Lasagna Soup


So, it’s my favorite time of year…. The time when the weather cools off, everyone’s Fall seasonal ales are out, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back, Pumpkin scented candles are burned, beautiful sunsets every night,  October blue skies every day….  and soups are made. Last night the sister was in town so I decided to experiment a little because she’s always willing to be a guinea pig where my cooking is concerned. I was tired of the same ole, same ole taco soup, chili, beef stew, potato soup, black bean soup, etc…. I wanted something new, so I came up with this…  And I must admit, it was pretty darn tasty (I just had leftovers and they might have been even better!)!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 small onion, diced

1 pound hamburger meat

1 family sized can tomato soup

2 cups chicken stock

1 1/2 cups milk

2 cups half and half

1 pkg refrigerated cheese tortellini 

8-10 sundried tomatoes, chopped

1 can diced italian style tomatoes

4 oz cream cheese (Don’t use fat free or low fat! It won’t melt!)

Italian Seasoning

Garlic Powder

Dried Basil

Dried Oregano



mozzarella cheese (for garnish)

fresh basil (for garnish)

Here’s what you do:

Brown hamburger meat and diced onion with garlic powder (to taste) (y’all know I don’t measure!), italian seasoning, salt, and pepper in large Dutch oven style pot. ( I use my Rachel Ray enameled cast iron pot that is my FAVORITE pot ever.) Add tomato soup, chicken broth, milk, half and half, both kinds of tomatoes, dried basil, dried oregano, and maybe more salt and pepper after you taste (I had to add a little more). Bring to simmer. (Not a rolling boil, you’re using milk!) If you’re in a hurry, go ahead and finish the soup now. Add the cream cheese, let it melt, and then add the cheese tortellini and cook for 15-20 minutes until tortellini is tender. Voila! You’re done… Top with mozzarella cheese and basil or whatever cheese you want or nothing… It’d be fine plain! You also can wait and just let it simmer as long as you want before adding the cream cheese and tortellini. Just don’t add the cream cheese and tortellini until you’re almost ready to eat!  I served it with cheesy garlic bread for a little crunch… Yum!

That’s it! Super simple, super easy, and super delicious! And as always, let me know if you give it a try!! 



Until next time….



I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends (and Family)


Well, the BFFFL is married…. It was beautiful and one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever attended. Have you ever been to a wedding where it’s just evident that two people are meant for each other? Well, that’s how this one was. Everything about it was just perfect and I am so honored that I got to be part of their special day. I also got to see some people that I haven’t seen in quite some time, and while I may or may not have needed a valium prior to the ceremony when thinking about it, it wasn’t really needed. Again, it just proves that with some people, things are always easy. It was wonderful seeing old friends, tons of Shelley’s family, and getting to meet Terry’s wonderful family. I wish them nothing but many, many years of love and happiness!’


So, here’s a little update on me. Mom, Jill, and I all went to see my doctors at the Kirklin Clinic Monday. We started the day with genetic counselors again so Mom and Jill could get the whole spill and Mom could be tested. I think they both learned a lot and yet still had a ton of questions after the appointment. Sometimes I forget that I have a slight advantage because of my degree and that not everyone understands genetics as easily as I do. From there we headed to meet with the high risk breast cancer specialist. I met with a great CRNP named Julie (that I LOVED), and she informed me that based on their calculations, I actually have somewhere around a 93% chance of getting breast cancer in my lifetime. Yeah, 93. She did an exam and then I met with Dr. Helen Krontiras, who is one of the best from what I’m told. She answered several questions, did another exam, and sent me out for scheduling. At this point, I was thinking surgery would still be in December, then we get to scheduling… Thanks to Obamacare kicking in on October 1st, the first available day they could get me in for imaging was January 9, 2014. So noooooo December surgery. It looks like it will be in June (that’s our next slowest time of the year for work).  I then went and met with my plastics guy, and let me just say that I LOVED him. He’s one of those doctors that actually listens to what you’re saying, listens to your concerns, and then gives you his honest opinion on what he thinks is best for you. And let me just say, I’m pretty pumped about what he has in mind for me. The thought of not having to wear a bra for a decade made. my. day. Seriously… That’s what he said.  So where we stand now is imaging in January, meeting with surgeons (again) in March, and getting the girls cut off and replaced in June.  As always, good thoughts and prayers are appreciated, even if we are still a little ways out from surgery….

