friendsgiving 2015 paleo cooking


A Very Paleo Friendsgiving [Recipes]

paleo stuffing sausage onion mushroom friendsgiving thanksgiving

Unfortunately, my best friends do not live in my immediate radius, so we’re always looking for reasons to get together. As a part of my growing confidence in the kitchen, I decided that I would try to tackle a Thanksgiving dinner. I dubbed it Friendsgiving and decided to keep it small –just me, my husband and two of my best friends. Partially because we have a small apartment and tiny table, but mostly because it would give me a chance to try my hand at a Thanksgiving dinner with the safety option of going out to eat if it all goes to pot. ūüôā

The weekend before Friendsgiving, I got some news from my doctor that I need to do an extreme cutting back on my carb intake and suggested I try a paleo diet. For readers who aren’t familiar with the paleo or primal lifestyle, to oversimplify it, it involves returning to humanity’s hunter-gatherer roots by focusing on meats, veggies, nuts and seeds, reducing natural sugar intake by monitoring fruit intake, and cutting out manufactured carbohydrates: bread, pasta, rice. It also encourages folks to shop organics, grass-fed meats, animal fats and free-range fowl. Paleo and primal are technically not interchangeable, but for the purposes of this post (and elsewhere on my site), when use paleo, I mean low carb.

My friends and husband were totally supportive of having a low-carb Friendsgiving, so I began the recipe search. Here’s what was on the menu (with links where I used recipes)

Here’s what our plates looked like minus the Garlic Cauliflower Mash because I totally forgot it until mid-meal:

Friendsgiving meal closeup plate thanksgiving paleo turkey stuffing carrots sweet potato

It all turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself. There was definitely an increased level of anxiety involved in trying to cook a turkey and all the sides, but I was lucky enough to have Michael helping me with a lot of the prep and cleanup. Below is a recap of each dish:

Roasted Turkey with Sage Butter

Definitely check out the original recipe from Mellissa at iBreathe I’m Hungry. I followed her recipe to a T and it worked out beautifully. I won’t rehash her recipe, but I’ll tell you why I chose her. While looking for a recipe, I typed in “easy turkey”. Because I was REALLY anxious about how this was going to work, and I wanted the simplest recipe possible. As I began to comb through the pages of the interweb, I suspected that many of the recipes that I found that were “easy” were probably easy for the cooks, not for the Friendsgiving noobs. Many of the techniques also didn’t strike me as ones that would maximize juiciness in the turkey, which was my biggest concern.¬†What drew me to the recipe that I ultimately used was the blogger’s refreshing honesty about how it used to stress her out. I found her very relatable so I trusted that the recipe she created was one that was indeed simple and placated her concerns. So I thought, OK, let’s do this.

paleo sage butter turkey
The final birdy.

The only difference between her recipe and mine that was that I used a 12 pound bird, and she used a 13 pound one. The temperature and timing all worked perfectly for the 12 pounder. It was indeed quite simple. The apples and lemons helped keep the turkey nice and moist and the sage butter under the skin and all around the skin made it amazingly fragrant. The biggest challenge about the turkey was figuring out how to carve it.

turkey carving paleo
“Am I supposed to take the stuff out of the butt first?”

Roasting it upside for an hour help keep the breasts juicy and flipping it over helped give the skin a nice brown. The final result was a very juicy turkey! I feel really good about being able to replicate this again and again.

Best Ever Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing

It was surprisingly difficult to find a stuffing recipe that didn’t have any bread in it. Many of the paleo recipes I found replaced the bread with paleo cornbread. For my purposes, I wanted to eliminate bread entirely to reduce my carb-load. This recipe from Paleo Movement only contains carbs from natural sources: apples, fresh cranberries, mushrooms, and bell peppers. The only change I made to the original recipe was that instead of ground pork, I removed the casing from one pound of pork sausage I had in the freezer and crumbled it with my hands.

paleo stuffing sausage onion mushroom friendsgiving thanksgiving
The sausage, onions, and mushrooms are hiding under all this colorful goodness.

I have never cooked with fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, and it smelled heavenly! I will say that this was the second most stress-inducing part of the meal to make. The issue was there was soooo much to cut up. I thought that I could set the sausage on, cut up the onions while the sausage was browning, cut up the mushrooms while the onions were browning, and cut up the apples while the mushrooms were browning. For the future, what I will definitely do is cut everything the day before. It will make everything much less stressful. Also, I ended up baking this in my handy Ninja on the oven setting because our oven was otherwise occupied by the turkey and two other sides.

Garlic Cauliflower Mash

If you’re expecting cauliflower mash to taste exactly like mash potatoes, you have another thing coming. However, cauliflower mash, when done right, can be an excellent substitute. Cauliflower is lower in both carbs and calories than regular potatoes and the process to mash them up is very simple. I don’t follow a specific recipe, so here’s what I do:


  • 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed and cut into florets
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of low fat cream cheese (optional)


  1. Steam cauliflower: this can be done by using a steamer insert in a pot. I steamed the cauliflower in my Ninja using the steamer insert and filling it with water to just the below the insert. Then I placed the lid on and cooked it on medium for about 10 minutes. They came out nice and softer.
  2. Blend cauliflower: I used my Vitamix, but any blender food processor can be used on a low speed. Drop in one or two florets at a time and use the pulse setting to blend until creamy.
  3. Add cream cheese, parmesan, salt and pepper: continue to pulse until well mixed. Transfer to serving plate.

