Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whats's for Dinner: Week 4

So this last week was a bit crazy & I must confess I did NOT cook @ home 4 nights...only 3! Yes, tell me I didn't succeed at my NYR (new year's resolution), but I'll tell you making that resolution has certainly paid off...even if I broke it. Let me tell you why. I have found a new love for cooking and trying new recipes and finding healthier ways to cook our already favorite meals.

Because I have realized how difficult it is to find amazing, unique, cheap and new recipes to cook for all 4 nights (or how ever many I cook at home), I have decided to make this the last week of "what's for dinner" and rather share exciting "one-off" recipes, when I come across them. This week I've already repeated one of our new faves (Lemon curried chicken soup from week 1) so while I will continue to strive to cook 4 times at home, there will probably be many repeats (aka boring)!

But like I said, my NYR has been incredibly helpful because I have acquired more cooking skills/knowledge, and along with that grocery shopping knowledge (who knew that existed), like where do you find Pancetta? I've learned a lot from cooking just in the last 4 weeks and I am going to continue to be on the hunt for exciting recipes. I encourage you all to find exciting recipes that work for you and your household because it does bring lots of satisfaction :)

Monday: The Salmon and Couscous is self explanatory, and delicious

Tuesday: For the chicken marinade, I used this one found here (I used 1 TBSP of light mayo instead of miracle whip) . I marinated it while at work and it was pretty yummy. I cooked the brussel sprouts on the stove with some garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper, then added a little chicken broth and put the cover on and let them simmer with the cover on.

Wednesday: No photo because we just cooked heated up some French Onion Soups we got from Trader Joe's, and they were great!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Birthday Boatin'

Saturday it was Katie's birthday (25th--holy cow, our 10th celebrated together, time is flying by!) and even the good ol' weatherman (or rather iPhone man) was calling for rain, we rented a Duffy boat in the harbor...and guess what, it ended up being beautiful! Alex had a friend in town, so sadly he wasn't able to join, but nonetheless we had a blast boating through the harbor, snacking on some good eats, dancing and just kickin' back.
The Birthday Diva and Me

The Chicas

The Mighty Vessel

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Paper Flag Banner

A few days ago you saw my latest project with my home office and this cute little paper flag banner on my bulletin board. I've been so excited to put up this step-by-step project because I think everyone should make their own, because it's so fun and simple! My favorite part about it is that you can customize in just about every way to make it your own- I got a pack of "citrus" colored paper patterns from Joannes to create my flags, but you can pick from any type of paper, or even fabric, here are the supplies I used:

  • Pinking Scissors
  • Citrus Paper Pack (this was 4.5"x6.5" paper)
  • Adhesive (anything will due, I used a double sided tape sticky thing, scientific, i know!)
  • Ribbon 
1. Cut a square out of your desired colored paper
2. Fold that square in half (horizontally)
3. Take your pinking scissors and cut diagonally to create one side of your flag, then cut the other so yo you essentially have a really skinny diamond shape when you open it, or small diamond/flag when its folded over
4. Fold the flag over the ribbon (or whatever string type material you're using)
5. Open the paper up, so its a skinny diamond again, and put adhesive on both insides, then fold back and stick the sides together, and voila! 

TIP: If you're unsure how long you want your banner, you may want to cut out all flags first, then line them up on the ribbon and space them out evenly before putting the adhesive on, like so:
 6. Repeat with each desired paper color/design, until your banner is as long as you want it!

I chose to put my banner in my home office, but you can really use them in any location to spruce up your work space...or for a birthday, party decor, etc!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What's for Dinner: Week 3

[Monday]  Chicken Pisole
Review: Easy & pretty good...and something different than we usually make. I did subsitute a few things, such as the chili powder since I didn't have that on hand. And omitted the radishes, and used extra avocado and lime, you can never have too much of those in my opinion!
Recipe: Here
Ranking (out of 5): 3/5

[Tuesday]  Chicken with Mushroom Sauce & Asparagus 
Review: Believe it or not, Tuesday we had a celebrity chef, if you will (evidence above)! I had a really long day with work and asked Alex if he could plan and prep a meal. I knew he was certainly capable, but wasn't sure if I would come home to take out. But I was presently surprised to arrive to an amazingly yummy dinner. I'm normally not a huge fan of mushrooms, but the way he prepared them was delicious. Props to my boy :)
Recipe: Here (who knew he was a fan of Real Simple? One of my faves!)

Ranking (out of 5): 5/5 (c'mon you think i'd give less and chance him never cooking again!)

