Yummy Vegetable/Minestrone Soup!

I know, I know I have a really great track record for blogging on average once every 2 months. How do y’all manage the anticipation between each post?! (For the 5 of you that might actually still follow my blog- Thanks for sticking around and… hi mom!) In all seriousness, I am going to make more of an effort to start writing more frequently and get you up to date on what’s happening in my life (ex: as far as you know, I am still single in the good ol’ BR. Boy, are you in for a surprise!) …and what I’m cooking/baking/eating…because let’s be honest, that’s much more interesting than most other things I might have to say.

ANYWAY, I’m back at it today because I wanted to share an extremely easy recipe that I made for lunch recently that I thought y’all might enjoy. It’s packed with lots of veggies, protein, and was pretty cost efficient which made it taste even better in my opinion. I’m not one to ever totally throw the grocery budget to the wind, but I have also been known to get caught up in a good grocery shopping session when the produce stands are set up just right. (Am I the only one who finds grocery shopping therapeutic?)

After too many inconsistent weeks of spending and saving,  I finally broke down and made a meal plan with a set budget in mind. I even gave myself a challenge by setting the budget lower than what I could have allowed for. Do I know how to have fun, or do I know how to have fun? I ended up spending a bit more than my ‘challenge’ budget, but I also got some super deals on lobster, sirloin, and several staple items we use regularly in our house. Both lunches and dinners were set up and executed perfectly. I don’t think we had eaten that balanced in a long time and everything was delicious! It all was going according to plan…until Sunday night arrived and I had completely forgotten to meal plan again…fail!

When it came time to prepare lunch on Monday I only had one option: get creative. I wanted to get the most out of the previous week’s grocery trip expenses and avoid letting any food go to waste, so I surveyed the kitchen and pantry and whipped up this recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as James and I did! It was/is perfect for a cool Fall day 🙂

IMG_2254     IMG_2252


What’s needed:

  • 1 28oz can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh cut green beans
  • 1/4 cup frozen or fresh yellow squash
  • 1/4 cup diced frozen or fresh green peppers
  • 1/4 cup fresh spinach (I would have used more, but this was the last of what we had!)
  • 4 stalks organic celery chopped
  • 4 whole carrots chopped
  • white or yellow onion chopped (amount to your liking. I cut a slice ~ 1/2 inch thick)
  • Optional: pepperoni slices cut up. I used about 1/4 package of Applegate Farms Natural Pepperoni. Yum!
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp bacon lard or grassfed butter
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1 Tbsp garlic
  • 1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt & pepper to liking

*James brought home a rotisserie chicken, so we ended up carving the chicken and adding it to the soup. You could do the same, prepare your own whole chicken, or even use cubed or shredded chicken breast.


  • In a large pot melt lard over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5-7 minutes.
  • Add chicken stock, followed by remaining vegetables and pepperoni if using.
  • Add olive oil and spices
  • Cook for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Finally, add in pre-cooked chicken, reduce heat to low medium, and let cook for 5-10 more minutes.

Serve and enjoy!


Without the added chicken

With the added chicken :-P

With the added chicken. YUMMY!

With the added chicken. YUMMY. :-P

With LOTS of  added chicken. YUMMY 😛

We were able to get 4 meals out of this soup (including second helpings for dinnertime because this pregnant lady currently has the appetite of a high school boy-watch out!) I love how a little creativity helped us to make the most of our budget AND allowed us to have delicious meals. I definitely will be making this again!

Here is the breakdown of what I spent, so y’all can see if this works for your grocery budgets too! Keep in mind that I used only a portion of each package of vegetables, pepperoni, and chicken, so the price would be even less than what the receipts will reflect 🙂


  • Fresh Organic Baby Spinach: $3.99
  • Fresh Jumbo White Onion: $1.18
  • Fresh Organic Celery: $2.69
  • Fresh Organic Carrots: $1.29
  • Frozen Cut Green Beans: $3.19
  • Frozen Diced Green Pepper: $1.59
  • Frozen Yellow Squash: $1.89


