Back in the Saddle

I have returned! What a whirlwind past 12 weeks it has been! Brilliant new job. New car. The Panthers are ruling the roost. I have fallen in love with beef chuck for braising, kabocha squash for roasting and drunken noodles for a quick, easy meal. I prepared these for the first time a few weeks back and we went wild. I can now stuff and roast a chicken with my eyes closed. No matter how many dishes I prepare, my husband's favorite meal is still the national dish from South Africa, bobotie and he makes a mean sandwich. On Ezekiel toast, of course. In other news, I went from being a girlfriend (of almost five years!!) to a fiancĂ© to a wife in exactly forty days. I planned the wedding of Elizabeth's dreams in just 32 harried albeit exciting days. Our wedding weekend was as my mother calls it, "just perfect". Swollen with love to boot I would like to add! Exactly five days after saying our vows, we took the Big Apple by storm. I owe you a post about where all we ate. I keep a running list of where to nosh in New York City so if you are in need of inspiration, you let me know. 

Ecstatically, we slid into the holiday season as husband and wife. Everyone told us what a special time it would be. I must admit, I scoffed merely thinking it would be another day and yet another holiday. How sorely mistaken I was. Being newlyweds over the holidays gleamed a most charming brilliance. We shared our first Christmas as husband and wife. It was hot as Hades here in the Queen City. Over coffees, we fed the fish in Matthew's father's koi pond. This holiday season was one of numerous firsts. We decorated our first tree together as newlyweds. We gave our first gifts as husband and wife. I sent out our first holiday card. It was all quite sentimental but you get the picture. On Boxing Day, we hopped on a plane bound for five days in the Big Easy. I called it our first honeymoon. My plan is for 2016 to bring a year of honeymoons. We gorged on oysters and barbecue shrimp like kings, gallivanted like queens, came, saw and conquered and returned home six pounds heavier and needing a vacation from our vacation. I will document this gastronomic adventure in the coming days. In short, 2015 was very, very good to me and I am beyond excited for what 2016 holds.

Like most, the return to reality on Monday was a twinge ugly. Firstly, I was excited to return to work, the opportunities on the horizon as well as seeing my colleagues. I could take a pass on the rest. First things first. I thought our fire alarm was going off when my iPhone began to sing at 5.30 am this past Monday morning. Like most, I nursed coffees throughout the day and come sunset, was eager to return home. Like many, I hit the gym en route to my house. It was slammed and I had to resort to 35 minutes on the exercise bike. You may say exercise is exercise but unless I am on the beach riding against the wind or sweating through a FlyWheel class, the exercise bike at the gym doesn't exactly feel like physical exertion to me. Nevertheless, I cautiously pedaled along while regularly glancing over my shoulder for an open treadmill. I am committed to continuing to run, which is something I slid back into exactly six weeks before I got engaged. 

A dear friend has turned me onto podcasts and they have transformed my exercise regimen. Heck, they have even infused pleasure into my 100 mile daily commute. I now run through my neighborhood listening to interviews compliments of WTF and like most, in just a day have grown addicted to Serial. In the food department, we are eating clean and purging. I must admit, the elimination of almost everything (caffeine and booze excluded) feels pretty good. With committed discipline and exuberant excitement, I am pouring over brilliant articles in this month's Bon Appetit. I already made the spicy chicken stock with ginger, basil, cilantro and bok choy. As I slurp, I am eagerly awaiting Gwyneth Paltrow's famous cleanse tutorial. Recipe coming soon. I also created a new topping for our bison or vegan shepherd's pie. Sweet potato and cauliflower. You steam, throw in the food processor, add coconut milk, nutmeg, puree and enjoy. This past Sunday, I reverted to our tradition of roasting beets for the week. 

We have begun to deliberate about where to go on our foreign honeymoon. Matthew is keen on a cruise. Last summer we sailed the Baltic and it was amazing. We fell in love with Copenhagen, known by many as the happiest place on the planet. Did you know that here and in Amsterdam, 60% of the population uses bikes on a daily basis. Bikes outnumber people and traffic is becoming an issue. I wish we had this same scenario here in Charlotte. We have a beautiful carbon fiber bike, gift from my father who was once Mr. Carbon Fiber. Never mind owning a helmet, I am terrified to ride it. What with distracted drivers, texting and manipulating vehicles, it is not a good idea. Perhaps 2016 will bring easier riding for bike riders in our city. As for a holiday, I am keen on Spain. We went as a family once and I used to travel there regularly when I lived in Germany. Matthew has never been. The Big Smoke (London) is also calling our name. My South African cousins live there and I figure we could do a nice mix of McQueen time as well as a pair of nights with Marriott points in the city. Stay tuned.

As of late, I have been preparing multiple variations of the below. You can literally take anything fresh or tired, throw into the pot and produce a healthy, clean, wondrous bowl of soup. Strategic comfort food at its very best. Of course, preparing your own chicken stock is the way to go and if you have time on a Sunday, I encourage manipulating this recipe. For those of us, who are finding spare time to be a challenge, using ready made stock (low sodium, organic variety) is just as scrumptious. Mix and match your vegetables. We love turnips; they are  a lovely potato substitute. Add a Yukon Gold or a sweet potato. Add a cup or two of beans you have soaked the night before. Like artichoke hearts? Go for it. Quite simply, use whatever is on hand. Change it around the next time for an entirely different meal. Let me know what you think of the below and until then, happy detoxing and halcyon slurping.

Kitchen Sink Soup


8 cups of organic, low sodium chicken stock
2 TBS coconut oil - extra virgin olive oil is also okay
1 onion - chopped 
Lots of fresh chopped garlic (2 or more cloves)
3 inch knob of fresh ginger - peeled and chopped
1 head of celery - chopped
1 knob of fennel - chopped
1 leek - chopped
4 carrots - chopped
1 cup of corn
1 head of parsley - chopped
1 head of Swiss chard - you can also use kale, dandelion greens, mustard greens, collards
2 organic chicken breasts
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp star anise
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp pink pepper corns - optional but the color is lovely
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 lemon - sliced

How To

1. On low to medium heat, add your coconut oil, garlic, ginger and onion. Stir until golden in color and softening. Next, add your chopped celery, fennel, leek, carrots, corn, parsley and greens. Stir for around five minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften. Now add your two organic chicken breasts. Again, stir for around five minutes or until chicken begins to transform from pink to cooked. 

2. Now add your stock, a pinch of kosher salt, star anise, red pepper flakes, pink pepper corns, apple cider vinegar and the sliced lemons. Bring to a  boil, put a lid on and lower to a simmer for an hour. After sixty minutes, remove the chicken, shred it and add back to the pot. Season to taste (this means, add salt or pepper if necessary) and enjoy. Please note that your lemons will have 100% cooked and are 100% edible.

If you want to be a tad naughty, serve with a crusty loaf or freshly shaved Romano. Goat's milk feta lends a salty comfort. You can even put some freshly cut radishes or a scoop or two of avocado on top. The sky is truly the limit.

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