Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

The Pros and Cons of Making Foods

Food. I love food. I plan my entire day around eating. The other day I woke up and the first words I said were “I’m going to make ____ for dinner”. My boyfriend rolled over and replied “You JUST woke up and you’re already thinking about dinner?? Really?” Yes. Really. Thinking about food is what gets me through the day.

There’s just one thing about food…making it.

When I get home from work the LAST thing I want to make is dinner. It doesn’t matter how simple it is. There are many days that it’s just NOT happening. I wish there were a food fairy who would magically bring me delicious food. Turns out she does exist. Her name is grubhub and her fees aren’t cheap. Oh and she’s also a he.

Grubhub Fairy GodfatherFor awhile i was doing really good at making meals in advance. I’d double a batch and freeze half for those really lazy days. Then my boyfriend and I would be too lazy to prepare a lunch for the next day. Then that second meal became lunch and leftovers were gone.

Slow cooker recipes are becoming my favorite to prepare. Most of them are so easy. I was going to have the apartment to myself last weekend and was presented with two options:

1. Set up a slow cooker recipe to cook all day. Instant food! (and probably healthy).

2. Overpay for someone to deliver food to you (most likely pizza and very unhealthy)

12:30 rolls around and it’s time to decide. If I set up the food then, it’d be done perfectly in time for dinner. I got up out of my favorite seat (our recliner) and went into the kitchen to whip up this Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup. Oh, did I also mention that it was only in the 40’s… in the middle of May. I blame it on the release of the new Avengers movie. Tony Stark… Eddark Stark… Winter is coming blah blah. Bring on the fantastic four and the torch man. We need that summer heat!

Back to the recipe. It was really easy to make. Luckily I had everything already. I substituted the regular diced tomatoes with diced tomatoes with green chiles. I was really surprised that there was no call for jalapeños or serranos or SOME spice in this soup. I always associate tortilla soup with spice. There was none in this one.

This tortilla soup also called for beans. This is something I also wasn’t used to, but hey, something new. That’s what this blog is about. Trying new things.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

An easy to make slow cooker recipe. This recipe doesn’t use peppers. Enjoyable for all ages.

I have to admit I was surprised that I enjoyed this soup so much. It tasted less like traditional tortilla soup and more like a burrito in soup form. I would make it again as an alternate to my usual tortilla soup recipe. The black beans were a nice touch, but I missed the spice. Maybe next time I’d throw in a jalapeno or two.

Grade: Cost: Time:
A Could cost you up to $15, depending on what you do and don’t have. This makes a large batch. 6 Hours on low
Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
Add some jalapenos. There was no spice in this. While it was good on it’s own, I missed the spice.
Overall Impression:
Good. i’m glad I tried it. I wish I saved the other half to freeze. I’d make this again. It’s not spicy so even your grandmother should like it.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Leslie Knope Victory Waffles

What is a Victory Waffle, you ask?  If I had to venture a guess it would be what I’m about to show you. So buckle up because you are about to take a journey on a roller coaster of fun, you beautiful rule breaking moths.

For Christmas, my aunt gave me a waffle maker.  The cool kind that you pour the batter into and then flip it over. Like they have at hotels.  It’s pretty awesome. We’ve made waffles in it, and those are delicious because…waffles.  Then I saw this pin, and in it this slide, which features a photo from this site.  I had a tube of cinnamon rolls in the fridge.  I had this waffle maker. It only seemed natural.

I broke open the tube of cinnamon rolls and place four on my waffle maker. The waffle maker has a built in timer that turns a light on when the waffles are done.  This system worked with the cinnamon rolls as well.


Below is a photo of the freshly cooked cinnamon rolls.  Nice and crispy outside.  Cinnamon swirls.  Waffle wells. Pretty much the American dream.


I drizzled the included icing across the cinnamon roll waffle.  If not eaten right away (how that is even possible baffles me), the icing will sink down into the waffle wells to make little icing pools.  I’m getting weepy just thinking about it.



So do you want to talk about our lives and feelings now?  Leslie Knope would be proud.


Grade: Cost: Time:



Just a few minutes.

Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
Maybe the kind of cinnamon rolls I used?  Honestly, this was great so I wouldn’t deviate too far from the original idea.
Overall Impression:
Trying this recipe was so fun.  I would love to do this with kids.  It’s just kind of whimsical and delicious.  It’s also not quite as messy as regular cinnamon rolls. I would have a few tubes of cinnamon rolls on hand to make this.  One tube just isn’t enough.

Cleaning Your Stove Fan’s Filter

Back in my youth, I used to work in a movie theater.  When I wasn’t selling tickets or ringing up customers in concession, I was cleaning.  Good god, that entire job was practically cleaning.  I’ve seen things you can never unsee.  One thing I was meticulous about cleaning was the popper.  When you make incredible amounts of popcorn each day, you want to make sure the equipment you are using is in tip top shape.  One part of the popper that had to be cleaned every night was what our closing checklist called a grease filter. It’s the same thing that is above your stove.  When your fan is on, it sucks all the steam and/or smoke up and out of your area. The filter gets dirty, and at the theater it gets dirty quickly.  Your home stove filter does not get that dirty, that quickly.

