Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy Birthday to Our 30-something!

Happy birthday to the most peace-loving, strong, 
creative, free-spirited 30-something we know!


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Supper: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Hiya friends,

One of my hobbies is finding and creating copycat recipes of my restaurant favorites. I get so excited when I finally find the right one that I can't help but share!

My favorite soup to order at soup and salad places like Jason's Deli and Panera Bread is broccoli cheese soup... definitely a comfort food! I found this recipe by Emeril and combined it with a recipe from my mother-in-law to create an awesome copycat that is, if I do say so myself, even better than the real thing!
2 heads fresh broccoli (or 16 oz package frozen broccoli)
3 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper (or 1/2 tsp black pepper)
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tablespoons flour
3 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups sharp shredded cheddar
Velveeta cheese (optional)

Before cooking, chop onions, garlic, and broccoli. The veggies do not have to be chopped finely (or perfectly!) since you will be blending the soup later.

In a medium pot, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and stir to combine. Add the flour and cook, stirring until the mixture is well blended, about 2 minutes. Next, add the chicken stock slowly, whisking in the flour mixture until flour pieces are broken up. Bring to a boil as you stir. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh broccoli, roughly chopped and cook until the broccoli is tender, 15-20 minutes.

Remove pot from the heat and puree with hand-held immersion blender (a great kitchen gadget if you don't have one!) or blend in a food processor or blender. 

Once blended, return to the pot over low heat. Add the cream and bring to a low simmer to heat through. Add 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese and melt, stirring, over low heat. Add 1-2 more TBSP butter, stirring to blend and melt. (If using, you can add a few inch-size cubes of Velveeta melting cheese to make a creamier consistency.)

Once all ingredients are melted and soup is warm, remove from heat and serve, topped with additional cheese! It's great served with a side of warm sourdough bread, grilled chicken, or a fresh simple salad.

Tips and Tricks:
*I like to use fresh broccoli, but frozen works just fine. If you use frozen, thaw before adding to soup and reduce cooking time to about ten minutes or until tender.
*To better mimic Panera Bread's version, add 1 cup fresh grated carrot in with the broccoli.

I hope you enjoy this copycat recipe!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Happy Hour: Are you a list-maker?

Hey y'all, 
Do you love making lists? Join the club. This time of year, I'm making lists left and right! So for HH this week, here's some sexy Ryan Gosling and a silly list about list-making. ;-)

You may be an avid list-maker if…
  1. You love the act of writing down a brand new to-do list. It makes you feel ready to conquer your goals.
  2.  You love crossing things off your list so much that you occasionally write something down that you’ve already done just so that you can have something to cross off… (Don’t lie—you know you’ve done it.)
  3. A new pack of post-it notes thrills you.
  4. You’ve tried a variety of smart phone apps for list-making but none of them are quite as satisfying as the ol’ paper and pencil list.
  5. You panic when you realize you left your errand or grocery list at home.
  6. You email yourself to-do lists when you wake up in the middle of the night or keep a notepad by your bed.
  7. Making a list dramatically reduces your stress level. It’s like taking a deep breath. (Ahhhh…)
  8. You organize your lists into categories. (Grocery list organized by aisle, work list vs. home list… you know you do it too.)
  9. Your parents have memories of you making lists as a child. (To this day, my  mom recalls how I neurotically made packing lists for family trips. She never had to worry about my preparedness.)
  10. You’ve fantasized about (or actually gone through with) making your own personalized list-making stationary.
There’s no shame in list-making. Revel in it.
And be comforted that all over the world there are people just like you who get the same thrill from checking off a box. :)
Happy list-making!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Banana "Ice Cream" Treat

Hey ladies,

I can't resist sharing this delectable little treat with y'all!  Warmer weather and upcoming bikini season has inspired me to share an amazing homemade guiltless treat.

I love ice cream. I love it. It's what I crave when I want something sweet. 

Then I found a healthy version that is delicious and is just like ice cream!

Banana Peanut Butter "Ice Cream"

To serve one

1.5 frozen bananas, cut into pieces (about one inch pieces)
1 tablespoon peanut butter (Nutella also works great here for an extra treat!)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon 

Using a food processor or high power blender, dump in all ingredients and blend. You may have to pulse and stir periodically, but it will work without any liquid! You just have to be patient! Taste and add more peanut butter or cinnamon to taste. 

You can slice the banana pre-freeze or just cut up a frozen banana. 
You can also add cacao nibs or powder for a chocolate burst. 
Also great without peanut butter!

Enjoy friends!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Supper: Orange Chicken & Salad

Hi friends,

Spring is here and summer is fast-approaching! I love fresh, flavorful salads this time of year. This is one of my favorites, and the first salad recipe that had my husband requesting it week after week! When it comes to salad, if it's good enough to please a man, it's pretty darn good!

The chicken itself is so good, you can also make it with a different side. However, the ingredients work very well together. It reminds me of Kate's Rainbow Salad because it is so colorful! Colors = nutrients!

Don't forget to read my notes for my secret to cooking chicken!

Orange Chicken & Salad

1 cups dried breadcrumbs (fluffy Panko breadcrumbs work best!)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
2-3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 large orange, zested
1 small container cherry or grape tomatoes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2-3 skinless chicken breasts, about 1.5 lb OR thin chicken cutlets
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 small red onion or 2 to 3 scallions, chopped
4 cups baby arugula and/or spring mix

Combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, and zest from your orange in a shallow bowl. Put the flour in another bowl, and the eggs in a third bowl. This is your "breading station."