I’ve done it without the cream cheese before and I find that it just helps make the mash creamier than without. You can probably substitute a splash of milk or other cream to help with the texture. I did this a little bit earlier on¬†so I could¬†clean up the Vitamix and get it out of the way. I knew I had to reheat them anyway so they were hot for the meal, so I transferred them to a microwaveable glass bowl and served them like that. You will remember that the picture of the plate above doesn’t have the mash; that’s because I forgot it in the microwave. Once heated, you can top with any of your favorite toppings like gravy or just butter. However, I kept it simple and served as is.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon and Honey

I did want to have something sweet on the table, and sweet potatoes seemed like the natural choice. Sweet potatoes have more fiber, less carbs and less calories than regular potatoes despite a higher sugar content. But again, it’s a natural sugar! It gets released much more slowly in the bloodstream, which avoids blood sugar spikes that cause fatigue and weight gain. Who wants to avoid that? (raises own hand) I love me a sweet potato casserole, but the traditional recipe has way too much added sugar so I opted for something with fewer ingredients (4!) and uses honey as a natural sweetener. It’s hilariously easy:


  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of oil – extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil – I used coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey – I used a raw honey harvested in the Cotswolds in England. Wherever possible, use raw honeys –the darker the better. I don’t buy my honey at the store but usually stock up at farmer’s markers from local apiaries.


  1. Place diced potatoes on a baking tray in a single layer.
  2. Drizzle oil and honey and sprinkle cinnamon over potatoes.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

It really is that simple. I baked them at 400 degrees because that was what the turkey was cooking at. So 30 minutes before the turkey was done, I snuck the tray in the top shelf of the oven. I had already planned out the space to have both the sweet potatoes and the carrots and turnips added and moved the racks accordingly before I started baking anything. It worked really well space-wise and time-wise. Bubba had never tried sweet potatoes and he was really impressed with them! Everyone thought they were excellent as well.

Roast Carrots and Turnips

When Michael realized we were having turkey, he wanted to throw in a couple classic roasted vegetables he loves with turkey. Enter carrots and parsnips! It’s was super easy, I’m not even going to write out a recipe. Michael peeled the carrots and parsnips, put them on a baking tray, drizzled EVOO on them and baked them for 45 min at 400 degrees. Basically, 45 minutes before the turkey was done, I put these on the top rack (followed by the sweet potatoes).

Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

The meal needed some green so I figured I would add some brussel sprouts. They are a good source of fiber, manganese, potassium, choline, and B vitamins. They aren’t a terribly popular vegetable, mostly because of the smell. However, I read that the smellyness comes when you overcook the brussel sprouts. So I wasn’t¬†about to do that. But I definitely did add bacon! I¬†had originally found a bacon and brussel sprouts recipe that added a few other things, and had every intention of making that one. But at the last minute, I decided to keep it really really simple. No recipe here either.

brussel sprouts and bacon paleo thanksgiving friendsgiving

Fry up half a pound of bacon (cut into one inch strips), add one pound of brussel sprouts (each sprout sliced in half) after a few minutes and let them cook in the bacon fat. That’s it! It was so easy, and they are so good for you, so I plan on incorporating more brussel sprouts into¬†regular everyday cooking. Maybe less bacon though. ūüôā

So there you have it, my Friendsgiving recipe experience. We topped it all off with some homemade apple pie courtesy of Barb. In an effort to help us all reduce our sugar intake, she used half the amount of sugar she normally uses in her apple pie, and made me two separate little servings of crustless apple pie. Did I mention my friends are amazing?

friendsgiving 2015 paleo cooking
Happy Friendsgiving yay!

Today I am grateful for…

  1. Friends!
  2. Little foldable TV dinner tables that expanded both our kitchen counter space and dinner table.  It made Friendsgiving dinner prep that much easier.
  3. My husband, whose help made the difference between Friendsgiving dinner and a Friendsgiving meltdown.

Saving Your Face and Saving Your Skin: My Top 5 Travel Beauty Hacks

Greetings from somewhere over Texas! I am currently on the fourth¬†of six planes in seven days. This whirlwind trip has taken me¬†from Chicago to Kansas City to Seattle (via Denver), and¬†now I’m en route to Washington D.C. for a couple of conferences.¬†Unless I’m going overseas, I typically fly carry on only, and for a trip across all these timezones, I had to plan a little more carefully. There are so many things to consider but for this post, I’ll focus on my travel beauty hacks. Here are my top 5 space-saving and hassle-saving tips.