  • Organic Chicken Stock (32 oz): $14.11/6, so approx. $2.35 for 1


  • Applegate Pepperoni: $4.99
  • Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes: $1.89

TOTAL: $25.05

Approx. Cost per serving (2 servings for 4 meals): $3.13

Again, this reflected cost is actually even a high estimate because the receipt price doesn’t reflect the amount of each ingredient actually used. WOOP WOOP! Gotta love shopping smart! Clean eating CAN be affordable! 🙂



Callin’ Baton Rouge

Okay, so I had intended on posting this 2 months ago…Whoops! Definitely long overdue and a perfect example of why having the intention of doing something is useless without the follow through of actually acting upon it! Ha. See y’all? I was just teaching you a lesson through my tardiness. You’re welcome. 😉 Well here it goes. Be warned it’s a long one…

With the details falling perfectly into place, there was no doubt in my mind that Baton Rouge, Louisiana was to be my new home. After a whirlwind summer made up of:

  • an unforgettable month living the life with my beautiful, amazing, insert-all-positive-adjectives-here, sister, Moira, in West Hollywood
  • countless hours spent with my cousin and best friend, Dana, doing anything and everything around Chicago
  • soaking up time with friends, family, and my puppy Coconut

It was finally time to pack up and begin the 15 hour caravan journey down south. My mom, Gramsie, and Dana were kind enough to volunteer to make the drive and help me move into my new apartment. I could not have done the drive, the unpacking, and making my apartment into a home without these three. Saints, I tell ya. I loved that they also had this time to get to know my roommate, Michelle, as I did too. We got to explore Baton Rouge and New Orleans and experienced the yummy food, friendly people, and just a touch of football excitement. (GEAUX TIGERS!)

After a few days they were off back to Chicago and I was on my own. Except I totally wasn’t. People, let me tell you that Michelle and I ending up as roommates was NOT coincidence. To this day I believe that God brought that angel of a lady into my life to not only become one of my dearest and most special friends, but to truly be a light in my life and help me find a real relationship with Jesus and renewing of faith.

Before my move to Louisiana my life and actions reflected the GIANT gaping hole in my heart and soul that could only be filled by The Lord.Now, I’m not sure if anyone who knew me before would have seen that about me, or even thought I was any different than the next 22 year old fresh out of college, but I felt it. I’m sure that there are people from my past that could have called me and my struggles out for what they were, but even I regularly convinced myself through my shame that things were okay with the typical justification that we hear so often in the world. “Well, I did this, but…I’m still a good person.” Good compared to who? “Well, this happened, but it’s not like it’s that bad.”

Friends would assure me that I was fine. I was overreacting when I felt ashamed. It was funny, I had been entertaining, there was nothing to worry about, it won’t happen again, etc. So I would continue the binge drinking and all the wise choices that you can usually find influenced by it. How many mornings did I have to wake up with a sinking, shamed, pit in my stomach and the words “I’m never drinking again. I’m so sorry. How bad was I?” on my lips before I changed my ways? I’m not sure if many people really knew just how low I was getting before I left. Depression and anxiety were starting to creep in when I let myself think about my actions for too long, so it was only natural to go out and forget about them, right? I did this enough to where I actually started to convince myself to let go of my moral compass. I quieted the voice that was there to guide me throughout my life because it was easier to do that and live for the next fun moment, than to deal with the conflict that raged inside of me when I listened to it. If the Holy Spirit is a flame inside of us, then I was doing my best to find the Costco-sized Candle Snuffer to put it out with. I hardened myself to the person I felt called to be and let myself give in to who the world was successfully convincing me I was. My self worth was found in the approval of other people. Like I said, I was not in a great place. But why tell you all of that?

Because here is the truth if you haven’t gathered it already: I knew my justifications weren’t right. I knew I was created for more. I knew I wasn’t living a life of substance or purpose, but a life centered around happy hours, after hours, or any excuse to have a drink in my hand, and the weight of this reality was dragging me down. (Side-note: I am not condemning or criticizing anyone that chooses to drink. This is my own personal experience and is written with no condemnation toward anyone else.)

