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Homemade Tomato Soup

January 31, 2015

Hiiii.  From Kansas City.  We are (almost) home & it feels so good.  We are getting closer to normal & routine.  The boring, nothing-exciting-to-talk-about-life.

Not that my life is talk-worthy, not to confuse you.  It’s just been, well, chaotic.

pot of tomato

It’s all relative, though, right?  Relative, like I’m living with my in-laws, and the relative to what we’re comparing.  In other words, life.

boys piano lr bw

My boys have reached the absolutely adorable phase.  My daughter turned 3 last month, but sometimes I wonder if she turned 10.

addie princess

And, I’m looking for a job (!).  One outside the home because, let’s be real, this stay-at-home-mom job is wayyy harder.  Afternoon soap operas and mani-pedi’s, ha!  It’s more tiring, too, and I’m still trying to figure out how that is so.

The *important* news is that I am getting my own house, my own kitchen, next month!  I’ve been busy looking for inspiration for decorating this lovely thing I will call home & it’s been so incredibly exciting.  I can’t wait to share some of this news because I’m literally shopping everywhere: Crate & Barrel to Wayfair to Ikea to local KC shops.  And, our usual stops: Target & Costco.  And, Amazon, of course.

tomato soup v2

Part of this new routine means I’m cooking more.  I love making this tomato soup, so I wanted to share it (again).  It’s just a staple.  I’m on this Herbes de Provence kick, but I often use basil or Italian seasonings.  Sometimes I add a little bit of V8 juice or crushed red pepper; I adjust the half-&-half to meet the consistency I want.  The finishing oil is a new (& great) addition to serving the soup.



1 tbsp olive oil
1 med yellow onion, chopped
3 med carrots, chopped
3 celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp Herbes de Provence (basil or Italian seasoning blend)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 28oz can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 can fire-‐roasted tomatoes
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
1 – 2 cups half-&-half, to desired consistency
Optional: shredded Parmesan cheese, Garlic or Tuscan-flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil


  • In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery & carrot, cook until soft, about 10 min. Add garlic & seasonings; cook 1 min longer.
  • Add tomatoes, broth & tomato paste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat & simmer 30-­40 min. Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until mostly smooth.
  • Add half & half, additional seasonings, sugar & Parsley, as needed, & serve with Parmesan cheese &/or olive oil on top.

Homemade tomato soup

Christmas M&M Cookies

December 25, 2014

m&m cookies christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Stressful and busy, too, but it truly is wonderful.  We reflect on the year (ours was a tad bit crazy, just a tad), spend time with family, and of course, eat lots of sweets.  Particularly, chocolate sweets.  In the cookie form.

cookie platter! christmas

Agreed?  Yes.  It was so busy we didn’t have time to make enough cookies (according to my brother).  I guess there’s just something about eating them right out of the oven.

From my family to yours, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.  xo

family christmas 14 lr


1 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cup flour
1 cup M&Ms, plus more for topping
1 cup mini chocolate chips


  • Cream sugar & butter with mixer in a large bowl.  Mix in vanilla & eggs.
  • In a separate bowl, combine salt, baking soda & flour.  Add flour mixture to other bowl and mix until blended.
  • Stir in M&Ms and chocolate chips.
  • Roll dough into small balls.  Add 3 – 5 M&Ms to the top of each cookie.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes.

Sometimes I’ll make the dough and refrigerate overnight.  I’ll bake the cookies the next day or 2.  Like most cookies, they are best hot out of the oven!

m&m cookies christmas

Pumpkin Pancakes

November 17, 2014

!pumpkin pancakes plate

Fall has fallen.  As in, the temps have dropped, the trees are bare and the snow is covering the ground.  Blah.  Not exactly what I had in mind for mid-November.

I love the colorful trees and light jacket weather, so I’m hoping Mister Polar Vortex is just hiding my friend fall.

fall trees

I suppose he is…til next Sept.

Bundled it is.

lil evan

Since it is technically still fall, we’re making pumpkin food!  Pumpkin is good for you & great for baking.  And, these kids of mine have loved the pumpkins via pancake form.  They are very soft, not too sweet…perfect with a little powdered sugar for the little boys and dessert-like when served with chocolate chips & syrup for the big kids, e.g. adults.  And my daughter.  Pancakes are basically a vehicle to getting syrup into her mouth.

addie pumpkin patch

Don’t let this smile fool you.  She actually had a small fit when she didn’t see enough chocolate chips in her pancake.  With the help of my chocolate-obsessed parents, she’s developing quite the chocolate tooth. My dad takes the saying “life is short, eat dessert first” a little too literally.

pumpkin pancakes with chocolate chips

This pumpkin pancake recipe makes a ton of pancakes.  I freeze a bunch for the next week.  Yum!

pumpkin pancake stack


2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
dash of nutmeg & cloves
2 cups milk (I’ve used skim, 1% & whole)
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs
chocolate chips & chopped pecans, to taste
whipped cream, for garnish
maple syrup, powdered sugar for serving


  • Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & spices.  In a separate bowl, whisk milk, pumpkin puree, butter & eggs.
  • Fold dry ingredients into wet & stir just until combined.  (Optional – stir in chocolate chips & pecans; or sprinkle on top of cooked pancakes.)
  • Heat griddle over medium/med-low heat & grease with nonstick cooking spray or butter.  Pour aprx 1/4 cup of batter on hot griddle for each pancake.  Cook each pancake 3 min or until bubbles begin to form.  Flip & cook an additional 2-3 min or until browned.
  • Sprinkle pancakes with (additional) chocolate chips &/or pecans and whip cream.  Serve warm with syrup & powdered sugar.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

!pumpkin pancakes plate

France – Part II (Lyon)

November 13, 2014


coffee france

I guess some things do not get old. Meaning: exploring French vineyards, eating lots of cream & butter in the form of French cuisine, wine for every lunch, great company. We may as well call this the wine, cheese & bread tour. After all, Lyon is the gastronomy capital of France, which is an obvious title after spending a few days there.  Our goals for the trip included such challenges like drink wine at every lunch, get into double digits on pastries consumed, check off eating all the key Lyonnaise dishes (more on that later), go on a couple wine tours so we can pretend to know what wines we like, etc. Lofty, lofty goals.

Let’s talk about what we discovered. This trip was enjoyed with my sister & husband via Paris, Dijon & Lyon (mainly Lyon).

Similar to my trip to Paris last month, our day in Paris was intense. Land mid-morning: eat pastries & coffee.  See the Mona Lisa & eat more pastries.  Hop on the city bus to see the Eiffel tour, Notre Dame & Champs-Elysees.  Pretend we are going to buy purses at the Louis Vuitton store. Get lost (that seemed to be a theme for us). Parfait.


Next up, Dijon.  We shopped the city (hello, moutarde de Dijon) & went on the most amazing tour of Bourgonone vineyards. See: views.

burgandy vineyards LR


We also stumbled into a “Vins, Pains, Fromages” event in Beaune. Right?! I paid & entered…& then I asked my husband and sister if they wanted to attend. Seemed obvious. This is the event I fell in love with Brillat-Savarin cheese (it’s the triple cream).  Because, y’all, the cheese in France…

cheese france

Then onto Lyon we went, our final destination for the week. Husband worked during the day, so my sister and I explored Lyon via getting lost & eating.

l&t lyon

We are tripadvisor people. Thus, we ate at many of the top tripadvisor restaurants, including Le Musee (twice!), Les Terrasses de Lyon (Michelin star), Archange (my favorite & the #2), Le Poivron Bleu (great wine selection, via my husband) & Bernachon (hot chocolate aka melted chocolate in a cup).

It appears Lyon is a little gem in France. Paris gets all the hype, but I much prefer Lyon. Lyon is known for its bouchons. These old, small, authentic restaurants serve classic Lyonnaise dishes: quenelles (fish-egg-soufflé served with lobster/crayfish sauce – too hard to explain, you must go to Lyon to understand), salad Lyonnaise (lettuce, lardons, croutons, poached egg), Saucisson Brioche (delicious sausage served inside Brioche bread), local cheese (take some, leave some) & I believe all sorts of strange foods (yes, we ate the pig cheek).

lyon bouchon food

Other activities included a tour of the Roman Museum & amphitheater. A wine tour of northern Cotes du Rhone & an afternoon at the Vigneron-Independant. Shopping in various forms.  Strolling down the cobblestone streets of Old Lyon, the Vieux & La Croix-Rousse.  Spending (a significant amount of) time in Les Halles de Lyon. A quick walk-through the miniature cinema museum (not worth the #3, tripadvisor) & several walks through the amazing Parc de la Tete d’Or. Kind of like a park, zoo & botanical garden all-in-one.


You guys, it was fun!  I feel like it didn’t really happen.  Lots of memories to be thankful for.

Au revoir!

France – Part I

October 13, 2014


A few weeks ago, my husband & I along with 6 of our friends (family) set off for a 9 day get-to-know-France excursion. Ahh-mazing.


I have too many memories, recommendations, delicious meals & pictures to share.

france wine cellar

Our itinerary included a day in Paris, a day in Epernay/Riems, 4 days exploring Provence & 3-4 days perusing in the south of France.  Dreamy.

france views

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with the french countryside. Arched windows, (real!) green/blue shutters, ceramic tile rooftops, bright flowers on the windowsills.  Olive trees and vineyards as far as the eye can see.  Quaint villages, authentic markets, roundabouts abound. Lots of wine with friends in a magical setting. Yes, yes, it was perfect.


First, Paris – the Louvre, bike rides & a fairy tale picnic under the Eiffel Tower.


Champagne region – vineyards and champagne tours in Epernay & Reims.  Poppin bottles. Or something.

france champagne

Drive to Provence (lovely!) which included a long lunch stop in Lyon (more on Lyon next time!).

(Ohh) Provence: market days, sightseeing in the nearby villages, authentic french dining – in & out of home, olive education, hiking the Calanques.