Sorry, it’s short and was probably pretty boring to read, but hey, there’s an update for those of you that care…. Now, I need to focus my attention back on Grey’s. Shonda Rhimes, if you kill Richard Webber, we are done.

Until next time…

It’s BFFFL Wedding Week (finally!)


Ok, 2 posts in 2 weeks. You blogger people should be proud…  This week has been crazy, insane, lose your mind busy. With it being a short week and the BFFFL getting married this weekend, it’s been ridiculous. This post is going to have a little bit of everything, and truthfully, probably won’t be that interesting, but I promised I’d do better, so here goes….

First, here’s a recipe from the tailgate this weekend. It is one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, and it is insanely good. 3 words, 4 ingredients, just amazing. Prepare yourself. Snicker Apple Salad. Yeah, you read that right… And yes, I call it salad, so that makes it good for you in my book.  

You’ll need:

2-3 large green apples (you can use red or golden, but I prefer green for their tart crispness)

1 bag of mini snickers 

1 container of cool whip (I use the light and it tastes fine)

4 ready made containers of vanilla pudding (you know, the kind your mom packed in your lunch)

This is what you do:

Wash and chop the apples into bite size pieces. (I leave the skin on, but you don’t have to.) Chop the snickers into bite size pieces. Dump in a bowl. Add vanilla pudding and the entire container of Cool Whip. Stir and refrigerate. 

Your mind is blown, right?  …. Thought so. 

Seriously, you can thank me later. And it’s perfect for a tailgate, party, whatever. Trust me, everyone at your tailgate/party will love you and want the recipe. 

Moving on….

Went to see my GP, Dr. Harrellson yesterday and we discussed the BRCA results. And let me just say, I’ve had a rough week since my last post, as in I’ve been really upset about what’s coming. The thought of surgery scares the crap out of me (well, actually it’s the pain and recovery, but that’s because of the surgery). Seeing Dr. Harrellson yesterday, even though my reason for being there wasn’t to discuss the test results was a blessing. For those of you that don’t know him (and many of you probably don’t), he’s great. Very upfront, dry sense of humor, tells you like it is kind of guy, so you can just imagine why I like him so much. In our conversation yesterday, he said something that really made me feel a lot better about the decision I’ve made. He said ‘With your results and those numbers, it’s not a matter of if you’ll get cancer, but when you’ll get cancer. You are absolutely doing the right thing by doing the preventative surgery.’ He had no idea how badly I needed to hear that because I have really been struggling with the decision this week. So thanks, God, for giving me a reason to go the doctor yesterday. My mind is at ease, and once again, your timing never ceases to amaze me. I’m meeting with the surgeons in B’ham on September 23rd, and right now I’m hoping for surgery the week after Thanksgiving. It’s gonna be a fun holiday season in the Harvell home! 🙂

And finally, best wishes to my best friend, Shelley Pope. I am so excited to celebrate with you and Terry this weekend and so honored that you’re letting me be part of your special day. You’ve found a keeper in T, and I am so happy to know that you’re going to spend your life with such a wonderful man. I hope you love each other a little more every day and realize how lucky you are to have each other. Oh, and keep dinosaur chicken nuggets on the menu at least once a month. They are, after all, the key to a successful relationship. You are going to be the most beautiful bride and I can’t wait to party like it’s 1999 at the Camp House!

Oh, and here’s another shameless plug for the sister’s store, Jilly B. If you haven’t liked it on facebook, do it now. She posts updates daily, and you know she has fabulous tastes (she is my sister, duh!).

Until next week, War Eagle and Happy Wedding, week BFFFL! I can’t believe your big day is finally almost here!

Life lately….