Cut the chicken breasts in half, horizontally, butterflying the chicken so that the pieces are thinner. Alternatively, use chicken tenders or already thin cutlets of chicken. Pound your chicken so that it is thin, about a half inch to an inch thick. (See tip below.)

Season cutlets with salt and pepper. To bread your chicken, start by coating a piece with flour, then egg, and finally the bread crumb mixture. This ensures that the final crumb mixture sticks to the chicken. Flour, egg, bread crumbs -- you can't go wrong!

Heat a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat with a few tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the cutlets 1 or 2 at a time depending on the size of the pan. After you see the breadcrumbs begin to brown on the bottom, flip and finish cooking. Watch the chicken carefully to monitor the heat so they do not burn. As the cutlets finish cooking, transfer to a plate to cool. Cutlets may be served warm or at room temperature. 

While the cutlets cook or prior to cooking, assemble your salad. Dice the orange and add to a large bowl along with the spring mix, tomatoes, and onion. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss. The juice from the oranges helps create a light, flavorful dressing with the olive oil.

Serve the chicken with the salad. Yum!

My secret to perfectly moist, evenly cooked chicken? Tenderize! Cover your chicken pieces with wax paper or saran wrap. Then, use a meat tenderizer and pound your heart out! It's very therapeutic. Any time I cook chicken in a skillet, I tenderize it into thin, even cutlets. This makes the chicken cook evenly and more quickly.
(You can get creative and use the bottom of a bowl or something similar if you don't have a tenderizer.)
*If you are dairy-free, just add a handful more breadcrumbs instead of the Parmesan cheese and add an extra teaspoon salt to compensate flavor.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Happy Hour: How old?

Hey y'all,

Who doesn't love a new addicting website/app to play around with when you are bored at work? That's what I thought. 

Many of you may have already heard of this website, but I couldn't resist sharing it. takes any picture and estimates ages of people in the photo. Once you start, you can't stop.

Here's a sample: 

Pretty close to accurate, but I won't say how close. ;)

My mom especially liked it when it guessed her age as 29-31 in more than a few pictures. My balding cousin, however, didn't like that his college-age self was estimated at 65 years old. Laugh-worthy, for sure.

Have fun!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Tips for Visiting a New Mom

Tips for Visiting a New Mom
by Leala Kiecke

Maybe one of your friends just had the first baby in your group or the stork just dropped off your sister's second bundle of joy. Either way, it's time to greet your new soon-to-be Facebook obsession with a visit! Here are some tips on visiting a new mom and some insights into how her brain is ticking:

1. Come visit, but also don't come. 
Do your new mom friend a solid and don’t come if you’ve been sick recently, your child is sick or your husband is sick, etc. We know that one day our little one will get a cold. But in those precious first days and weeks of life, sickness is terrifying – more so if the baby is a preemie. When they’re that tiny and you barely have the hang of feeding them, the last thing you want to worry about is a cold.

2. Wash your hands. 
You were our best friend, our Aunt, our sorority sister. But when we open the door, our exhausted eyes see you as smiling Bringers of Germs. We see the guy who sneezed on you at work, the grocery cart you didn’t sanitize, and that suspicious stain on your sleeve that could be mustard or could be Ebola. Washing your hands and then applying hand sanitizer absolves you of these sins. Please wash your hands. Don’t make us ask you. It’s awkward…but we’ll do it.

3. Leave your children elsewhere. 
We love them any other time. We’ll probably love them by next week. But this soon, they’re bringers of runny noses and flu bugs. Even beyond the germs - their boundless energy is like the royal middle finger to a person that expelled another person only hours or days ago and hasn’t slept since.

4. Call ahead and give them an out. 
Seems fairly obvious but for new moms – a LOT has changed in their life and as amazing as well wishers are – it’s good to know when to expect them. And it’s nice to know that if the idea of guests is too much, it's okay for us to let you know another time might be better.

5. Bring healthy food. 
We love that you bring food. It’s amazing. A new mom would love nothing more than to dive headfirst into a pizza, BBQ or hamburgers. But when it seems like your body resembles a deflated balloon, it’s nice to have a yummy, guilt-free healthy meal to reach for.

6. Offer to do a chore. 
Food not your thing? No problem. We’d love your help with doing something like the dishes or yard work. If there is an older sibling, we would kiss your feet if you took them out for a couple hours. Rover, the fur-baby, hasn’t seen the park for a week and we’d love some relief from those guilt-giving puppy dog eyes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

7. Realize that, although you want to hold that baby, so do they. 
New moms love, love, love showing off their little one. We’re happy to share our joy with you. So hold the baby. Hold, coo, marvel…then give the baby back. While we want to share our joy with you, new mamas are protective. Nature built us that way, and we want that little one back in our protective arms. Besides, there’s nothing that feels warmer and fuzzier than holding your new baby while sitting next to someone you love.

8. Finally, if we forget to thank you – thank you! We love you! Come back soon!

An Austinite born and raised, Leala Kiecke spent five years in Dallas before making the permanent move with her husband back down I-35 to Austin in 2009. Living the “30 is the new 20” life in ATX (she’s really 31, yeesh), she spends most of her days being out-energized by her toddler son, outsmarted by her two dogs, and out of patience with her work-from-home husband. 

When time allows, Leala blogs for the MOMlocal section of MOMquery, a site dedicated to all things mom- and child-related from pregnancy and birth to fitness and juggling life's many priorities. MOMquery provides a place for real, everyday moms to connect, encourage each other and share information.