The thing about that is, I’ve lived in my house for almost 4 years and I’m not sure I’ve ever cleaned this filter.  I am also 100% confident the person that lived here before us didn’t either.

you nasty

Something had to be done.  I found this pin in my search for a clean filter. *Spoiler alert* It totally worked.  It’s just boiling water + baking soda = clean filter. Wam bam thank you ma’am.

Cleaning a stove filter


This was after less than 5 minutes of boiling.  All the grease and dust that was on the filter rose to the top of the water so I couldn’t see how the bottom was looking.  When I pulled it out it was like Christmas morning. I poured the water out and did the other side.  It is important to mention that I have one medium size pot and then the next bigger pot I have is a stock pot.  So I decided to do this in 2 shifts.

Grade: Cost: Time:



10 minutes

Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
I wish I had a bigger pot, but that’s kind of on me.
Overall Impression:
So fast, easy, and cheap.  It was so satisfying to see all the grime come off.  This is one of those deep clean things that everyone should do now and then.

Homemade Char Siu Bao – Chinese BBQ Pork Buns

I think it all began when I was just a wee lass watching My Neighbor Totoro.  The food in that movie looked amazing, but 4 year old Katie didn’t know what it was or how to ask for it.  That early exposure to a different food culture is what led to my interest in cuisine from all around the world as an adult.  I saw their bento boxes and wanted one, even if theirs had a whole fish in it.  Even now I watch it, or K-dramas or No Reservations and I’m all.

What has always struck me as looking particularly delicious is what looked like fist sized white dumplings. Watching a cartoon eating one is simultaneously intriguing and frustrating because they aren’t exactly drawn in detail or labeled with a description.  I know what they are now due in large part to my sister finding them frozen at a local Asian grocery store and bringing them home.  As with most things, I wanted to make them in order to understand them better. Which brings me to right now. I made them. It was a ton of work and on the expensive side, but I did it and here is how it went.

The real process took way longer than this gif.

The real process took way longer than this gif.

My original pin is here. I am not going to lay out step by step the process because the original post is absolutely fantastic. Jennifer at Use Real Butter did a great job of laying out how everything should go (with tons of pics!). I actually ended up using a few of her posts because it’s kind of a multiple day process. I made her recipe for char siu pork one day, and then spent a boatload of time the next day making the filling and the dough for the buns.

My buns aren’t as beautiful as hers, but I did get better throughout the process. The video below helped me a lot. I think the problem with mine was that I didn’t roll the dough out enough and it was a scoonch too dry.

I bought a bamboo steamer for this recipe, and I plan on using it for more things in the future. I also bought a ton of ingredients from our local Asian grocery store that I don’t have a lot of other recipes for, but that is fine by me.  It gives me a great excuse to use them up using new recipes.

Grade: Cost: Time:


I don’t want to talk about it.

2 hours over 2 days.

Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
I would tweak the dough just a little.  I definitely recommend the recipe listed above, but dough acts differently in everyone’s kitchen.
Overall Impression:
This recipe was fun and I picked up a lot.  Making something like this can give you a real look into the care and time it takes for a cook to make something you might take for granted. I am positive that someone who makes these frequently doesn’t spend quite as much time as I did, but it is still of work of heart.These were super delicious and I would highly recommend giving them a try. This recipe made approximately 24 buns.

Orange And White Dotted Nails

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a crazy nail design. I just feel so unmotivated after i do the first two base coats. Time to change that. I’ve made a promise with myself that any time I say I “don’t feel like” doing something, I have to push even harder to do it.

I tried to search my nail designs board for something that was exciting and not too challenging. This orange and white dotted nail design fit the bill. It reminds me of a sun, and something intergalactic. Maybe it’s a UFO spaceship sending out little light beacons? I have no idea but it looks cool.

I bought some fancy toothpicks from Target. They were the only ones they had, and actually worked out better. One side if flat, which is perfect for making dots.


Paint two base coats of selected color. I used white and a dark paprika orange. In the original design they used 3 colors.

Once those are completely dry, use toothpick to collect  paint. Drop a large (but not too large) gob of nail polish near the cuticle. Make sure it is centered.

To make smaller dots, either grab nail polish from the center dot and redistribute it, or grab more nail polish.

Lastly, don’t touch anything for awhile. The dots take a long time to dry.


Orange and White dotted nail design | Pintertesting

Grade: Cost: Time:
A+ Free 2 Hours
Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
Be careful on how far apart your dots are. I put a few too close and the paint spread together.
Overall Impression:
The nails I got right are sooo cool! I ended up going to bed when they weren’t completely dry and some got squished. I regret those. This design was fun and relatively easy. All you need is nail polish and toothpicks (or a bobby pin)


Mashed Cauliflour

Want a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes but not a fan of sweet potatoes? You might like this recipe. It’s a recipe for mashed cauliflour. The original pin on pinterest claims it tasted just like mashed potatoes. I had a head that was going to waste so I opted to try it. Directions are simple:


  • 1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into small florets (about 6 to 7 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add cauliflower and cook until very tender, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and then drain well and transfer cauliflower to a food processor. Add oil and reserved water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and purée until smooth. (Or, mash cauliflower with a potato masher). Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Health facts:

Per Serving:110 calories (80 from fat), 9g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol,330mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate (3g dietary fiber, 3g sugar), 3g protein



Mashed cauliflower with Balsamic chicken

Consistency is a lot like mashed potatoes. In fact, if you smothered it in gravy you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The challenge is when it’s not covered in gravy. It doesn’t taste like mashed potatoes. it tasted like cauliflower. I happen to like cauliflour (in small doses) so I didn’t mind the taste. The problem I had was that it tasted like Olive oil. It actually killed it for me. I used a little more than a tablespoon. I think that was the problem.