Well, it’s clear that I suck at this blogging thing. I mean, it’s been what, 9 months since my last post? I warned you at the beginning that I would probably be terrible at keeping up with this, and well, I am. I’d say I’m sorry, but well, those of you that know me know that I don’t really care… And I’ve been contemplating for a week or so if I was going to post this and have decided that I think the benefit it could give others far outweighs anything else that could come from it. I should warn you that if you’re looking for a recipe, this post isn’t going to have one, in fact, it’s definitely not going to be one of my normal posts, so if you’re recipe hunting, just go ahead and stop now. 🙂

This post is going to be about science and medicine and genes and cancer and surgery and tough decisions and lots of stuff that no one really enjoys reading about, but after much contemplation, I’ve decided it should probably be shared. (I mean, it was going to have to be at some point anyway.) And those of you that know me well, know that while I may be pretty well known for my sarcasm and humor on facebook/twitter, but when it comes to my truly personal life, I tend to keep it to myself. Health, relationships, you know, the truly important things are not for sharing with the social media world, and if I didn’t think this post might possibly encourage someone to look at their family history and make the tough decisions I’m making, I wouldn’t be sharing it either. So here we go…

A couple of years ago, I went in for my annual girl doctor visit, (You girls know what I’m talking about (and you boys thank God that you don’t know what I’m talking about.).) and she mentioned that I might want to consider having a genetic test done for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 Breast and Ovarian Cancer gene mutation because of my family history. That it certainly wasn’t necessary, but she felt like she should mention it because of the history of breast and ovarian cancer on one side of my family. Me, being the Biomedical Science major I was (and earned a degree in so I guess still am?), of course, started doing some research… I mean the Human Genome had just been mapped for the first time, this genetic testing stuff was all pretty new, and my family history really wasn’t that bad from what we knew (1 aunt with breast cancer and a grandmother that died of ovarian cancer). Regardless, I started doing the research and seeing what it would require from insurance, what kind of testing was done, what it would mean, etc….

Fast forward to this summer, after 2+ years of research and talking with family, close friends, and the insurance company, I decided that knowing was better. For those of you that don’t know, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, if present, greatly increase your odds of getting early onset breast and ovarian cancer. And when I say greatly increase, I mean somewhere in the 86% range for breast cancer and somewhere in the 52% range for ovarian cancer. As a girl in her late 20s, those numbers were pretty disturbing and scary and downright, well, just terrifying. I decided that knowing what was coming and being able to fight it was definitely better than going to the doctor at 30 and discovering I had breast or ovarian cancer. So anyway, back to 2 months ago… I called and spoke with my doctors in Auburn and got referred to the UAB Genetics Counseling Center and scheduled an appt. The process was simple. I’d meet with a genetic counselor, go over my risks and the chances of me having the mutation/deletion, and they’d take some blood and test it if I felt like that was what I wanted to do. I met with an awesome genetic counselor for over an hour, drew out my family tree (felt like I was back in genetics lab, Dr. Wooten would have been so proud), and decided that even though my chances were slim (somewhere in the 7-22% chance of me being positive for the mutation), that I wanted to do it. I wanted to know. I mean, and with odds like that, why not? I had nothing to worry about. Them taking this blood was going to give me peace of mind that breast or ovarian cancer was not in my future… Right?

Wrong. A week later, I was driving down the road when a Birmingham number popped up on my car screen. Thinking it might be a customer or work related since it was mid afternoon, I, of course answered. It was Katie, my genetic counselor with my results. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought “Oh, she’s calling to tell me I’m all clear. They don’t call people with bad news. They’d make you come in for that…” Wrong again. Over the course of the next 15 or so minutes she told me that my test had shown that I have the BRCA2 deletion. I honestly don’t remember much of what she said except that she’d be sending me a letter with everything I needed to know in it and that some specialists from the Kirklin Clinic would be in touch to schedule appointments. I also remember sardonically thinking in the back of my mind, “Ha! Robbie owes me a trip to New Orleans” and “Oh crap! Not my boobs and you want to do what with my ovaries?! I haven’t even considered children yet!”. Needless to say, the rest of the day is kind of a fog, and I have some amazing friends that got me through it.

At this point, I’m sure some of your are pretty confused. I mean, what does a genetic test that’s positive for a deletion mean? It basically means that somewhere in my genetic code things got out of sequence and because things got out of sequence the part of my genes that are supposed to suppress tumor growth are not there. They’ve been deleted, so any tumor cells pretty much get free reign. There’s nothing there to stop them. They have discovered that if you carry one of these BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations or deletions, that it can be passed through families and that these mutations/deletions lead to very high numbers of early onset breast and ovarian cancer. (For more information, feel free to check out the links I post at the end of this post.)