We went on a couple wine tours in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  I mean, they were harvesting the grapes & we met the winemaker…heaven!  Provence – I will be back.

france wine

Côte d’Azur: more French dining, hiking the hillside to the city of Eze, drinking poolside (Rose anyone?), exploring the nearby cities.

france cote d'azur
A little day drinking trip to Monaco for the super-yacht show (because a regular yacht is just not big enough).

france monaco

It was magical. And, I’m lucky enough to go back to France in a few days. Weee!

As you can see, I had the most wonderful time. Thanks, or merci, to my super-Mimi for watching my 3 kids, & these awesome friends for really making the trip all it was.

france eiffel tower

Now, about that reunion trip…

Evan & Aiden are ONE!

October 2, 2014

I’m speechless.


My boys, my babies, are one. ONE!  12 months.  Número uno. 1.

12 mo lr






I can’t believe 12 months have come & gone, yet 1 year ago feels more like 5 years ago. I blame insomnia for most of that.

Let’s stroll down memory lane (which, by the way, is like riding an emotional roller coaster vs a trot down a quiet street).

Last fall, a year ago, we were like this…


Ugh, I know.  No comments, please.

We just moved to Birmingham; I was large & uncomfortable; my daughter still had countable hairs on her head. A cute family of 3.

October 2nd arrived (37 weeks! The day I said I would have the boys which I apparently willed to happen.). Healthy, beautiful boys.

with boys lr

Seriously, this day is like a distant memory. My mind is trying to trick me into forgetting it ever happened. God’s way of making sure families continue procreating…I will not be fooled!

boys hosp bed

Instantly, we became a (crazy) family of 5.


3 under two.  Crazy, like I said. And lots of diapers.


Fast-forward a year and we’re still a crazy happy family of 5.


Aren’t they perfect?


I remind myself they were mine – I couldn’t fully appreciate how sweet they were then because I was so focused on keeping everyone alive, including myself.

With a little luck and a lot of love, we somehow survived the first few months. Thank goodness for friends & family!


And the boys kept growing (Aiden a bit more than Evan), becoming the cutest babies ever. Obviously.


And then mobility and food and laughs just finally over took us. Personalities abound.


Til here we are today, 12-unbelievable-months-old. More hearts.

12 mo twins

My Evan. I call you Evan the Explorer, always looking for something to get into, (preferably electronics). Smiles for everyone, Mr. Curious, determined, & oh so sweet! You give the biggest hugs & are always looking for a snuggle…it’s contagious.  Remember when I called you my chill little man? Not so chill anymore. Stinker.

little guy

My Aiden. At 8 weeks, I could have never predicted you would become such a sleeper…you have such a passion for it! Same for mealtime (although I did predict that one) and baths/swim fun…approaching them all with such gusto! You make the cutest faces & have a great laugh.  My little man.

little man

My boys.


So many are enamored with “twins” but you are each unique and truly different. That’s how I see you – two different, wonderful boys.  I was doubly blessed 12 months ago.

Happy birthday, Evan & Aiden. Love, mom




Homemade Roasted Salsa (for my husband)

September 1, 2014

Roasted salsa by

Do you ever think back to the previous year to fully appreciate how much time can change things? Last September, I was on bedrest in AL trying not to meet my two little boys. Not moving, not sleeping, not cooking.

Feels like a lifetime ago.  Which isn’t the worst thing considering how I felt.

Not that I’m cooking a whole lot nowadays. I can list 75 uninteresting reasons as to why, mostly relating to diapers & laundry. But when I have time, I do like to make things people really like.

matt addie lotawana bw

For my husband, that means salsa. I’ve made (versions of) this roasted salsa at least a dozen times this summer. It doesn’t last long when he’s around.

roasting tomatoes for salsa

It seems appropriate to share this now that my husband just departed for Lyon, France for the next few months.  Oh, and today is his birthday! It’s an awesome opportunity (follow his blog & experiences here!) and I’m so happy for him. (Happy for me, too, because I’m going to visit, yay!  Thanks, Mimi:)

Lots of things to experiment with making salsa. Looking forward to making much more for my husband in our future.

Happy birthday, honey.

roasted  on


6-8 medium tomatoes, chopped, seeds partially removed
1-2 jalapeños, sliced, seeds removed (or keep some!)
1 small onion (yellow or red), chopped
3-4 garlic cloves (peels on)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp sugar
Optional: chili powder, squeeze of lime juice, cayenne pepper, Tabasco sauce, 1 tbsp of diced raw onion. chopped cilantro or parsley


Preheat oven to 350.

Layer tomatoes, jalapeños, onion & garlic on cookie sheet (veggies should cover the full pan). Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper & cumin.

Bake on middle rack for 10-12 min. Move sheet to top rack and broil for 4-5 min (til you can see tomatoes & onions are browning nicely!).

Allow pan to cool slightly, peel garlic, & then pulse mixture in food processor or blender until desisted consistency is reached. Add sugar and additional seasonings as desired!

Roasted salsa by


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