Thursday, March 29, 2012

Latin Version of Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

by Anita

My dinners that I make when I cook for myself usually are simple and quick: steamed veggies, steamed rice, and a black bean burger (that all came from the handy dandy frozen food section). Well, as my stomach grumbled while I was at work, I started imagining something a little more tasty. Then at that moment I  received a message from my boyfriend who asked if I was interested in dinner and a movie (In Time)...which means that I got excited to make a meal FOR someone and watch a bonus movie at the end of it all. 

Chopping, prepping, simmering, and taking in the aromas of cooking has always been a stress reliever for me. I needed that yesterday. I will spare you details of the "pet messes" that I came home to on my bed which definitely did not put me in a tranquil frame of mine before cooking. 

Once I turned on my Pandora to Florence + the Machine radio, I started tapping my toes, swaying my hips, and chopping away to make a Tortilla Soup and Grilled Chicken Quesadillas. The recipes used are from a blog that I have been reading daily for cooking inspiration about eating REAL food = no processed junk, no sugars, organic when possible, and meat in moderation. Since it was a bit on the cooler yet comfortable side outside, I opted to grill some of the food which always makes the end result taste that much better. I highly recommend this tasty, healthy, and versatile recipe that is delicious for leftovers as well.

TORTILLA SOUP (modified for ingredients in my 'fridge)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bell peppers (any color), chopped
  • 3 organic celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 – 2 hot peppers (optional - I did not use)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander or cumin
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 8-oz can organic black beans (liquid drained and rinsed)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can organic stewed tomatoes
  • 1 8-oz can organic tomato sauce
  • 2 – 3 cups organic, low sodium chicken stock depending on how “soupy” you like it
  • Optional (but recommended) garnishes: avocado, scallions, lime juice, tortilla chips
  1. Rinse and dice the bell peppers, celery, any other veggies you add. I used minced garlic in a jar. 
  2. Heat a large stock pot with the olive oil on medium high heat. Add bell peppers, celery, garlic in pot.
  3. Let the veggies eat through for about 5 minutes. Add spices.
  4. Add rinsed black beans. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken stock.
  6. Boil all ingredients, then turn heat down to low/simmer and cover for about 10 minutes or longer to let all the flavors mix and mingle. 
  7. Ready to eat? Add to a bowl, and add the green trifecta of garnishes: diced avocado, chopped scallions, and a squeeze of lime juice. 
Serves 8 - 10 (smaller bowls HA!) 
My uber small kitchen...If I can do it, so can you!
Bell peppers - Red are my favorite & they have more vitamin C than an orange. Believe it. 

Drain and rinse black beans; reduces the sodium.

Muir Glen is found in most grocery stores for tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and salsas.

I buy this in bulk and the store brand is less expensive than other organic brands.

Diced, simmering veggies in the stock pot

Mixing and mingling of flavors
Green Trifecta for garnishes with Latin dishes: Avocado, Scallions, and Lime Juice
Tortilla soup garnished and ready to be in my belly!



  • 1 lb organic chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
  • 2 Tbsp+ Jamaican Jerk seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp+ Olive Oil & Vinegar salad dressing (Newman's Own is best) 
  • 1 cup+ (1/2 a bag) shredded Mexican cheese
  • 4 small tortillas (wheat preferred, but I only had white)
  • 4 scallion bunches, chopped
  1. Marinate chicken breasts first off! Place in a deep dish and season each side and then drizzle dressing on both sides. Coat and let it hang out for about 15 - 30 minutes, the longer the tastier.
  2. Place all 4 tortillas on an oven proof/heat resistant plate/tray. Lay out the tortillas flat and sprinkle as much or as little cheese on all 4 tortillas.
  3. Heat grill, grill pan, oven, or saute pan (medium high heat or 375 degrees) -- whichever you prefer to cook your chicken. I grilled!
  4. Add chicken to grill and cook for about 4-6 minutes on each side. Do not over flip your chicken.
  5. While chicken is cooking, microwave or place tortillas in oven to melt cheese.
  6. Once chicken is cooked, remove from heat onto cutting surface, let it SIT for a few minutes to get the juices to settle. 
  7. Thinly slice the chicken breasts and add to one side of cheesy tortillas. Add a little extra sprinkle of cheese if you want and other toppings. I only added scallions and folded other side of tortilla.
  8. Enjoy with your soup and dip away!
Serves 4; recipe easily doubled.

Marinated chicken breasts with Jamaican jerk seasoning & Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar dressing

Juicy and healthy grilled chicken (cooked 4-6 minutes each side)

Super easy assembly of melted cheese on tortillas and sliced chicken 
4 simple and delicious ingredients: Chicken, Cheese, Tortillas, Scallions
Our Latin dinner: Tortilla Soup & Grilled Chicken Quesadillas (and Malbec!)
This meal was so great and we had plenty of leftover soup for us to eat for the next couple days. Soups overall are the best thing to make when you don't end up eating a ton of veggies during your meals. I used any ingredient I had in my fridge which had a Latin flavor to it. 

And the movie was really great as well, two thumbs up! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Outfits: t-shirt love.

Sometimes for me, comfort is the most important thing (then again, sometimes I feel the need to wear those ridiculously cute heels that pinch me toes). On the day I wore this outfit, we were going on several appointments with the wedding planner, so I wanted to make sure I was wearing something that I felt comfortable in, without being too casual. My new J Crew v-neck (on sale!) was the perfect thing! And my logic says that since it comes in several different colors, I need to buy more, right?