  1. Substitute liquid products with solids where possible. Those pesky TSA liquid regulations can really cramp your beauty style. Many of you are familiar with the 3-1-1 rule (3.4 oz or less in 1 quart sized bag, 1 bag per person). This does not leave a ton of space, so consider where you can ditch the liquids in favor of solids. For example, if you use aerosol deordorant, consider switching to solids. Consider cleansing cloths over carrying your face-wash with you. I am partial (of course) to Mary Kay’s Facial Cleansing Cloths mainly because they are dry!¬†You wet them when you use them, so you don’t have to worry about your cloths drying out. They provide the benefit of cleansing, gentle exfoliation and toner, basically replacing my beloved Timewise 3-in-1 cleanser. The cloths are large as well, so I actually cut them in half and store in a plastic baggie with my cotton balls. I count out how many I will be needing and that’s all I bring with me.¬†I am also particularly picky about my shampoo, so I like to bring my own. In the past few years, I have discovered the magic of solid shampoo and I only buy solid shampoo to use for myself at home too. Shampoo bars are a little offbeat, but you can find them in more places than you think. The easiest place to get shampoo bars is Lush, but after experimenting with several different bars, Lush bars are my least favorite and also the most expensive. You can find different brands on Amazon, but prior to going on a trip I encourage you to try a few different ones. Lush also makes solid lotion bars, which I do like but because of the cost, I only use these when I’m traveling. My go-to bars are actually imported from a small town in England. Honeyz is a family owned business in Whitby manufactures its own soaps, bath bombs and several different shampoo bars. And even with the UK conversion and shipping (in England at least), the cost of each bar is far less than me hopping over to a Lush counter and in my opinion way better. If you can order these products and send them to a friend in England who is coming to America I highly recommend! BTW, I’m headed to England in Feb ūüėČ
  2. If you can’t get your fave liquid products in solid, downsize. Even though the other components to my skincare routine are all in 3 oz or less bottles, I still want to simplify what I bring to the greatest extent possible. So I recommend investing in little travel pods that you can add just enough product to for your trip. In my case, it wasn’t much of an investment: I found a set of 3 travel tubs for $1 in the Target dollar section (my happy place). I have seen them in the travel section of most drug stores, and never for more than $3 for a set of 3. In ya go day solution, night solution and firming eye cream!

    mary kay ultimate miracle set timewise
    My MK Ultimate Miracle Set went from this…
travel mary kay ultimate miracle set timewise
…to this!
  1. Stay hydrated! Whether you’re in the air, or the on the ground, keeping your body and skin hydrating is extremely important. The dry, recirculated air on airplanes is doing your skin no favors, so it’s important to plan ahead to make sure you don’t go dry. Be sure to keep hydrated in the hours before you even get to the airport because you will have to ditch all your beverages at the security line. If I’m traveling early in the morning, I skip the coffee and opt for a coconut water on the way to the airport. Also, if you’re not terribly picky about your coffee,¬†don’t beeline to the nearest Starbucks right after security. Spend money on water or some other hydrating drink and get the plane coffee. Coffee is more effective a few hours after you wake up anyway! If space allows, carry an empty water bottle with you through security and fill up as soon as you get in, or purchase a bottle at a newsstand. It will be the priciest bottle of water you probably buy, but the bottle can hang with you for the rest of the trip and you can recycle it when it’s over. The little cup of water the flight attendants offer just isn’t enough! Make sure to also bulk up on the moisture for your skin as well. Before you leave the house, consider using a heavier moisturizer, such as MK’s Intense Moisturizing Cream, to get your through your plane journey. And on the return trip, layer your moisturizer with CC cream for a little bit of extra moisture. Keep those lips happy too by keeping a lip balm or ultra moisturizing lipstick handy.
  2. Bring multiuse beauty products. Think of ways that you can make your products pull double duty. Rather than carry a blusher and a lipstick, consider picking up a dual use product, like MK At Play’s Cheek and Lipstick, which comes in two different colors. For this trip, I brought both, for the convenience of having four different products in two items. Or go old school, and bring lipstick colors that you can also dab on your cheeks! Bring a dark brown eyeliner pencil you can also use on your brows. Use your mascara spoolie to comb your brows into place instead of bringing brow gel. Just make sure you do it after you apply your mascara so the brush has less product on it. Bring cream eye shadow so you don’t have to worry about a¬†toting along a primer for your mineral shadows.
  3. Stay clean!¬†You are sharing a lot of surfaces with a lot of people while you are traveling, especially at the airport.¬†Germs and oils from other people can be transferred so easily from person. Keep a travel-sized hand sanitizer and some tissues within reach to prevent your hands from feeling grimy. Dirty hands will transfer yuckiness to your face, which would result in breakouts and clogged pores, and honestly, is just disgusting sounding. If you’re starting to feel icky, head to the bathroom with one of your cleansing cloths.

Got any of your own tips? Please comment, I can always use more pointers. ūüôā

Today I am grateful for…

  1. When the person next to you on the plane doesn’t show up and you get a window instead of a middle seat.
  2. In-flight wifi (hello!)
  3. The opportunity to travel many new places.

It’s Taco Tuesday! Tacos Al Pastor [Recipe]

I am always game for Mexican food. Recently, I’ve been sampling Tacos Al Pastor all over my new neighborhood because Tacos Al Pastor is EVERYTHING. Just kidding, I don’t actually know what people mean when they say something is “everything”. But Tacos Al Pastor is pretty awesome.

I had some thin pork chops that needed to be used or frozen, but I already had dinner plans so I opted to freeze the pork in the marinade. It was super easy to make.

