Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DO Try this at Home, Volume 1: Shopping and Sushi Bowls

Welcome to the first guest post from my dear friend Angella.  As I mentioned yesterday, Ang lives in Portland, Oregon with her fiancé, Mike.  She came up with the awesome idea of testing some SMJ-inspired recipes and meal planning tips and writing about it, and I love her unique voice and sense of humor, as well as the opportunity to host her here on the blog.  Enjoy her first adventure in meal planning + sushi bowls!  Take it away, Ang...

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where your life resembles a pinball game – working too much, exercising too little, eating cereal for dinner, drinking for sanity’s sake, everyone wanting something from you?  You want to stand up and scream, “MAKE IT STOP!”  Well, nothing like a good spring cold to Shut. It. Down.  As I lay in a puddle on my sofa, tissues strewn, laptop on lap, multi-clicks into SMJ blogosphere, I decided to re-commit to health, both physical and mental.   And I’d lean on my life guru, SMJ, to do just that.  A la the movie Julia & Julia, I decided I was going to make everything on the Sweet Mama Jane blog and see if I could proposition Ms. SMJ into letting me put up a few blog posts about it. 

Of course, that was the Nyquil talking.  I’m not a writer, I don’t use Instagram and I am NOT a cook.  I can barely follow a recipe.   How can you not follow a recipe?   Most of the time I don’t have one or two of the ingredients or the recipe calls for some instrument I don’t have or a technique that’s over my head.  So, I improvise.  Which only works 50% of the time.   Luckily, Mike is just happy someone else is cooking and eats without complaint.   All that being said, I WANT to become a better cook.  This is where my knight in shining cyberspace, SMJ, comes into play.  SMJ will be my Julia.   And I will be that other Julie.  With better hair.
Amy Adams as Julie, setting the hair bar awfully low.
So, I’m committing to making SOME of the recipes on the Sweet Mama Jane blog and have convinced Ms. SMJ to let me do a post or two (yay!)   I offer no commitment to having even more than just this post and I apologize in advance for the shaky, un-staged iPhone photos.  Actually, no I don’t.  This is reader to reader, not blogger to audience.  (Plus I’ve tried REALLY hard to stay still for photos and I just can’t.) Best bet is to read after a few glasses of wine so you won’t notice.

The first thing I did was read a bunch of blogs on meal planning, via SMJ, of course.  My world has become SMJ.  I loved the idea of picking three big meals to make without committing to making them on certain days.  I also liked the concept of meal PREPPING on Sunday so that I’d be more likely to actually whip something up after a long grueling day.  With a list written on the back of an envelope, I hit three different stores and filled my car bumper to bumper.  I got my cardio workout in by schlepping the groceries up two flights of stairs (a perk of our new 2nd floor apartment.)  Then I had to find room for everything. 

Needless to say after all of that, I did NOT feel like cooking. Luckily, guru SMJ has a plan for that, offering several meal ideas that are quick and easy.  I opted for the Sushi Bowls. I couldn’t agree more about the hassle of trying to roll your own sushi.  Who has time, energy, or enough wine for that?  

First off, I couldn’t find sushi or short grain rice.  It’s probably at New Seasons and I went there first and didn’t grab it.  I did find medium grain rice, so I went with that.  I think it worked just as well.  I cooked it EXACTLY as instructed on the ValSoCal blog despite that not being my normal method for cooking rice.  It came out perfectly.  Why haven’t I followed directions before?  I whipped up the vinegar, sugar and salt mixture and “folded it in”  (assuming that means “stir it in.”)  It was really sweet and I had a momentary panic as I halved the amount of rice in the recipe for two of us but made the original amount of vinegar mix.  Luckily, once the soy sauce was added with the meal, the rice was A-MAZING. 

I splurged on real Alaskan King Crab legs.  I’d never bought crab before but after reading the ingredients of imitation Krab, I also can’t go there.  It’s the hot dog of the sea, people.  The nice butcher boy was kind enough to answer all of my questions.  I bought a half pound (two claws) for $8 at Fred Meyers.  

It was DIVINE.   It was easy to get the meat out after I watched this handy video.  

Carrots, cucumbers and avocado rounded out our bowls.   

