Keepin’ It Real: November 2013

Unflattering pics
Recipe mishaps and slips
It’s just me, Jenni

November, where did you go? Please come back. I am not ready for December. No. No. No. I need more time to plan. To prepare. To enjoy. These holidays are going by too quickly.

Things I learned this month: I love all of my blog friends. You guys just give me warm fuzzies inside. You seriously make my life bigger. Thank you!

My favorite moment of the month was definitely Batkid. It had me sobbing and cheering at the same time. So neat that the city did such an amazing thing through Make-A-Wish Foundation.


I had such a nice Thanksgiving. I will admit to a few tears, but for the most part, it was a peaceful sweet holiday. I got to hold my cousin’s baby girl. My stepmom made a great turkey that rivaled my dad’s smoked one. And my dad was so tickled when some cousins stopped by to visit. It was so nice to see him so happy. I loved seeing my aunts and uncle. And my mom! My daughter was so sweet when she said she was thankful for all I do for her. And my nephew cracked me up for being grateful for dinosaurs. I hope you had smiles and laughter yesterday, too.


Afghanistan food! I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Oh! The flavors! My favorite is Sambosa. A fried pastry stuffed with ground meat and potatoes. And cilantro sauce. So good!


It was the fifteen year anniversary of my husband and my first date this month. It is one of the two dates we usually celebrate. We got engaged two weeks later, and married in March. We move fast. Well, I forgot it. And when I reminded my husband the next day, he said, “Oh, yeah.” Then he high-fived me. That is how romantic we are fifteen years later. I get a high-five. I am still deciding how I feel about this.



Some lovely pictures for you.


I tried to make that chicken dish again. Nope. Still not the one. This dish is going to be the one that haunts me. I must puzzle it out.


I spied this coat?/sweater?/wrap? in a woman’s stroller at Disneyland. She said she got it at Anthropologie two years ago. I slyly took a picture of it. It appeared to have wooden toggle buttons. The fabric is gorgeous. Any ideas about what this was or was called?

Update: Thank you Deboo for identifying the sweater as the Echoing Argyles Cardigan! I will keep my eyes peeled! : )


Today is “Black Friday.” I used to love this day, but I hate how early the stores open now. It makes me sad that consumerism has cut into a holiday centered around family. I feel sorry for the workers and for the customers who had to cut their Thanksgiving short. And honestly, nothing really stood out to me this year (except for that Nikon deal at Target. Wow!). I am bummed to miss it, but, oh, sleeping in never felt so good!

How was your day yesterday? I hope everyone had wonderful holidays that they celebrated. Are you shopping today, sleeping in or working? Did November pass by way too quickly for you, too?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey and stuffing
Giving thanks over gravy
Why won’t my jeans close?

In lieu of my usual “It’s The Little Things” today, I will be updating sporadically throughout today with things I am grateful for. I want to keep things in perspective.

My grandmother (who was the heart and soul of the family) passed away in January and today is going to be especially hard for my family. I will first travel two hours to my dad’s house, where my kids have spent the last two nights. We will prep food there (with my sister and her family) and then make our way about 1/2 a mile up the road to where my grandmother’s house is. My mom and her family will be gathered there. My heart is heavy. We will stay an hour and then go back to my dad’s house to eat.

Busy day! What are your plans? Because I feel my day will be filled with a lot of sadness, I am going to focus on the positives.


First up, coffee. Cuban coffee to be exact. Lovely goodness! I could not and did not get out of bed without it.


I made chocolate pie last night. I also made my husband some cranberry sauce. I believe he is the only one who likes it. Today, I will make green bean casserole.

I was also in charge of bringing the rolls and other pies. I ordered a pecan, pumpkin, and coconut creme from Marie Calendar’s. The yummy rolls were baked fresh at Great Harvest yesterday. I am grateful to be able to pick up yummy food and not mess up my kitchen making all of those things. I also am bringing wine. ‘Cause. Big grateful there. I did not even remove it from the trunk last night. I was scared I would forget it. Shudder.