Tacos al Pastor


  • 1 pound of pork tenderloin cut into cubs
  • 1 8 oz can of pineapple chunks in juice, drained (I opted for a larger can and drained the juice and extra pineapples into a separate container to use in a shake later. It was delicious!)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon Mexican-style chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil of your choice for cooking
  • 6 (8-inch) soft taco-size corn or flour tortillas


tacos al pastor in skillet

  1. Combine the pork with all but the cooking oil in a container. Mix to ensure pork is well coated. You can use a ziplock baggie, or glass container. I used plastic freezer bag because I knew I would be freezing the pork.
  2. Chill for at least 4 hours. Overnight is ideal. You can also freeze the mix at this point.
  3. Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Add oil and pork mixture (or thawed pork mixture). Stir frequently untill cooked.
  4. Serve on warm tortillas.

I also happened to have some leftover rice and cilantro and turned it into cilantro-lime rice on the side! No recipe for the cilantro lime rice. The rice was already cold, so I chopped up some fresh cilantro, mixed it in with the cold rice, heated it in the microwave and added lime juice to taste. It was guuuuuuuuud.

My husband wanted some refried beans so we heated them up (from a can) and he made his 3 tacos with the beans and rice inside.

tacos al pastor cilantro lime rice refried beans

I opted to have the beans and rice on the side.


One thing that I might opt to do is slow cook the pork in the marinade. I enjoyed the taste of the season but I felt like pan frying the meat made it a little bit dryer than I would have liked. Otherwise, it was excellent! And I we had enough leftover so Michael could take two tacos to work the next day. A perfect for lunch portion!

Do you have a go to taco recipe? Or another Tacos Al Pastor recipe for me to try? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Happy Taco Tuesday!

Today I am grateful for…

  1. Multipurpose beauty products – I’m getting ready for a week of travel to 3 different cities all across the country. These products will help make my life easier and will share before I go!
  2. Coffee – When you randomly wake up at 4am and can’t go back to sleep and have to make it to the end of a workday.
  3. My new doctor – it seems I’ve found a winning primary care physician (finally).

More Recipes from the Motherland – Flapjacks (UK Style!)

english flapjacks mixing oats walnuts dried cranberries with butter and honey mixture

Ok, so we’re not talking my¬†motherland this time.¬†So, it turns out flapjacks in England, are a completely different thing than flapjacks here (read: pancakes). After a lengthy¬†conversation between my bestie Joyce, Michael and I, I resolved to give flapjacks a try!

I searched high and low for a recipe that¬†did not use “brown syrup”¬†because I have no idea what that is, and I suspect I would have to pick up things I wouldn’t keep in my house normally to make it. I¬†loosely followed this recipe from fellow blogger Nilla’s Kitchen, which ultimately used honey instead of this mysterious brown syrup. My sense is that you can use any combination of nuts or fillings that you choose, but I settled on dried cranberries and walnuts because mama C packed some away for me when I was visiting. It took only about 10 minutes of prep time and 25 to bake, so I was able to get the labor part done during my lunch break. The measurements on the original recipe¬†were in English-English (grams instead of ounces and tablespoons), so I converted, rounded, and then doubled the portions because ‘merica.

English Style Flapjacks – with Cranberries and Walnuts


  • 13 tbsp of butter (yeah you read that right)
  • 3/4 cup of honey
  • 1 1/4 cups of¬†oats (regular, not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350¬į F.

2. Grease a¬†9×12 baking dish or pan, or cover the inside with baking paper. I ended up using my 9×12 Pyrex glass pan.

3. Heat the butter (or coconut oil or ghee if you so please) and honey together in a saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil and remove heat.

4. Mix oats, cranberries and walnuts (or whatever you want to add in), in a separate bowl.

english flapjacks mixing oats walnuts dried cranberries

5. Stir oat mix into butter and honey mixture until it’s well mixed.

english flapjacks mixing oats walnuts dried cranberries with butter and honey mixture

6. Pour mix into the greased baking dish. Using the back of a spoon, compress the mixture into the bottom of the pan.

pour oat mix into greased pan english flapjacks
7. Bake in the oven for 25 min.

8. Remove pan from oven and the mixture cool completely in the baking dish.

  • At this point, Michael said he was coming home early, so to speed up the process, I stuck it in the fridge 45 minutes after it had been cooling already.

once it's completely cooled, remove from pan and cut into squares

9. Once it’s completely cooled, cut flapjacks into squares, or whatever your heart desires.

Full disclosure: I completely flubbed on the “compress the mixture” step. I poured it out, and smoothed it, but did not really pack it in. The result after cooling was a crispy top, but still separated underneath side. Just to try it, I smoothed it all out again, and really pushed down with a metal spoon. I’m talking no air left in the bottom. And then what I did was turn the oven back to 350 degrees, move a rack to the further down possible (closest to the burner) and popped the tray back in. Once the preheat button went off, I turned the oven off and let it cool off naturally in the oven for 20 mintues before I removed it, using the residual heat to further bake the bottom. This made it a little more solid, and overnight refrigeration helped too, but my first batch was crumbly.

English Flapjacks oats honey cranberries walnuts
One of the very few solid bars I produced.

I feel good that smushing it down well before you bake it will combat this problem in the future. When I try this again I think I will also line the baking pan with wax paper so I can easily lift the flapjack out of the pan to cut on a cutting board.

The result was oh-so tasty! My husband thought it was really good too and took some to work with him. I was a little sad that he said it didn’t taste the same as he remembered, but he reminded me I used honey instead of brown syrup so it’s bound to taste different. But if he liked it, I’m happy!