I forgot the sesame seeds (darn it!)  Next time!  There will DEFINTELY be a next time.  As Mike would say, that was a plate licker!  Technically a bowl, dear. 
Next up: roasting a whole chicken.  I’m feeling confident, as SMJ favorite Ms. Ina Garten has included a VIDEO with her recipe.  Seriously, I can’t screw this up.
Thanks, Ang!
Love your post, love your cute placemats.

Before signing off, I just have to chime back in again on these sushi bowls, as they are currently heavily on our weekly rotation.  I love how you can make them as fancy or as simple as you want to; go all out with pickled ginger, fresh wasabi, nori strips, and sashimi-grade fish, or keep it super cheap and easy with baked tofu and a minimum of veggies (although the avocado is non-negotiable in my book).  I love to line up a big fixings bar with sriracha, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar and gomasio, all of which we usually have readily on hand.  I've also been loading up on nori sheets at Trader Joe's for .99 cents a package; they even have a delicious wasabi-flavored version (tip: they call it a "Roasted Seaweed Snack", and it is in with the chips and pretzels, but it's nori to me).  Since cucumbers, carrots and peppers are on the short list of veggies the kids will eat without a fight, we're always stocked on those, and therefore ready to make quick sushi bowls materialize.  They're such a healthy alternative to other quick weeknight dinners or to take out, and so satisfying.  Hopefully Ang and I might inspire you to give them a try.   

Thanks again to Angella for a fab post and all the gratuitous blog shout-outs... feeling the love. xoxo 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Stuff of Life

The last two weeks have been much as the two years have been: a complete blur of speeding time and raucous family.  Two weeks ago I set out to get back to quasi-regular posting here, and no sooner had I rededicated myself, than life took the wheel and had other plans.  

My oldest had a two week spring break that ended today (whew!).  I loved the extra time with him, but just can't hope to measure up to the level of enrichment and engagement that his awesome preschool provides.  He missed his friends and his teachers, and I missed those twelve hours of the week that he spends being challenged and entertained there.  Drop off was especially joyous this morning.

The last two weeks have been a blur of appointments, errands, events and visitors.  We registered the little guy for kindergarten which was both exciting and mind blowing.  We had a little family party for his 5th birthday.  I almost threw my back out making this ninja cake.
In case you don't live with a five-year-old boy, I'll let you know that this is Kai, the red ninja from Lego's Ninjago.  We live and breathe Legos and ninjas these days.
Beyond looking like the head of an imaginary plastic ninja, I wanted this cake to taste delicious, so I made it from scratch, and I must say that it totally exceeded expectations.  I don't have a go-to chocolate cake recipe, as we are mostly a vanilla or yellow cake household, but this year little J requested chocolate, so I did some research into a foolproof, non-fussy recipe.

I can't recommend the chocolate cake I ended up making highly enough: it is the Moist Chocolate Cake from the Foodess blog, and it is incredible.  She promises it is easy enough to make on a weeknight, and she delivers.  No obscure ingredients, no fussy sifting, just tons of chocolate deliciousness.  I doubled the recipe and make two 9x13 inch cakes, which I turned into a massive layer cake with a double batch of this Quick Vanilla Buttercream Frosting recipe.  Then I free-hand cut the massive cake into a ninja-head/mask shape.  Next I used red gel food coloring to get the remaining frosting Kai-colored, with a small amount of it dyed yellow for the mask.  I tried to cut eyes out of black licorice, but gave up after a couple tries and printed some out, then cut them and pressed them into the frosting instead.  I had found these Ninjago mask printables through Pinterest, and used them to make plain balloons from the party store into the whole posse of ninjas...
So, I just quickly printed out an extra set to avert my cake eye disaster.  The real story here is the chocolate cake, though.  My husband has been a diehard yellow cake/chocolate frosting guy for every birthday since I've known him, and he said that he might be changing cake teams after this one; it was that good.  If you're looking for a simple chocolate cake for your next special event try this one: fudgey, moist, easy, and a total crowd pleaser.