This is what I am wearing for the drive and prep work. I am grateful to have scored these Mother’s Brand Jeans on clearance. If you have not tried Mother Jeans, you are missing out. Imagine my jeans were pulled down right.

Your bum will be grateful.

I am playing around with photo apps! Bear with me!

And we’re off! I hope your day is going great! What are your plans?


We are at my dad’s house. We are about to go outside and play a ball toss game. Here are some pictures I took on the drive to my dad’s house. Isn’t it beautiful? Look at the snow!



Played a game with my daughter. Had fun! The kids helped made these balls by drilling holes in them with my dad.


Then sat outside by the fire with my dad and talked for an hour with a glass of wine. So relaxing and nice. Grateful for this time.


Making green bean casserole on the grill outside. An adventure! We should eat by 5:00!


Turned out great! Of course, I do not eat this. Nor will I try it, but it looks yummy!


We finished the night with pie. We will be back on the road in ten minutes. It was a very nice day spent with family. I am incredibly thankful for the one I have. I hope everyone’s day was great!

Mashed Potato Soup

I recently had mashed potato soup at a local eatery and wanted to recreate it at home. I loved the restaurant’s tart cheesiness of its soup. Instead of asking for the recipe, I decided to guess it out at home. This is what I like to do for fun. Yep. Weird.

I think the only difference might be the mirepoix instead of just onions and the use of regular pepper instead of white pepper (if I had to guess… And I did). I used the mirepoix because I wanted to add some additional vegetables hidden for the kids. And I wanted a deeper depth of flavor.

When I announced my intentions of taking my mashed potatoes and making a soup with the leftovers, my husband and son were aghast. They were coveting those mashed potatoes in all their decadent leftover glory. I do make some mean mashed potatoes, if I do say so myself, and they are so incredibly easy. I do not buy into that whole ricer theory or grating. Just mix the darn things and be done with it. ; ).

Mashed potato tip: After you add your cut potatoes to your pot of cold water: Bring them to a boil and then set your timer for twenty three minutes. Not twenty two. Not twenty four. Twenty three. Timing is key. Then immediately drain them. Return them to the pot and cook them for an additional minute, while stirring, to get all of the extra water out. I feel very strongly about this. Who knew?

For this recipe I followed my mashed potato recipe, but I used 6 large baking potatoes. I doubled the butter and added 1/2 cup of sour cream, and a pinch more salt.


I set aside approximately 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked potatoes in a bowl before I made my mashed potatoes (I refrigerated them), because I knew I wanted yummy chunks of potatoes in my soup the next day.


Approximately 2 cups leftover Mashed potatoes
1 cup mirepoix (I get mine at Trader Joe’s)
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
3 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup flour
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups cooked potato chunks set aside
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream


I make a pound of bacon and serve the whole crispy slab with it

Other options

Sour cream


I add my bacon to the oven (recipe here) before any of the following steps, so it is cooking at the same time the soup is.




Melt butter on low heat. Add mirepoix. Sprinkle a little salt on this so it sweats out. Cook on medium low heat for 8 minutes until vegetables are tender and onions are clear.


Add flour. Stir continuously for two minutes.

Add chicken stock. Simmer for five minutes.


Blend with stick blender until all of the vegetables are pureed.


Add mashed potatoes

Whisk. This took me about three minutes.

Add cream.

Stir. One minute.

Add cheese

Stir. Two minutes.

Add reserved potato chunks and stir.


Heat up until hot.

Turn off stovetop.


Serve in individual bowls. Garnish with bacon, sour cream, and chives (if desired). Please be careful! This soup is so hot! I burned the roof of my mouth…badly. Patience has never been my virtue.

After my family ate their dinner, both my husband and son both declared this an excellent use of the leftover potatoes. They are all ready asking me to make it again. It was scrumptious. If I do say so myself. And I do. : )

So do my thighs.