Today I am grateful for…

  1. Freezer meal recipes. I’ve been so lazy to cook, so I’m getting into prepping and freezing. Stay tuned for recipes!
  2. Zit cream. Seriously loving MK Clear Proof Acne Treatment gel right now. The crazy weather has sent my skin haywire, but this is helping to fight those spots!
  3. Big cozy sweaters and blankets. I know it’s not really¬†cold, but a little coziness goes a long way when the weather is changing!

Cast Iron Cooking Noob – Roast Chicken and Cauliflower [Recipe]

oven split chicken breast cast iron skillet

We received a set of Lodge Cast Iron Skillets as a wedding present, but only just started to use them. The only things I knew about cast iron skillets are 1) they can last for decades, and 2) don’t put them in the dishwasher (sorry college roomie, I didn’t know any better!). I am just getting used to lingo surrounding cast iron cooking, and am working on¬†cooking with my skillet on a regular basis.

A few things of note regarding cast iron cooking:

  • “Seasoning” doesn’t mean the seasonings you keep in your kitchen cupboard. I know what it is, but Wikipedia can explain it better: “Seasoning is the process of treating the surface of a saucepan, wok, crepe griddle or other cooking vessel with a stick-resistant coating formed from polymerized fat and oil on the surface.” Traditionally, cast iron skillets would need to be seasoned prior to use to form this stick-resistant coating. Many cast iron skillets these days, including the pair of Lodge skillets we have come “preseasoned”. However, many sources say that it’s good to season the pan anyway just to give it a little bit of extra help. I followed the instructions from Derek on Cast Iron and oven seasoned my pan a couple of times. I wouldn’t call it non-stick now, but I trust that with use and proper care, that it will last for a long time.
  • You can put the whole thing in the oven! The opportunities for one-pot goodness are endless!
  • Don’t put in the dishwasher or clean with regular soap. The seasoning on a cast iron skillet is made up of polymerized oils. Dish soap is typically used to cut through grease and oil. Therefore, dish soap on a cast iron skillet will wear down the seasoning. The best way to clean is with warm water and a scrub or stiff brush, and dry right away. Never let cast iron soak in water as this will make it more prone to rusting.

Those are just a few tidbits I picked up while figuring out how to cook with my skillets. I suspect this will be a lifelong experiment but I’m really happy with the way this first recipe turned out. I had two pre-seasoned split chicken breasts and cauliflower that I didn’t get to ricing, et voila, this idea was born! I took inspiration from the Dabble Tree blog and¬†threw in some cauliflower to roast as an experiment.¬†The process was a little scary, but the results were delicious!

Cast Iron Roasted Chicken and Cauliflower


  • Oil of your choice – I used organic canola oil, aka rapeseed oil from the UK
  • Two split chicken breasts seasoned to your liking (not cast iron seasoned, but you know what I mean) – I picked up a few pre-seasoned bone-in breasts from Jewel.
  • Half a head of cauliflower – chopped into florets
  • aaaaand that’s it!


1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. On the stove top, add a little bit of oil (your choice) and let the skillet warm on high.

3. Once the skillet is warm, fry the chicken skin-side down for about 5 minutes until the skin is nicely browned.

frying split chicken breast upside down cast iron skillet cooking
Notice the smoke? Yeah, that was scary, but all part of the “seasoning” process.

4. Remove the chicken from the pan. Toss the cauliflower florets in the residual oil and seasoning until the florets are coated.

5. Divide the cauliflower and place the split chicken breasts in the middle of the pan, skin-side up.

split chicken breast and cauliflower cast iron skillet

6. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160F.

oven split chicken breast cast iron skillet

7. Remove pan from oven, let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Serve warm with the cauliflower on the side!

finished roasted chicken and cauliflower cast iron skillet

Cooking the chicken upside down didn’t make sense to me at first, but does now! It produces a nice brown on top of the chicken while the rest of the cooking process leaves the meat underneath nice and tender. And I’m really satisfied with the way the cauliflower roasted alongside with the chicken. One pan, that’s what’s up! I imagine the process can also be replicated with broccoli, and possibly carrots, though I think you might want to blanch the carrots first to soften them up before roasting. Another option, rather than using the oil and seasoning from the chicken is to roast the cauliflower separately on a baking pan, seasoned to your liking. This is a nice and simple roasted cauliflower recipe that could be prepared in the same oven!

I had already prepared some quinoa and corn to have on the side. Hubs liked it, but I had to cut¬†the breast meat out and give that to him. Me? I’m a dark meat kinda gal…

final product cast iron roasted chicken and cauliflower quinoa corn

I’m definitely looking forward to cooking more with this skillet! If you have any tips or suggestions, please comment and let me know what you think!

Today I am grateful for…

  1. Good days. I had a good day today, no negativity in my thoughts.
  2. Clean bathmats!
  3. When my husband can come home early from work and cook the dinner I was planning on making. ūüôā


September Makeover Contest Update + 31 Days of Lipstick

I‚Äôm a little bit late on my makeover update, because I’ve been having trouble logging into my blog and I have been FREAKING OUT! It’s ok, I’m back.¬†As I mentioned before, we had good friends stay with us in September for a little over two weeks. I knew this was coming so I planned accordingly to get the faces in that I needed to meet my goal this month. And with careful planning, I was still able to make my goal! And the best part? I actually exceeded my goal for the month of September!

