Hitting pause

I doubt a blog that his been silent for more than 2 months really needs a “Thanks and Goodnight” post. And it probably won’t come as much of a shock that I’m hitting the pause button (indefinitely) on Modern Meals for Two. The firehouse and new blog coupled with some unfortunate web restrictions at work have pushed me well beyond the range of manageable extracurriculars. I’m also adjusting to a long tern renovation and a new kitchen, which have caused me to fall back to reliable recipes as I navigate the intricacies of a new gas range. So even if I did have the time and the internet freedom, I frankly just don’t have a lot of content right now.

I hope you’ll still visit me at A Fire Pole in the Dining Room to keep up on the non-culinary craziness going on in my life. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of Mojo (and promise more if you frequent the new blog).



Thanks. And goodnight.

Leek focaccia

I know I often say that we are very busy. I take it all back. We weren’t busy until we were handling our normal life on top of  an awesome, huge, needs-some-work firehouse. Things have basically been a huge blur of moving boxes, Lowe’s trips (more for Hubster than me) and staring at the calendar thinking “We’ll never get X, Y and Z done before we move.”


I’m going to preemptively apologize if posts are a little spotty here. This kind of chaos isn’t the best time to play around in the kitchen… which will be packed up in a few short weeks. The slow cooker is going to be my best friend as we march toward moving day. I’m taking suggestions for any recipe that I can pop in there for 8ish hours.



Speedy, healthy meals are definitely my jam right now. This leek focaccia is a breeze thanks to Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough. I cut the dough in half when we get home and freeze it until I’m ready for some leek topped bread.


Leek focaccia

2 small leeks
2 tsp olive oil plus more for brushing
1/2 a package of Trader Joe’s wheat pizza dough
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
1/3 tsp sea salt
Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the green part of the leeks, slice the white part in half and wash thoroughly. Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Slice the leeks into thin strips and saute until tender. Meanwhile, cover a baking sheet in parchment paper. Stretch the dough into a large rectangle and place on the parchment paper. Brush with olive oil and then top with the sauteed leeks. Sprinkle with rosemary, thyme and salt. Bake for10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Top with grated Parmesan cheese, slice and serve immediately.

Beef and barley soup

We recently changed cafeteria vendors at work and I’m definitely going through an adjustment period. The last vendor had me totally spoiled with tomato soup. Their soup station had 4 spots for soup that rotated throughout the week, but over in a separate corner, next to the crazy sandwich lady (just don’t get in line if you aren’t ready to rapid fire your order her way) there was a stand alone soup and 9 times of 10 it was tomato basil. That was my “go to” corner of the cafeteria. My happy place. 


This new vendor clearly doesn’t realize the affinity that I (and surely many others) had for that perfect tomato basil combo, because they have yet to offer tomato soup AT ALL. Now, I’m open to change and I’m sampling some of the new offerings:
Minestrone: Blah
Southwestern Chicken: Yum!
Coconut curry with chicken: Meh

Nothing compares or fills me up like the tomato. I’ve stooped so low as to order from the “hot food” line. I was lured in by the roasted cauliflower and a friend’s assurance that the catfish was awesome. It was all ok, but the $8 price tag left me wanting soup. Do you know much soup I can get for $8? (2 servings plus change, but who’s counting?)



I’ve emailed the cafeteria managers begging asking for the return of daily tomato soup, but I’m not holding my breath. It may be time to consider homemade varieties that I can make in batches and freeze. As we wind down winter, this beef and barley is at the top of my list. It landed on the menu when Hubster revealed beef and barley to be one of his favorite soups. Why I’m just now discovering this after 7 plus years of marriage is beyond me. But I’m glad I did. I know there’s a lot of renditions of b&b soup, but this one hit a lot of great notes. The leeks basically melt into the broth. The mushrooms add just a touch of extra earthiness. And I’m on such a whole grain kick right now that barley can basically do no wrong.

My soup suggestion was sent to the cafeteria chef (an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one) so we’ll see if tomato soup starts making an appearance. In the meantime, I’m taking suggestions for easy soup that I can let simmer on a Sunday and then eat all week long. 


Beef and barley soup
Modified from Cooking Light

2 medium leeks
2 small carrots
4 oz button or baby portabella mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
Cooking spray
1 lb beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp canola oil
2 ½ cups low sodium beef stock
1 ½ c water
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
½ cup uncooked pearl barley

Chop leeks and carrots. Quarter the mushrooms, and mince the garlic. Heat a medium pot over high heat. Coat the pot with cooking spray. Cook the beef for 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove the beef from the pot.

Add the oil to the pot and increase the lower the heat to medium-high. Saute the leek, carrot, mushrooms and garlic for 4 minutes. Return the beef to the pan. Add the stock, water and seasoning; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Add the barley; cook for 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Discard bay leaves and serve.

Note: This recipe is enough for 3 hearty portions. Next time I’m doubling it and whipping out the big pot.

So we bought a firehouse

Let out that breath you’ve been holding. I can finally share the news I’ve been so anxious about. We bought a house with space for our photography studio. More specifically:  We bought a firehouse!


Yes, it still has a pole. Actually, it has a lot of awesome features and about a million holes that need patched. We figured that some people coming to us for pictures or recipes might be bored with firehouse DIY, so we started a new blog: A Fire Pole in the Dining Room. Hop over there to see more pictures and follow along as we work to make this space our own.


Caramel banana syrup

There’s a bit of a division in our house when it comes to sweet breakfast items. Me? I’m a pancake girl all the way. Hubster prefers waffles.


I just can’t fall in love with waffles. Too much surface area with all those cracks and crevices. It’s hard to get a good butter to syrup to cake ratio. They’re easier to make, which should give them a couple of points in my book, but do you know what takes all of those points away and then some? Cleaning the waffle iron. Seriously, how are you supposed to clean that thing? Too many cracks and crevices. I (literally) have a dirty secret. I rarely clean mine. Now you know. Now you’ll probably never come to my house for waffles. Someone, please tell me that my cast iron approach of a wipe down and bit of oil from time to time is enough.



I’m not here to solve any pancake/waffle debates. Today I’m here with an awesome, super simple syrup. Do you have a banana and some brown sugar? Good. You’re most of the way done with this recipe. Just slice up the naner, heat up your liquids and toss them together. The banana is distinct, almost heightened by the sweetness. It’s the perfect topping, no matter your vessel of choice.

So who’s with me on the dirty waffle iron train? Wait… that came out wrong…


Caramel banana syrup
From Bon Appetit

1 large banana
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Peel the banana and cut 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add sugar and water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil until mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract and sliced bananas. Remove syrup from heat.  Prepare your favorite pancakes and top with this syrup.

Note: This was the perfect amount for 2, but it’s easily scalable to feed more.