Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related


for the love of food

heartstrings and hamstrings and the feels in between…


christ on a cupcake, it’s been eighteen months since my last blog… and these are my confessions.  i’m not sure i’ll discuss food in this post, food for thought, yes.  OK maybe i’ll get to my gardening, which i’m digging majorly by the way.  i haven’t produced enough to warrant canning of any sort, but perhaps next year.   at this point i’m consuming all that i grow, cooking it into sauces and fresh salsas and gifting friends.   it brings me smiles.  many things do, even after they’ve ended, and that brings me to my musings today.  i continue to date, post divorce, and i’m two years in at this point!  oh the fun i’ve had!  i’ve gotten my heart broken a few times, one in particular left a scar i still trace my finger along from time to time.  tis life… and it is what it was.  or so that’s what he says.

these days i’m manifesting something compatible, with some light, feel good, easy vibes…  and slowly.  it literally almost feels TOO easy… which ironically was what i’ve been praying for.  it’s new for me, indeed.  i like it.  that being said,  i’m paying close attention to my head and heart, and certain emotions that sometimes get the best of me.  i’ve owned up to some lingering feelings – and i’m slowly closing some doors, even if only an inch at a time.  it’s the pace my heart can handle right now, even though my head is being super bossy and always reminds me of why i needed to detour in the first place.  i’m embracing the pace yo.  sometimes love has a way of putting people on a pedestal, one even higher than they may place themselves… and perhaps forever there they’ll live… idyllically high,  even when you’ve witnessed their repeated falls from grace.   the beauty lies in successfully awakening to your self worth, and loving yourself enough to do the right thing – even when it stings like a mother.

my journey has been interesting, that’s for sure… two years in and continually learning each day.  i build and grow off of the lows,  ride the highs until the wheels fall off, and then log the lessons in my mental and physical journals.  i could seriously write a book.  i’ve realized it takes about 7 dates to begin to see someone’s true colors.  which is usually about when i duck out it seems!  bible: everyone is on their best behavior dates 1 to 4.  i’ve remained friends with so many,  it’s beginning to be my personal joke.  those fellas, and they know who they are… still text me, send pics, still joke, ask after me on a regular, and still respect my advice on many things including their lady troubles!  i love it.  they’re my tribe.  we shared a genuine connection, and just because it didn’t work out for whatever reason, we both still enjoyed the friend vibe greatly and held that shit near and dear! friends are such a gift.  i don’t trust people who have no friends.  there’s usually a reason.  life doesn’t always allow for the social life we all dream up in our heads,  but i can say for sure that i have a whole handful of girlfriends and guy friends that i could ask for darn near anything and they’d be there in my time of need.   that is ‘blessed’ my friends.  when you put yourself out there,  heart on your sleeve, vibes raw and unapologetic… you’ll be shocked at what you can manifest.  for anyone who is just breaking into the dating scene, or who’s been out of it for a spell and thinking of hopping back in… my free advice to you:  be yourself.  don’t make excuses.  put in the time, even when you’re exhausted.  be honest, even when it hurts.  don’t settle.  ever.  guard your heart, but don’t build walls around it.  let it out to play on a regular basis, and get good at repairing it.  pick up a mate that enjoys many of the same things as you, but still can pull you out of your comfort zone and make you squirm sometimes.  trust your gut.  don’t try to change or fix people.  they’re perfect for someone else… just not you.  hahaha!!  listen to what they aren’t saying… and hear that shiz.  don’t fall in love with someone’s potential.  fall madly in love with yourself first… otherwise that door is locked to someone else.  as soon as you feel a connection,  buy small thoughtful gifts, consistently.  say i miss you if you do.   men are born to pursue women, let them.  journal… you’ll forget mishaps and the fucked up shit people will do… but the journal will remind you.

they say there’s a lid for every pot.  i’m ready to cook up something wonderful  and everlasting over a slow and low heat.   no more flash searing and ending up burned.  hell, i’m a seasoned chef at this point.  i know my recipe for success and it’s been tweaked and revised over the past two years.  the joy of cooking!  let’s eat!


peace and love.  spags.

a bit on spiritual eating… and one spicy and spectacular sausage and lentil stew.


