A Bowl of Frijoles Negros (black beans)

Kitchen Pantry & Cuban Comfort Food.

Finishing the Pantry

The pantry is complete! And I love it 🙂 It makes cooking so much more relaxing. I am able to find my ingredients easily and organize my shopping list much quicker. If you’d like to revisit the start of my project, click here: Kitchen Pantry Part 1. I wanted to keep this update under $50 and we just made it under. I was able to do that by using left over paint from a project and creating our own shelves and braces out of a large piece of plywood. I also had left over shelf paper which (luckily) was the correct size for my shelves. I found floor tiles at our hardware store for $0.39/ each and that gave the floor a fresh clean look. I wanted to add edging to my shelves to finish them off nicely, however, that would have broken my budget– so I looked around the house for a creative alternative and found some spackling. I spackled the edged of the shelves and when they had completely dried, I sanded them smooth. That gave the shelf a clean smooth edge and once painted white, no one would know they were made from cheap plywood. I had a little extra money and was able to by a set or wire racks and a couple of bins to help with the organization. All in all, I’m really pleased.

Here is the final outcome (if you’d like to see the before picture, click here).

View of updated pantry remodel

Frijoles Negros (Black Beans, Cuban Style)

While I was putting things into the pantry, I noticed I had a large amount of black beans. Uhm… a 10 pound bag. Which is great because I have had a craving for Cuban Black Beans. Oh, they are such a delicious comfort food! You can find a lot of recipes online for black beans. At night, I enjoy watching YouTube videos of people cooking things. I’ve learned a lot this way. I love that people are willing to share with complete strangers.

I came across a young woman’s YouTube videos on Cuban food. Her channel is mostly about her travels but she has a handful of videos on how to make some key Cuban dishes. I love her videos because she cooks with her grandparents. The recipes are home cooking at it’s best. I used one of her videos to guide me in making my black beans. It turned out so well, I’m making it a weekly staple for dinner! Here is the video I followed:

Now, in the future I would make a few changes… I will not add the whole head of garlic without peeling and chopping first. I ended up with a lot of floating skins using the method above. I would also add a full teaspoon of cumin instead of a sprinkle (I did this by mistake and it was delicious)! I also had to triple the time with my pressure cooker, so keep in mind, you’ll have to experiment with this when you make it. This is great as a side dish or a meal over rice (which is what we did). If you like her recipe for Frijoles Negros (black beans), I’d suggest trying her recipe for Ropa Vieja– Oh, it’s good!

If you are interested in my other food adventures, follow me here on Instagram.

Happy cooking, my friends!

Our Pantry Conversion Phase 1

This week was eventful on the home front. A simple 2 hour project turned into a three+ day situation with several trips to the hardware store and a lot of cursing. When all was said and done, the results were fantastic!

I had started the week with the thought of pulling everything out of the kitchen closet, repainting it from a dark pink (which was in style at some point in history) to a clean white and then reorganizing it so I could properly use the closet. When we first moved in, we started putting everything we didn’t want the cats to get into in the closet. At first, it started with stacking things and eventually, we would open the door, chuck something in and close it quickly. When I opened the door to start my project, this is what it looked like.20180107_151113

Hey! Don’t judge me! I have organization issues sometimes…

Nevertheless, I thought– I’ll pull everything out, repaint, organize everything useful and remove what wasn’t.

Then Tim walked by and said, “Hey, whatcha doing?” I explained my plan and he suggested we think bigger. He asked me what I REALLY wanted to do with this space. I said, ideally, I’d like to convert it into a pantry. We started to scheme at this point and we talked about what he’d like and what I’d like and decided to convert this closet into an open pantry.

So, I pulled everything out of the closet. As I did that, I couldn’t believe how many half used cleaning products I had. If I couldn’t find something (and how could you in this mess!) I would purchase a new one– and the wasteful cycle would begin. I also noticed that I’ve gotten VERY lazy with my plastic bag consumption. I get some plastic bags because we use them to clean the littler boxes. Did I mention we have 4 cats? Yep. So plastic bags are necessary to some extent– but this is ridiculous! No more of that! Once I pulled everything out, I could get a good look at the color. Here it is 😉


There is a lot of this pink in the house. Wait until you see the bathroom. And as I said before, this color was very stylish at some point. But if you know me at all, you know I’m not much of a pink person. Plus, if we are going to convert this into a food pantry, I want it to be super clean. You’ll notice we’ve removed the baseboard here. We also removed the shelves, which had partially rotted from some sort of liquid that spilled years ago. And we removed the divider.

