and ps. We did eventually call Terminex. So, rest assured, my house is not party central for ants anymore.

See you next time!