ok… I know what you’re thinking… sausage and lentil stew?  how good could it be?  TRUST me… it is beyond good. Tis amazing.  absolutely bursting with flavor in every bite, super duper healthy and full of vitamin rich ingredients!  best of all… very easy to prepare, so that most anyone can whip this up on a weeknight, no problemo.   this freezes wonderfully in small 16oz containers… making for stellar lunches at any given time, or a quick little dinner for a willing friend.   I love feeding others.  it’s my thing.  I love to hear what they say about the dish… how much they enjoyed it… and it makes me smile knowing I was able to nourish another, physically… but possibly mentally as well.  allow me to spill on that a bit.  people are busy.  we all have jobs, maybe kids, pets, homes, bills, cars,  the list goes on.  when you make time to see and connect with friends and family in your life… you’re saying something.  you’re letting that person know that they are important.  they are a priority.  their presence in your life, hopefully, brings you comfort and joy.  it’s why you make time, right?  do me a favor.  think back to the last noteworthy home cooked meal you may have had with say, your mom… or your sibling… or a significant other… that food, more than likely, was prepared with love.   when you cook with love and compassion and your soul is happy… all of that shows up in your dish.  ie: the people who eat it can feel that shit.  it is a mindful practice… where the cook is thinking fondly on those who will consume their dish… and they long to nourish that person inside and out… it becomes almost a spiritual culinary experience.  taste goes beyond flavor.  it involves all of the senses… sight, smells, sounds, touch and texture… the company for the meal…  your head space as you nosh… right??  all of it plays a role in your food experience.  are you sad? are you content? are you rushed? are you relaxed??  all of these affect the taste.   I love this… and it’s why I love feeding others.  it is also… why I love foods that require one utensil.  soups, stews, shallow bowls full of rice or pasta swimming in deliciously flavorful sauces.  things that can be eaten with one spoon, or one fork.  things that can be carried to a favorite chair or couch or beside a fire… and enjoyed with both hands… one holding the vessel, and the other doing the work to bring food to mouth.  easy.  comforting. simple, but memorable.  these are the types of foods I enjoy sharing with others.   experiment with your dining experiences, and notice the way food tastes differently in various settings.  I can be by a bonfire on a crisp cool night with a few friends and a few beers… and the hot dog I roast over the flame can taste better than a fancy steak almost every damn time.  it’s the setting.  the vibe.  pizza on a rooftop patio with Edison lights strung about vs. inside the sterile pizza shop in a tomato red booth with fluorescent lighting.  food on vacation vs. food after a stressful work meeting…  we know the answer to that.  don’t even get me started on music…. haaha!   food is love.  feel the love yo.  anyway…. enjoy this stew.



a little  over a pound of bulk (loose) hot sausage

cup of dried lentils (cooked according to package directions)

half of a butternut squash, peeled and diced (or buy it pre packaged and already prepped)

two large carrots (peeled and diced)

two large stalks of celery (leaves included: diced)

three cloves of garlic, chopped or minced

one large onion, diced

one bell pepper (red, yellow or orange)

one 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

one 14oz can chicken broth

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 heaped tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of turmeric

Prepare all vegetables.  Wash, peel, chop and set aside in a large bowl.  You will be adding them all at once, so don’t worry about keeping them separate.  This way, once your stew gets rolling and you brown your sausage, you’ll be ready to add them.  if you’ve never prepped a BN squash, lop off the top and bottom with a sharp, sturdy knife and stand it on it’s bottom.  Carefully cut it straight down the middle top to bottom.  Spoon out seeds and discard.  with a vegetable peeler, carefully peel off the outer layer of skin.  you are now ready to chop it up into bite sized chunks.  you could also buy pre peeled and chopped “ready to cook” if you are feeling lazy.

cook lentils as per package. drain and set aside.

add a generous swirl of olive oil in your favorite dutch oven.  turn on your flame and begin to brown you sausage, careful not to burn.  break it up with your spatula and stir frequently.  once you are sure it is browned and cooked through, remove it onto a place with a slotted spoon, keeping juice and grease in the dutch oven.  you will be cooking your veggies in this grease. set aside.  add your vegetables and cook over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  add a can of crushed tomatoes and a can of chicken broth and all of your spices.  stir together to combine. bring up to a boil.  add your sausage back in and stir to combine.  turn heat down to medium low and cover it, letting it simmer for about ten minutes. uncover, stir, and check your carrots and celery for doneness. cook few mins longer if necessary.  once these are cooked to your liking, cut the heat and add in the cooked lentils. stir once more and serve it up! I like to add a large handful of chopped fresh parsley.  fine without though. Enjoy! you will enjoy this stew for days… I’ve even been known to eat it for a late breakfast.   for the most part… pretty easy… and very very comforting…  the way life SHOULD be, if we’re doing it right.

peace and love.  spags.