[Wednesday]  Shrimp Tacos 
Review: One of my staple favorites, I love shrimp, and again I love me some avocado and limes! 
Recipe: Not really a recipe for this one, just our favorite toppings mixed with shrimp and onions. I think tacos are one of those things that everyone has a different preference on, and there are so many yummy recipes. But, we did make up this yummy sauce (using yogurt to be a bit healthier of course: 3 tablespoons plain  greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and salt/pepper to taste)
Ranking (out of 5): 4.5/5

[Thursday]  Chicken with Delish Rub 
Review: This was just an ordinary chicken meal, really, but we did use this awesome rub I got Alex for Christmas from West Elm  (shown above)
Recipe: Again, just chicken with the rub, which we highly recommend and will probably try some other flavors, served with broccoli and biscuits!
Ranking (out of 5): 3/5

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Home "Office" Makeover

A few months ago, I treated myself (aka spent my life savings, eek) to a new computer, and since then I've been wanting to create a special place for it. Since we don't exactly have room for an "office" here in our little cottage, I decided to make one. And by make one, I mean take over a section of our  counter/bar area that separates the kitchen and dining room. It has actually worked out quite well, but I wanted to do a few special things to make it more of "my" space (that Alex can use on occasion with permission, just kidding-kinda). Here's what I came up with:

The items are a collection of many different places, which makes it more special to me. Here's a run down of where I picked up these favorite knick-nacks, if you will:

-Jewel Case Calendar: This I purchased on our Girls Weekend 2012 trip in Cape Cod in a cute little boutique store, but the brand is Snow & Graham, and can be purchased many other places (like Pottery Barn)

-Chevron Mouse Pad: from an Etsy store (from Laa766 shop, found here)

-Bulletin Board: from Target

-Flag Banner on Bulletin Board: handmade, step-by-step instructions to come soon on this project :)

-Desk Organizer: Martha Stewart line at Staples...I could have purchased many more items but I controlled myself. The line is SO cute, I highly recommend going to check it out!

I'm very happy with how my home office space turned out, and plan to add/change things semi-often (i'm sure i'll get bored of a few of the items in a few months or so!)

Here's a quick snap shot of the before/after look:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What's for Dinner: Week 2

Continuing my resolution, we cooked at home 4 nights last week (with one minor hiccup), wahoo! Although, I would say the first week was more successful from the *taste* standpoint [I think Alex would agree ;)], but hey you win some and you loose some, right?  

(my actual photos, hence them not looking as perfect as some you'll see on the sites linked below!)

[Sunday]  Fontina, Caramelized-Onion, and Pancetta Pizza
Review: I'm normally a huge homemade pizza fan, and this recipe was pretty good, but not my favorite. I think we might have skimped on the amount of Pancetta, which caused the onion to overpower! It was good,  but I think next time I would try prosciutto (my favorite!) or ham.
Recipe: Here
Ranking (out of 5): 3/5

[Monday] Tortelleni Soup 
Review: This is not a new recipe in our's a favorite! We originally had it at my Sister-in-law's a year or so ago, and from that day we have fallen in love. It's super easy and delicious, and make's for great leftovers.
Recipe: You can find tons of different recipes on line, but Marina's is my favorite and I haven't found it online, so if you're curious-

Ingredients: two packages of tortellini (in the aisle with the cheese at the grocery), mushrooms, garlic, yellow or white onion, two stocks of baby bok choy, tortellini and a box of chicken broth (we use 2 boxes because we like a lot of leftovers).

1. Sautee mushrooms and onion, add garlic after a few minutes
2. Put chicken broth in a big pot bring to light boil, add tortellini (cooks in Broth)
3. Once tortellini is almost done add the washed baby bok choy.
4. Optional: Add parmesan cheese & red pepper chili flakes to finished product

Ranking (out of 5): 5/5 (always...thanks Marina!)

[Tuesday] Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore
Review: I'm a HUGE fan of the crock pot ever since I purchased it a few months ago-especially with working. I was a little nervous leaving it on while I went to work the first time, but all worked out as planned! Anyways, this was a very yummy recipe, but I think next time I would follow the recipe just as stated (I tried to make it a little healthier and omit the cheese and some other things, but I think it would have made it better).
Recipe: Here
Ranking (out of 5): 4.5/5 

[Thursday] Cilantro-Lime Chicken Wings Store Bought Rotisserie Chicken
Review:  Well, well, I had all intentions of grilling Cilantro-Lime Chicken Wings (which we've also cooked many of times and we love), but sadly when I went to prepare the chicken I realized it had gone bad (guess I missed the date when picking that one out at the store), EW! So, I had to throw it out and run to Albertson's and get a Rotisserie chicken and throw some Pillsbury rolls in the oven and Rice Pilaf on the stove. It was a good save, but small disappointment!
Recipe: I'll have to check with the Albertson's chef and get back to ya!
Ranking (out of 5): 1/5 (my score for having the rolls and rice pilaf on hand!)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gettin' Crafty for the Kitchen

Since moving into our little humble abode, back in September, I have thoroughly enjoyed making it "our home". It has been so fun because this is the first time I [I mean, we ;) ] actually get to decorate our own place not just our one bedroom studio, if you will, at my sister's :). I can't wait for the day I get to conquer decorating a whole house...but for now the apartment is plenty. One of the places I've had the most trouble making feel homey is the kitchen. And by that I mean, I've been having trouble getting excited to cook and don't feel like it's my kitchen. I do love it because it's all white and easy to clean, but I wanted to add some color to make it more fun and add some personality. So, along came the "eat" frame project...

