Friday, April 15, 2016

We're Having a Baby, So We're Eating Ramen (the Good Kind)

Baby girl is due in just over two weeks, so you can imagine that mind is filled with countless thoughts; thoughts of excitement, anticipation, preparation, and the unknown.  Thankfully, thoughts of dread have not made an appearance and I pray that they don't.  Let me clarify something-- although I do not dread the difficult times, it doesn't mean I do not anticipate them.  I know there will be moments (most likely in the quiet of the night) when I'm trying to figure out how to make my baby girl stop crying for not only my sanity, but also the courtesy of our poor neighbors. If whatever comes to mind doesn't work, I most likely will begin to cry too; and it'll be a girls cry-fest. Now doesn't that sound lovely?

All that paired with the countless messes, hair-tugs, and dirty diapers, I'd say I have the best time of my life to look forward to! Wouldn't you? All joking and sarcasm aside, I truly am excited for this next chapter in life. It's a challenge and a feeling that I can honestly say I've never felt before. It'll be such an adjustment adapting to life with a baby, but how awesome will it be to go through a daily routine WITH MY BABY?! Thankfully, I've been surrounded by people who for the most part send positive and loving vibes my way, and I'm grateful for that.

All that said, I won't be able to spend my days JUST staring at my child. I'll eventually have to create a routine that will allow me to go about my life, and that includes cooking! I've been making meals and freezing them, but I also know that I'll be in the mood for something quick and easy that I might not have prepared ahead of time.  A couple weeks ago I made a new favorite for Brian and I-- Ramen Bowls. They're actually well-balanced, packed with veggies and protein, and still offer a fun twist to your meals. The recipe is ridiculously simple and you'll be amazed that you can have such a beautiful meal with such little effort.


2 packs of ramen or ichiban noodles (I was going to go authentic with the ichiban but it was incredible similar ingredients-wise to Maruchan Top Ramen, so I went for the cheaper pack
2 baby bok choy, washed and halved lengthwise
1 can baby corn (you'll most likely find this in the international section)
1/2 cup purple cabbage, washed and shredded
1 medium carrot, peeled into slivers
1/2 lb chicken breast
Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
Dash of garlic powder
Optional light dusting of buttermilk ranch seasoning for chicken
1 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
Optional poached or lightly boiled egg
1 scallion, sliced thin


Follow instructions on the back of the ramen pack. Make sure you account for the number of packs you make. In the meantime, season chicken then in a small sauce pan over medium heat, drizzle olive oil, let pan get hot enough, and sear chicken until it is golden brown on each side (about 5 minutes). Once each side has some color, add a couple tablespoons of water, lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pan so that the steam cooks through the middle of the chicken. I tented the pan with aluminum foil. Once chicken is complete, in the same pan, sear the bok choy over medium-low heat starting with flat-side down. 

Once chicken and ramen are complete, grab a large soup bowl and go to town with the ingredients. Start by placing ramen and broth into the bowl. Top it in sections with each ingredient to give it a colorful and artistic look. If you're adding an egg, do so in the center of the bowl. Top with scallions, find some chopsticks and a deep spoon, and enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Tale of Two Refrigerators

In the weeks leading up to the birth of our first baby (girl), I've been in an unforgiving state of sap. Everything makes me tear-up--mostly things that are just cute, happy, or inspiring. This morning, this did it for me.

Along with feeling like I'm walking on fluff, I've been in the ever-common NESTING state: an overwhelming desire to get your home ready for the baby, i.e. The urge to clean and organize.  I've made and completed to-do lists that normally take the back burner: consolidate gift bags/decorations, clean out and sell kitchen kit for business (I'm not selling the business, just some gadgets that I have not needed to use in years), and clean out and label my ever-growing spice drawer (for real, this needs to happen). If you know me personally, you know that I have good ideas and intentions, but getting the PUSH to take action can take a bit of time. That being said, once challenged or assisted with that push, I'm usually on a roll. The point of me telling you this is to stress that to-do lists are usually a joke for me, but lately I live by them--and I love it. Please tell me this won't leave me the way I wish pregnancy brain would. 

With all this nesting, you'd think that my fridge and pantry would be on-par, right? Wrong. In fact, both are disgraceful. I have one bursting at the seams with much needed organization, and another that is more sparse than a grocery store before the arrival of a blizzard. Unfortunately, the fridge is the latter. See proof in picture below.

Now, in all fairness, today is the day I'm going to put an end to it. But I figured I'd let you in on the secret that not all chefs ALWAYS have their fridge full of delectable, ready-to-eat items. Sometimes life gets in the way for no reason other than the fact that I VERY RARELY just don't feel like going to the store. It's so bad that I didn't have to worry about leaving the fridge open to take the picture! That being said, I feel an unnecessary need to mention that somehow, I still managed to make my husband a hot (well-balanced) breakfast along with lunch for today. 👍 On the plus side, this gives me absolutely NO excuse to not give this fridge a good scrub-down. You'll notice in the picture that I followed through with that scrub-down!