So what’s the next step? I’ll be meeting with specialists at the Kirklin Clinic over the next few months. The first in a few weeks to discuss my options. Briefly, those options are 1) Monitor and do tests every 6 months to be sure things are as they should be 2) Have the girls (and eventually the ovaries) removed to decrease your risks or 3) Start a low dose of oral chemo to prevent tumors from growing. Those of you that know me, know which option I will be choosing. Y’all know that I’m a ‘take no prisoners, let’s kick some ass!’ kind of girl, and that’s how I plan on handling this too. So that means that I will likely be facing a double mastectomy with reconstruction at some point in the very near future. (With a mastectomy, your odds drop to a less than 10% chance of getting breast cancer in your lifetime.) I mean, with those kind of odds, why would I do anything else?

So there’s my update. Sorry, it was incredibly long and probably not what you were expecting from me. And again, I’m not posting this because I want your pity or to be fawned or cried over. (Though your good thoughts and prayers over the next few months will most certainly be appreciated.) I’m writing this to encourage you to do your homework. Check your family history. Talk to your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. Know your risks! And if you see a pattern of something, ask your doctor. Who knows? It might save your life or your sisters or your mothers or your fathers or your brothers (breast cancer doesn’t just affect women). It might save someone you don’t even know when they read or hear your story. It might just give you a peace of mind.

So for the next few months, you can keep up with what’s going on with me here. I’ll try to keep you all updated without sharing too many private details. And if anyone has questions, comments, concerns, I’d love to hear them. I’m still learning as I go, but I’ll be glad to help in any way I can…

For more information on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing, visit these links:

Oh, and Warrrrrrrr Eagle! Beat Wazzu! (Y’all didn’t really think I’d post something this week and not mention football, right?!) 🙂

My Favorite One Pot Wonder


So I’ve become a fan of easy cooking… I’m sure most of you understand. Whether you’re a road warrior (like me), a busy mom, or well, whatever… easy is always better, and this has got to be one of the easiest recipes ever.   I haven’t come up with a name for it yet, so feel free to give me your ideas. 🙂

Here’s what you need:

4 chicken breasts (Or chicken tenders if you’d rather use those. I’d probably use 10-12 to feed 4.)

6-8 red potatoes, washed (and peeled, if you prefer. I like the skins.)

2-3 cans of green beans (depending on what kind you use and how much you like green beans.)

1 stick butter, melted

3/4 cup Italian salad dressing (I use the Kraft Zesty Light)

1/4 cup Moores marinade (or Dale’s if you prefer)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

1/3 cup lemon juice (I use the bottled kind. If you have real lemons, use those, and I’d probably juice 2 lemons and then throw them in with the dish too.)

1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Couple of dashes of hot sauce (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Holland Grill Carolina Seasoning (if you don’t have this stuff, you can leave it out, but if you ever see it, BUY IT! I use it in everything and it’s amazing!!)

Shredded Cheese

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.Wash your chicken breast and pat dry. Wash your potatoes (if you’re leaving the skin on) and chop into quarters ( bite size pieces, whatever you prefer). Open your cans of green beans and drain. (Easy so far, right!?) Place potatoes in pan leaving a cross section in the pan clear (for the green beans). See picture below.  Place chicken on top of 4 sections of potatoes. Fill in empty space with green beans.  Sprinkle with Salt, Pepper, and Carolina Seasoning. Whisk together all other ingredients except shredded cheese and dump over chicken, potatoes, beans.  Cover with aluminum foil tightly.


Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees or 2 hours at 300 degrees or well, you get the picture. You can cook this as little or as much as you want (as long as the potato and chicken are done).  Once your potatoes are done enough, sprinkle each piece of chicken with a little shredded cheese and  bake another 5-10 minutes. I usually turn on the broiler for about 5-8 minutes after this and let the cheese make a crispy crust, but that’s your preference.

Here’s the finished product…


This has seriously become my go to dish… And I think it will even please your picky eaters. The green beans and potatoes just soak up the flavor, and I literally could eat the green beans every meal (which is why I used three cans here).  And the way it’s laid out in the pan, is the perfect portion to feed 4 people. (See plate below.)


