About Me

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where I also attended college and met the love of my life. I lived in NYC for five years with my husband and Westie, Mack Brown before recently moving all the way across the country to Los Angeles. I'm an amateur chef, total foodie, lover of Westies, sports fanatic and self-proclaimed book worm. You'll find a little bit of all these things I love on this blog. And...most importantly, I'm a new mom to the most precious baby boy, Austn Robert, born this past October.





Austin Robert

Austin Robert

Mack Brown

Mack Brown

Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Reasons to Love Fall...

Fall has arrived!  And, while I do love summer, I am so excited for its arrival.  Unfortunately, like most of the east coast, I'm welcoming fall today from the inside, thanks to the rainy weather outside.  Oh well...since I'm stuck inside, I'll take the opportunity to share with you all why I love fall :)

1.  Honeycrisp Apples.

I love apple season, especially honeycrisp apple season.  B and I discovered these apples for the first time last fall, and we've been dreaming about their return ever since.  I'm picky about apples.  I don't like them if they're too mushy, too sweet, too tart, etc.  You catch my drift.  Honeycrisp apples are perfection--just the right amount of crispness and sweetness that you want in an apple.  Perfect on their own or cut into slices and dipped in some peanut or almond butter.  Yum.

2.  Football.

Saying I love football is more than an exaggeration.  Football is THE reason I love fall so much.  Ever since I was a baby sitting on my dad's knee, I've been a football fanatic.  I grew up rooting on Troy Aikman and the Cowboys, but since getting married and moving to New York, I now bleed blue of a different color...go G-Men!  (Sorry, Dad!)  At our household we also bleed burnt orange...hook 'em horns!  But, while I definitely root for and against certain teams, I never discriminate against which games I will watch.  I watch them all.  So, if you ever need a football watching buddy, call me.  I'm available.

3.  Pumpkins.  

I love literally everything about these luscious gourds.  I'm thinking that once we get to Cali, and I have a functional kitchen again, I really want to try making my own pumpkin puree to use in pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin muffins...mmmmmmmm.  The possibilities are endless!  I'm also looking forward to having a car and being able to go to a pumpkin patch this year to pick out some pumpkins to carve!  I'm not artistic at all and usually shy away from artsy projects, but I love carving pumpkins (and am actually pretty good, if I do say so myself.)  Admittedly, though, my favorite part of carving pumpkins is roasting the seeds afterwards.  I plan on using this recipe this year as it uses olive oil instead of the pounds of butter like my usual recipe :)

4.  The colors.

I love, love, love the reds, oranges, yellows and browns of this season.  From the changing leaves and the fruits and vegetables in season to the holiday decorations.  Fall colors make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

5.  And, last but not least, Thanksgiving. 

This is by far my favorite holiday.  What could be better than a day filled with family, good food,  AND football.  Perfect.  We'll be staying out on the west coast this year since we'll have pretty much just arrived, so our Thanksgiving will look a little different this year for sure.  But, hopefully we'll be able to find some friends in LA to share the holiday with us this year.  Any takers?  I'll cook :)

Here's what last year's feast looked like...

Now who wants to come to Thanksgiving dinner?? ;)

Monday, September 19, 2011

And So It Begins...

If you haven't yet heard, B and I are moving to L.A. in October.  This move has definitely been a long time coming, so it's hard to believe that the time has almost arrived.  Last week, however, reality, finally began to set in. My mom came to visit for the week and helped me pack up literally EVERYTHING in the apartment.  She is a packing machine!  Yes, we will be spending the next few weeks with our lives in boxes, but it is so worth it.  Now, we can enjoy the time we have left in NYC without having to worry about packing.  B and I could not be more grateful.  Thank again, Mom!  You're the best.

This weekend was also the start of the many "goodbye" dinners that we have planned with friends and family over the next couple weeks.  Saturday night we went up Roberto's on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to have dinner with B's parents, his sister Courtney, and his Uncle Richie and Aunt Lillian.  We had such a great time spending time with some of the Haugen clan.  

And, last night B and I went to dinner with our friends Lindsay and Dan at Babbo.  We've heard so much about this restaurant, and wanted to try it before moving away.  And, boy, am I glad we did.  Babbo did not disappoint.  I truly had the best meal I have ever eaten in NYC, which is saying a lot because this is a city with a lot of really great food.  We all got the pasta tasting menu with wine pairings.  So. Good. If you're looking for a great place to try next time you want to treat yourselves in the city, go to Babbo.  But, word to the wise...plan ahead.  We had to make a reservation more than a month ahead of time.  So worth it, though.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

I'm currently obsessed with a "new-to-me" cooking show on the Food Network called 5 Ingredient Fix.  Anyone else watch it?  The chef, Claire Robinson, makes everything look so easy and so delicious, and I've been dying to try out a couple of her recipes.  So, I did.  I made her red wine braised short ribs with braised red cabbage from the episode "Low and Slow."  And, they were both de-li-cious.