Before: So, so sad. 
Cleaned fridge: I feel better now

After: What you see there is 3 meals and healthy snacks for the week. Everything is compartmentalized!

The purpose of this particular post is to act as a fresh start; a clean-slate if you will. One of the tasks on my to-do list is to take charge of my blog and not let so much time pass me by before I write another post-- I know, I know you've heard that before. The reason this is all resonating with me is because I'm understanding that when this little baby arrives, I'm going to have to hold on to what gives me joy and makes me ME for dear life. My life will be forever changed by my baby, but I don't want to let go of who I am.

A while back, my sweet husband posted a picture of a ramen bowl I made for dinner and many people ended up asking for a recipe. I STILL HAVEN'T POSTED IT! Don't ask me why. I've continuously used the lame excuse that I need to make it again during the day so I can take a picture with better lighting, yet never got around to it. The point is, I've added that to my to-do list and WILL post it this week. So please stay tuned.

Until then, thank you for listening to my sappy and vulnerable self be real about my kitchen and life thoughts. It's much appreciated.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Pasta Please. Zucchini Will Do.

Like any pregnant woman, most women in general, and even some a couple of you men out there, I've experienced my fair share of cravings. I have yet to experience one of those odd combinations that you hear about-- ice cream + pickles, pop tarts + mayonnaise (yes, apparently that's a thing), etc. However, I have been craving two things (not necessarily at the same time), butter and carbs. "What kind of carbs", you ask? Any really, but mainly potatoes.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not stashed away in a corner gnawing on a loaf of French baguette with a stick of butter in my spare time. I too, have to practice self-control. Because after all, that pish-posh of eating for two is exactly that. Bummer, right? Apparently, women who are pregnant and at a healthy weight only need to add 300 calories to their diet (give or take).  So, for all you women who were looking forward to that day where you don't need to worry about what you stuff into your face when you get pregnant (myself included) I have four words for you: We've been lied to. You actually have to eat the best that you ever have/possibly will. But all is well on the home-front. I no longer fret. It really isn't as difficult as I'm making it sound. If you like produce as much as I do, it's actually quite easy.  You just have to be creative with what you THINK you want, and what your body ACTUALLY wants. Disclaimer: everyone has their slip-ups. "Everything in moderation," I say! See below for proof.

Tonight, I'm planning on making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon-- A dish I equate with gloomy weatherTRIPLE  double the amount) dish-- Zucchini Pasta with Seared Tomatoes.  The recipe took about 5 minutes and just about the same amount of time to eat. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

and a warm house. I'm also planning on making mashed potatoes to go alongside the delicious and time-consuming stew. That being said, I decided to eat healthy for lunch. I made a DELICIOUS (so much that I wish I made

Zucchini Pasta with Seared Tomatoes (Serves 1. Double or triple the recipe if need be)

  • 2 zucchinis, washed well
  • 1 ripe tomato on the vine, sliced in thirds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Pinch of salt, add more if need be
  • Pepper to taste

Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler until the tiniest bit is left. Go ahead and slice the remaining bits to waste not. In a large nonstick pan, heat butter and olive oil at medium-low heat until melted. Be careful not to overheat or else the butter will burn.  Add garlic, then add zucchini. Toss lightly for about 1-2 minutes. Add salt and pepper, toss a couple times more, and add to the serving plate. Immediately add the tomato slices to the pan. Keep the tomatoes sliding on the pan and cook for about a minute on each side until they're golden brown on each side. Place on the zucchini pasta, add parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

New Chapter, New Kitchen

Is there anything more contagious than watching someone thrive and succeed? Think about it-- anytime you watch an inspirational movie, chances are that you leave the theater or the couch that you called home for the last two hours with a sudden "euphoric" feeling inside. You feel an energy that makes you evaluate your own scenario only to realize that you're more capable than you sometimes give yourself credit. This doesn't just have to be in terms of thinking big; making life goals or long-term commitments. It can be as little as successfully following a recipe, sticking to a healthy habit such as taking the stairs at work, etc.

I purchased a new cookbook about a month ago. This cookbook exceeds all the others I own in terms of content, accountability, and downright deliciousness. It's Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I lucked out and found a 50th Anniversary addition which included a beautiful cover that matched the hues in my kitchen, and a short story written by Julia herself as a "thank you" for purchasing the book-- as if the recipes weren't enough.

This cookbook has a deeper meaning (to me) than simply learning how to make Coq Au Vin. It symbolizes taking risks, and being part of something greater you ever imagined.  To steal a line from possibly my favorite movie Julie & Julia (shocker)-- "Julia Child was not always Julia Child".

Does that phrase resonate with you the way it does me? Think about it-- people don't always wake up one day, think of something they want to be, and then magically become it. Life happens along the way. Ups, downs, and everything between make us who we are and who we strive to be.