But I still wanted to run from the truth (or the Truth I guess you could say!) and keep out anyone that would bring me face-to-face with it. Michelle fell under the category of someone who would make me face this truth. Although we didn’t know each other well before we moved to Louisiana, we had met several times, talked/texted regularly, and were obviously Facebook friends. From the first time we talked I saw that Michelle was an amazing person. Anyone that knows her can back me up on this-she has a joy that shines so brightly from her that to know her is to love her. She also is rock solid in her faith and not afraid to share her pure love for Jesus. THAT is what worried me. Before we left for Baton Rouge Michelle had written a blog post about her One Year Commitment to God. I read it and saw how much she believed, trusted, and loved Jesus without any care of what people thought of her. That boldness and strength did not sit well with my weaknesses and insecurities. She believed in an Almighty God and I believed in…well, I didn’t know. This made me uncomfortable and my mind instantly began running through scenarios where she would try to convert me, or force her faith on me. HA! When we actually got settled in and began hanging out together I saw how far off my assumptions had been.

We quickly discovered that our senses of humor were almost identical, along with our movie selections (our shelves were filled with doubles of the same DVDs,) musical selections of our pasts and present (with the exception of the Worship tunes that we listened to when riding in her car,) our love for candles, laid back mindsets, and so much more. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten along with someone so quickly before. This new roomie of mine never once forced anything on me when it came to faith. It was definitely discussed, but usually I asked, or it was in passing. Michelle talked about Jesus and her faith the same way one would talk about a best friend or family member. Not an obsession.

The more time I spent with her the more I saw Him. That joy that Michelle had was very much related to her relationship with Jesus. Through her kindness, love, and friendship I felt myself slowly being drawn into a relationship with Jesus. I was curious. Why did she love Him so much? I decided I wanted to figure out if my curiosity would turn into anything more, and at the very least I could say I gave ‘that faith thing’ a shot. I went to church with Michelle one morning and really allowed myself to be open to what I heard. And what I heard was someone speaking right to me. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Why would the Creator of the Universe ‘be for me?’ I hadn’t felt worthy of anyone ‘being for me,’ yet I couldn’t help but let a tiny part of me feel this was true. That He cared about me. One brick in the wall I had built had been chipped away in that moment. But I still had so much doubt.

It wasn’t too long before we made more friends and Baton Rouge began feeling like a new home. One of our friends invited us to a Sunday bible study where they served dinner. Michelle and I gladly accepted the invitation. Michelle for the bible study and me for the free food. Remember, I was taking baby steps.  Jake and Abigail were part of a group that moved from Texas to plant a church in Baton Rouge and the bible study was held in their house. I have never been so welcomed in anywhere in my life. We ate an incredible meal prepared by my new friend, Jillian, and really just hung out with some time for worship. (This part consisted of me looking down at the lyric sheet and lip-singing.) Can I just tell you all that that house was filled to the brim with laughter, love, faith, and joy?! All without a single drop of alcohol. Again, I found myself in the presence of people that had something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The more I thought about it, that joy that Michelle had was just like what they had. And what they all had was a belief in The Lord and an active relationship with Him. So another brick was chipped away. I wanted what they had. But still my doubt remained.

We began hanging out with everyone from that night more and more frequently, with Sunday nights becoming a reoccurring event. It was here that I felt that wall I had built falling away, but I still was not there yet. I could barely pray, but when I did it was for God to reveal himself to me. For my walls to come crumbling down. For me to really know Him. I was honest with my friends about how I felt and never pretended to feel more than I did. In return, they never expected more of me. You know the phrase “love them where they’re at?” That’s exactly how they treated me. I felt loved regardless of my struggles and encouraged like I had never been before. They didn’t necessarily approve of all that I had done, but accepted me just the same.

Slowly, brick-by-brick, I let more of God in. I let myself begin to trust in Him and believe. What I struggled with the most was my doubts that God in His perfection, could love me for all that I was. For the way I had lived. For my weaknesses and all that I failed to do on a daily basis. How could He see past that?

