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Life, lately

2015 April 24
by Laura

Happy Friday, friends! Although today is more of my Sunday, as I work tomorrow. I know that I signed up to do this stuff, being a nurse and all, but I am super over working weekends.

Speaking of weekends, though, last week I had a great one: we went up for a chilly early weekend at the shore to celebrate Someone’s 29th year of life.

Happy birthday coconut banana carrot cake bread for Ryan:

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The water was cold, COLD cold. Check the expression on Ryan’s face:

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We tried to get Ren interested in the water, but she wasn’t so sure.

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Taking Rennie to the beach was SO fun. We aren’t sure she’s actually ever seen sand before; she tore through the backyard like a maniac every time she was let out the door. She slept for about five days straight when we got back to A-town.

Relaxing and restorative! We had a great time, ate excellent food, caught up on The Good Wife, and read our books.


Oh, this book. Christopher Scotton’s The Secret Wisdom of the Earth.

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I just finished it and it’s one I’ll remember for a long time. The writing, the story. So often you get one without the other.

Let’s see….what else?

We tried to catch some cherry blossoms at the National Arboretum. We were slightly successful, but happened to go on the most miserable day of weather this spring — it was about 46 degrees and rainy.


Ah, well. There’s always next year.

Hope you’ve been enjoying spring!


2015 April 14
by Laura


Ryan told me yesterday that the “hamburger” has nothing to do with the word “ham,” that it has something to do with Hamburg, Germany, and if you’re interested, Wikipedia of course has a detailed article on the history of the hamburger.

I digress.

I had a lot of trouble meal planning this week; I think all we eat lately is all of the foods. We just had chicken. We just had pork. We just had Mexican. We just made Thai. We just ate shrimp. We just had fish. WE JUST ATE ALL THE STUFFS.

Except lamb! I stumbled upon these burgers in Cooking Light and it was magic in the making. Modified slightly, the recipe is below! (Don’t be discouraged by the lengthy ingredient list, it’s simple and easy to whip up.)

[Note: this recipe splits the fatty lamb with ground sirloin for a less fatty patty {heh}. Feel free to use all lamb for a stronger flavor.]


  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (cut it as finely as you can, I left mine in a “chopped” state and the chunks were too big)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 pound lean ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound 90% lean ground sirloin
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 small container plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • baby arugula

Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl, mixing with hands to combine. Divide the lamb mixture into four patties.

Combine yogurt, cheese, mint, and juice in a small bowl, stir.

Heat a grill to medium-high. Spray each patty with non-stick cooking spray, add patties to grill. Grill 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. (I recommend medium-rare, but that’s me).

Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top evenly with feta mixture, arugula, and top halves of buns.



Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 bugers
Using half sirloin helps cut the fatty patty.
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion (cut it as finely as you can, I left mine in a “chopped” state and the chunks were too big)
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ pound lean ground lamb
  • ½ pound 90% lean ground sirloin
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 small container plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • baby arugula
  1. Combine first 9 ingredients in a bowl, mixing with hands to combine. Divide the lamb mixture into four patties.
  2. Combine yogurt, cheese, mint, and juice in a small bowl, stir.
  3. Heat a grill to medium-high. Spray each patty with non-stick cooking spray, add patties to grill. Grill 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. (I recommend medium-rare, but that’s me).
  4. Place patties on bottom halves of buns; top evenly with feta mixture, arugula, and top halves of buns.


2015 April 13
by Laura

It’s kebab season!! Or, as I like to call them, “ke-babs,” pronounced like the nickname for Barbara. KeBABS!

I don’t know why they’re so fun to eat but I’m kind of digging the slideeeee off the skewer and into your mouth. Who doesn’t love food served on a stick?

I’ve made this recipe twice already in the last two weeks because it’s that good. I’m not even sure why, because there’s only a few ingredients and the whole thing is ready in about 10 minutes (minus marinating time). The lemon probably deconstructs the proteins in the chicken or something, which leads to its unbelievable tenderness, but that’s enough food science for today. Moving on!

