Asian Night at the Paynes

Last night, I wanted to try some new for dinner, so I decided to try egg drop soup and baked fried rice. 

This soup was a big deal for me. I really like making soup for dinner, but I typically make the cream based soup which I know is really bad for you. So I wanted to try a soup that was more broth based, hints where I came up with Asian food night. 


Egg Drop Soup



-1 large can (49.5 oz) chicken broth*

-1/4 tsp white sugar

-2 tbsp soy sauce

-3 tbsp cornstarch

-1/3 c cold water

-3 eggs

-2 tbsp cold water

*So, when I was making my shopping list, I misread this recipe and only got 1 of the regular sized cans of chicken broth. I thought it was strange that a full recipe for soup only needed one can of broth, but I went along with it anyway. When I realized I had the wrong amount, I just decided to use bouillon cubes. I could only find the beef bouillon cubes so I decided to have a part chicken part beef egg drop soup. The beef flavor was actually kind of good, but Travis later showed me that we did have chicken bouillon cubes as well.


First, bring broth to a boil. Combine white sugar, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup of cold water in a small bowl. Add soy sauce mixture to the broth and let boil for around a minute. Turn heat to low. Mix eggs and 2 tbsp of water together in a small bowl. Pour eggs into soup, constantly mixing with a fork. Mix more vigorously for smaller egg parts in soup and less vigorously for bigger eggs. It should take about 2 minutes for eggs to cook in soup. 


Baked Fried Rice



4 c. cold leftover brown rice

1 c. pineapple chunks (I used 1 can)

1 c. frozen edamame, thawed

1/2 c. cashew pieces

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. sriracha (more for spicier fried rice, less if you like it milder)

cooking spray


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine rice, pineapple, edamame, and cashews in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, soy sauce, and sriracha. Pour oil mixture over rice mixture and stir until well-combined.
  3. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with oil or cooking spray. Pour rice onto sheet in an even layer. Bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring about every 20 minutes, or until rice is dry and just beginning to get crispy. Serve with additional soy sauce and sriracha, if desired.

I did not use day old rice, but cooked it right before we made dinner. Therefore my rice was a little stickier. I would recommend to either cook the rice the day before or use leftover from a previous meal. However, I will be making this recipe again for lunch during the school year. Very easy meal to make ahead on Sunday night and reheat all week! I think I will add more vegetables to it in the future as well.





Sweet Tooth!

Here are two sweet recipes that I have made this week, one is a healthier option, one not so much. I’ll start with the less healthy one.


I have fond memories of making monkey bread with my mom while watching The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. So when I saw a recipe for cream cheese monkey bread, I couldn’t help myself!


Cream Cheese Monkey Bread


-2 cans refrigerated biscuits (not the super flaky ones, just the regular)

-8 oz block cream cheese (I typically don’t buy full fat cream cheese anyone because I can’t really taste a difference once it gets baked into something, but for this recipe, I went all out and got the real stuff)

-2/3 cup brown sugar

-2/3 cup white sugar

-1 tablespoon cinnamon

-3/4 cup butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 and spray a bundt pan with cooking spray. Cut the cream cheese into the number of biscuits you have in your two containers (for example, both of my biscuit containers had 8 biscuits, so I cut the cream cheese into 16 pieces. Some biscuits have 10, so you might need 20 pieces). 

Place a piece of cream cheese on one of the biscuits. Wrap the biscuit around the sides of the cream cheese to where only the top of the cream cheese is showing. Repeat with first biscuit container. Place prepared biscuits (all of your first container) in the bottom of your bundt pan, cream cheese up. I should really start taking pictures as I go.

Now, mix the sugars and cinnamon together and pour half of this mixture over the biscuits. Next, pour half of the melted butter over the cinnamon sugar mixture. 

Next, repeat the biscuit-cream cheese process, only this time, place the biscuits cream cheese side down over the top of the first biscuits. Essentially you have two biscuits and two pieces of cream cheese that will bake into one big cream cheese monkey bread piece. 

Pour remaining cinnamon sugar mixture and butter over top. Bake for 40 minutes. Eat while warm 🙂

We kept ours in the fridge for 3 days and it microwaved excellently!


And now for the healthier option for a sweet tooth. This one is super easy too!