taking it back… simplifying and satisfying

settle in… i’m about to be on a roll…

in a world of instant conversations, voice to text phone capabilities, and watching the three scrolling dots for the rest of the conversation to be typed… it’s easy to get caught up in the hurried pace of everyday life.  it’s easy to get stuck there on a daily, actually.  marching forward through your day, refueling with Starbucks mid afternoon,  texting home for updates or eta’s, updating your Facebook status (telling 479 people how you’re ‘feeling’ via a smileyface and one word)… all of this… minute by minute… hour by hour.  we are enveloped by information via technology every waking hour on a daily.  a sound emitted from a purse across the room can signal an event, or incoming information… causing us to scurry over like tiny lab rats and press and swipe for enlightenment.  sometimes, frankly, it’s all a bit much for me.  look around you in a waiting room nowadays.  magazines sit… untouched… as 80 percent of those sit, staring at their phones- completely oblivious to happenings around and beside them.  their dainty fingers scrolling, scrolling- or furiously typing with thumbs.  man and woman sit across from one another in restaurants, with nary a word between them… staring at their phones.  hubby and i have witnessed it, many a datenite…. and actually have fun doing so.  it is funny and sad, all at the same time.  sometimes, and i can’t speak for everyone obviously- but sometimes i long to really connect with others.  more than the written word can offer.  WAY more.  to hear and see and smell someone in front of me- and just talk.  -and i’m not talking about a big production where you have to get together and go out for a bite or a sip… i’m sometimes talking about just a random joe as you wait in line at the grocery store.  making a comment on something in their cart- throwing them a bone and seeing if they bite.  those tiny three minute conversations i’ve had with people in line at Whole Foods sometimes have been known to lead me to my next book choice, or a new way to roast vegetables, or a new cafe i hadn’t heard of.  i feel like we are losing this act of conversation in today’s society, and it saddens me greatly.  granted, we all have days where we would be happy if we didn’t have to talk to anyone, and could hide in bed all day watching Frazier re-runs and eating Fritos- licking our fingers between grabs. (guilty, true story.)  i get that.   it’s the fact that we are all in such a hurry most of the time that brings me down.  hurry through the ATM, swipe and go at the gas pump, enter your order for a sandwich without having to say two words to anyone (well maybe two- thank you – that’s two) – bag your own groceries- swipe your card- use a toll road- zoom through with your computerized pass- zoom zoom ZIP…  embrace the pace. where did all the small talk go?  for me, i find this fast paced life a bit toxic at times.  there are days where i truly feel myself being sapped of healthy energy,  and sadly most of those times it is when i am at work as a nurse- lol.  it’s not that i don’t enjoy nursing and helping others- actually-  quite the contrary.  it’s the logistics that get me down. the charting, the paperwork, the hurrying, the worry about wait times and quick, expeditious visits, all in the name of the almighty dollar.  many of my favorite nursing tasks are the ones that cannot be hurried.  inserting an IV into a patient for hydration, irrigating their ears to clear the wax,  cleansing and dressing a bad wound, removing sutures, applying a splint to a fractured limb.  just yesterday i had a lovely patient who told me i had the most calming demeanor and an amazing touch.  it was a meaningful comment in the middle of a ‘HURRY UP’ busy shift.  WAY meaningful.   i long to slow down… often.  i long for simple, easy days doing things i love.  i long to mother my children the way my mother – mothered ME.  taking time to read stories… eating lunch at two because we were so involved in coloring and creating and loving and laughing and snuggling that we forgot what time it was.  too happy to feel hunger.  that’s a good place to be my friends.  i find myself there when i’m sewing sometimes, or when i’m writing.  i forget to eat.  when i am home, i am in my zone.  i love my house with a part of me most will never know or meet.  my home is my center. my balance.  i knew it about ten minutes into the showing when we first looked at it.  hubby and i went home that night- looked at eachother- and i think we separately knew we had just fallen in love.  with a house.  he had dreams about it for several nights, as did i.   i drew a picture of it the next morning over coffee with colored pencils from memory. (which i still have)  come to find out, the previous owner did the SAME THING the day after she and her partner looked at the house prior to buying.  the house is enchanting, and i honestly feel that the house picks its owners.  each of them grabbing it with two hands and transforming it in the image of themselves.  it happened.  and it continues to happen as my creativity catches fire each day i’m off and at home.  healthy behavior and a balanced mind come from our inner selves.  deep deep within… where your quirks and fears huddle.  the most important thing you can do for yourself, and for your well-being is to figure out what makes you HAPPY. i mean, reeeaallllly  figure it out.  and then (and this is the hard part in our modern lives) MAKE ROOM FOR IT.   no excuses.  make room and time for it.  be selfish.  tell people NO once in a while. you can’t be all things to all people and make everyone happy.  it’s impossible and you will kill your spirit doing it.  carve out time for yourself.  when you find something you love doing, do it.  do it often.  for me it is cooking.  for me, it is food.  i like to talk about food. i like to write about food. i like to prepare food.  i like to photograph food and arrange it in a visually appealing manner.  i’ve been laughed at, believe me.  but i don’t bat an eye.  to me, food is art.  it is art that fuels us, body and soul.   most of all… i love to EAT. GOOD. FOOD.   of my many varied interests, (and i have many) – food trumps them all.  i challenge each of you to find your inner ‘HAPPY’.  it need not even be an activity, for some, it is a person.  therein should your focus lie… nurture that love, that activity.  get better at it.  and in turn, YOU will be better.  happier.  more filled up. satisfied.  life is short.  cliché, yes.  but sometimes we all need reminding.  

peace and love yo.

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