I've seen plenty of "eat" kitchen decor on Etsy that I love and could simply purchase-but what fun is that, right? I also get bored of things more quickly than most, so any time I can DIY and save some $, I'm all for it. So, I set out to Joannes to get my craft on & purchased the following [don't forget to use your Joanne's mobile app (nerd alert) I saved 50% on the frame, and 25% on my total purchase!]:
  • white cardstock for the actual "art piece" (I got three pieces just in case my penmanship wasn't as perfect as I'd like to think)
  • plain wooden frame
  • paint (I purchased Martha's "pool" and "wet cement" colors, and was very happy with the way they came out)
  • paint brushes
To complete this project, I painted the wooden frame with the Wet Cement paint color, then I just drew out the "eat" with a pencil on the cardstock, painted over it with the Pool color and voila:

In the "after" photo, you also see some new handy dandy dish towels I snagged during my last trip to Target for $4.99! 

There you have it, my speedy & simple kitchen craftery! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Little Things

I'm aware this a few weeks late, but I thought I'd share anyways. On Christmas Eve I surprised my family with a "Year in Review" video. 2012 was a big year for us, on many levels; we had a lot of "life defining" moments, you could say. We found out Chelsey was pregnant, Jamie & Marina moved into their first home, Alex and I into our first apartment, we were blessed with a new (adorable) bundle of joy...and so much more. I know it's easy, especially for me, to get caught up in the little things and not appreciate all that we're given. I think one of the major things I learned, looking back on 2012, was how awesome my life really is and I need to be thankful for everything I have. So, I wanted to remind them all how blessed we are for the memories we have and the people we get to share them with. Watch for yourself :)

I tried to upload the video to blogger but it is too large, so I have to send you to vimeo:

Watch Here!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What's for Dinner: Week 1

As I mentioned, it is my (ambitious) goal to cook healthy meals at home 4 nights a week this year. I'm happy to say that I was successful last week--we cooked at home 3 nights, then at my Sister's one night mostly credited to my Mom's expertise (still at home, despite not being my home)! When searching for yummy recipes, I start at Cooking Light usually, but have found some keepers on other sites, too.

Note: These are professional photos, which can be found on the recipe sites below...but mine looked close :)

[TuesdayCurried Chicken & Rice Soup
Review: Delicious and perfect for this time of year. It was really easy to make, and made for great leftovers. Only complaint would be that the Curry spice was a bit expensive for my budget, but now we have it and can find other recipes with Curry in it. Definitely a keeper-Alex has already requested it again!
Recipe: Already shared the recipe, but it can be found here.
Ranking (out of 5): 5/5

[Wednesday] Lettuce Wraps
Review: These were a little more involved, and again called for some ingredients that I did not have on hand; partly this is because I'm still building my pantry from moving in and becoming an aspiring cook ;) The finished product was pretty good, but nothing to write home about. I used ground turkey instead of chicken in effort to be more healthy, and also couldn't find butter lettuce so had to use iceberg, which doesn't make for too good of a "wrap". This recipe was decent and pretty healthy, but I think next time I'll try an alternative.
Recipe: Here
Ranking (out of 5): 2/5

[Friday] Grilled Chicken with Rustic Mustard Cream
Review: This recipe surprised me, as I was a little weary and thought it might be too boring. I don't know what I was thinking, though, because it was so yummy. I had planned to do the prep and have Alex get his grill on, but traffic had other plans for him, and we were going to miss our movie, so I put my grillin' cap on and BBQed the chicken myself...a first for me on our grill, so I was proud. Anyways, it came out great! I made it with the roasted tomatoes  (just the red grape tomatoes) and the flavors were delish.
Recipe: Here
Ranking (out of 5): 5/5

[Saturday] Roast Pork with Peach Glaze
Review: Admittedly, my mother was the hands behind this dish, I mostly took part in the eating of it. But, I will say that I was extremely skeptical when she called me and asked me to pick up peaches from the store- I said "oh, so we're having a peach dessert", and she says "no its for the Pork". I was a little weary but I am a sucker for sweet & salty things, so I gave it a shot! And boy, thank goodness I did. It was yummy, and the pork was cooked to perfection (of course my mom has a little more practice than me, so probably a good thing she did this one). Now that I know about this recipe, I'll definitely try it one day soon, but it is a bit more difficult and pricey-probably on a weekend when I have some more time. We served this with corn bread, salad and corn on the cob.
Recipe: Came from my mom's Cooks Illustrated book, but here is a copy cat recipe
Ranking (out of 5): 4/5