Diet Cupcakes

-1 boxed cake (your choice, I used white)

-1 can diet soda (your choice, I used diet Pepsi)

Mix cake and soda. Bake using box directions. DONE. I made mine into cupcakes. 



I think these were even easier to make than normal cupcakes because you don’t have to crack any eggs or measure oil! I topped mine with leftover frosting, but I read that some people will use light cool whip and fruit as a topping. You can mix and match any cake or soda you want, I just used what I had on hand. Combos that I think sound good: white cake/diet orange Crush, strawberry cake/diet Sprite, chocolate cake/diet cherry Coke. So many possibilities!

I will warn you, these do taste slightly different. However, I gave Travis one without telling him what was in it, and he ate it with no issue and didn’t notice any big change. When you know there is diet Pepsi in them, you can taste it a little more. 


Here’s to satisfying your sweet tooth!


Strawberry Tip

I try to only go shopping once a week, which means I get all our fresh fruits and vegetables in hopes they will still be good in a week. The food that has giving me the most problems is strawberries. Now, I love strawberries and could easily eat the entire bag the day I buy them. However (and especially for school) I like to make them last the whole week so I can enjoy some strawberry-goodness everyday! But most strawberries only last tops 4 days before getting all mushy and nasty. 


I saw this tip on Pinterest to keep strawberries fresh longer, so I thought I would give it a try. It said to mix 1 part vinegar (I used white wine) and 10 parts water (I’m going to let you do this math on your own. What kind of teacher would I be if I told you all the answers!) and let you strawberries soak in this mixture for a minute or two, then rinse with water. Ta-da! Your strawberries should keep for up to two weeks!



I put my strawberries and the mixture in a gallon size bag, drained the vinegar mixture, put some water in the bag to rinse off the strawberries, drained again, and stored the strawberries in this bag. Don’t worry, the vinegar mixture is diluted enough that it doesn’t affect the taste of the strawberries (pending you did your math correctly).


4 days after purchasing the strawberries, when they normally start going bad, I made a delightful fruit salad for breakfast!


Mix 5-6 cut strawberries, 1/2 a cut apple, a drizzle of honey, and a handful of granola

A week and a half after purchasing the strawberries, I made a yummy yogurt parfait for breakfast. The strawberries where just as fresh as the day I bought them!


I used 1 container of blueberry greek yogurt, 5-6 cut strawberries, and a shake of granola. I’m also a parfait stirrer!


This tip is supposed to work for all berries, so I tried it this morning with blackberries. Fingers crossed! At least I can keep my strawberries good all week!

Rachel and Sean’s Wedding

This weekend, Travis and I got to be a part of our very dear friends’ wedding.


I first met Rachel when we were randomly assigned to be each other’s roommates our freshman year of college. I was very nervous about having a random roommate selected for me, but it was one of the best decisions I made! I urge all incoming freshmen to get a random roommate because at worst, you put up with a weirdo for a while and at best, you find your new best friend.


This was taken just a few weeks after school started. Our friendship started very quickly.

I have some wonderful memories with Rachel because we were roommates for 3 years. Our first week of band camp, we didn’t go to bed before 1:00 AM because we were up talking all night. Our favorite game as freshmen was, “Top 5 Hottest Guys in Band”. Second semester of our freshmen year, we made “super bed” which means we lofted our beds and put them right next to each other. It was originally a joke we were going to leave for a few days, but it ended up sticking the rest of the semester. It made our nightly chats so much easier.


In our room freshmen year, pre super bed. We are with our other friend and future roommate, Rachel S.


Sophomore year halloween, Spice Girls! Ginger spice is MIA for this picture.

I am so grateful for my friendship with Rachel and even more grateful that I got to watch her and Sean’s relationship grow. Sean was also a math education major, so I had a few classes with him before him and Rachel started dating. He was always the nicest guy and I owe my differential equations grade entirely to him. They started dating a few months before Travis and me did, so the four of us would often double date while in Maryville and still get together for dinner now.


PMA formal

They are such a perfect couple and I can’t wait to see where their future goes! Congrats Rachel and Sean!



The one window I decorated on their car and Travis adds his true feelings about marriage to it

One Small Step to Going Green

I could definitely use some pointers in the “going green” lifestyle. It is not my forte, but I’m doing small things that will hopefully add up.


