Just about everyday I'm cooking a dinner for my family to enjoy. It's not always the easiest thing to do but it's well worth the trouble to invest in my family's health by cooking at home... and helps save money! My goals are to prepare meals that are healthy, easy, and inexpensive. I also like to incorporate many international style recipes along with traditional American ones to encourage my family to have a wide range of tastes. So, follow me as I cook for my family and share in laughter, love and food!

Buon Appetito! - From my family to yours!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I've MOVED!!

I have moved my site over to wordpress!! For more focus on healthy recipes with frugality in mind check out http://climbinginthekitchen.com  !! I've also got a sample meal plan for getting fit as well as new posts on starting a home garden on the cheap!

Thanks <3 Kristi


Monday, January 14, 2013

The REAL P.F. Changs Lettuce Wraps copy recipe! (with chicken)

Two days ago Danny poured water all over my laptop and the screen has crapped out on me. So bear with me as I type this on the nook and want to tear my hair out because the keyboard sensitivity sucks and I have to press the space bar a million times for it to respond. GRR

I am very motivated to post this though A- because if I dont write down the recipe I will forget and B - because this recipe is so much better than the ones I found online and is SPOT ON. I love it when that happens! Its like a sudden epifany of... hey, I CAN cook!!!

A fellow Navy wife called me at 5pm and asked if I wanted to come over and watch Season 3 of Downton Abbey (heck yea, FREE BATES!!!) but I had to be there soon and was starving and all they had to eat was veggies and hummus. So I got online looked up some lettuce wraps recipes and started to cook! I was there by 6:15 with food in hand and she was pretty surprised, as was I! This recipe is so easy because you dont have to finely chop ANYTHING because you just throw it in the food processor.

Here's the recipe!! Healthy, quick, and satisfying!


1TBS Vegetable oil
1/2 Bag of frozen grilled chicken strips (about 2 cups or 3/4 pd)
1 1/2 cups pre sliced cremini or shitaki mushrooms
Splash of chicken broth

2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/4 cup hoison sauce
2TBS soy sauce
2 tsps of minced ginger ( or a couple shakes of powdered ginger!)
1 TBS rice vinegar
2 tsp asian chili garlic sauce (find it next to the siracha)
1 bunch of green onion chopped (white and light green parts only)
2 small cans of sliced waterchestnuts (8oz total)

1 TBS brown sugar

In a hot pan over medium high heat add oil. Next add chicken and mushrooms. Saute until tender adding a splash of chicken broth as needed to keep it from drying out. 5 min. Add the remaining ingredients and saute until sauce thickens slightly.

Now transfer half of mixture to a food processor and pulse into bits. Pour into your serving dish and pulse the last half.

Serve with lettuce and enjoy!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Fitness Goals for 2013!! - Going from "Average" to "Athlete"

I know this is a food blog but this is a follow up post of my article from last year "How I Got in Shape after Kids, The Healthy Way!" . I was reading that post and I realized I had accomplished most my fitness goals. Wow! It's weird to think doing a 5K and climbing 5.9-5.10 solid were my goals because now that I can do them I realize I need to update my goals for the coming year! I think this post will relate to many people that are setting new fitness goals themselves. If you're trying to shed baby weight this year read the post above! If you are trying to take your level of fitness up a notch and you are already a healthy weight, keep reading!

I just realized this post is SUPER long so here's the main points:
If you are a healthy weight but looking to get in peak shape it is more complicated and difficult.
1. Go to your local gym and get a Body Composition Test and Fitness Assessment.
2. Figure out your specific goal.
3. Figure out exactly what you are going to change to reach that goal with both diet and exercise.

(Here is a recent photo I got taken of me shortly after reaching my fitness goals. Idk why I'm so shy about posting full body photos of myself...but it kinda weirds me out!!)

Since that post last March I've kept a very regular range of 110-115pds. (Usually I am 112pds) This is obviously a very healthy average weight for me. (I am 5'2'') Now that I have reached a regular healthy weight and met my fitness goals I've started to wonder..now what? If I don't have a visible goal to work for I get lazy. So I asked myself what do I want to accomplish? For one, I want to be able to run longer and faster. I'd like to make a goal to run a 10K which I have never done. I'd also still like to do a sprint tri as well as do more lead climbing.

One thing I know about climbing is that weight to muscle ratio is very important. This is why professional climbers are never bulky. Lean yet muscular is the way to be for long multi-pitch endurance routes which is what Alex and I enjoy to do. So the first thing I decided I need to do was get an in-depth calculation of my body fat percentage and go from there.