This is the third year that I've made a ridiculous theme cake for my little guy on his birthday; they rarely come out looking Pinterest-worthy, and they are always kind of an insane culinary adventure.
Bulldozer Cake for 3
Fire Engine Cake for 4
I like to think that even when we're just doing a little family gathering in our backyard to celebrate, these crazy cakes keep things festive and memorable.  It's our thing.

But, I digress...these last two weeks have been full of the stuff of life that is too boring to write about and that make time fly by: dentist appointments, well-child visits, school paperwork, haircuts.  Oh, and for good measure, everyone got sick.  This time with some sort of laryngitis/bronchitis situation that has rendered us pathetic, hacking, squeaking messes.  I seem to have more or less lost my voice for the time being, and the baby's cough is especially heartbreaking.  Nurse duty on this level really takes it out of a gal.  All of the energy I thought I might throw back at this blog has evaporated.  So it goes in this phase of life.

But, I have good news!  My dear friend Angella found herself energized by my little comeback meal-planning post, and fresh off her own sickbed viewing of that classic bloggy movie Julie and Julia, she proposed a little guest blogging gig!  I love it!

I am really dedicated to bringing back SMJ, and as I hobble along trying to get that rolling, I'm so grateful for some help and tall tales from one of my favorite ladies on the planet.  I met Ang when I was 23 and living in San Francisco.  We were dot-com deskmates and became fast friends.  When said dot-com laid us off with a great severance package, we took that and embarked on one of the great adventures of my life, backpacking together around Southeast Asia and Australia for five months.  Epic.
Ang and me at Angkor Wat, Cambodia in 2001
And feeding some kangaroos in Oz
Angella lives in Portland, Oregon now with her fiancé, Mike.  She has built an amazingly successful massage therapy business called Unwind (PDXers, get yourself an appointment with her, stat... she's the BEST!). And despite the three thousand miles between us, she always seems to make her way out here and show up when I need her the most, like right after J was born and we were flailing, exhausted new parents.
How is he starting kindergarten already?!?!
She also rescued me from this terrifying broken shower in Vietnam with little more than a rain poncho and a hastily procured wrench.

So, it only seems appropriate that she get my back once more and guest blog for me as I get my sick household back on track, and get my blogging wits about me.  Her idea was to try my meal planning formula and a bunch of the recipes on this site and call it "DO Try this at Home".  Love it, love it!  We'll kick off tomorrow with her foray into a Friday food shop and a dinner of Sushi Bowls.  I hope you enjoy reading her post as much as I did.

And I'll be back soon as well with some more recipes and life stuff to share.  Coming soon: a baked tofu tutorial (per my sister's request) and Adventures in Anxiety Management.  All this and more!

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Meal Plan Obsession

When I told my mom that I was trying to get back to blogging she said, "I don't think you should write about food at all.  I think you should just write about the boys.  I always skip over your food posts looking for stuff about them." Ahhh, grandmothers...

If you are in her camp, this is not the post for you.  However, if you are like me and both passionate about and obsessed with food, especially in a voyeuristic way, I think you'll like where we're going today.  Some of my favorite posts from around the web tend to be peeks into peoples' fridges, snippets on the breakfasts of interesting people, and meal planning downloads from other busy A-types.  I love writing about food, and these days our life, schedule, and budget are such that meal planning is the linchpin of our culinary existence. My husband still works from home, so generally, I'm shopping for and prepping 3 meals a day for 4 people 7 days a week; that's 84 meals a week, people.  No joke.  Turning out food this way in a budget and health conscious way takes a serious plan.

Gone are the days of rambling to the store for an obscure ingredient when the whim strikes or ordering takeout just because we're feeling lazy.  Going to the store is a major physical expedition. You know those handy seats in the front of the shopping cart, meant to hold your child so you can shop?  My 30 lb. monkey-toddler laughs in their face.  He likes to escape the little safety belt, stand up, and lean precariously toward towering displays of breakable jars or try to get down and smash eggs (this actually happened, in a totally mortifying fashion).  I often end up holding him and trying to shop one-handed; it's nuts. So I like to try and make one and only one shopping trip per week, even if that means going to three stores (in this town, it does).  With one shopping day, all of that exertion and frustration is compartmentalized and can be rewarded with a large glass of wine.