If you give it a try, let me know what you think… Hey, if you hate it, I’m not offended. I’ll still love it anyway. 🙂 You might could event substitute the green beans for broccoli or some other green veggie. And if you use the light ingredients (light dressing, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, etc), it really shouldn’t be too bad for your waist line.

Until next time…

Hashbrown Casserole (Crack Potatoes)


So, this has become a staple at our tailgates and one of my Daddy’s favorites…  Seriously, you won’t ever make normal potato casserole again. It’s that. freakin. good.

Hashbrown Casserole (Crack Potatoes)

1 bag of shredded hash browns (You can use the diced, but I just prefer the shredded.)
1 bag of sharp cheddar cheese
1 envelope of dry ranch dressing mix
1 pkg of real bacon pieces ( I think Hormel and Oscar Mayer both make them. They come in the little zip locked bag in the salad section.)
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 container of sour cream (I’m not sure on the ounces, but it’s the medium sized container. I think it’s 16ish oz.)
8-10 green onions sliced (You can use more or less or substitute a sweet onion, chopped, if you prefer.)
1 stick of butter, melted
Salt and Black Pepper to taste (I use a good bit of black pepper.)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and then transfer to 9×13 baking pan (sprayed with no stick spray). Top with another layer of shredded cheese, if you prefer.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. I like my top to get a little bit crispy, so I normally give mine an hour, but it really just needs to get good and bubbly. (You can also do this in a crock pot. Just spray crock pot with spray, and then cook on high for about 4 hours. That’s what I normally do for tailgates. If I do this, I normally had a little extra sour cream and about another 1/4 stick of butter so it doesn’t get dry.)
It’s like a loaded baked potato in a casserole!
Enjoy! And thank me every time you take a ridiculously good bite!

Witch’s Stew- A Harvell Family Tradition (plus Blueberry Crumble)


So with Halloween coming, I’ve decided to share a Harvell family tradition…. Witch’s Stew. For as long as I can remember, my Mom has made this on Halloween night, and it’s one of my absolute favorites. Maybe it’s because it’s one of those things we eat so rarely, and that’s why I love it or maybe it’s because it’s just simple and delicious…. One way or the other, it deserves a blog post.

So do yourself a favor and try this one out… You can leave it on the stove while you take your children trick or treating, and it’s all warm and hearty and just awesome when you get home… Trust me on this one.

Witch’s Stew

1 pound of hamburger meat, browned and drained

1 large bottle of Campbell’s tomato juice

5-6 large potatoes, peeled and diced (more or less depending on potato size and your families preference)

1 onion, diced

Worcestershire Sauce (Probably a Tbsp), I always just shake until it looks right
1 can of creamed corn
Salt & Pepper to taste


Brown hamburger meat and drain. (If I’m in a bind, I do it in the microwave.) Combine all ingredients except the can of creamed corn. Allow to simmer until potatoes are tender. Once potatoes are tender, stir in can of creamed corn, and let it simmer another 10-15 minutes.

We always served it with crackers/french bread and sliced cheese, but grilled cheeses, PBJs, etc are great too.

Y’all know what a spice freak I am, but trust me on this one. Simple is better and less is more with this one…
Tonight, I also needed to make a ‘thank you’ gift for a neighbor, so I decided to do a Blueberry Crumble with the last of the frozen blueberries I have…. I must admit, it turned out pretty good, and was so ridiculously easy. Here’s that recipe too…
I warn you, this may blow your mind at the simplicity of it….
Blueberry Crumble
1 bag of frozen blueberries (You could use mixed berries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, or maybe even peaches)
1 box of white cake mix
1 can of sprite
1/2 stick of butter
pecan pieces
brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 baking dish (or 2 smaller square pans) with cooking spray. Place frozen berries in bottom of pan. Sprinkle with cake mix. Pour can of Sprite (or 7up or Sierra Mist, just something clear) over cake mix (covering as much as possible with the liquid). DO NOT STIR! Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and top with crumbled pecans, a sprinkling of brown sugar, and a few pats of butter (probably 1/2 a stick or so). Bake another 15-20 minutes until top is all brown and crispy. (I turned the broiler on for the last few minutes so the brown sugar would caramelize a bit.) THAT’S IT. Seriously… Top with ice cream or whipped cream and get ready to have your mind blown…