First I went to my gym, the YMCA and completed a free fitness assessment and body comp. Through this I learned a lot about myself that can't be seen on a scale alone. I learned that my bone density is a bit low so I should be taking calcium. I also learned that my body fat percentage was 23.5% and I am a #5 Physique Rating (Shown below) This kinda sucks because it means I need to slim down a bit as well as put on more muscle...makes me wish I was a #7!! Dang you skinny people!

Physique Ratings

1. Small Frame Obese
Hidden Obese ("Skinny Fat")  
2. Medium Frame Obese  
3. Large Frame Obese
Solidly Built
4. Low Muscle &
Average Body Fat Under Exercised

5. Average Muscle &
Average Body Fat
6. High Muscle & Average
Body Fat (Athlete)
standard Muscular

7 Thin Low Muscle &
Low Fat

8 Thin & Muscular (Athlete)
Thin & Muscular

9 Very Muscular (Athlete)
Very Muscular

After looking at that and doing a bit of research I found that an athletic body fat percentage is between 14-20%. Also on the physique rating a #8 means you have lower than average body fat and adequate muscle. A #9 is lower than average body fat and higher than average muscle. Those were the only two "Athlete" categories. This has helped me to narrow down my goal for what it is going to take to get into that "Athlete" category. (As a side note I never plan on making 14% my goal. I'll be shooting for 20%)

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart1 Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be?

I thought this diagram was pretty cool because this body type looked very similar to mine. (Mesomorph Body Type) If you are not sure about your body type you should research that! It will help you to learn more about yourself and set realistic goals based on your body type. Most models are ectomorphs not mesomorphs but most of the population are mesomorphs...true!

Here is a great resource that gives information on body shapes vs. body types and what it means for you.


And a calculator for those that love quizzes:


Now..whats the plan??

Most people when making fitness goals find out what they need to change but don't make a concrete plan of how to do it. If your answer to how your going to get in shape sounds like, "I'm going to go to the gym more." or "I'm going to eat clean" your most likely not going to keep it up for long. If you want to reach a goal it's much easier with specifics such as "I will run ___ times a week for a total of ___ miles and do interval weight training ___ times."

After doing a TON of research as well as FINALLY popping in my p90x CD that I've had for 3 years I am totally inspired! One thing I love to do is find patterns in things and apply that in my own way. One major pattern I've noticed in ALL fitness programs is eating a low-carb diet. No I'm not talking about Atkins Diet stuff and going into Ketosis and all that crazy crap. I'm talking about simply being more aware of the amount of carbohydrates I eat. Paleo, P90X, Nutrisystem, Sarah Dussault of sarafit.com, Jillian Michaels and many more all have lower carb intake as a normal part of their meal plans. If you look closer into P90X's nutrition plan it doesn't bump up the amount of carbs until you have reach an Athletic physique. And only for the sole purpose of being able to push the body even harder and further! So really, unless you are an elite athlete you should be carb conscious...for life!! This is NOT a short term diet!

This is phase 1 of the P90X nutrition plan based on your energy level. I like this because it can be applied to anything you eat.

I know this might be too much information BUT after doing this for a couple weeks I started to get confused. I looked at nutrition labels like crazy and would read, "Carbohydrates - 20g 7%" OMG that's a lot of carbs! But then I started to wonder what is a lot of carbs in grams? This is what I found:

<50g carbs = fast weightloss, Ketosis, Atkins Diet
50-100g carbs = moderate weightloss, Paleo, healthy
100-150g carbs = gradual weightloss, healthy


So I'm going to aim for that 50-100g because as I have talked about before, I truly feel like anything that allows for fast weightloss is either not healthy or is weight you will put back on easily when you stop as in fasting for example.

Through all this research and defining my own goals I have come up with my own meal plan complete with original recipes and photos which I am currently working on and will post soon! And guess what?? It's FREE!! LOL I think it's funny that if you try to look up these fitness guru's meal plans they cost $$. I guess everyone has to make money somehow... but seeing as I'm not famous yet...you can have my meal plan for 0$! Now that's a good deal hahaha. Basically I started this because as a foodie, I've got a big problem... I have to eat food that tastes good. I know...sounds crazy. But after trying to make some of the foods from P90X and others I was grossed out and unsatisfied! One fitness guru I love is Sarah Dussault from sarafit.com. She is so real and seems so approachable. I can see how she has gotten so popular! BUT her recipes?? Not so good. Her pancakes are always burnt (medium heat honey!!) and all the recipes with canned tuna is just totally EW!! I know I sound like a food snob but in a way I kinda AM!! I like food that is fresh and delicious and I'll be bringing that to YOU with my own kitchen tested healthy recipes!

So in a nutshell, am I happy with my body? YES! I love my body, and yes it has many flaws, and I'm not trying to look like someone else. But with my goals being to get in even better shape and go from "average" to "athlete" these are the changes I'm making to get there! Like Jenzten Franklin always said, "If you want something you've never had, you've got to do something you've never done!"
Wish me luck and good luck to all of you in your journeys to reach your own fitness goals this year!!