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saturday Fun

I've known Katie since our freshman year of high school and through many ups, downs, good times and bad times since then, we became best friends. Now ten years later (holy cow)...she's getting married June 29, and I couldn't be more happy for her, and her fiance. So needless to say, we were all anxious and excited to see the place it's all goin' down! We met at Hamilton Oaks Vineyard on Saturday afternoon, and upon arrival I knew they had picked the perfect spot to say "I do".

It's pretty crazy, because this vineyard is new, but the space it is on has been there forever. We used to pass it all the time in high school, and it was nothing but a field and least so I thought! The owners of the vineyard have fixed the space up and it is now BEAUTIFUL! We spent the afternoon wine tasting [Katie had the little tasting table decorated so cute with homemade bouquets in mason jars], touring the spot, and of course she "asked" us to be her bridesmaids [even though we already knew ;) ] To "ask" us, she DIYed letter necklaces for each of us, and they came out awesome. She put the necklace inside a card with a thoughtful note and a crazy pic from high school, for each of us. It brought many of us to tears, but was simply the perfect gift and gesture, and of course we all said "yes" and are completely honored to be in her wedding party. Lucky for me, the rest of the girls are my best friends from high school, too!


After a wonderful day at the vineyard, I headed to Chelsey & Tucker's house for some family fun. We cooked dinner and hung out, and of course were entertained by none other than Easton (while he ate his big boy oatmeal). 

Friday, January 4, 2013

T.G.I.For real!

I don't know if anyone else felt like this but even though this week was only 3 days of working, it felt like the longest "short"week ever. 

I know it was the first working week of 2013, so it should be a refreshing start, but my goodness it was brutal! But, thank goodness Friday night is finally here, hallelujah. Many things  to be excited for this weekend though. Tonight we're having a date night at the movies (of course after I cook here at home-yes sticking to my resolution!), and tomorrow we continue the festivities for my best friend's wedding! She's hosting us at her wedding venue for some wine tasting (it's on a vineyard) and I can't wait to FINALLY see the venue, I know it's going to be gorgeous. Then tomorrow night we'll have some quality family time at my sister's nephew's house. I love my sister and brother in law, but c'mon I have to admit I'm a little more excited to see this face:

Hope everyone has a great first weekend of 2013!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Spoonful o' Resolution

As (one of my) New Years resolutions, I've decided to cook at home at least 4 nights a week. I know it does not sound that difficult, but somehow it has seemed nearly impossible for me ever since I started working--call me crazy! Although I have multiple reasons for wanting to do this, one of the most important ones is to try and eat healthier (I know, cliche, cliche!). Luckily, Santa apparently forecasted this resolution as I opened up these AMAZING cooking and baking supplies on Christmas morning!

Conversion Dish Towel (Crate&Barrel), Milk Bottle Measuring Cups (Anthropologie)
& Serving Set (Anthropologie)

I mean, how can you not want to get in the kitchen and cook/bake with these awesome "tools"! I know it motivates me. Now I just need to find some yummy (and healthy) is challenging but I know they're out there. Last night I made Curried Chicken and Rice Soup (found here) and it came out great, it was really tasteful, healthy and even Alex loved it! Perfect for the cold nights we've been having. I think I will be cooking it again soon. 

If anyone has some yummy & healthy fun recipes, bring 'em on!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ringing in the New Year

This year we decided to get on the planning early and got together with some friends to plan a mini vacation & rent a cabin in Big Bear. Surprisingly, we pulled it off, and Alex and I and 5 other couples (my good friends from college and their beaus) rang in the new year mountain style.

We headed up on Saturday afternoon and met everyone at the cabin in time to cook a very yummy italian meal, Alex made his family recipe Italian meatballs, which are becoming quite the staple I must say. We spent the night catching up with everyone and playing some games (which we won't detail, as the boys "competiveness" got the best of them which led us to stop playing!).

The next day we all got up, had a scrumptious breakfast then headed to the tubing slopes, which was pretty fun (although slightly overpriced)!

We spent New Years Day on the slopes at Snow Summit, we ended up having amazing weather, and fresh snow from the days before. And then we headed back to the cabin to rest up and get ready to celebrate the last holiday of 2012! We ate a delicious Steak dinner, talked about our blessings from 2012 and our hopes for 2013, it was quite the perfect night and weekend. It was great to spend the holiday with close friends and get away to do something different this year. Happy New Years everyone :)