Plant Based Hoppin John

Plant Based Hoppin John

Our recent decision to step up our eating game and focus on a more plant-based way of eating just happened to coincide with the New Year. While this is the time of year when many people set resolutions, it isn’t something that Trent or I tend to practice in the traditional sense, although I do tend to view the new year as a fresh start in a lot of ways. For us, the plant-based focus likely stemmed from us both turning 45 last year and just wanting to feel our best as we continue to get older. We’ve always been pretty good about exercise (Trent more so than me), but it’s the eating that continues to be our biggest challenge – we both love food.

Something we both know about ourselves is that if we don’t have a plan or specific focus on how we intend to eat, then we’ll ultimately gravitate towards junk food. That couldn’t have been more true after our move back to Michigan one year ago. While the move was a new adventure and something we both continue to be thrilled about, that doesn’t mean this past year hasn’t been filled with upheaval. For me, upheaval leads to poor food choices – it isn’t called comfort food for nothing.

We’ve changed some of our eating habits a number of times over the years, even spending a good deal of time with a focus on paleo. Eating meat and veggies is pretty easy to follow and it was generally successful, but it wasn’t something I felt excited to dive back in to when considering the options on how to move forward. Call me a hippie, but I struggled a little with all of the meat I was eating – for a variety of reasons. After some digging in, incorporating a more plant-based way of eating seemed to be worth giving a try and so here we are. This doesn’t mean we won’t eat meat at all and we still have some things to figure out in terms of that, but introducing more plant-based whole foods into our lives certainly can’t hurt.

That brings me back to the New Year. We discovered the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for luck while living in North Carolina, which lead to Trent’s delicious version of Hoppin’ John a time or two. That dish typically calls for pork of some kind (usually ham hock or bacon) and Carolina Gold rice (not an easy find, even in the south), but I wanted to try my hand at a vegetarian version this year. Not only did I have an incredible amount of fun putting this together, but we both thought this turned out absolutely delicious! This will definitely not be reserved solely for New Year’s Day. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Vegetarian Hoppin’ John

Serves 4-6


  • 2 1/2 cups dried black-eyed peas (soaked overnight, see below)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (I used one green and one orange – your choice)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 small bunch of kale, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (1 1/2 tsp to start, then 1 tsp towards end)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 cups prepared brown rice – you can use your favorite option here. I used a simple 10-minute quick cook brown rice.


  1. Look through the dried black-eyed peas and pick out any that look funky. Place in a dish and cover with cold water, being sure that the water covers the peas by at least a couple of inches as they’ll expand. Soak at least 6 hours, but it’s recommended to soak overnight. You won’t hurt these, I soaked for about 20 hours and they were fine. When ready to cook, drain the black-eyed peas in a strainer. (2 1/2 cups of dried peas should produce roughly 3 cups after soaked. You can alter how many black-eyed peas you want to use, but I had a good, full 3 cups after soaked.)
  2. When ready to cook, in a large, deep pot (I used a Dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the onion, stirring often and cook until soft and starting to turn golden brown.
  4. Add the peppers, celery, carrots and garlic. Stir periodically and cook until the vegetables start to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Stir in the thyme, oregano, crushed red pepper, cayenne, ancho chili powder, salt, pepper and 1 1/2 tsp of the smoke paprika (reserve the final 1 tsp of smoked paprika for later).
  6. Slowly add the kale in bunches to the pot, allowing each bunch to wilt down before adding the next.
  7. Add the drained black-eyed peas, vegetable broth and bay leaves to the pot. Turn down to low and simmer uncovered for 50-60 minutes until peas are tender.
  8. Add the final 1 tsp of smoked paprika during the last 15 minutes of cooking. I did this because I was concerned that the vegetable broth could be a bit overpowering and I wanted a more smoky flavor overall – this did the trick.
  9. While simmering, prepare brown rice of choice, according to directions.
  10. Season with additional salt and pepper, as needed, serve over prepared brown rice and enjoy!