I would love to hear your comments or questions or just hear about your own goals for 2013!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Paula Deen's Shrimp and Grits

First, I have to say a big THANK YOU to Howie Merkel for giving us tons of fresh Spotted Prawns, Halibut and Salmon from Alaska! It's such a wonderful gift to be able to enjoy seafood that we know where it came from! Couldn't get any better!

That being said, get the best shrimp you can for this dish. I used spotted prawns which are the largest species of shrimp harvested in the US and are slightly sweet. I'd been wanting to try this recipe from the Paula Deen and Friends cookbook and it didn't let me down! I felt like I was back in Georgia for a moment!

This recipe is cool because you can serve it as a meal or as tapas/hors d'oeuvres. Enjoy!!

  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup butter (I used only 2 TBS butter)
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I used 1 cup White Cheddar)
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, left whole if small and roughly chopped if medium or large
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced


1. To make the shrimp and grits recipe, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the grits and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well with a whisk. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cook the grits until all the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Keep covered until ready to serve.
2. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned and crisp, then drain on a paper towel. (This is where I poured out almost all the bacon grease and added some vegetable oil. It cuts down on the Saturated fat but still leaves that irreplacable taste of cooking with bacon grease!) Add the shrimp to the bacon grease in the skillet and saute over medium heat just until they turn pink, about 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook! Immediately add the lemon juice, parsley, green onions, and garlic. Remove the skillet from the heat.
3. Pour the grits into a serving bowl. Pour the shrimp mixture over the grits. Garnish with the bacon bits and grated parm if desired.
Note: If you are serving this as an appetizer, spoon 1/4 cup grits onto a bread or salad plate. Top with 1/4 cup of the shrimp mixture. Garnish with a sprinkling of crisp bacon bits and serve immediately.

Simple Homemade Gingerbread House Recipe

I know this recipe is late but store it in your recipe box for next year! I took a special trip to Target to get a premade gingerbread house, but of coarse, they were sold out. (It always seems that when I go somewhere to get ONE thing they don't have it!!) So in that moment of sadness as I loaded Mason and Danny into the car, we decided we were going to make "our OWN freaking gingerbread house and it's going to be the best gingerbread house EVER!!!! Muahahaha!!" Yes I can get crazy after going into any store with my two toddlers.
I chose this recipe, simply because I didn't have any baking soda. Also, it looked easy because it required no heating of ingredients like many other recipes I looked at. I thought it was going to be a dud but I was totally AMAZED! The dough tasted soo yummy I couldn't get the kids (and Alex) to stop eating it. It held its shape in the oven so well and really it came out perfect.
I was inspired by this artist's gingerbread house. It was so easy. I only had to make two shapes out of paper and cut them out. Also you don't have to wait to decorate because it's already really sturdy. You can get as fancy as you want with it!
Here's the recipe!


  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 Tbsp water


Make the Gingerbread Dough

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.
2 Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.
3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.
4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

Make the Gingerbread House Pieces

1 Preheat oven to 350°F, with the oven rack in the middle. Have several flat cookie sheets ready, preferably ones that you know will not warp in the oven heat.
2 Divide the dough in two. Spread parchment paper or wax paper on a large flat surface for rolling. Dust the paper lightly with flour. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an even thickness of 1/4-inch. Add a little flour to the surface of the dough, and check for sticking as you roll it out. If it sticks to either your rolling pin or the rolling surface, dust with more flour. If the rolled out dough is very soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out the patterns.
3 Rub a little flour over the surface of the dough. Place the pattern pieces on the dough, as many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough. Use a small sharp knife to cut out the pattern pieces from the dough, wiping the knife surface clean frequently. Depending on how soft the dough is, you may need to use scissors to cut the wax paper or parchment paper. You can cut out the patterns through the dough and parchment paper, placing the dough pieces with the paper directly on the cookie sheets. If you are not using parchment paper or wax paper, you may need to use a large metal spatula to transfer the dough pieces to a greased cookie sheet. Space the pieces on the cookie sheet an inch apart from each other. If dough pieces stretch during the transfer process, push them back into shape.
You can cut out a door and window(s) at this point, or you can wait until after baking, soon after the pieces have come out of the oven while the cookies are still warm.
4 Bake in a 350°F oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, 11-15 minutes for the large pieces, 6-8 minutes for the small pieces. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through the baking for more even browning. Remove the sheets to racks to cool, about 15 minutes.
While the pieces are still slightly warm, lay the pattern pieces over them and use a large straight chef's knife to trim off any parts of the pieces that have through cooking spread beyond the pattern.
Remove pieces to cool directly on racks to cool completely.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Roasted Pork Loin with a Fig & Port Wine Sauce


Christmas is in the air and I CAN NOT wait to make this recipe in much the same way as I can't wait for Christmas! I think having my boys get to the age where they understand what Christmas is gets me excited again as I remember how magical it was for me when I was a little girl. I'm also excited that this year I (hopefully) won't have to put my ornaments a third of the way up the tree!! We will see!!