I know I'm lucky to be able to shop at off-peak times; Friday morning is an ideal time to hit grocery stores, as they are usually fully stocked in anticipation of the weekend rush, and relatively empty of customers. If you are home with kids, or work in a non-9-to-5 industry, I can't recommend this timing enough.  I know it is not rocket science, but it took me many an annoying trip to a picked over Thursday Trader Joe's to get hip to the Friday shop.  So, for me, Thursdays are usual meal planning days, where I pour over cookbooks, Pinterest, and the family calendar, and try to create a realistic meal plan for the week ahead.  Starting the weekend with a stocked fridge makes Sunday meal prep that much easier, with everything readily on hand to get rolling on cooking projects fresh off of your morning coffee buzz.

In honor of type-A culinary voyeurism, here's a peek at my meal planning these days:

1) Breakfasts
We keep this easy: cereals, eggs, toast, Kashi waffles, or the ingredients for homemade ones for all of the boys.  For me, I've recently been inspired by this stunning raw vegan Australian instagrammer I follow (don't even ask me how I find these things, I just do), and have been doing a kind of vegan-until-dinner thing which has me feeling surprisingly phenomenal.  In this spirit, I've been starting the day with a massive smoothie.
image via Lonijane
These concoctions have been so hydrating and energizing. I've been using coconut water instead of a dairy product (our Trader Joe's sells the quart containers for $3, so it's not a bank breaker, or rather an even trade-off with almond milk or some such) and some combination of bananas, frozen mango, blueberry or strawberry.  I've also been adding a teaspoon of maca powder, which I'll post about separately.  I can't tell you how beneficial this whole routine has been to my energy... delicious game changer.

2) Lunches
The little boys are easy: I check PB&J levels, stock up on Cabot Cheddar for grilled cheeses, and get as good a variety of fresh fruit as is in season.  Hummus (I try to mix it up with the bazillion varieties TJ's offers), bell peppers, cukes and carrots are on the weekly list as well.  I get turkey for B (aka, the husband).  We go through bread like it's our job.  And every Sunday, I make a big pot of soup for lunches for the week.  Soup is my easiest, healthiest, favorite go-to lunch (until when/if it warms up here and I switch to salads).  Sometimes I can sell it to the little boys, and B always loves it on the side of a sandwich or with some good bread.  It can also pinch hit for dinner when necessary.
Some favorite soups of late:
Shutterbean's Carrot Coconut Soup
image via Shutterbean
My Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup
Paste e Fagioli has been a winter staple.
And this week I am going to make an old fave of ours, Chickpea and Spinach Stew.

3) Dinners
This varies widely week-to-week depending on a variety of factors from athletic and social schedules, to monthly budgeting fluctuations, to seasonal cravings.  A typical week will look something like this:

Ina Garten's Perfect Roast Chicken.  This recipe has been a staple of mine for over a decade, and B has declared more than once that he would have married me just for this chicken... it's that good.  This week, a recuperating relative has requested a perfect chicken care package, so I'm going to pop two in the oven, as I can't rightly fill the house with that aroma and not offer some to my men.  This is the kind of dish that is great to cook on Friday for meals all weekend.

Pizza Night.  We do this at least once a week.  It gives me a nice break from cooking, since pizza is B's department, and it is so soul-satisfying, especially served with a side of House of Cards.  We use amazing pre-made doughs from our local Italian specialty store and make two pies: spinach and mushroom for me, pepperoni, mushroom and peppers for B.  We totally don't each eat a whole pizza ourselves.  Ever.  

Sunday is known in our house as "Fat Day".  We cook our most indulgent and complicated dishes on Sundays and try to truly savor the process and the meals to start our week on the right foot.  One of the best Fat Day recipes we've had recently is Helen Jane's Slow Cooker Thai Lemongrass Beef.
image via Helen Jane
This is one of the most flavorful, complex, and satisfying slow cooker dishes of all time.  If you are a meat eater, you must try this one ASAP.   The ginger, cinnamon, star anise combo is so warming and intensely savory, and the leftovers will rock your world (if there are any).