Our plan was to scrub the walls down and paint it with Kilz, then calk where the floor meets the wall to prevent critters. Once that was done, we’d put down flooring of some sort to cover the dated linoleum, and add new shelving.

Oh yes, and we wanted to do this for around $50 if possible…

Ok, here we go! Just as we started… the kitchen light blew out. Not the bulb– the light fixture. “No, prob” I thought. I’ll just remove the light and replace it which was something we wanted to do eventually anyway.

Off to the hardware store we went.

We found a light we liked that would go nicely with another light we had installed in our kitchen a few months back. We brought it home. I turned the power off, unscrewed the light which was a big fluorescent light and stood there for a moment. Huh. No junction box. We wanted to see what was going on with the light from the perspective of the attic. Neither of us knew much about lighting but I did know I needed a junction box to get the new light up safely. We both went up into the attic and after a few minutes of crawling around, understood the situation. Whoever installed the light did so by screwing the light into the rafters.

Well, ok, now what.

We got down from the attic and by this point I’m mumbling, all I wanted to do was paint the damned closet. Once I collected myself, I found a video on how to install a junction box on YouTube. Here’s the video I watched. He’s pretty long winded but he taught me what I needed to know.

Back to the hardware store we went.

I had to cut a hole in the ceiling to fit the box. At this point, it’s late afternoon and the sun is starting to set. Tim’s in the attic and I’m on a ladder getting this thing positioned properly. You would think this should be easy but for two newbies, not so much. We finally got the thing tightly installed.

being the logical person he is, Tim suggested we wait until morning to install the light so we could see what was going on. Ah, but I am not logical and I wanted to accomplish at least one thing today so I said, “We can do it! The hard part is done.”

Famous last words.

So picture this, my husband who has sight issues on a stool holding the light. Me on a ladder getting ready to connect the wires. A flashlight precariously positioned so I can sort of see. Oh wait, I need to strip the wires coming from the ceiling first. I do have a wire stripper somewhere from when I installed my car stereo but, of course, couldn’t tell you what box it might be in. I figured I could just take my knife and strip it carefully.

Yes, I slashed my finger open.

Not enough to go to the hospital but enough to get really messy. As I bandaged my finger, Tim found pliers that had a stripper built in and we got back to work. I successfully stripped the wires and we were on our way! It’s pretty dark in the kitchen now. Back on the stool and ladder we go. I get all the wires connected, capped and taped. All we need to do now is screw it to the plate that is connected to the junction box.

I put the screws in the wrong place so they don’t line up.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal except the only way to access the screws is to disconnect all the wires and take the plate completely off the junction box. Tim’s annoyed and I am too. We call it a night. I made brownies in the dark and we ate them while watching Happy Valley. So, at least I made brownies!

Before bed, I painted the closet with it’s first coat of killz. It took about 30 minutes to do and clean up.

The next morning we were reinvigorated! With a fully lit room, we were able to get everything up and working within 10 minutes. Tim suggested we start a YouTube channel called, “Two fools doing home repair.” I think it might be a good idea.

Now that we’ve fixed the lighting situation, back to the pantry…

We did our measurements and hit the Hardware store again. We found a great heavy piece of 3/4″ plywood and had them cut the shelves to size for us. We get 6 free cuts, so why not, right? The cost for the plywood and screws came to $34. Not bad. We looked at braces for the shelves but that would blow our budget, so we decided to make our own braces out of scrap wood.

Once home, I added another coat of Killz to the walls. We had some leftover Killz from a past project, so we didn’t need to incur that cost. We just might be able to get this done for under $50. Tim added the braces to the walls and then we placed the shelves. It looks great so far! I placed all my food items in it to see how the shelves handled the weight. I’m happy with the shelves and now I can finish them off with white semi-gloss paint. I’m also going to add trim to the shelf edges to make them look cleaner.


