Tofu and Mr. Magic

I have a feeling my blog is going to turn into a record of what healthy foods I can get my boyfriend to eat. I turned him onto sweet potatoes with my soup, and recently, I actually got him to really like, let alone eat, tofu. With a different type of noodle than regular pasta. And with roasted veggies.

If you read my last post, you’ll know that he really only ate Taco Bell and pizza before I moved in. So this is all pretty amazing to me that he not only eats the healthy food I cook, but enjoys it!

So…Mr. Magic had tofu.

I posted about tofu a long time ago, but I’ll still go over the best way to prepare it. My dish was Asian inspired, so I did it a bit differently, but the standard procedure is the same.

The first thing you should do, no matter what, is to press your tofu. I happen to have a fancy tofu press but you don’t really need one. Plates and paper towels will do just fine.

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I pressed it for about 45 minutes, regularly tipping it to drain the liquid. You can press it as long as you’d like, but 45 minutes should be good enough.

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I roughly chopped some garlic. I wanted it to be chunky.

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I then diced my tofu. Now, for a recipe like this, go for extra firm tofu. Unfortunately the grocery store I went to only had firm so that’s what I used, but get the extra firm if possible.

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My marinade consisted of the chunky garlic, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and a touch of chili oil. I never measure stuff…I know, I know. If I had actual measurements I could probably publish a cookbook. Maybe someday…I just went with my gut 🙂

Marinate as long as possible. I think I marinated mine for about six hours. I did end up adding more soy sauce and liquid smoke about halfway through.

Later that evening, I set up for the rest of the meal prep!

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I love the crunch of fresh bell peppers, especially in summer with some hummus or on a sandwich. It’s just such a “fresh” taste. Mr. Magic won’t eat raw vegetables though….yet! 😀

So I chopped some onion, bell peppers, and mushrooms. I drizzled them with olive oil and sesame oil, and gave them a generous blanket of salt and pepper.

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I baked them at 425 for about thirty minutes. This was actually my first time roasting veggies like this. I would either lower the temperature or roast them for maybe twenty minutes next time because they shrank up pretty small.

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Now it’s time to cook the tofu. I heated up some olive oil in a skillet, and dumped in my savory chunks!

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I added some smoked paprika, a spot more of chili oil, and a little bit more soy sauce. Since this is tofu, you can continually taste test as it cooks without fear of food poisoning. Season it to your liking, then keep warm while preparing the noodles. I used soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat.

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Soba noodles only take about six-seven minutes to cook so…easy peasy!

Assemble in bowls, and serve with Chardonnay and chopsticks! Or your drink and utensil of choice. We just love unwinding with Chardonnay lol.

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Oh yeah, top with green onions!

So there you have it. This recipe is pretty easy to be honest, and great for a quick, healthy weeknight meal. And if my boyfriend loved it, I’d say pretty much anyone else will. Seriously, he is extremely picky.

This recipe was off the top of my head, so if you try it, I’d love to know how it turned out!

Until next time!

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Hot, Spicy, and Sweet

Hi everyone! I’m back again. No matter what, I will always return to my little blog.

So…during my most favorite, spookiest month of the year (also my birthday month), I finally have all the evidence that I am an actual, real kitchen witch with magical powers. How do I know this, you ask? Well, let’s start at the beginning.

When I moved in with my boyfriend (then friend of 13 years), He wasn’t home when I walked in. He had left the door unlocked for me before he got home later that evening. I walked into the cute little bungalow in the country and started looking around at my new dwelling. I instantly felt at home there. I walked into the little kitchen and my eyes went straight to the spice rack. And I found…..salt, pepper, Taco Bell fire sauce packets, and Papa Johns garlic dipping sauce. I sighed at the bachelor spice rack.

During the next few days I found out he had absolutely no liking for vegetables and existed mainly on Taco Bell and frozen pizza. I knew I had to make a change.

He got sick one day, and I instantly jumped at the opportunity. I got all the ingredients for my chicken soup recipe, which includes a very simple variety of chicken soup recipes: onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. A simple mirepoix. When I served it to him, he took a small sip, and emitted a sound someone makes when they indulge in extremely fine chocolate. He ate the whole thing and admitted that he loved it, vegetables and all.

Throughout the next few months, I made it my mission to slowly introduce vegetables into his diet. Then, during one trip to my parents’ house, I saw on Facebook that he had attempted his own soup, of JUST veggies! My plan was working.

I made a vegan broccoli cheese soup. He devoured it.