For the record, this Monday is Passover.  But a typical Monday for us is usually busy all around: school and sports for little J, intense workdays for B, general re-entry fatigue for the babe and me.  I usually keep dinner pretty simple, and often vegetarian to compensate for Fat Day.  Lately, we've been doing a lot of sushi bowls and a lot of Tofu Tikka Masala.  I love Trader Joe's Tikka Masala sauce, and usually do a combo of spinach, peas and tofu sautéed in coconut oil, with garlic naan on the side.

Our new house is a block from what I consider to be the best fish store in our town.  The boys love to go check out the lobsters swimming around in their tank.  I love to treat us to some of their fresh fish for dinner when we can.  Gwyneth's Sriracha Salmon is a super easy weeknight winner, served with simple greens.  My sister also swears by this Crispy Coconut Kale with Roasted Salmon and Coconut Rice recipe, which is on my short list for upcoming meal plans.
Gwynnie's Salmon: image via Self
Simple dinners are a rule-of-thumb for hump day when we're often running a little ragged.  Burrito Bowls have been a weekly staple.  I love the Shutterbean trick of mixing a jar of salsa into cooked rice for a quickie, easy Mexican base, and I'll also cheat and use Trader Joe's Cuban Black Beans if I don't have time or energy to do something bean-y from scratch.  A toppings bar of shredded cheese, chopped scallion and avocado, diced tomato and shredded lettuce, and we're good to go; and this little number is both time and budget friendly.

Thursday is probably our chillest weekday.  No school for J, just one little morning activity, and the rest of the day is open, which I love.  We can have a quiet, easy afternoon, with more time to devote to a more involved dinner.  With the weekend on the horizon, it's nice to kick off the feeling of ease and indulgence this way.  We have a little shrimp stash in the freezer right now, and I've got my eye on this beauty of recipe: Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Miso Dressing.
image via Pinch of Yum
So that's what a week might look like around here.  I lean heavily on pre-prepared elements and quickie, old favorite staples to bridge a small smattering of more adventurous and ambitious meals.  I love, love, love pizza night (both for deliciousness and the husband cooking factor).  And some weeks are indeed a blur of takeout burritos, Annie's Mac and Cheese, and another bowl of that Sunday soup with a piece of unexciting toast, long after we wish it was already gone.  But when we're in our groove, crisis-free, and meal planned, culinary life is pretty good.  The three elements of the Thursday meal plan, Friday shop, and Sunday prep day keep us as well fed and waste free as possible. 

I hope this post gives you a little inspiration!  I always love to see what others are cooking and how their kitchens tick.  Any new favorite dishes in your house?  I'd love it if you shared in the comments.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

One reason I haven't blogged since my second son was born is that my time to cook has become seriously limited.  I still cook for us pretty much seven nights a week, and I'm proud that most of it tastes good and is healthy, but I've come to rely upon a rotating stable of quickie favorites that more often than not aren't so exciting.  This tortilla soup is one of those staples...a fast, throw-it-together, flavor-packed weeknight creation.  But unlike some of our other simple go-to dinners, this one is actually extremely exciting; it's just so damn tasty and too quick to be true.

This is most definitely a slow cooker recipe.  You could adapt it for the stovetop, but the beauty of it lies in the power of my beloved slow cooker.  The slow cooker allows the flavors of this simple soup to develop and deepen over many hours, creating a super savory dish, and it also contributes to the speediness of the prep.  Best of all: you add literally zero fat to this dish.  The only fat in the soup comes from the chicken (which is totally optional) and how wild you opt to go with the your toppings bar.  A stovetop version would require significant glugs of oil to get the onions and chicken cooked, and I kind of love it that the slow cooker version allows you to omit that added fat entirely.

This past Wednesday, I was having a completely rotten and stressful day, the type where you feel like you might burst into tears at the drop of a hat.  I finished feeding the baby his lunch at 12:25 and needed to pick up his brother at 1.  I was able to throw this soup in the slow cooker AND clean up from our lunch and my soup prep in that scant half-hour, which is a momming miracle.  The best thing is, when dinner hour rolled around and I had totally had it, this incredibly comforting soup was ready to go, no further cooking required, and it had filled the house with the most soul-soothing aroma, the way only a great soup does.