Stay tuned for the final completion of the pantry next week.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin by the Lake

I’m Back and Ready to Cook!

What a crazy couple of months! I’m so sorry for the lag but we went through a world wind move from Chicago, Illinois to Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Talk about a culture shock! We now live in a very small town.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin by the Lake
Sheboygan, Wisconsin by the Lake. Image by Courtney Brobst

We purchased a fixer-upper and because of this and some very generous help from family members, we are officially mortgage free. We have a lot of work ahead but it will be a labor of love.

My plan for the blog will be to write twice a week. One post will be on my weight loss journey (I’m still the same but I haven’t focused on it at all, so there is no surprise there!) and my second post will be exploring culinary curiosities and recipes from around the world. And I have to say, December is a great month to delve into both of these topics.

Along the way, I may add some bonus material when we do updates to the house– especially when we start working on the kitchen!


Workout Wednesday – Down 3 lbs!

Did you laugh when you saw that title? Yes, I’m excited for these three pounds. After a week of trying some of the recipes from 8fit and some of the exercises. Plus, stepping up my walking. I know these three pounds are gone for good. 

I’ve been playing around with my meal plan and my favorite thing about it is I never feel hungry! It is nice not to constantly focus on food. And the recipes are so good, I can make them for family and friends that are not on a diet and they are none-the-wiser because they are delicious, well rounded, recipes. 

So, this week has been a killer for me. Lots of changes will be happening for my family in the next month. We will possibly be moving and that is always stressful. My main focus this week is to get up to 10,000 steps a day, do 1 workout a day (remember, that’s only a 9 minute commitment), and try three new recipes from the food plan.

This week I’m really looking forward to trying some of the smoothie recipes! It’s summer in Illinois so hot and muggy days are often here and a smoothie is a great way to beat the heat!

Workout Wednesday with 8fit


I am following the 8fit app as a free pro user. I am not getting any affiliate payment or payment of any kind to promote this app– I just really like it! Because 8fit gave me free pro status on the app, my links to the app have a special link for 8fit to monitor traffic from my site. 

Today is the day I start my 8fit workout routine! The first thing I did was to set up my exercise plan so it fit my current abilities. Not surprising I got a 1 out of 8 with their fitness evaluation. I am beginning level… it’s a little laughable to be honest. If they could assign a 0, that would be me! That’s OK because that is why I am doing this!

8fit also goes over your fitness goals. There are several options but my main goal is to lose weight initially and then I will change it to another goal. Moving through 8fit is so simple for me– I’ve tried other apps and I lose interest quickly because they are labor intensive with adding data daily. One of my favorite parts of this app is that I can log my meals by simply taking a picture of it! Yes, that’s my type of effort!

Alright, so now to the nitty gritty. If you are following my progress, you will need to see my before and after pics and my measurements. I hate sharing this stuff but I’ll do it because I have to embrace who I am today and be OK with that, knowing I’m working to improve my health.

weight loss, before picture, 8fit, workout, weight loss story
This is my before picture. No makeup, no tricks– I didn’t even adjust lighting. This is all me.

My Starting Stats

Height: 5’5″

Weight: 222lbs.

Waist: 40.5″

Hips: 51″

Chest: 43.5″

Upper right arm: 16″

Upper left arm: 15″

Right thigh: 29″

Left thigh: 29″

Right calf: 16.5″

Left calf: 17.5″

As you can see by the measurements, I’ve got a challenge on my hands!

Now that I have my app set up with my workout routines– each routine is 9 minutes long and I don’t need any equipment (which is great). I headed over to the food section to set up my meal plan. This is such a great feature on the pro version of 8fit because it allows you to customize your menus and then creates a shopping list that you can bring to the store and check off the items on the list as you get them. I’m all for grocery lists! They keep me from impulse buying chocolately items 😉

Here are my day’s meals for today:

Breakfast: Protein Packed Oatmeal— this was SO filling! (see picture above).