Then we bought a new house and cooking went on the back burner as we packed and tried to blow through leftovers and frozen food before moving day. And then when we did move in, we became so busy unpacking and organizing, cooking was still a bit on the back burner. I slowly got back into it, making the chicken soup he loves so much soup, then making Phillies that he loves even with bell peppers in them. Then I decided to try spinach. I made Mediterranean lamb wraps with spinach, feta, and kalamata olives. He took a bite and hugged me. I decided it was time…time to see if I could make him like one of his most detested vegetables: sweet potatoes.

Now, I LOVE sweet potatoes. I love how gnarly they can look, I love the way they smell, how they come into season in the fall, and how a bowl of warm sweet potato soup on a chilly fall night can warm the soul (Just kidding, it’s still 90 degrees in SC lol).

So last night, I set forth. First of all, I decided to add bacon to my usual sweet potato soup recipe because I knew it would gain points with him.

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I got some nice, thick cut bacon and it was already filling the house with fine bacon-y scent when he got home from work. I knew I had his attention already, and calmly explained that I just wanted him to try it, and had gotten him a pizza as a peace offering if he truly hated it. He agreed to my terms.

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I was getting excited for sure but I could see the skepticism on his face and he popped in and out of the kitchen. I added my herbs and spices, immersion blended it, and let it set until we were ready to eat. I broiled some baguette with olive oil and salt and pepper, handed him a spoon, and waited on the moment of truth.

He LOVED it! I jumped up and down at my success and giggled at the fleck of soup stuck in his mustache. I had gotten my boyfriend to eat sweet potato. Kitchen witch, magical powers, confirmed!

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I only have a phone camera so I know my photos aren’t the best, but here it is all served up with bacon, parmesan, and crusty bread. We devoured it with some Chardonnay while binge watching Frasier on Netflix.

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Then I fell asleep on the couch because I was pinned down by our 75 pound American Bully. So…a wonderful, successful night!

This soup is warm, spicy and sweet. When it does finally cool off outside, it’s going to be a staple in our home!

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Three sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

Chicken broth

Chopped onion and minced garlic

Olive oil

Thyme, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste

Cooked and chopped thick cut bacon (optional)

Parmesan (optional)

Cook the bacon and set aside.

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes.

Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil in a large pot. Add chicken broth and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil until the potatoes are soft. Remove from the heat and immersion blend until silky. Stir in herbs and spices to taste. Serve topped with the bacon and Parmesan if desired, and enjoy!

I Am Here Now

I think I was 23 when I started this blog, on the verge of 24. I am now 28, on the verge of 29.

My last few posts were all about the changes I have been going through in the past year, the absolute severity of life’s inevitable roller coaster, and how I handled (and in some cases mishandled) it.

The past few nights have had me in deep introspection. Really thinking back, back and back, and not asking myself why, but finally opening my eyes as to why.

The circumstances of my personal life’s journey have led me to a place that a a mere year ago I did not think existed in the best way possible. Sure, there are always going to be ups and downs, but I’m here. I’m in the moment. I’m here now.

So with all of that said, I am so excited to announce that………..we bought a new house!!

It is a serious upgrade from the house we were living in before. Sure, where we were previously was very quiet and we had a half acre of land and chickens and a garden, but we finally have a place we can truly call a real home. Our land is smaller but we have a fenced in back yard and a preexisting raised garden bed. Our home is more spacious and has a much better energy flow. What do we not have? A friendly neighborhood crackhead that used to knock on our door all hours of the day and night looking for money or a ride…..-sigh-

So, onward to the photos!

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These were obviously taken before we moved in. When I first walked into the kitchen I nearly melted. Since I’ve been with my boyfriend, my culinary game has gone off the charts and we had NO kitchen space before! Unfortunately the fireplaces no longer function, but that’s so trivial compared to what we DO have. And the screened in front porch?! Can I get a hell yes?!

I am so excited to get photos of the house after we are 100% organized and unpacked. We’re taking our time so as not to get overwhelmed and stressed out.

Just before we moved into the house, we had another joyous event: My little brother’s wedding!

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It was a small ceremony at my parents’ beautiful house and property. The first two photo are obviously of the amazing bride and groom, then of course there are the usual Pickens, SC activities: shooting and swimming. I had to show off my boyfriend of course, because he is so stupidly handsome, and the last photo is a view from the front porch. Even rain clouds can’t take away how gorgeous it is!

So I’m definitely in a much better spot in life than I was. Maybe someday I’ll tell the entire story of what exactly happened to me, but for now, I focus on everything positive and the blessings I have in life.