I managed to squeeze in a couple of appointments at the beginning of the month, but what really got me to the end of the month were the out-of-town makeovers I was able to do. I have girlfriends who live in other parts of Illinois, Indiana and Colorado and they were gracious enough to send me selfies and give me feedback on the products.

Here‚Äôs how I did it: I mailed out pampering packets, which included samples of the Timewise Skincare line (my FAVE), some color cosmetics, and a few included some perfume samples as well! Once they received their packages, they let me know and I walked them through the products. Some through Skype, some through Google Hangouts, and others through live chat via Facebook or text. I think it was a smashing success! I had a lot of fun putting the packages together and going through the products. Here are a couple¬†of the pampering packet looks! I wasn’t able to send foundation samples, so they had to improvise with that. ūüôā Thanks for my girlfriends for sending them along.
mary kay portfolio model makeover jennifer dugenia

Jenny РHer instructions (Better than I can do it, thanks!)
MK foundation primer spf 15 (base)
MAC Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof NC35 (skin)
Pixi Bronzer – Summertime (contour)
MAC MSF – Global Glow (highlight/blush)
MK Mineral – Sweet Plum (lid/lower lashline)
MK Mineral – Silver Satin (outer crease)
Glamour Dolls – Sorcery (blending)
MK Mineral – Moonstone (highlight/inner corners)
MK Eyeliner – Black (upper lid and lower waterline)
MK Ultimate Mascara Black – (bottom lashes)

angela mary kay model portfolio contest makeupangela mary kay makeup color cosmetics

Eyes MK Mineral Eye Shadow in Sweet Cream, Precious Pink, Iris
Cheeks: Mineral Cheek Color in Strawberry Cream
Lips: MK Creme Lipstick in Maple

kim kristina and eilene model mary kay makeup and skin care

Thanks also to Kristina, Eilene, and Kim who sent their selfies into me! The makeover contest has been extended until the end of October. I am planning on being out of town AGAIN in the last week of October so I’m looking to see faces in these next couple of weeks. If you, or someone you know is interested in a free Mary Kay makeover, please email me at or PM me on my Facebook site and I will get you the details. I am also happy to do out-of-town makeovers via Facetime, Skype or Google Hangouts, I just send samples to you!

Thanks so much to the ladies that have already participated! You have been so important to helping reach my goals! All models who assist me in building my portfolio received a special gift from me for helping me reach my goal.

31 Days of Lipstick

Also, I was inspired by fellow blogger Anna Bankester, over at Bee Beauty, to start a 31 days of lipstick challenge. I decided to try it on a whim, and I’m having a lot fun doing it. I realized that this time of year, I would probably stick to my berries only, but this challenge is forcing me to get dressed and try some new things! I post every day on my Instagram @nicole_angeline, but I’ll post recaps at the end of each post throughout the month. Also, I realized afterward that 31 days of lipstick means 31 selfies,¬†which I’m not 100% comfortable with, so I’ll be recruiting beautiful faces to snap pics with too!

Day 1 РNeutral Lipliner, True Dimensions in Color Me Coral (and nothing else!)

color me coral true dimensions lipstick mary kay makeup neutral lipliner no makeup selfie

Day 2 – Neutral Lipliner, True Dimensions in Natural Beaute

mary kay neutral lipliner natural beauty lipstick true dimensions brow pencil eyeshadow metro modern

Day 3- Plum Lipliner, Creme Lipstick in Rich Fig

mary kay creme lipstick rich fig plum lipliner

Day 4 – True Dimensions in Firecracker topped with Nourishine Lip Gloss in Rock ‘n Red and WITH BESTIE (Joyce is wearing Coral Bliss).

True Dimensions Mary Kay Lipstick firecracker coral bliss bestie

This last look is Luis Casco approved!

luis casco instagram mary kay beautiful pucker true dimensions lipstick

Today I am grateful for…

  1. A reaaaalllly good night’s sleep.
  2. Luis Casco’s inspiration and bright spirit! I think it’s totally awesome he responds to people on social media.
  3. Unconditional love!

Warning: First Gen Attempting Recipes from the Motherland – Filipino Bistek [Recipe]

marinating beef steak filipino bistek marinade recipe cuisine cooking

One day at tennis practice in high school, my teammate said “I love the way you smell Nicole.” Me: “Um, ok and what’s that like.” Teammate: “You smell like delicious FOOD!”


See, I had the honor of having my grandparents living in our home to help care for us while my parents were working. My siblings and I were born in America, but my parents and grandparents are all imports from the Philippines. This meant delicious, and apparently FRAGRANT, Filipino foods around the clock. I would even have Filipino foods packed for lunch most of the time, though it was a “treat” to be able to buy the pizza puffs, basco sticks and pasta with marinara sauce from the lunch cafeteria from time to time (::rolling my eyes::). And apparently, according to my teammate I smelled like food. Hopefully, this was only on occasion.