Lunch: Baked Chicken and Apricot Couscous (I don’t have apricots on hand so I’m switching them out for cranberries because I have this bag of cranberries that I swear is multiplying on its own– I can’t seem to get rid of them!).

Dinner: Salmon with Spinach and Rice (I am really looking forward to this!)

Snack: Berry Protein Smoothie. I’m using this as my dessert because I’m still hung up on the dessert thing.

As you can see, I’m not going to be hungry or feel deprived. I could even set up my meal plan to have two snacks but the app suggests just one snack, so that is what I will do.

I’m going to be showcasing one of the dishes each week here on my blog. Although, I can’t share the actual recipe with you– I can share the ingredients and my tweaks on the recipes. So, stay tuned! Be sure to follow my instagram and pinterest feeds to see daily images of what I’m eating.

8fit app

I Have a Confession

I have a confession… I love food. Not a big stretch, right? But when I say I love food, I mean I love the tastes, textures, colors, smells, history, and cultural importance of food. It is an art form for me. And yet, I struggle with cooking. As a result of my love for food, I’ve packed on the pounds–a lot of pounds. I’m 222 lbs. as of today. I didn’t care much because I was blissfully enjoying my relationship with food. And it was a relationship– it was there when I was happy, sad, stressed, and lonely. I am an emotional eater.

8fit app

Unfortunately, my lack of boundaries around food has caused some serious health concerns. Stroke, heart disease, and cancer run in my family. It’s time for me to get my act together and start getting healthy. I was sad about it for awhile, I envisioned bland and boring foods and endless treadmill walks. Then, I stumbled across a fitness app one day while watching YouTube. The woman explained that the app gave a free trial period and provided food suggestions and exercises that you can do in short spurts without equipment. I thought, “Hey, that’s up my alley– short exercise…” LOL! So, I installed the app on my phone. The app is 8fit.

I followed the set up prompts and created my exercise plan. I was pretty excited about this section because my plan gives me 9 minute stints of exercise I can do without the need of any equipment. That is perfect for me! It’s usually the exercise part that I fail at miserably but I can do 9 minutes!

Screenshot_20170629-121702I took a look at the meal section and was very happy to see you can customize the meal plan to your dietary needs (for example, I’m lactose intolerant and I can remove any recipes with milk and cheese).  Plus, the meals look good! I can work with these recipes and make delicious and interesting food. There is also a section for habits. This sections keeps track of your sessions. It also has a Yoga addition and offers a way to connect with other apps to integrate step tracking. I connected my Google Fit app and it works great.

I was so excited about this app! I got everything set up in the Pro Version which is fee based but so reasonable at $5/month I thought it was worth it. $60/year to lose weight I’ve been struggling with for literally decades was a no brainer for me. I got my husband signed up, too! So, now we are going to do this together AND I’m going to blog about it– every Wednesday. I’ll share my weight loss, experience, how I tweaked the food recipes, and the cool stuff this app offers, because I haven’t even told you half of what it can do and what it offers. So, follow me– share your recipe suggestions, try the free version if you like, and friend me on the app and we can motivate each other to keep going!

Take a look at one of the meal options I made for Tim and I for lunch today.


I converted the black bean tacos into a burrito (same calories just a different construction). I made a few adjustments to the recipe by adding a minced garlic clove, cilantro, a hot pepper from my garden, and some lime juice. I didn’t have black beans, so I used pinto beans. I also removed the cheese. In the end, it was delicious!

If you decide to sign up for the app, please consider using this link— 8fit has allowed me to use their Pro version during my weight loss journey and it helps 8fit track where people are coming from. I am not an affiliate, I just love this app!

Stay tuned for my progress and recipes and let’s have some fun getting healthy!

Carrots! Now What…

Today we harvested our first batch of homegrown carrots. It was really so exciting pulling them out of the ground. We pulled them early because they were popping out of the ground. You’ll notice our carrots are curly Q. We didn’t realize this but we apparently planted the seeds too close together and we didn’t add sand to our dirt. As a result, we have curly cartots (and that’s ok). Now we are thinking about what to add them to– please share your ideas in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think we should do with them. Right now we are just munching on them in their beautiful raw state.