It is my serious intention to record my journey forward, in the form of food, herbs, poetry, and love. Thank you all who have stuck with me this long, I look forward to living life with you!

Love,

Stephanie

Every Minute, Every Hour, Every Day

Hi everyone!

Last time I posted, I talked about what I had been through since mid November of last year. Things were extremely difficult and I went to a very dark place for a while. Thankfully, with the love and support of my friends and family, I was able once again to return to the light.

I began thinking about my life. Literally from day one. If I wanted I could chronicle it, I have every diary I’ve ever kept since I was 8. What would I call it? I don’t have an answer for that yet, but I do have a revelation.

No one wants pain. No one wants to have to go through emotional, physical, or legal battles. However, every choice we make in this life is part of something bigger. You can call it God’s plan, you can call it fate or destiny. I like to think of it as a fortress of sorts, every stone placed by a Great Architect.

Ever since I was little I dreamed of a sort of pioneer life. Nothing too rustic, I will never give up running water, but I always saw myself in the country. A garden, since I’ve always had a garden, chickens, maybe even some goats. Working land has just always been in my mind. As I grew older the desire grew with me, but the reality of actually attaining it grew dim. These things cost money and in this day and age, even just a livable income can be difficult to come by.Growing older meant prioritizing. I never forgot my dream but more important things had to come first.The other night I was sitting on the couch and I realized…I’m here. I have it.

I actually have everything I dreamed of.

I live in a little brick house in the country on a half acre. I live with a man I love deeply that I met in high school. I have a garden started, and we have plans to fence in the yard and put in a chicken coop.

We have land to work.

When I look back on everything, there is so much pain and darkness. But every single choice I’ve made, every single one since day one, has put me where I’m at right in this moment. Nothing in life will ever be perfect, and I know in the future there will be ups and downs, arguments and make ups, and I can tell you with confidence that I genuinely look forward to that future.

Why? Because all that pain I went through helped me achieve my dream.

Remember to take pain in stride. It exists to help you grow, and in truth we never stop growing. I don’t want to give the impression that I will never go through pain again. The point I want to make is that there comes a point where the pain makes sense. We stop asking why and instead begin to see why.

Be well my friends. And rest assured, as this little homestead grows, there will be many photos ❤

Stephanie

What Happened to Me

I have not posted anything in a long time. I know this seems to be a recurring thing for me – I disappear, then reappear with explanations and apologies. I suppose this post is no exception to the pattern. I’m going to explain what happened to me.

When I started this blog, I was what I would call a wide eyed innocent. I had achieved my goal of moving to Wilmington, NC to start what I thought would become an extremely rewarding career with a man I had been dating for quite a few years. As I moved forward, things began to fall apart in my relationship. I was sad but I knew it was for the best and once again, moved forward. Moving forward is the only option, no matter what. I was still making a living, I had a roof over my head, I had an income. I could create a new life for myself.

Then, I lost my career after three years. The reason was unfair, but I could not fight it. So, I launched myself into finding work again, hoping and praying that I could continue living in Wilmington where I had carved a niche for myself. I was performing music at a bar every Thursday and loved the life I lived.

I did not find work. Not even something part time. I was forced to move back to Charlotte, a city I had no love for in the slightest. But I tried to make the best of it, I had a pretty good living situation and got a part time job at a little cafe while I looked for something more sustainable.

I met a man I fell fast and hard for. Our relationship started out wonderfully, we laughed constantly, went out and tried new things. It became apparent though, that he had an issue with anger and rage. I never thought it would escalate to anything physical. I loved him deeply so I stayed, despite the awful words and insults he would hurl at me during his episodes. I stayed because I thought he would work through it, until one night when it did become physical.

I became scared. We broke up but he remained in control of me.

My grandmother died on Thanksgiving of 2017. I drove with my dad up to Connecticut for the funeral. My sister and brother flew up from Tampa as well. It was a heartwarming funeral; I saw a lot of family members I hadn’t seen in over a decade. There was much love to be had, and I hadn’t even been to Connecticut since I was probably 12 (I’m 28 now, 29 this year in October).

On the drive back from Connecticut, the man who laid hands on me literally blew up my phone. He didn’t care that I was with my dad. He didn’t care I was involved in a fourteen hour drive. Text after text after phone call after phone call after insult after insult.

My dad reacted as a father would. He told me to find a new place to live, to protect myself. I wracked my brain. Who would let me in? I remembered, I had reached out to a friend from high school after the incident. He had told me that if I ever needed a safe place, to reach out to him.