I didn’t fully appreciate the food until I left for college and there was no way for me to indulge in¬†champorado, chicken adobo, or kare kare. Every once in a while I will try to make something, but it’s either the simple garlic fried rice and egg,¬†or some sort of meat that is premade like tocino or longanisa (::drools on the keyboard a little::). But lately, I have been DYING for some homemade Filipino foods! I will never be able to make it like my grandparents or my mom, but I thought it was time to try a few things out for myself.

I’m starting out very simply with beef steak recipe. My aim is to recreate these classic recipes, but be health conscious about the way I cook and serve them. I love me some white rice to go with all that delicious Filipino ulam (seriously, I need to stop drooling). But given my activity level and my health goals, it’s not sustainable for me. “Once in a while”, as my grandma used to say. So for this recipe, the adjustment I made was to use¬†quinoa¬†instead of white rice. The ideal would have been for me to get it together and rice some cauliflower, but it was easier to do cook quinoa on my lunch break.

Filipino Beef Steak – Bistek


filipino beef steak bistek ingredients
You can even seek the cauliflower tried to sneak into the picture, but alas, never made it into the recipe. Sorry cauliflower, next time.
  • 1-1.25 lbs of beef (I used some sale New York strip steaks. Can’t pass up a good meat deal!)
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1.5 cups of low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves minced (or 3 teaspoons of pre-minced garlic, I used pre-minced because I was lazy)
  • Juice from one lemon (or 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice)
  • Coconut oil for cooking


1. Slice the onion into thin strips. Place half in a storage container of your choice. Reserve the other half for cooking for placing on top of the meat.

2.Place your meat on top of the onions. Top with remainder of onions and garlic.

3. Pour soy sauce and lemon juice over meat, making sure to saturate the onions.Marinade Filipino Beef Steak Bistek cuisine cooking4. Marinade overnight. I think 1-2 hours will do, but my mom always prepped it a day before, so I shall do the same.

marinating beef steak filipino bistek marinade recipe cuisine cooking
Hello beautiful.

5. If you remember to, flip the meat halfway through the marinade time. Some recipes have you prepare and marinade in a ziploc bag, and this will make it easier to flip to coat. I opted to use my Pyrex container because I am trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use and consume. If you are using a non-baggie container, flip the meat at some point to coat both sides. DO NOT FLIP YOUR CONTAINER OVER. I should have realized this was a bad idea before I tried it, but I flipped my container and watched the soy sauce fill the lid and slide out of the corners. It was so stupid. Just open it up and flip your meats please.

6. Add coconut oil (or your oil of choice) to a pan and heat it to medium high. This time, I used a cast iron skillet.

7. Brown the beef only, flipping midway though. Remove from pan and set aside.filipino bistek beef steak cast iron skillet

8. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook until onions are soft.

9. Add the marinade and beef back to the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, turning beef occasionally.filipino beef steak bistek cast iron skillet cuisine cooking

BONUS step: Take your rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice, and heat it up in the same pan that you cooked the beef in. The rice will absorb any remaining juices or flavors. Even though cauliflower rice won’t absorb anything, pan frying it will give a little extra flavor to the cauliflower without the processed carbs!

filipino bistek beef steak corn quinoa kale onions medium rare
I added kale and corn because I felt guilty about the brown-ness of it all!

Serve with your choice of veggies. At home, my mom would probably cut up some tomatoes, put them in a little bowl with their own juice and add patis, which is a super salty Asian fish sauce, that I LOVE but that is probably responsible for why my teammate said I smelled like food. This time around, I improvised with what I had at home, which wasn’t much. I threw already cooked quinoa into the pan which absorbed the leftover flavor, added some chopped kale and corn.

A lot about this meal was non-traditional Filipino: I used a thicker cut of meat, didn’t serve it with white rice, corn and kale is a bit unusual, and…

IMG_9787SURPRISE! I didn’t actually cook it myself. I prepped it the day before but my husband took care of the rest. Like I said, not traditional Filipino, but we were both full and happy with dinner by the end of it. I think the real test will be if my mom or grandpa like it! Ok, well I will probably just try it on my sister sometime. There’s no chance my mom or grandpa will find this as good as¬†theirs. I wouldn’t either. ūüôā

Things I am grateful for today…

  1. That I live close enough to a grocery store to walk to it (and have sidewalks all the way!)
  2. My mom and grandparents home-cooked meals. I truly to miss them. I still raid my mom’s fridge when I go home to see if there are any good eats hidden!
  3. I am moved by the amount of positive comments and messages regarding yesterday’s¬†post. I had no idea that it would have the impact that it did on everyone. While it saddens me to know many folks are suffering from the effects of depression in silence, I know that there are supportive and understanding people all around who will be able help others through their difficult journey. If someone you know may be struggling with depression, I encourage you to¬†be an empathetic and understanding shoulder (or nest builder), and if they are open to it, help that person find the courage to seek help.
depression nest builder cartoon
Michael is my nest-builder.

Confessions: Why I Write and Where I’m Going with This

blogging blog why i write computer writing

I had been mulling over starting a blog for a few months before I decided to write. I felt the urge to write, but I wasn’t sure why. Writing is a time-suck because it takes forever for me to produce something –I blame law school for that. Too much mulling it over before I even started to compose. So I told myself, I’ll just write about what makes me happy. My “About Me” page currently reads “This blog is simply a creative outlet¬†to showcase what I am capable of to anyone who wants to read, or see what I’m up to, but mostly to remind myself that life is full of really great things.” But I’ve realized, now that I’ve written several posts, that it’s more important than that and am planning on rewriting the page. So I wanted to do something quite brave for me and tell you why I’m really here.