And then it happened. As I prayed again for God to reveal Himself to me, that I might see and know who He was, that He would let me know, without a shadow of a doubt, that He loved me, it happened. The only way I can describe it is to compare it to being washed over by a wave, or submerged in the deep end of a pool with no urgency to get to the surface. I was completely at peace. My eyes and ears were opened and I felt so strongly in my heart that I was loved, I was known, I was beautiful. The last layers of my wall came crashing down. There was no going back for me. I knew I was forever changed.

I had gone to Catholic school all my life and never felt like this, but it wasn’t because of my church or education falling short that this awareness had evaded me. I had totally missed the mark. All the time that I had spent in my younger years I brought Jesus down to the level of just another historical figure. I had gotten it totally wrong. It was not the Catholic church that failed me, my parents, or anyone that helped influence me throughout my formative years. I had failed myself by failing to see what was right in front of me the whole time. God loved me so much that He sent His only son, Jesus, to take my place on the cross that because of my sins, I deserved. Jesus loved me so much that He, in His faithfulness and obedience to God’s will, died on that cross and rose again, so that I might one day have a true and everlasting relationship with Him and the Father. HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS BEFORE?! (Face Palm!)

It was like I was seeing everything for the very first time. So much began to make more sense to me and I just wanted to grow closer and closer to The Lord. Michelle and I were able to grow and challenge each other in our faith, hold each other accountable, and pray throughout the good and the not-so-good of our lives. To say that I was no longer tempted by anything or that I no longer struggled with the sin of my past would be a lie, but each day I felt myself growing stronger in who I was called to be and becoming free from who the world told me I was. I have stumbled along the way, and am far from ever reaching perfect, but every day I pray to be obedient to His will done His way.

I can’t even imagine how different my life would have been, or where I would be if it wasn’t for moving to Baton Rouge, ending up with Michelle as my roommate, and my faith.Thankful for all the people that God put in my path to help bring me back to Him and for all the friendships that have helped change me along the way.

Clean Eating Means Clean Shopping

My handsome hubby wrote up this helpful post on what our trips to Costco look like. Like he says, eating clean requires shopping clean!

James Rutter


When you have a Paleo wife, ya gotta shop pretty clean… AND in bulk. We just made our monthly Costco mega-grocery trip (we go to Costco way more than once a month, but only do the mega-grocery trip about once).

CHICKEN – $2.99 l/b (12 big boneless chicken breasts sealed in individually wrapped freezer safe bags) = $20.96

The best part of the chicken is that there are NO artificial ingredients and NO hormones.

SALMON… DELICIOUS (I’ll make sure Mariah posts the recipe we use on TheRutterLife.com. The farm raised Atlantic Salmon comes in 7 individually wrapped packages (3 lbs. for $25.89).

BISON MEAT – If you haven’t had this then you’re missing out! Bison is leaner than just about any other meat you can find. Check it out for yourself:


ALMOND BUTTER – At $0.396/oz., it’s the cheapest I’ve seen anywhere including online for a 26 oz…

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Baked Coconut Chicken Nuggets

One thing that I have really come to appreciate as I’ve matured into my mid-twenties is discovering my passions. Some have been slower to develop than others, but one passion that just feeds my soul is cooking. (Try telling me I’m not your punniest friend) It wasn’t until I moved to Baton Rouge that I really began to experiment with cooking and fell in love. Don’t get me wrong, Louisiana has some of the BEST food you’ll find in the U.S. of A., but when it comes to healthy eats it doesn’t quite take first place. As I became more aware of what I was putting into my body I realized I had the most control over my health in the kitchen. And so, I began to cook. I definitely have a long way to go, but I’ve been testing out my skills cooking for James (Shoutout to the best guinea pig er, husband out there) and he has yet to find a recipe that I’ve prepared that he doesn’t like. Say it with me, winning!

One of the very first recipes I prepared after we got engaged was this Baked Coconut Chicken recipe, adapted from paleodietmentor.