(TWICE I forgot to photograph the plate because we just ate the chicken so fast!)



Number one important thing if you’re using wooden skewers: Soak in water for like, a million hours first. I always get nervous so I put them in for like 6 hours.

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
  • skewers, metal or wooden and soaked
  • minced garlic
  • dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • about 2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes
  1. n a medium-sized bowl, combine 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1 teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Whisk together, add the chicken chunks, and stir. Marinate for at least 2 hours, covered, in the fridge.
  2. Mix up a little salad with the same ingredients you have out already: Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon garlic, ½ teaspoon oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually add 1 tablespoon oil, stirring well with a whisk. Add parsley and tomatoes; toss to coat.
  3. Heat a grill and cook 3 minutes per side, for a total of about 6 minutes. Doesn't take long to cook these pups up! Serve the chicken with the salad and some rice and enjoy!


Chocolate chip cookies with almond flour

2015 April 10
by Laura

Sometimes I laugh when I remember that joke about them being called cookies. “Shouldn’t they be called ‘bakies?'” Yes, yes they should.


Here are some almond flour chocolate chip bakies for you. They were adapted from a recipe I found from Wellness Mama.

Chocolate chip cookies with almond flour
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16 cookies
The almond flour gives this a hearty, cake-like texture.
  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1 cup cup-4-cup gluten-free flour
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips to taste (I use about half a bag)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, and sugars in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and stir with a spoon or your hands until thick. Add the egg and vanilla, stir well. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on baking sheet for three minutes, transfer to cooling rack. Cookies will be soft.


The bridal moment, part two

2015 April 9
by Laura

We made an appointment at the same salon and with the same consultant. A month had passed — this time, my hair was blonder, I was carrying a few less pounds, and we brought a family friend as an unbiased opinion arbiter.


I had thought a lot about the two dresses that had made the final cut last time. One was “me” — lace, sweetheart neckline, sparkly sequins. The other wasn’t necessarily my style, but it was a very flattering dress and gave me a great shape. It was satin! With some bling! A lovely gown.

I tried the satin number on first. I felt good. It was flattering. But…something felt like it was missing. It just wasn’t singing to me. It was kind of heavy.

I’ll show you the non-winning dress:

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Lovely, right? But satin is kind of…cool, if that makes sense. Though the dress was ivory, it felt very cool to me and not really warm and lovely and romantic, which is more my style.

So, the second dress? I put it on and could not stop smiling. It was so clear to me that it was mine.

I had brought along my mom’s veil. She wore it in 1982 when she married my dad, and she had it preserved after the wedding. Thirty-three years later, it’s in perfect condition, and happens to match my dress perfectly. We might need to alter the headpiece a bit, but I think we can make it work.


I put on the lace dress, and we put on Hol’s veil….and it was magical. Everyone in the room started crying. The veil matches perfectly and it looks so pretty, it’s the perfect length (the consultant described it as a “waltz” length.)

Tears for everyone! I pictured me, I pictured the dress, I pictured standing with Ryan…and that was that. I said yes, squealed, and then we went to take measurements.


The bridal moment, part one

2015 April 6
by Laura

I am NOT a clothes person.

What is a “non-clothes” person? (Nope, not a nudist.) I’m just not one of those girls who gets really pumped up about clothing. I don’t really LIKE clothes. I’ve always had trouble putting outfits together, I’m better at putting food together.

I like looking good in clothes, and I like shopping in general, but I don’t really enjoy shopping FOR clothes and I don’t really feel that good in clothes very often. I honestly feel best in pajamas or yoga pants. (This probably bodes ill for me in the future.)

There’s two main problems for me and clothing: (1) I have champagne tastes on a beer budget (yeah, Gap jeans are just…Gap jeans, not Joe’s jeans) (2) I am just slightly too large to feel that I look good in most outfits.

