recipe link love

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese {via Delish.com; I added caramelized onions and shallots}

Stuffed Tex Mex Yellow Squash {via Martha Stewart}

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad {via Taylor Takes a Taste}

Husband’s Healing Stew {via Oh She Glows}

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup {via All Recipes}

Ginger Clam Soup {via Rasa Malaysia}

Slow-Cooker Lentil Chicken Sausage Stew {via Simple Nourished Living}

lovin’ right now

Creative Marketing

image

Trader Joe's advertising in the freezer section

Zappos ad bin security at the airport. Genius!

Candles

Gluten-Free Cookbooks

Another Christmahanakwanza present from my sister- Gluten-Free on a Shoestring. How perfect for me!

Footie Pajamas

I'm the proud/ashamed owner of the pink ones on the right. The girls and I had a footie night the other day- just hanging out and sipping wine in our onesies!

Seasonal Teas

Candy Cane Lane and Nutcracker Sweet are my absolute favorite teas. I have to hunt them down early every holiday season so they're not all gone! They make great gifts too ūüôā

Party Themes

The Raleigh Forum is hosting a party on January 26 but I can't tell you the theme quite yet. Want to be sure you score an invite? Contact me!

Photo credits: here, here, here, here, and here

holiday pinspiration board

I logged into Pinterest recently and was inspired by all the pictures posted by my Pinterest friends- so much so that I decided to make a “holiday pinspiration board” to keep track of all the things I want to do/make/appreciate over the holidays!

{To see all the photos I pinned, click on the image below}

P.S. Remember when I blogged about “Ask and You Shall Receive“? In my recent review of Garden Lites gluten-free souffles, I half-jokingly asked the company if they wanted to give me some free products to sample. Well, I did one better- I got a response on Twitter offering e-coupons for YOU, my readers! I’ll do a little giveaway in mid-January ūüôā I heard great things about the zucchini marinara, so I’m excited about trying that out.

——–

This Day Last Year: My observation about being a perfectionist and always striving to be better instead of just allowing yourself to appreciate your many accomplishments. I recently sent this post to my sister to remind her to just think about all she’s done instead of stressing herself out to do more!

i’m backkkk

Peppy, enthusiastic, inspired Cristina is back! I had one of those weeks, but now I am just itching to get back to blogging. I have a growing list of blog entries I need to post, which includes several recipes.

During my hiatus, I asked my sister¬†to write a guest post so you all wouldn’t feel too neglected, so she’ll still be doing that. We just came up with the perfect topic- the post is tentatively called “How I Decided To Love Winter.” It is her guide to changing her negative perspective on winter by participating in festive holiday activities!

In the meantime, here is my weekend recap:

  • Both Friday and Saturday were spent at the animal hospital with Fatty Bratty¬†Maddie, who got into the trash and ate chocolate. What a troublemaker
  • Sushi at Mirage with my LivingSocial deal- I liked my rolls, but my sister wasn’t crazy about hers
  • Lunch at Jibarra- sat on the patio and had delicious steak tacos
  • Beer tasting at Tasty Beverage Co- realized I was correct in thinking pale ales are my favorite. We had so much fun and met some great people here. We said we almost felt like tourists exploring the city
  • Dinner at Five Star- crispy sesame beef!
  • Finished a great book
Despite the chaos of spending two nights at the animal hospital (we were there until 3am on Saturday), it was a great weekend- relaxing, beautiful weather, and fun new places!

This week will be a busy one, as usual!

  • Wednesday night casual networking event with Triangle Entrepreneurship Week
  • Babylon with the blog girls!
  • Getting back into tennis + Pilates
  • Friday night food & drinks with FreshBooks at the Forum
  • Visit from my DC besties on Friday!! They haven’t seen Maddie or my finished apartment yet!
P.S. Thank you to Sara (not my sister this time!) for her super sweet comment about our bloggers group!
—-
This Day Last Year: My post was entitled “Doin’ Alright,” which funny enough, is still in the #1 spot on my current playlist. It’s so crazy for me to think back to where I was in terms of job searching last fall and where I am now. Suffice it to say, I never would have thought last November that I would be the co-owner of a coworking space in downtown Raleigh now!

leek & potato soup

Updated: WOW! This soup is seriously incredible. Easily one of the best soups I’ve ever had. Try it and let me know what you think!

I’m trying to fit in as many hearty winter-y soups before spring hits DC (which I am really looking forward to!).

I bought 400 Soups at Borders at 18th and L, where everything is on sale because they are going out of business!

photo credit: amazon.com

Leek & Potato Soup
1/4 cup butter
2 leeks (washed and chopped)
1 small onion (finely chopped)
2 medium potatoes (peeled and chopped)
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat 1/2 of the butter in large pan over medium. Add leeks and onion and cook until softened (about 7 minutes). Add potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes (until potatoes are tender). Season to taste and remove from heat. Stir in remaining butter. Serve hot with warm, crusty bread.