Grade: Cost: Time:
B- $1 for cauliflour 20 minutes including water boil time.
Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
Use less olive oil. Eat with gravy or mix in some other spices
Overall Impression:
Not bad, but tasted just like cauliflour. it’s not a bad side dish, but I’d try to spice up the flavor, or eat it with something that had a gravy. If you eat it just plain it’s pretty boring.


Before Ever After: A Novel


Recently, I finished a short little novel called A Feast for Crows. Rounding the bases at 852 (kindle) pages, it’s not for the feint of heart. If you’ve ever had the privilege to read one of the books in George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice Series, you know what a feat it is. After you’re done, you’re completely exhausted. It’s like running a mental marathon.

I put a number of books on hold during my time in Westeros. After resurfacing, I realized I have 8 books in various states of due dates. Before Ever After was one of those. In 6 days the e-book was set to expire. Time to get going.

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

Here’s a summary from Amazon:

Three years after her husband Max’s death, Shelley feels no more adjusted to being a widow than she did that first terrible day. That is, until the doorbell rings. Standing on her front step is a young man who looks so much like Max–same smile, same eyes, same age, same adorable bump in his nose–he could be Max’s long-lost relation. He introduces himself as Paolo, an Italian editor of American coffee table books, and shows Shelley some childhood photos. Paolo tells her that the man in the photos, the bearded man who Paolo says is his grandfather though he never seems to age, is Max. Her Max. And he is alive and well.

As outrageous as Paolo’s claims seem–how could her husband be alive? And if he is, why hasn’t he looked her up? – Shelley desperately wants to know the truth. She and Paolo jet across the globe to track Max down–if it is really Max– and along the way, Shelley recounts the European package tour where they had met. As she relives Max’s stories of bloody Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, and buried Roman boathouses, Shelley begins to piece together the story of who her husband was and what these new revelations mean for her “happily ever after.” And as she and Paolo get closer to the truth, Shelley discovers that not all stories end where they are supposed to.



I finished this book in just over 3 days. At first I didn’t know what to make of it. The language seemed “haughty” to me. I felt the author was trying too hard to use big words. Once Paolo appears, the pace begins to change. Now, rather than wallowing in grief for Max, we’re presented with a mystery and an adventure. I started to become invested in the story. Sometimes her writing style became a distraction, but after a while I got used to it. It began to compliment the story really well. There is a lot of jumping around time-wise but I felt the author handled it nicely. There was a rhythm to it. Present, 5 years past, and story from history.

I enjoyed a lot of things about this. First, it was a quick read. The chapters were short. For 300 pages, she crammed in a lot. The history lessons were refreshing. It wasn’t bogged down by the mundane facts. It focused on a story and told it. You as the reader lived the historical moment with the character. My favorite (and the most heartbreaking) of the historical stories is the last one. As someone obsessed with that time period, it was the ultimate way to end the story. It really put things into a new perspective.

I was slightly disappointed by the ending. It felt anticlimactic and a bit rushed. The plane ride (where Paulo and Shelly discuss the historical stories) takes up most of the book. It only leaves the last 60 or so pages to wrap everything up. It wasn’t a bad ending, but not what I expected.

Regardless of the ending and the slow start, I would recommend this book. It takes a little while to get in to, but once you’re with Paulo the story improves dramatically. This book offers so much. It’s a romance, a mystery, a little fantasy, and filled with humor and heart. By the second half I began to feel for the characters. Not only were the main characters well built, but the side characters were too. Before Ever After makes you think, without forcing ideas or suggestions down your throat. It doesn’t say “You should do this”. It shows you the flaws and strengths in the human characters. Soldiers are getting closer. Do you stay hidden, hoping they don’t find you or the other you’re with, or do you give yourself up, sacrificing yourself but saving another? Do you have courage to stand up against what’s wrong. Are you willing to forgive the past?

If you decide to read this book, leave me some comments. I’d love to see how someone else feels about this. I’m already planning to give it to my mom to read.

Grade: Cost: Time:
B+ / A- Free (library) 3 Days
Level of Difficulty:
What I Would Change:
Overall Impression:
The beginning is slow, and characters are stereotyped, but once you get into the book it has a heart that it really unique. The modern story is a little dull, but the 5 year flashback and the historical stories are what make this book. It gives it a whole new life. I’d recommend reading it. Once you’ve met Paulo, you’re on the up and up.
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