ANYWAY, this is all to give you some background on the fact that I tend not to enjoy a dressing room and squeezing into clothing. The more revealing, the less good I feel (most women, probably, can agree—bathing suit shopping, BAD!).

So was I so excited to play dress up and try on wedding gowns? Yes and no.

The first time we went to the bridal salon I tried on several dress styles that I thought I should — namely, dresses with straps. I thought that my size and proportions would be best flattered by a v-neck strapped gown. After about 6 or 7 blah dresses, the consultant walked up and tucked the straps of one gown underneath the sides…and suddenly… “Ohhhhhhhhh.” A strapless!!

After trying on a few oh-my-gosh-these-are-perfect strapless numbers, I narrowed the field down to two that I loved. One lace, one satin. But I didn’t cry! I didn’t get emotional. I just felt… ok! A dress. Fun.

I had myself convinced this meant either (a) neither is the dress for me or (b) I’m just not that kind of girl who has a “bridal moment.”


Friday, when I went back to the salon to select The One.

Easter, 2015!

2015 April 6
by Laura

11111382_449497055226267_592620722_nOH HAI.

Finally, flowers are popping up all over town, and BOY are my allergies out of control! I haven’t been sucker-punched by pollen like this in quite a few years. Sinus rinse, benadryl, Zyrtec, sudafed, and Flonase are no match for the onslaught of bloom that happened over the weekend. I can’t breathe through my nose, but at least it’s pretty outside!



What a lovely, windy Easter weekend we had in PA! The dogs had the best time of all, as usual, but we had delicious food, shared lots of laughs, and we dug out an ancient karaoke machine for the most random best fun time ever!








Oh yeah! We went shopping on Friday….and I said “yes” to the dress!







We did the annual Easter Egg hunt for money eggs, and Ryan was fully inaugurated into the Sullivan family madness.






“Summer dreams, ripped at the seams….”



We finished the weekend with a sunny engagement photo session this morning by the monuments.



Happy Easter, everyone!! My third favorite holiday, by far.

Home for Easter!!

2015 April 3
by Laura

Hi, Easter weekend! I’ve been waiting for you for a while. I am so hashtag blessed to have Easter off this year, and here I am traveling up to PA for the weekend to celebrate it in chilly Pennsy with the fam.



Ren loves a road trip.

What’s been going on lately? Well in just a few hours I hope to “say yes” to a dress! More on that later. Riggins is heavy-sighing at my feet because it’s raining and he can’t go outside. Rennie’s curled up on an arm chair. I’m hard-boiling (verbed it) eggs on the stove.

This weekend involves a best-friend lunch date, egg-dyeing like a boss, and of course my favorite, the Easter egg hunt for eggs filled with CASH.

Here’s some photos of Easters past to share, and I’ll be sure to take lots of hilarious videos of poor Ryan who will be at quite the handicap during the egg hunt this year…

Easter, 2010: 


Easter, 2011:



Easter, 2012: 



Easter, 2013: 



Easter, 2014: (I didn’t go home)



Can’t wait to share Easter 2015 highlights with you soon!


Eggplant Parm with Parsley Pasta

2015 April 3
by Laura

There is already a recipe on LNE for Eggplant Parm—it’s more labor-intensive and it isn’t served with pasta. It is also delicious, but this cheater version I whipped up from Cooking Light the other day is more my jam. Quick, easy, and ridiculously good.



