Monday, June 20, 2011


Edinburgh welcomed us back with grey skies and gale force winds, but a short train ride deposited us in picturesque Pitlochry, Scotland for a work retreat.  

Near to our lodging was the Atholl Castle Hotel - I know it's immature, but this name kills me every time.

I love this massive tree; it reminds me of the Keira Knightly "Pride and Prejudice" - anyone else?

And retreat it was except for the jet lag still holding onto us for dear life.

Train ride back from Pitlochry to Edinburgh

Once we were home again (Edinburgh), we jumped back into the swing of things.  Our friend, Heather, came over while we unpacked, we went to church, had Sunday lunch with new and dear friends, hung out in the garden, and after I put Seth down for bed, I sat down to do my online grocery order (I got a new stroller for Seth's 1st b-day from Taylor's side of the family - it's amazing, but has a significantly smaller basket:)).  Before I could start ordering, I had to plan out my menu for soup night to avoid having  to go to the grocery store multiple times.  (Taylor is laughing at this point because no matter how well I plan, this is unavoidable for me - can we say, Achilles Heel?)

Summer and soup doesn't really work in Texas unless you're making Gazpacho, so in honor of the idea of a hot summer, I chose that for my vegetarian/lactose intolerant option, and Chicken Taco Soup for my everybody else option.

I started systematically going through the ingredients for each recipe, adding items to my virtual shopping cart (or "trolley" as they say it here).  I was doing pretty well until I reached "1-16oz can of Ranch Style Beans".  I knew it was pointless, but I thought I'd see if just maybe Sainsbury's happened to them.  Just in case.

Not so much.

Still suffering from jet lag, I may have overreacted a bit at this point.  (But c'mon! How am I supposed to live in a place that has no Ranch Style Beans?  It's criminal!)  I wallowed a bit and complained to Taylor who proceeded to tell me to use different beans instead.  Different beans?  Ranch Style Beans makes this recipe.  It wasn't even worth making if I couldn't find the key ingredient!

All of a sudden it came to me.

Google it!

 I was sure that I could find the recipe to make the gravy of Ranch Style Beans myself.  And thanks to the "Homesick Texan Blog" I could.  I read through her blog post commiserating with her as I read but ecstatic that I had found such a great resource!  Before I could get too excited, I read the first ingredient: ancho chiles.


If I can't find Ranch Style Beans, I was probably going to have just as much trouble finding ancho chiles too.  Ever the optimist, I typed it in the Sainsbury's search box anyway.

Not so much.

I sighed to myself killing the dream of being able to properly make one of my favorite soups for my neighbors and listened to my husband.  Black beans it would be.

And, guess what?  Soup Night was still a success.  My gracious neighbors didn't seem to mind the lack of Ranch Style yumminess. And besides, they're from Cali, Rhode Island, Kansas, Croatia, Venezuela, and Iran - they have no idea about Ranch Style Beans in the first place.  Ignorance really is bliss I guess.

Some even asked for the recipe.

Thanks y'all!

Chicken Taco Soup:

Serves 4 to 6 people

I originally got this recipe from my friend, former social studies department colleague, and wonderful cook, Bobbie.  I think it originally comes from though I have adapted it some.

1/2 c diced onions
1/2 c diced green bell pepper
1 T minced garlic
vegetable oil
1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 package taco seasoning (I use Old El Paso low sodium)
8oz salsa (I make my own)
1-14oz can of corn (I use frozen, just make sure soup simmers long enough so that it's not cold from the corn!)
1-16oz can Ranch Style Beans (or black if you live in the UK:))
2-4oz cans of tomato paste (it's called tomato puree if you live in the UK)
2-14oz cans of chicken broth (I use vegetable too sometimes - I don't notice a difference in taste...use what you have on hand)
1-8oz package of cream cheese (I use 1/3 fat instead of full fat)

Saute onions, bell pepper and garlic in veg oil.  Add all ingredients but cream cheese.

Place cream cheese in a separate bowl and pour hot soup over to melt cheese.  Add to soup.  Simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Garnish with tortilla chips, cheese, and avocado if you like though it needs no garnish!  Yum!

I have no photos of this soup - but here are some cute ones of Ruby and Seth at Soup Night...

Don't miss Seth's shout out to Texas.
Even if we can't have Ranch Style Beans, we will still sport the pearl snaps.

I guess Ruby prefers Clif Bars over Chicken Taco Soup...