Catching Up

I’ve decided to dust off the site and shoot for a little catch up, but 9 months since a post leaves a lot to get into. To spare you some time, I’ll try to make this brief, but I do plan to revisit some of these on later posts. If you follow us on Instagram, then you already know most of the story, although, you may also know that we (specifically, I) have been terrible about catching before and after shots of projects. I try, but I always seem to get so caught up in the excitement of something that I completely forget to snap the before progress. I promise to be better. Really.

Okay, here we go. Our dream for a mid-century modern came true in late May 2019, when we closed on our cute, 1957 red ranch, complete with Trent’s favorite – the butterfly roof. We made it through the battles of a tough market and a little heartbreak over a deal that fell through after a difficult inspection. But, in the end, it was as if this one had been waiting for us all along. In fact, it was only hours after we had to pull the plug on the rough inspection home that this one popped up. While it is missing practically all of the mid-century modern character on the interior, the exterior had us at hello. It helps that the size and floorplan are just what we were looking for and now we get to have fun molding it into our perfect home.

This is from the original listing. I’ll admit, at first, I was skeptical.

Moving day – do you see all those trees? Clue – that isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Because the only decent, recent front shot I have is from a snow day. I told you I was bad at this! But, here she is: sans trees (and red squirrels), fresh paint job, new gutters, new door and house numbers. Also, yes, there is some landscaping buried under there, I promise.

So, yes. We’ve done quite a lot since moving in. I’ll visit some of this in later posts, but we immediately started with swapping out light fixtures while attempting to unpack and settle in, because we just couldn’t wait to do something fun. But, that was quickly followed by a lot of not-so-fun stuff. As much as we love trees, there were upwards of 14 massive ones that had to go as they were either too close to the house or in a couple of cases, just not able to be saved. The house felt like it could breathe once those were out, and then came the battle with the red squirrels. Most notably, the great battle of the scratching squirrels at 4 a.m. that took place every day in the master bedroom walls. After a highly welcome visit from a critter control expert, the squirrels finally left the building – unharmed, I might add. In case you aren’t familiar, red squirrels may be cute little things, but they are absolute terrors. Trust me when I say you don’t want them anywhere near your house.

In between sewer line and plumbing repairs, HVAC duct work that involved creepy and strange things stuffed in the ducts, gutter replacement, a full exterior paint job, and major crawlspace and basement work, we managed to fit in some fun exterior updates and landscaping projects. But, let me just say that if I don’t ever have to shovel massive loads of pea stone again, I’ll be perfectly alright. Although, I can’t argue with the satisfaction of the end result.

Besides all of the work on the house, which has consumed nearly all of our free time, we’ve had some other big changes these past nine months. Trent used to travel every week for a long term work project, and when I say he traveled every week – I mean every week for the past nine+ years, except for about a one-year break back in 2016. Since October, that project ended and he’s now working at home. It’s been an absolute dream to have a normal life with each other, one where we have more than a day or two on the weekends to try and cram everything in. I can’t tell you how happy that makes the both of us.

Then, before the move into the new digs, we did experience some serious heartbreak with the loss of our sweet cat, Lucy, who will forever remain Princess Pickle Pants in our hearts.

It was a sudden loss that still hurts to this day, but after some time in our new home, we both knew we were ready to share our lives with another furry little quadruped. In late July, Mr. Conan O’Brien the orange cat came to live with us, and I’d say he’s fitting in perfectly.

We both look forward to embarking on some smaller projects indoors while winter settles in, some of which have already kicked off – and there are larger projects still to come that I can’t wait to share. (Maybe my new year’s resolutions should include before and after photo goals.) However, this coming week, I’m just excited about a little holiday decorating and hosting a small Thanksgiving in our new home. This place definitely feels like where we are meant to me.

Back in Michigan

The move is done and the North Carolina house is sold! It’s been a little over three weeks since we made our last 12-hour drive up to Michigan, this time with our traumatized cat, Lucy. Trent would later recount to me how she was fussing from the crate in the backseat of his car pretty much the entire time. Poor baby (the cat and Trent). The good news is that Lucy settled into the apartment pretty quickly, I’m not sure it’s quite the same for us, though. We’ve tried to limit ourselves to unpacking mostly essentials given that this is just a temporary stop, but we couldn’t resist hanging just a few pieces of art on the wall and ordering new bedroom furniture. With the move, I’m working from home now, so I needed to make this place at least feel mildly cozy while we hunt down our mid-century modern home, and neither of us wanted a mattress on the floor any longer than we had to.