Eggplant Parm with Parsley Pasta
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 big servings
This is SO good.
  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta (or gluten-free small shells)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
  • 1 teaspoon water or half and half
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup panko or gluten-free bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about ¼ cup)
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Arrange oven rack 6-10 inches below broiler element. Preheat broiler to high.
  2. Cook orzo or pasta according to package directions. Drain and place in medium bowl; add parsley, oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt, and toss.
  3. Now you'll need three shallow bowls. In one, place the flour. In the second, whisk together one egg with half and half or water. In the third, mix together panko, oregano, and parmesan cheese.
  4. Cut top and bottom off eggplant. Partially peel eggplant lengthwise with a vegetable peeler, leaving long purple stripes. Cut eggplant crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices; sprinkle with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.
  5. Dredge eggplant in flour, dip in egg mixture, and then dredge in panko mixture, gently pressing mixture to adhere. Arrange on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat tops of eggplant slices with cooking spray. Broil 3 minutes, flip over, and broil 3 minutes on the other side, or until browned and tender but firm. Top evenly with mozzarella; broil 1 minute or until cheese melts.
  6. Heat marinara in microwave-safe dish. Arrange ½ cup orzo mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 2 eggplant slices and ⅓ cup marinara. Sprinkle evenly with pepper.


What a meal plan looks like in this house

2015 March 18
by Laura

Sunday morning, while Ryan watched John Oliver and drank his coffee, I sat at the kitchen table with the latest issue of Cooking Light, my big fat binder of recipes, my computer, and a pen and two pieces of paper.

One paper was the working meal plan, one was the working grocery list.

Tabs open on my computer included, my calendar with my work schedule, and Pinterest.

When I finished, about 30 minutes later, Ryan said, “Gosh, were you just meal planning that entire time?!”

Yes. Yes I was.

Maybe this post makes me sound like a freak (maybe I am) or maybe it will inspire others to meal plan, too. The thing is, speaking personally: If I don’t meal plan, we will eat crap food. That’s the end of that.

My work schedule is important, because I cannot cook on days when I get home from work. I usually walk in the door at 8:00, starving, sore, grumpy, and tired. The food has to be hot and on the plate at 8:01 for me to even function for the rest of the evening. Standing in the kitchen to cook is a no-go. This just means planning meals that will have leftovers!


Here’s what we ate this week:

Sunday night: Seafood special. I made this salmon recipe from Cooking Light — a real star. I cooked some mashed potatoes on the side and Ryan told me it was a restaurant-quality meal. Boom! Done. I like using seafood as my “no leftovers” food since, well, there aren’t usually leftovers, and leftover fish is…kinda gross.

Monday night: I wasn’t working, but I needed to make enough food for two days. Highs in the upper 60s led me to consider something on the grill, and we hadn’t had chicken in a while. Enter: Cilantro-lime chicken with avocado salsa. It’s a super flavorful chicken dish that is topped with a deconstructed guacamole—and it’s delicious.


Recipe from Cooking Light, here.


I served it with this boxed rice mix (ummm sooooo good, Goya, good work) and a side of easy black beans (recipe below):


Take two cans of black beans, one drained and one not. Dump beans in a medium-sized pan with about 1 tbsp olive oil, 1-2 tbsp chopped jalapeños, 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Bring to a small simmer until it’s all heated through and serve with the rice.

Side of Taylor’s Southwest Salad rounded out the meal with a satisfying crunch.



Tuesday night: Leftovers! Making three chicken breasts was enough for the two of us — I ate half on Tuesday night and half last night. The box of rice, salad bag, and beans were enough for two people, two times, too.

Someone had it all warmed up out of the microwave for me at 8:01 p.m.

Wednesday: Not working, so I’m cooking. I actually made two meals today: Pizza Rice Casserole (at Someone’s request this week) and Italian Wedding Weeknight Soup, from Bev.

Tonight’s soup was inspired by suddenly freezing temperatures in the 30s-40s (gross!) and my need to have a substantive lunch while at work tomorrow.

Quick and easy.



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Thursday and FridayPizza Rice Casserole is for us to eat Thursday and Friday, since I work both days. The PRC is easy to preassemble and leave in the fridge with instructions such as, “Take off the saran wrap and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.” Trust me that each piece of those instructions is vital to Someone’s success…



So there you have it — the cooking that gets us from Sunday to Friday.

Do you meal plan? I’m a freak?