Anyway this is one of my ALL TIME favorite recipes and is perfect for anytime you want to make something a little extra special. I've made this pork loin two times before and have decided it is the perfect Christmas Eve meal! The warm aromas of rosemary remind me of the rosemary trees you find at Pikes during the holidays. Also, the fig and port wine sauce is so comforting it's perfect for a cold winter night. It's also very straight forward, but no one has to know...trust me, they will be impressed!

Pair this with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes or wild rice.

Recipe Courtesy Giada Laurentiis
Photo: thekitchenpoet.wordpress.com


  • 2 1/2 cups port
  • 1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 dried black Mission figs, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning
  • 1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 (4 to 4 1/2-pound) boneless pork loin


For the sauce: In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the first 6 ingredients. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Discard the herb sprigs and cinnamon sticks (some of the rosemary leaves will remain in the port mixture). Transfer the port mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Blend in the butter. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)
For the pork: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Stir the oil, rosemary, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a small bowl to blend. Place the pork loin in a heavy roasting pan. Spread the oil mixture over the pork to coat completely. Roast until an instant read meat thermometer inserted into the center of the pork registers 145 degrees F, turning the pork every 15 minutes to ensure even browning, about 45 minutes total.
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. Let the pork rest 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the chicken broth into the roasting pan. Place the pan over medium heat, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Bring the pan juices to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Using a large sharp knife, cut the pork crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the pork slices on plates. Spoon the jus over. Drizzle the warm fig sauce around and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving: What's On Your Table?

Now that Halloween is over Thanksgiving is fast approaching and with only one week until the biggest cooking day of the year I'm sure many of you are starting to plan (if you like me) or you have already bought everything and have it organized neatly in your pantry (not like me! lol). Whatever type of person you are organized or not - planner or procrastinator - Thanksgiving can get get pretty darn hectic especially in those last few hours.  But all the craziness is worth is for the relaxing meal to follow filled with comfort foods that make you forget how stressed out you might've been as you enter a slow and debilitating food coma.

I can't wait!

Anyway, I'm going to share with you a couple of things that will be on our table and drum roll please....I'll be sharing with you a couple of super secret recipes that make it onto the table year after year, because they're just that good!!

So here they are!!

#1: Sooo Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole1

This stuff is so decadent I could eat it for dessert!
This is recipe passed down in our family for years. Everyone always says that it is the best they've ever tasted, and if you look at the ingredients you will see why! :)


1 40oz can sweet potatoes/yams
2 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 stick softened butter

Place all ingredients in a large mixer bowl and mix until it is all blended. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish.


1 cup brown sugar
2 TBS all purpose flour
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2-1 cup small chopped pecans

Sprinkle brown sugar on sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle flour over brown sugar. Next layer pecans over flour and lastly pour melted butter over all. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

#2: Mammaw's Southern Style Broccoli Casserole
Mammaw's Broccoli Casserole beats Paula Deen's version HANDS DOWN! (Trust me, I've tried both!) You can't go wrong with the recipe, it is just the best and that's it!
4 pounds frozen, chopped broccoli
1 small onion or 1/2 onion finely chopped
3/4 Velveeta cheese, chopped
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 - 1 stick butter
1 tube ritz crackers, crumbled
Cover broccoli and onion with water and bring to a bowl over medium-high heat. Simmer until very tender, almost falling apart. Drain.
In a medium-size saucepan heat the cheese, soup, and pepper until melted. Add soup mixture to broccoli and gently mix together. Pour into a large casserole dish.
Melt butter in the microwave.
Mix crushed crackers with melted butter and spread on top of broccoli.
Cook in 375 degree oven until bubbly (about 35 minutes).
#3 Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie
I made this pie for the first time last year and was a hybrid of a couple recipes. I will be making it again without a doubt. It took pecan pie to a whole 'nother level!!

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup of butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of pecan pieces/chopped pecans
  • 1 unbaked pastry shell (fit into a 9-inch deep dish pie plate)


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Fit the unbaked pastry shell into the pie plate.

3. Combine the sugar, light corn syrup and butter in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until butter melts and sugar dissolves.

4. Cool slightly.

5. Beat the eggs, bourbon, vanilla and salt in a large bowl.

6. Gradually add the sugar mixture, beating well with a wire whisk.

7. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.

8. Pour into the pastry shell.

9. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until set