Monday, March 26, 2012


by Crystal

While Katie is cultivating her garden, we're over here cultivating our drinking habits. For Christmas, E gave me brewing instruments and a kit to make our own beer! And now that March has rolled around, we decided it was about time we give it a go.

A few weeks ago, we stayed in for a date night to get this thing started. Conveniently, the kit came with all of the ingredients we needed, and had very thorough instructions which we followed closely, as we didn't want to screw it up and make an entire case of bad beer. So much pressure!! Here's a few glimpses into making our first IPA...

Remember to sanitize everything beforehand!!

You need a super large pot to boil the water and ingredients.

The glass carboy: before.

We saved empty bottles of beer we drank together - maybe one of my favorite parts of the whole process :)


Helpful hint: This book is very informative!

The glass carboy: after!

 It takes a week for the beer to ferment in the carboy, so we left it on the counter to watch. The first few days it was really active! We could see the liquid swirling around, and the water bubbling up in the air tight cap. After the fermentation was complete, we were ready to bottle. So last Saturday, we spent the afternoon in the kitchen with 48 bottles and a siphon.

Empty bottles. Labels removed. We want to put our own labels on...what shall we name our beer??!

Mixing the priming sugar with the beer mixture.

Siphoning into bottles.

We were a few beers short when we were ready to bottle, we took one (or a few) for the team and drank some.

Doing my best not to make a mess.


Our first homebrews.

Now we just need to wait 3-4 weeks until we can actually drink it!

If you like trying different kinds of beer, then this is something I definitely recommend doing. We found everything we needed on to get started. We've had a lot of fun with this whole process. Stay tuned for another post with our assessment of how it tastes. In fact, we didn't even wait to see if this batch turned out well - we've already got an Oktoberfest in the mail! I guess we're pretty sure of our beer-making abilities.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Signs of Spring

by Katie

Spring is a paradoxical time for me. It is both bloated with nostalgia and chirping sweetly to the future. It makes me think of springs gone by while reminding me that all things begin anew, and that winter is over.

Here's a beautiful springtime song--one of my favorites. There is no truly representative video for it on youtube; this is the best I could find. Check out Po' Girl and JT and the Clouds if you like.

Spring is a time for starting new things and for watching old things become new again. I am a new homeowner, and I also come from a long line of gardeners. And so (appropriately for the storyline of my life and for the season) I have been bitten with the gardening bug. I am trying something new that I've been around all my life, and I'm seeing it change before my eyes.

I've got seedlings going, I've made garden beds, I've weeded, raked, pruned, and transplanted. I've ruined a pair of shoes, gotten very muddy, and bought all kinds of used (read: cheap) garden supplies via Craigslist. I have also purchased an obscene amount of seed packets. I will certainly be posting my yard's progress on our little blog, but for now I thought I'd share a few of the (early!) springtime photos I've taken over the past two weeks. Enjoy!

Memphis sat outside with me while I drank white wine and read garden books.

The remnants of an existing bed and the beginnings of my little herb and flower garden.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Have passport (and money). Will travel.

by Anita

At the Port of San Diego - Cruise Day 1

Let's backtrack a few weeks, beginning of March when I went on my FIRST cruise, where I traveled for 9 days with my boyfriend and 2 other couples along the Mexican Riviera. We ported out of beautiful San Diego, CA and had a few days at sea, elegant nights, spectacular ocean view, divine cuisine that never ended and memorable excursions.

For anyone who is a bit hesitant to get on a huge vessel that travels the sea that you would never want to be stranded in especially if you are oddly scared of sharks...I mean, I am ODDLY scared of sharks, as in, I still believe that hidden below a swimming pool is a secret gate where a swarm of sharks are just maliciously swimming back and forth waiting for me to swim to the bottom of said pool to have me as a tasty snack... I digress. 

No Sharks Allowed!
Let me assure you that after all the news reports before we left for our cruise about boats tipping over in the coast of Italy and guests being held up by gun point while on a paid excursion, I still was all gung-ho to set sail. The Carnaval cruise was the BEST VACATION EVER!  
Macaws in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

I (unlike Crystal) am quite the planner and I get giddy when there are events mapped out for me to coordinate what I shall wear, what I shall eat, and what dancing I can do. Luckily, there was a daily agenda with a plethora of activities and lounging to partake in along with a towel creature every night on our bed.

A turtle towel creature

Yes - That is succulent lobster tail and finger licking shrimps!

A cruise is quite the operation and there is little planning that you have to do if you want to lounge, EAT, drink cocktails, play some put-put golf or watch Broadway type shows, then you can do all or some. 

 A few of the highlights from our 4 stops in the Mexican Riviera were in Manzanillo sitting on the beach and taking in the view (and being bombarded by vendors), in Puerto Vallarta we swam with dolphins and got kissed by sea lions, in Cabo San Lucas we toured a secluded beach and snorkeled with a bonus trip out to the Pacific to see 2 lovely Hump Back Whales swimming, and in Ensenada we had a cultural city tour and stopped to shop at La Bufadora (Blow Hole) market where I received a beautiful Sterling Silver ring from my charming boyfriend.
I really did swim with the dolphins 
Lover's Beach and snorkeling in Cabo
Love birds in Cabo...get it? 
Sterling Silver ring with Alexandrite and white Topazes from Ensenada
Now I am ready to plan my next cruise and believe me, I have a passport ready to get some more worldly stamps pressed in it to show off one day. Perhaps the Mediterranean 12-day cruise is something I should put on my MUST-DO list for 2013. Hold me to it!