It is public knowledge (if it wasn't before, it definitely is now) that I will soon be a mother [insert massive smile and quick clapping hands here]. I am fourteen weeks pregnant and feeling better than  ever I have in the last few months, which by the way weren't as bad as they could have been! The idea that my life will change so vastly in six months is a concept that becomes more of a reality with each time I hear our baby's heartbeat--every 4 weeks.

Besides always knowing that I wanted to have a profession in the culinary field, I knew whole-heartily that I wanted to be a mother.  Now that that is happening, I'm beyond excited and eager to see how the roles as a wife, mother, entrepreneur, and foodie mesh.

With that reality, expect new recipes (including homemade baby food), and experiences that will be shared on Christina's Kitchen. It will be an outlet for beautiful, difficult, random, and delicious moments; I do hope that you will join me in my kitchen and on the journey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grown In South Africa...

My heart is so full. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been diligent to tune in to the growth I’ve experienced in South Africa. It is part of the promise to myself to not take such a wonderful experience for granted. As I sit on the balcony facing lush trees that are a shade of green which is yet to be found in Cincinnati, I reflect. I turn 27 in two days.  I slowly sip the strong and pure coffee and nuzzle myself even deeper into my knitted sweater. So, this is the adventure that I was meant to live out during my 26th year?

I recall the weeks leading to our departure from American soil at the beginning of the year, thinking about all the goals I wanted to accomplish—strengthen and tone my body, make friends, draw/paint more, journal every day, cook as much African food as possible, grow in my faith, read more, and travel… a lot.

We leave South Africa this Friday and I am constantly comparing expat-Christina to Cincinnati native-Christina. Besides the fact that I’ve adopted a few South African phrases, and can (in my opinion) imitate the British accent at the drop of a hat, I’m the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown. But it’s still me. I haven’t morphed into a person who can run a half-marathon, or name a dish from every African country. In all honesty, out of all the dishes I’ve cooked here, only three have been from Africa (Ethiopia and Kenya).  In addition, I broke my ankle halfway through our stay which reduced me to sit on my backside for a good 1.5 months. I was hiking the Drakensburg Mont Aux Sources Mountain. The worst part? I had already completed most of the hike and was just shy of 1k away from then car. Tangent—you won’t believe how many random people, after asking what happened, told me I need to make up a new story. First, that’s rude. Second, no thank you, I like my story just fine.

Corkboard map--
DIY Christmas gift for Brian
The other day, Brian asked what goals I accomplished while being here. I bashfully listed off basically everything I did during the day to keep busy. It’s only now that I realize I didn’t do his question justice. I’ve accomplished a goal that I probably would have eventually done in Cincinnati, just not as quickly. I grew more into me. In my experience, to get married young means you grow more as a couple and less as an individual. You learn and experience things as we instead of me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I quite prefer it actually, but I’ve realized that this is the first time in our three-year marriage that I’ve had so much me time.  It has been a delightful way to really understand what my interest, passions, and goals are for life. 

So here is what I’ve learned about me. I love to read. Prior to embarking on this journey, I did not read much. Five months ago, if someone asked me what type of books I enjoy reading, I’d give a generic answer—novels. I now understand why I wasn’t enthusiastic to read, because I don’t prefer novels! My favorite types of books are memoirs and those written by foodies—jackpot if it’s a memoir written by a foodie! If you knew me growing up, you’d know that the last place you’d find me is on a couch curled up with a book. Now, I’m always looking for the next read. 

I enjoy staying fit but not in the let’s go to the gym and run on a treadmill kind of fit. I enjoy activities such as bike riding, walking, tennis, and yoga. Since I’ve been able to stand again, yoga has become a routine. I’ve decided it’s the way I will find strength in my body again.

I have made friends in far places. I realize that there are a handful of women whom I will miss dearly when I leave South Africa. Thank goodness for WhatsApp and Facebook!
Sketch with Knsna, SA on my mind.

I’ve taken up drawing again. This is the perfect activity to channel some of my creativity.  Naturally I’m not the most patient person when it comes to achieving a task. I tend to search for instant gratification and not read directions well. It’s a flaw that I’m working on. I’ve come to see drawing as a practical method to build patience. It’s a very slow task and it takes patience to get the shading and ratios just right. If I want it to look good, I need to take my time and focus on one object at a time. It is good for me to take my time every now and then.

I’ve grown in my faith. You’ll be surprised how much more you prioritize quiet time when you have, well, a lot of quiet time. It’s been a time to reflect and grow not only on my relationship with the Lord, but to also see life and the people in it differently.  I have to thank my dear friend Stephanie for doing the Brave Journey and skyping weekly with me. Every week, a part of home and familiarity is displayed on my computer screen and provides me with comfort.

As wonderful as this experience has been, I think I’m ready to return home. Cincinnati will always be home.