That’s what I did.

The following Sunday, I pulled into his driveway. The house is small, brick, and on a half acre of land. He wasn’t home but told me to let myself in. I did.

It instantly felt like home. In fact, I almost immediately fell asleep on the blue couch. I didn’t wake until he came home and opened the door. I hadn’t seen him in about ten years. He said to me, “Welcome home,” and we hugged for a long, long time.

Slowly but surly we moved my things into the spare room. I had to sacrifice quite a bit, like the entire box of cross stitch supplies that flew off the back of his truck and exploded all over the highway. He gave me sanctuary, and I gave him a whole new outlook on cooking.

I developed feelings. So did he. But certain things kept us from being together, even though we share the same roof.

I found myself a part time waitress job down the road at a local Asian bistro. I made friends with everyone immediately. They are my second family, I can turn to them for anything. I’m not the best waitress in the world, but it’s something I had never done before and I find it fun, challenging, and definitely interesting. I threw myself into poetry, using words to work through my past, my present, and my future.

One day I logged into Facebook and saw a post about a dear, dear friend from Wilmington going missing. For six days I watched the progress for his search. I listened to his music and looked at his photos. On the sixth day, I was in my car in a parking lot drinking a coffee. I logged into Facebook to find that they had found him in the Cape Fear River.

Working through those emotions were difficult, but unfortunately not the first time I’ve had to grieve over a close friend. Everyone was there for me. My friend from high school, my work family, my family, even my poetry community on Instagram. I worked through everything, my grief, my pain, my everything.

Eventually I healed. Not completely, but enough to take a deep breath and step forward.

My friend from high school and I are together now, a strong team with bonds of steel. There is a small garden on the back porch. We’re fencing in the backyard, and have plans to build a chicken coop.

I’m sitting in a local cafe right now, with green tea and a beautiful armband he made for me (he’s a welder).

I survived. And you can too. When things get rough, even when it seems like you won’t make it through, that you won’t see tomorrow, you will. I promise you, whatever you’re going through, stay strong. You will make it.

I’m going to try and post more. We don’t have internet so it’s difficult, but I miss my little blog, and all of you. Stay well, focus on the good, and don’t lose your spirit.

Much, much love,

Stephanie

 

A Thousand Steps Back

Have you ever felt like you’ve gone so far, and then had to take thousands of steps backward?

It can be puzzling and sad at first. You dwell on it, wondering what you did/are doing wrong. You overthink and overanalyze everything that took you right up to this moment, wracking your brain to figure out why. Why did this have to happen?

Sometimes there is no clear answer. Sometimes you are simply forced to start over.

In my case, I fortunately was able to figure out what brought me a thousand steps back. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know I started it when I moved to Wilmington, NC. You’ll know that I went through some difficult situations. I had a breakup after a long term relationship, started over all by myself, and then experienced being fired from a long term career. All of this led me back to Charlotte, NC, a city I swore I would never set foot back into. Now I find myself working as a part time barista, renting a room in my best friends house.

Now, I know, none of this sounds terrible. And it’s not. I am extremely lucky to have the support system I have. But for someone like me, an independent lone wolf type, it’s easy to focus on the negative and ignore the positive. Yes, I lost everything I worked for. Yes, I had to leave the city I felt I belonged in. Yes, I had to put my whole life in reverse and start over.

But let’s focus on that: Starting over. What I failed to realize was that I wasn’t truly happy. I wasn’t passionate about my career or my degree. I have the chance now to actually, truly start over. Ignoring everything else, I can make that career change that I wanted to make.

My point is, even when things look like they’re falling apart beyond repair, keep going. Keep moving forward, because the changes you need to make to be happy are yet to come.

I’m Going Through Changes Now

Hello everyone!

Well, as the title and video would suggest, I am still going through a series of changes. First, obviously, I finally changed the blog header!

I’m about to leave Wilmington. My best friend and I discussed it a while ago, and I decided the best thing for me is to move back to Charlotte. She is literally saving my life by letting me rent a room in her beautiful house for next to nothing, in a city where I can grow professionally and personally.

I’m scared, but excited, and also sad. It’s been kind of a crazy ride these past few years…a lot has happened. Most of it is recorded here on this blog, so thank you for sticking with me! I may go dormant for a bit but I’ll try to update as much as possible, and once I get to Charlotte, I have so many plans and I’ll actually have the ability and means to carry them out, so stay tuned my friends!

xoxo,

Stephanie