Finding a mid-century modern King size bed isn’t exactly in the cards, so West Elm came to the rescue and it’s lovely! This simple piece should fit nicely into any space we end up with, but we’ll wait to see what the new home offers before pulling the trigger on nightstands. For the time being, we have some mismatched mid-century originals that do the trick.

With the North Carolina house behind us, we have been officially on the hunt for our new home. It’s not the best time of year for listing yet, so availability has been pretty slim. We saw one that was promising, but it was so much more house than we needed and we ultimately decided to pass for a few reasons. Plus, if it didn’t completely feel like the one, there was no way we could just go with the first house. Time is on our side, but it is so hard to be patient. While we wait for listings to pop up, we drive through neighborhoods all over the Lansing area nearly every time we head out. This past weekend was spent slowly driving through Walnut Heights in East Lansing, drooling over the gems in that little pocket. People probably thought we were weirdos if they saw us snapping photos out of our car window. I personally think we are pretty okay, so do you want to sell your house?

Not Enough Coffee

Not Enough Coffee

We’ve gone a little quiet since starting this space because of so much going on with the move. On December 20th, we accepted an offer on our Charlotte, NC home, with a quick close. Since that day, it’s been full speed ahead. In the span of 12 days, we’ve nearly completed packing a 3600 square foot house, traveled back to Michigan for Christmas and rented an apartment while there. Not to mention the countless logistical details involved in a move, which is scheduled for January 10th. As hectic as it may seem (and is), it has all been moving forward pretty smoothly. I credit the afternoon coffee for getting us through the long days.

If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that we attempted to sneak in a bit of mid-mod neighborhood hunting during our trip back to Michigan. While I had every intention of snapping more photos, I opted to save that for another day when the move is complete and time is back on our sides. We did drive through some pretty fabulous areas, in addition to checking out the neighborhood around the Lansing Country Club, we found some real gems in the Glencairn neighborhood in East Lansing, as well as some pockets of mid-century modern on the west side of Lansing. We barely scratched the surface in Okemos this time around, but took another drive through Indian Hills, which has some of our favorite homes in that area. Sadly, the houses for sale that we hoped to see during our visit were both under contract by the time we arrived, but that just means the right house for us is still out there somewhere. Until we find it, we have a nice apartment with an attached garage to call home (and storage) for a while.

Time for more coffee…and packing.

Slowly Searching

Because we still have a house to sell before making the move, we don’t want to buy another house until that part is wrapped up. The grand plan is that when we sell in NC, we’ll rent an apartment in Michigan while we search for the perfect mid-century gem. Despite that, we can’t keep our eyes off of the real estate listings. It’s something we’ve always done, though – scanning the listings, looking for amazing mid-century modern homes just for fun. Now it’s for real, although I can’t quite call it “for real” until our current house sells. Once that happens, then we are genuinely all-in.

Since we started the mid-Michigan mid-century home search, we’ve come across a number of great houses, even with the market being a bit slow this time of year. There is one that we’ve been spying in East Lansing for some time now, and we can’t seem to get it out of our heads, even  though it doesn’t fit exactly what we are searching for. In our opinion, it’s a bit overpriced for all of the work that it needs inside, and taxes in that area are pretty high. It would be tough to justify the cost, but it has a ton of potential if the price was right. Can’t you just envision gorgeous wood floors, a bit of work on that ceiling and beams, with a fun front door and entryway? Oh, and those windows! The listing is located here with lots of photos.

The Charlotte House

In my prior post, I mentioned the home we have on the market in Charlotte, NC. You know, the one we need to sell before making our move back to Michigan and making this mid-century modern dream start turning into a reality. I thought I’d give you a peek at this house and a bit of the style we’ve incorporated. We’ve had a great time putting each room together over the past five years and we are constantly making changes and updates.  Incorporating touches of mid-mod elements in a more traditional style home can be a challenge, but in the end, it’s worked out well and we are proud of the results. I know someone else will love this home as much as we have, and I also know that we have an amazing time ahead of us when we finally get to make the move!