Note: I used my immersion blender on this one! I liked it better that way.

spiced tomato & chickpea soup

photo credit: marthastewart.com

This is one of my two favorite soups (the other is carrot ginger soup), courtesy of Ms.Martha Stewart. I just realized I never posted this recipe!

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 dried hot red chiles, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds [optional]
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can [15 ounces] chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed canned tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 cup drained jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed or 1 roasted red pepper, peeled and chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock [I use broth]
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Parsley sprigs, for garnish

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, chilies or crushed red pepper, salt, coriander, and caraway; cook until just softened, about 3 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and stock. Simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Rewarm if necessary. Divide among bowls, and top each with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of parsley.

Notes: I haven’t been able to find caraway seeds anywhere, so I leave these out. The soup is still full of flavor! In addition, I use a home-roasted red pepper in lieu of the jarred kind. Lastly, I use chicken broth instead of stock, simply because TJ doesn’t carry stock. This can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth

Enjoy ūüôā

Carrot Ginger Soup

Since I’m leaving for Israel soon (WOOHOO!), I decided to whip up carrot ginger soup (courtesy of Real Simple) to use up the carrots in my fridge. As a side note, a girl who regularly orders from GW Bites said that it was her favorite dish so far.

Photo credit: RealSimple.com

Ingredients

  • 1¬†tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2¬†pounds [approx. 11-12 medium-sized] carrots, chopped
  • 4¬†cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1¬†tablespoon fresh grated ginger or approx. 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2¬†teaspoons salt
  • 1/4¬†teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 5 to 6 minutes.
  2. Stir in the carrots, broth, ginger, the salt, and the pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.
  3. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
  4. Optional: top with sour cream + dill

cure the winter blues

Feeling down? I’ve been sick and feeling irritable lately, so I found a helpful article from Discovery Health on beating the winter blues. Here are my favorites from the list of¬†27 Home Remedies for Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Soak up the morning light.¬†Get as much natural light as possible between 6:00 A.M. and 8:00 A.M. Engage in regular aerobic exercise. The perfect solution to kill two birds with one stone- go for a morning run outside!
  • Let the sun shine in- keep your curtains raised!
  • Vacation in a warm, sunny place- this works out for me considering my upcoming trips to Israel and Florida!
  • Eat good foods, including the following:
    • Bouillon- drink some hot bouillon or broth to warm you up and fill you up
    • Herbal teas- opt for herbal; chamomile and peppermint are my favorite!
    • Legumes- apparently these help you “maintain an even serotonin level throughout the day and night.” Some good options are¬†lentil butternut squash soup or¬†black bean soup

My other go-to tips:

  • Read a good book- I just picked up Jurassic Park!
  • Buy fresh flowers- Trader Joes stocks cheap and beautiful flowers all year. I love peonies and hydrangeas
  • Plan fun friend dates- try a winter walk with peppermint coffees or going to a new restaurant. I have a dinner date at the new Bayou DC this week!
  • Pick up a fun new hobby- my new photography class forces me to get out and see the beauty in winter
  • Get friends together for a fun outdoor activity- snowball fight, volleyball game, tag?
  • Blog! As I’ve mentioned, blogging makes me see positivity in everyday life because I know I’m “accountable” to my blog readers


sweet potato carrot soup

I had leftover sweet potatoes from my Moroccan Chicken and Potato Stew, so I searched for an easy recipe containing sweet potatoes. I stumbled upon this slightly sweet, slightly savory, and wholly easy recipe for soup.

Ingredients 

Photo credit: welldonefillet.com

  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet ¬†potatoes, cut into chunks ¬†and boiled until tender
  • 2 carrots, chopped into pieces and boiled until tender
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt

Directions

In a heavy saucepot, over medium-low heat, cook the flour and butter, stirring constantly until roux achieves a light caramel color. Add the broth and brown sugar, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Stir in the sweet potatoes and spices, bring to a simmer again, and cook for 5 minutes more. With an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches and return to saucepot. Add the milk, and reheat soup. Season with salt and pepper, ladle into warm soup bowls and serve.

Winter Break Recap

North Carolina: Road trip with Mom. Lots of laughs with Sissy and Mommy. Nattie Green’s food. Found our dream office. Caribou study dates.

NYC: Hours of play with baby nephew. Alvin Ailey modern dance show. Delicious brunch. NYC all lit up. Rockefeller Center. Exchanging gifts. Blizzard. Snowed in in Brooklyn. Sound of Music.

Connecticut: Snowy drives. Endless scary movies. Lazy days. Taboo. Anthropologie.

North Carolina: New Years Eve fun.

Virginia: Skiing. Taboo. Phase 10. Gin Rummy. Games galore. Hot chocolate. Family time. Bruised tailbone. “Jew-Ann” and “Quay-so.”

DC: Tailbone recovery. New TV series The Dollhouse. Hotel with Mom. Vietnamese food. Bonding time.

All in all, a fantastic final (eek!) winter break, minus the unfortunate bruised tailbone incident.