I didn't change the recipe, since I've never cooked short ribs before and didn't want to mess anything up.  So the  recipe below is from the Food Network website (gotta give credit where credit is due).

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs


  • 4 English cut beef short ribs, trimmed (roughly 8 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 bottle full bodied red wine, such as Cabernet
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • cloves garlic, peeled and smashed


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Pat ribs dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on all sides.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ribs and brown on all sides. Transfer the ribs to a plate, then add the garlic and stir until softened but not brown, about 1 minute. Carefully pour in the wine, bring to a boil and cook until reduced to about 1 cup. Add the ribs and any juices they have released back to the pot along with the stock. Reduce the heat and bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and transfer it to the oven, to braise, until the meat easily falls off the bone, about 3 hours.

Transfer the ribs to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Strain the braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a saucepan set over medium-high heat. Simmer the liquid, skimming fat as necessary, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary. Transfer the ribs and sauce to a serving dish and serve.

I served the short ribs with creamy Parmesan grits and braised red cabbage.  So good.  You can find the recipe for the cabbage here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Catching Up...

I can't believe how long it's been since my last blog post.  Yikes!   A lot has happened lately and I've been holding on to a lot of really great pictures, so without further ado, let's get caught up.

1. We survived a hurricane evacuation (in NYC...wha?!?) and a lot of rain from tropical storm Lee.  Here are some pictures of the destruction in the Haugen's neighborhood in CT.  When viewing these pictures, keep in mind that this is where we went to escape the storm.  We had a great time with B's family, but seriously...what were we thinking?  Look at the size of that tree that fell right across the street from us.  And, they lost power.  Downtown Manhattan had nothing on Greenwich.

2. I celebrated a birthday and gave in (for once) and let Brad plan a birthday brunch.  I'm not one for making a big deal out of my birthday, but since we're moving soon and this might be the last time for a while that I could do something like this on my birthday, I gave in.  We were supposed to do the brunch the weekend that Irene visited us at Rayuela in the Lower East Side, but had to move it to Labor Day weekend.  As a result, a lot of my favorite people were out of town, but we still had a great time!

3. Last Saturday, Mack Brown turned 4!!  Which means that in dog years, Mack and I are the exact same age.  Weird, huh?  Check out the cake below that I made him.  I bought a cake mix at a doggie boutique in our neighborhood and it was seriously the easiest cake ever to make.  It comes with a cake mix and a icing mix.  You just add water, cook it in the microwave, and ice it.  Mack LOVED it. (We sent his cousin Daisy one, too!)

4.  We continued our Labor Day celebration on Sunday at our friends Jeremy and Danijela's apartment.  They have an amazing terrace downtown from which you can see both the Battery and the progress on One World Trade.  We truly said goodbye to summer in style.  J and D, thanks again for hosting!

5.  Lastly, today is bittersweet.  We're going to a bar crawl/ going away party for our good friend Joe who is moving to London next week to get his MBA at Oxford.  We're so proud of you Joe.  You're truly going to be missed.  Today is also college football Saturday, which means the Horns play!  We're DVRing the game so that we can celebrate with Joe, so, yes, I will be watching football into the wee hours of the morning.  You know someone means a lot to B and I when we miss a Texas game for them!  Hook 'em!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Smoky Lentil Soup

Happy September, y'all!  It's really starting to feel like fall up here with cool mornings, breezy evenings, back to school preparations, and the return of FOOTBALL, and I, for one, am loving it!  

I've been craving soup lately (a symptom of the weather, I think), so I decided to make a smoky lentil soup that I found the other day while flipping through the Williams-Sonoma catalog (I LOVE clipping recipes from their catalogs).  The recipe called for using two ingredients that I had never cooked with before, red lentils and smoked paprika, both of which I now love, especially the smoked paprika.  It added a depth of flavor to the soup that made it seem as if I had been cooking the soup all day.  I love ingredients that can do that!

You can find the original recipe here, but my slightly tweaked version is below:

Smoky Lentil Soup
3 thick-cut bacon slices
1 medium sweet Vidalia onion, diced
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4 in. dice
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 c. canned diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 c. red lentils, picked over and rinsed
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. beef broth
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream for garnish

Cook the bacon in a large pot until crisp.  Remove the bacon. Drain on paper towels and crumble once cooled.

Add the onion, carrot, salt and pepper to the bacon grease, and cook for 15 minutes.  Add the garlic, tomato paste, and smoked paprika, and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, lentils and chicken broth.   Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the lentils have softened, about 25-30 minutes.  

To thicken the soup, add about 2 cups of soup to the blender.  Cover with a towel and pulse a few times to puree the soup mixture slightly.  Add the pureed mix back into the pot.  Add the beef broth and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with sour cream and bacon.  It's also great with grilled cheese on the side.