I’m a sucker for flavorful, but relatively simple paleo versions of some of my old favorites. This recipe fit the bill and has since become a staple in our house. Here is my James approved and 24 Day Challenge friendly version:


  •  1lb. boneless, skinless, hormone-free Chicken breastsPaleo Chicken Nuggets
  • 1/2 cup almond flour/meal
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • *1/2 tsp paprika
  • *1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • coconut oil
  • cutting board
  • pan/cookie sheet with foil

*Depending on my tastes for the day I will swap out the paprika for cinnamon as a fun/sweeter twist.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl or on a large plate combine almond flour, shredded coconut, paprika, sea salt, and black pepper.
  3. In a separate bowl beat egg well.
  4. Cut chicken breasts into 2 inch ‘nuggets’ then dip into bowl with egg until well coated.
  5. Roll chicken nuggets into dry ingredient mixture, coating all sides evenly.
  6. Coat pan with coconut oil, or lightly coat cookie sheet with coconut oil.
  7. Place chicken on pan and bake for 25 minutes, watching for them to turn golden.

That’s about it! I serve these bad boys with honey, organic dijon mustard, or organic ketchup, but the sauce is up to you.


Let’s start at the very beginning…

Yowza. Talk about a lot of pressure! I have been wanting to write a blog for a while now. I have also been encouraged to write a blog for some time now. Today I finally sit down to begin and would you believe this? I don’t have the slightest clue where to start. Go figure. I guess the appropriate place would be the beginning…

A long time ago, in a gal    Wait. That’s not how this story starts. Let’s try this again, shall we?

In West Philadelphia, born and raised, on the playground      Okay, just building suspense. You probably realized that’s the Fresh Prince of Bel Air intro. Keepin’ you on your toes. Here’s the real story (the spark notes version)…

I was born and raised on the SouthSide of Chicago, Illinois. I grew up with my amazing family made up of my Dad, Mom, and younger sister, M. When it came time for me to head off to college, I felt drawn to the South. Two hours south, to be exact, to good ol’ Normal, Illinois.

In my four years at Illinois State University, I joined a sorority, met a lot of wonderful people, learned valuable lessons in the classroom as well as out in the “real world,” had good times scattered with not-so-good times, and survived it all long enough to walk across the stage and receive my diploma. When the College chapter in my life came to a close I wasn’t sure of much, but I was certain that my future was in the South. Some could’ve called it wanderlust, some might’ve chalked it up to all the country music I had been listening to at the time, but deep down I knew it was so much more. It was like a piece of me was missing, and the only clue I had been given was a whisper in my ear that I wouldn’t find what I was looking for in Illinois.

Without knowing a soul in the state or the amazing grades I needed to get me there, I applied to a graduate program at Louisiana State University. Deciding I should have a plan B, I also began planning to relocate to Austin, Texas by requesting an official Austin Relocation Guide, in case my gut feeling had been wrong about LSU. Then I played the waiting game until the relocation guide arrived one morning a few weeks later. I took that as the sign that I was meant to give up my thoughts of Louisiana and plan on moving to Austin. That lasted all of 12 hours. The idea of moving to Texas was just starting to settle in when I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance into LSU’s graduate program. I was in shock. Didn’t I just accept the fact that I was ‘supposed’ to move to Texas?

The next day the bread crumbs leading me to Baton Rouge started appearing one by one. Who would I live with? A simple Facebook status found me the answer to that one. A friend of mine from ISU connected me to her best friend who just so happened to also be moving to LSU for grad school when I was. Roommate? Check. How would I actually afford grad school with out-of-state tuition? A few days later I received an email from the department head that I had been nominated for a tuition award. Follow up email: I had been selected for the tuition award…that covered ALL of my tuition. My only financial responsibility? Books, Rent, and minimal university fees. Umm, alrighty, then. Finances? Settled.

For someone that wasn’t living a life of faith at this point outside of the “PLEASE, let me pass this test,” “Please, please let me win a million bucks,” and “PLEASE, FOR-THE-LOVE-OF- let these pants zip up without the seams snapping every time I breathe,” prayers, I was on the proverbial edge, ready to take one GIANT leap of faith. The question was, a leap of faith in what? Or better yet, faith in who?