In August of this year, I was diagnosed with depression. In retrospect, I have been dealing with the major symptoms of depression since 2012, but only sought professional help this past August at the encouragement of my husband. I know the signs and symptoms of depression fairly well, particularly since my Master’s Psychology degree has a focus on clinical mental health counseling. I knew what I was going through, but I didn’t dare seek help or tell anyone because I feared¬†the “stigma” of depression. I know much better than that. I would never judge anyone who needs help for this disease, but as with many things, you don’t see it the same way for yourself.

My symptoms have ranged from feelings of hopelessness and sadness, to self-hate and loathing, all the way up to impenetrable silence¬†and thoughts of self-harm. When I finally sought help, I was fortunate enough to connect with someone who was able to help me understand what causes these episodes, and is working with me to help me get better without medicines or a ton of psychoanalysis. As explained to me, my sympathetic nervous system has been malfunctioning for a few complicated reasons I won’t go into here. Your sympathetic nervous system controls your body’s physiological response to stress.

The issue with my sympathetic nervous system is that¬†my body’s ability to distinguish between life-threatening stress and annoying-everyday stress has been compromised leading to high levels of stress.¬†In the past few years, I have experienced some stressful events and changes in my life, but since my sympathetic nervous system has un-learned how distinguish between everyday stress and the big things, everything becomes stressful. My nervous system doesn’t always know when to calm down and this has led to massive shutdowns, where I literally can’t move or speak. Simply put, my brain does not allow me to relax and I also do not allow myself to because I hold this perception that “I don’t deserve to relax.” I wrote about it in my second blog post, and I know that it’s what I need to do, but I still struggle with this concept now.

Part of what I’m working on with my therapist is retraining my mind to realize and accept that I need to rest, even if it’s 5 minutes of stepping away from the computer and looking around the room or outside the window to see what pleases me. Or to sit with my dog and just be in the moment. No cell phones, no thinking about what I need to do, no accomplishing a 5 minute task to tick off the list. In today’s world, true focus is elusive. I have always been a busy person and now that we have smartphones and the internet so easily at hand, forget about it. I can’t have a moment of peace even if I wanted to. ¬†I could be sitting still, with nothing in my hands, but my mind is still going 100 mph thinking about this and that. And the problem is, I mastered doing many things at once a long time ago. I have always been good at taking things on and producing high quality work, but this has been at the expense of my mental health and I didn’t know it. Such a high level of functioning and activity (mental and physical) coupled with my confused sympathetic nervous symptom has¬†led to complete collapses of my nervous system and ability to cope with everyday stresses. This¬†really a response that has been learned over the course of many many years, but that luckily is reversible. And that’s what I’m working on now.

I have always suffered in private. My husband is the only one who has seen the absolute worst of me. There are a lot of reasons why I chose to not show this side to people. You may be asking yourself, well why are you speaking up now? If 30 people read this post, then statistically, two of you will have experienced some form of major depression. If you are a woman, then you are 70% more likely to experience this. I am speaking up now to tell those 2 women that there is no shame in feeling the way you do, or in needing help. If I can give even one person a ray of hope for her future, then how can I keep my story to myself?

In a world where focus is hard to come by, I have found that writing is one of the few activities where¬†I can truly find calm and focus. I realized that I cannot do anything else while I am writing. No music, no TV in the background, no thinking about anything else but what I’m writing about. It used to frustrate me not being able to write on the fly, but after spending a few weeks producing posts, I’ve realized that when I am writing for this blog (I don’t have a ton of opportunities to write otherwise), then I am truly focused and enjoying myself. This is rare for me, but a healthy way for me to work on treating my depression.

This blog post was spurred on by my recent obsession with podcasts. I’ve been listening to the Social Media Marketing Happy Hour to get tips on social media marketing for myself, and to see how it can help with my job. I can’t remember which one, but one of the podcasts helped me reflect on my brand for this blog, and part of that was to understand why you are writing in the first place. So there you have it, my confession about why I started writing and why I am going to keep writing.¬†I have no intentions for this blog to be about my condition or about my journey. This blog IS a part of my journey!

I find writing relaxing, and I find cooking and playing with my Mary Kay skincare and makeup fun! So I am changing the name of my blog to Ladles & Lipstick (I know right?!). The original name was a nod to Project Semicolon. The semicolon is a symbol that represents the opportunity to end a sentence, but the choice not to. This project is dedicated to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide, and is meant to inspire those who struggle to continue their story as well. Since I am looking at my personal brand, not as someone who write about her journey through depression, but someone who will write about other topics as a part of her journey, I thought I would change it up. If I continue to blog successfully throughout the next year, I hope to have built a catalog of recipes and cooking experiences that I, and others, can use many times over, as well as expanded my makeup and skincare techniques. I hope to also be able to say that I am beating back my depression and living a richer, happier life. Today, I feel confident that I will succeed.

Today I am grateful for…

  1. Quiet Sundays where I can sit and write.
  2. Fall weather.
  3. The return of salted caramel. Pumpkin spice is just not my thing! ūüôā