It is still bone-chillingly cold here in New Hampshire, but light enough late enough, and just slightly warm enough, that the kiddos on the block are back to riding bikes outside until sunset.  Nothing could be better than coming in to a warming, nourishing soup just waiting for dinner.  Even if you're getting warmer evenings where you are, this would be fabulous with an icy cold margarita or Corona with lime. And like most soups, this one just gets better with age, making perfect lunches for the rest of the week.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.  

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup
Serves 8
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (optional -- I think this would make a fabulous vegetarian soup)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
1 8 oz. can diced green chiles
4 cups chicken or veggie broth
2 heaping teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
salt to taste (I used kosher salt)

For toppings, any or all of the following:
tortilla chips, crumbled OR, for extra points, you could thinly slice and pan-fry corn tortillas
ripe avocado, cubed
sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
scallions, chopped
fresh cilantro
sour cream or Greek yogurt
hot sauce (Cholula is the house favorite here)

1) Rinse and pat dry chicken.  Place in bottom of slow cooker.
2) Layer chopped vegetables and all other ingredients on top of the chicken, finishing with the broth and spices.  Stir.
3) Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
4) When the cook time is complete, use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the pot.  It will be fork-tender, falling apart.  Use two forks to shred the chicken on a cutting board or in a mixing bowl, and return it to the pot.  Stir and adjust seasonings to taste.
5) Serve with toppings, the more the better.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Seventeen months. 
That is how long it has been since I've touched this blog! 

I never meant to disappear.  There was a perfect storm of circumstances that lead me to walk away for awhile, and I've been pondering if, how and when to come back.  Blogging has gotten really weird, at least as a professional endeavor.  Having always looked upon this place as something to be treated professionally, and aspirationally as a source of income, the weirder things got in the blogging world, the more ambivalent I felt about Sweet Mama Jane.  I've seen bloggers really trade on their children's privacy and identity for profit, and I've seen sponsorships lead to some really bizarre bedfellows and insincere and strange posts (whole foods blogger shilling for a diet drink company, I'm looking at you).   I don't read many of the blogs I used to (or many at all any more) because the whole thing left such a bad taste in my mouth.  I was feeling like I just didn't want to be a part of the blogosphere anymore.

Then, as far is this blog in particular went, there were so many things I wanted to do -- a site overhaul, a better logo, some different navigation -- that I would get completely overwhelmed and kind of throw my hands up when I couldn't seem to make time for it all (or any of it, actually).  My little guy doesn't nap like my older dude did, and when he does I like the QT with my eldest (and the time to, you know, shower), so POOF! there went my writing time.  2013 was a pretty exhausting year, if a good one. We moved. Again.  Same town, new house, but another move nonetheless.  And just like that, a year and half went by, and this place has just simmered.  I've missed it, and pondered how to take it up again on my own terms.

Two things made me feel like I might want to start blogging again.  One is what I think is probably the best food blog around at the moment, Dash and Bella.  Phyllis Grant, the writer, has two kids and as wild a schedule as the rest of us.  She uses a completely unembellished .blogspot template -- no cute logo, no gimmicky sidebar.  She does impromptu yoga handstands against her fridge when her kids make her insane.  She drinks a lot.  She swears in her posts.  And she posts whenever the spirit moves her and she cooks something stellar -- sometimes that is every week, sometimes it is every other month -- but she keeps it going.  I love her. Reading her made me feel like it would be okay if I never got a sponsor or did anything else to make this blog pretty, or even got around to a regular posting schedule again.  If you're just doing something from the heart, it can be totally on your terms.  It is a freeing and inspiring notion.

The other thing that lit a fire under me to get back here was an amazing batch of tortilla soup + two old friends. I cooked up a delicious soup yesterday that looked particularly photogenic in the soft spring light, so I Instagrammed it before digging in.  Two great old friends, who I've felt less connected to since I stopped blogging, both commented to suggest I blog it.  So sweet.  I miss them and the readers like them and the sense of community and sharing SMJ used to bring me.  I really would like to take a stab at writing here again.

So, I'm back.  I might not write here as often as I used to or even as I'd like to, but I'm going to give it a try.  If anyone is still out there, I'd love to have you back as well.  I'm writing up the tortilla soup recipe and I can't wait to share it.  Stay tuned, friends…

Sunrise from our new house.
New beginnings all around...