Today for lunch, Travis and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant, China Wok off of Barry Road. They have great, abundant food and excellent, cheap lunch specials. With tip, we both eat for $12-$13 dollars. I also have never eaten my full meal there and always get a to-go box. However, they never give me a to-go soup container for my leftover egg drop soup, so I thought, “Why don’t I bring my own soup container?” I’m sure you could just ask for a soup container and they would more than happily give one to you, but bringing my own to-go containers is a very easy way to reduce trash. Plus, we only get two trash bags a week with our trash service, and we really try to keep it to just one (since that second one will be needed for children in the future). 


My grandma’s friend, Betty, does this and it is such an easy way to take a small green step!


And now I have delicious lunch ready for tomorrow!


I also couldn’t help but put an adorable picture of Uno up today! He has been super cuddly since summer started! I love my snuggle bug!


Hospital Hill Run

I’m sure I’m just like the rest of you when I say I try to put my best foot forward in my Internet appearance. I’m sure you read this blog and assume I am a wonderful cook, great wife, and the world’s best doggy mom. I am going to share a story with you today that shows one of my failures and how not perfect I am.


I have run the Hospital Hill Run 3 years now. In 2010, I signed up to run the half marathon distance, but ended up having to back out because I took a summer job. In 2011, I signed up for the half marathon distance again, but ended up bumping the distance down to the 10K because I was planning a wedding, graduating, and job hunting, so training didn’t happen. Last year, 2012, I wanted to run with my hubby, and he wanted to do the 10K distance. So this year I told myself I was finally going to train and run the half marathon. 


I started the year out strong, running almost every day of Christmas break (of course my off days were the days it was snowing). Then, we had a little confrontation with a neighbor at our apartment complex and running alone outside was no longer an option. So I took a running hiatus until March when we moved into our new house. I was finally able to get out running again, but as you would image, the life of a teacher/grad student gets pretty busy in the months of April and May. So once again, I found little time for myself to actually get out there and run the long distances needed to train for a half marathon (I was able to run shorter distances pretty frequently, but really nothing over 3 miles) I got in very few loooong runs in the past few months. Plus, the million and one inches of rain that have fallen in the past month didn’t help!


So last night, I’m lying in bed, thinking about this half marathon that I somehow need to complete in the AM, and getting pretty stressed by it. Then I remembered, “Hey, my mom signed up for the 5K but isn’t going to do it because of another commitment. I could just take her bib!” But then I thought, “No, you signed up for the half and said you where going to do it, so you need to.” This debate went on for a good hour (just ask Travis). I didn’t want to wimp out and take the easy route, but I also didn’t want to hurt myself. 


This morning, I woke up and decided it really was in my best interest to do the 5K and not the half marathon. I was pretty embarrassed by this decision, but my final rational was I want to cross the finish line of my first half marathon and really feel like I worked hard for something and accomplished a goal, and not, “Do you think my dad could carry me to the car?” 


I consider this a failure because I really do try to follow through with the things that I say I will. I know this race sells out pretty fast and I know a lot of other runners would have liked that spot. However, I did run the 5K pretty hard and had a lot of fun doing it! I have never done a race at the 5K length before (besides the warrior dash which is a little different), and I am definitely going to do more of them. Seemed like the right distance for me!


Sylvia did such a great job!

And now for a funny story: They were handing out beer after the race, but of course you had to be 21 to get it. The bibs all had a tab with your birthday on it, so the workers could easily identify those that were 21 years or older. I am older than 21, however, my bib said I was my mom’s age. I got a funny look when I handed the lady my birthday beer tab that said I was 30 years older than I really am, but she didn’t question it!


Another plus, I got to watch my husband, my dad, and my best friend all cross the finish line! In previous years, I have had family and friends at the finish line and throughout the course to cheer me on, but this year, they were all running it. At first I missed the sideline support, but it was much more rewarding for me to watch them cross the finish line! Major advantage of taking the shorter length. 


Dad’s first hospital hill


My hubby did great!


My BFF is a BEAST and did the 10k! She’s amazing 🙂

So long story short, I was not proud of myself this morning. I learned to be realistic when I sign up for things and consider a timeline before saying, “I’ll do it”. I would still like to do a half marathon at some point, but I don’t think one in early June is the best timing for me. Maybe September?