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Mount Rainier


I used to think I was a beach/hot weather person. I sure have changed what I know about myself this year. Nothing beats 60 degree weather and a good mountain view.

Portland Snapshots

Powell's Books blows your mind.

 Elephants with a fantastic friend.

 Elephants with the guy.

 Neat Arcade.

 Cannon Beach, OR.

Finally in the Pacific.

 Thanks, Strangers.

This is how you do beach access.

Sky's the Limit.

Costa Rica Snapshots

Costa Rica was an amazing adventure and I'm still dreaming of the views, rainforest, wildlife, and food.

Spinach Asparagus Leek Soup

There is a magical place in Charlotte, Amelie's French Bakery, and I fell in love with a bowl of Spinach Asparagus Leek soup while eating there with my dear friend Lauren.

She told me it would be easy to make, and since she is my cooking guru I believed her. As soon as I got home I searched for a Spinach Asparagus Leek soup recipe and made the first one I found.

This was my first time making soup and my first time cooking with leeks (and only the second time eating them, after that first bowl at Amelie's).

It is my favorite meal in the world to prepare. Adding to firsts, this was really the first time that I made a meal with beautiful and fresh ingredients. Every time I make it I enjoy preparing each vegetable and enjoy it even more knowing that it makes such an amazing soup. This is perfect when paired with a fresh baguette or, in a pinch, Pillsbury makes a dreamy french loaf you can find refrigerated with their biscuits. Another great thing about this soup is you can adjust amounts of vegetables to suit your case; I usually add more potatoes and carrots.

Spinach Asparagus Leek Soup
adapted from Taste of Home


3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (I prepare them this way)
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
4-5 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 quarts chicken broth (or 5, 14.5oz cans or 10 cups)
1 pound fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh spinach, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream (optional)

Saute leeks and onion in butter until tender.
Add the potatoes, carrots, salt, and broth.
Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. I usually save my asparagus cutting and spinach chopping until this time.
Stir in asparagus; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add the spinach, pepper and cream; heat through.


Valentine's Day and Beef Stroganoff


Joe and I usually have a low-key Valentine's day at home. For all of the four years we have celebrated it, he buys me flowers and I made P.F Chang's spicy chicken for him. But that's the thing; I don't like spicy chicken so I either have to choke it down in between chugging glasses of water or make something else for myself. Not romantic.

This year, new city new game plan, we're going to go out to dinner the night before (because going out to eat on Valentine's day sounds like a nightmare) to a new restaurant we haven't decided on yet, then for dinner on Valentine's day I am making our favorite meal, Beef Stroganoff.

Beef Stroganoff is the meal where we fast all day and wait with watering mouths until we sit down with our bowls, finally in our hands, and devour first and second helpings without speaking. Even though I pick around the beef, I can't imagine it tasting the same without it.

Beef Stroganoff

2lbs beef tenderloin or sirloin steak (2 lbs if you like a lot of beef, I use only 1lb.)
¼ cup butter
8oz fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced OR 1-2 cans (6oz) sliced mushrooms, drained
2 cans (10 ½ oz each) condensed beef broth
¼ cup ketchup
1 ½ teaspoon garlic salt
⅓ cup flour
2 cups sour cream
egg noodles (16oz bag) prepared (I use a whole bag of noodles plus 1-2 cups from another bag.)

Cut meat across the grain unto ¾” slices, then into strips 3x¼”. Melt ¼ cup butter in large skillet or pot. Cook and stir mushrooms in butter about 5 minutes for canned, about 10 min (until wilted) for fresh. Remove mushrooms with slotted spoon and set aside, leave excess butter in pan.

In same skillet, brown meat. Reserving ⅔ cup of broth, stir in remaining broth, ketchup, and garlic salt. Cover and simmer 15 min. Start water to boil for noodles, cook when ready.

Blend reserved broth and flour; stir into meat. Add mushrooms. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir for 1 minute. Stir in sour cream; heat through.

Toss noodles with 3tbsp butter. Serve with stroganoff.

*NOTE: We reeally like mushrooms and I always tell myself I'm going to add more. Maybe I actually will this time...

Vanilla Cupcakes for Two + Frosting for Two Cupcakes


Quite a while ago, I found my way from Pinterest to the How Sweet It Is recipe for one-bowl vanilla cupcakes for two. Last night I decided to try them out.

As they were baking in the oven, I realized that I was going to need frosting but didn't want to make a big batch that I wasn't going to use. I searched online for "frosting for two cupcakes" or "how to make a small batch of frosting" but nothing turned up.

I found the Wilton workbook for the cake decorating class I took in December and decided to quarter their recipe for frosting. It made enough frosting for the two cupcakes, and if you can handle frosting like a responsible adult and not pile it on your cupcakes like I did above, you could even make half of what I did and still have plenty for each cupcake. On the other hand, if you happen to have frosting left over like Mrs. How Sweet did, this is a good way to use that up.

Here's what I made:

1/4 c Crisco (or you can use softened butter)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp water
powdered sugar as needed (I just dumped it in there until it was as thick as I wanted it to be, I'm guuuessing it was 3/4 of a cup to a full cup.)

Mix the crisco, vanilla, an water together until combined. Since it was such a small amount, I whisked it in a bowl by hand. Add the powdered sugar in a little at a time, mixing completely as you go, until you have reached the thickness of frosting you want.

The cupcakes themselves were amazing, it's a great recipe. The best part of this whole experience happened this morning, when I realized that I didn't have any leftover cupcakes to pig out on for breakfast.