The first time I made this recipe was our first year of marriage back at the genesis of Soup Night. I fell in love with this soup, but Taylor wasn't too crazy about it.  I think his response was,

"Cold soup?  I don't get it."

Due to the fact that it is so time consuming, and Taylor didn't love it, I never made it again till now.  It was well worth the time put in. Taylor even loved it!  It's very fresh, healthy, and summery.  This recipe is adapted slightly from Ina Garten.   You can find the original recipe here on as well as in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Serves 4 to 6 people

1 cucumber, halved and seeded though not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves minced
3 c tomato juice
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 T salt
1t pepper

Roughly chop cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion into 1-in cubes.  Put each veg separately into food processor and pulse till coarsely chopped - don't over process!

After each veg is processed, combine them into a large bowl and add garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper.  Mix well and chill before serving.  The longer it sits, the better!

Here are all of my food processed veggies  before I added the rest of the ingredients and mixed.
I love all of the colors!
Oh yeah, and make sure you have a big enough bowl - it makes mixing it less tricky.  And believe me after laboriously chopping and processing all  of those veggies, you morn every piece that gets stirred out of the bowl and accidentally onto the floor.  Not that I did that.

Y'all enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Re-Cap in (Mostly) Pictures

Why I've been M.I.A....

We visited London with great friends, Elise and Jonathan, helping me cross off an item at the top of my "Bucket List."  


This may have been a TOP 3 trip for me. Thanks for all of the suggestions on my "London Town" post; however, due to our accommodation location (stone's throw from St. James Palace!!!), we stayed in that part of town, so I didn't make it to the Tower of London or St. Paul's Cathedral.  All that means is I must return soon!  (My mom and I are already planning a short trip in July!)

Buckingham Palace

Trafalgar Square

Hyde Park
 Jonathan and Tay (by Buckingham Palace)
Eating crepes with Elise
Close to Kensington Palace

View of St. James Palace from our balcony!

Quintessential London

Westminster Cathedral - a week after the royal wedding!
More Westminster
Big Ben - Taylor got to go sit in on Parliament!

Seth at Big Ben - what a ham!  
Seth's favorite thing he saw all day
He even managed to stick his finger up the horse's nose.  I don't think the horse's rider was a big fan!
Whitehall Banquet Room

I love how you can find Texas anywhere - it really is that big y'all.
Thanks Jonathan and Elise for a wonderful vacation made so not only by the fun location, but by the company!

After an intense plane ride (London to Houston, 9 and 1/2 hours, with a mobile and extremely energetic 11 month old, all. by. myself. Did I mention I was ALL BY MYSELF!?), we made it to hot and sunny Houston where Seppy was happily handed over to ecstatic grandparents.  Under the circumstances - no morning nap, all day flight - Seth really did pretty well.  Didn't God bless mothers with such short memories for things like this?  Otherwise, we'd still be in Houston.

Our time was glorious though too short.

Seth and Cousin Caroline

Seth and Uncle Craig

Emry and Seth checking out the dogs.  Seth learned the word "dog" after being in Houston for only one day.

"Liddy, I'll trade you this phone for those keys.  Whaddya think?"
"Not happening Sethers."

"Kim!  She won't give me the keys!"

Bobbing for cheerios.
Why use your hands when you can use your whole face?  What can we say?  We both love dogs.

 Celebrating Jason's 40th!!

Seth and Lizzie - headed to the pool

Seth and Tutu

Seth with Aunt Kait

Seth and Seanair

I love Dada's hats!

Mom and her crazy baby bangs (phenomenon explained here for the uninitiated)!

Twins with Dada

Seth with Aunt Susu and Caroline with Uncle Tay Tay

We love our pacis!

11 month pictures in the rose garden thanks to Seanair (photographer) and Popsie (rose expert)

Absolute fave

Family shot (coordination with backdrop was coincidental!)

Other fave

Baker, Kellam, and Ince clans headed to the pool

Sweet Caroline

Distracted by Kaitlyn jumping off the diving board

Birthday boy (well not quite yet, but he doesn't know that!)

Seth and Popsie

"I am one!  I am the boss!"

"Happy Birthday to me!"

Tutu and Seanair

Uncle Nate

Popsie and Mia

We loved being with our Houston family and friends!  And I have to say, our flawless plane ride back caused to me reconsider ever taking him on an airplane again.  He slept the entire flight from Newark to Edinburgh. PTL!