Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Blogging Year in Review

2012 was quite the year! Exciting, BUSY, and very memorable. Here is my year in review through blog posts. 

I embarked on a quest to eat more fruit and vegetables. Which I mostly failed. 

We ate our way through New Orleans

Adam and I got engaged

I planned a wedding.

Joined CrossFit and changed our diet and the way I look at food, yet again. 

Dropped off the face of blogging earth while wedding planning kicked in to high gear.

 AND finally returned to blogging with a new name.

I'm ready to make 2013 the best blogging year yet! What are you excited for in 2013?

P.S. A great recipe post is going up on Thursday! You don't want to miss it!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bonus Post! Holiday Eats!

Happy Holidays! Man, they snuck up on me this year. Well, they do every year. Soooo, like the bad blogger I am, I have no tutorials, no holiday gift guides, no 12 days of cookies, and no homemade gifts. 

I suck.

But wait, wait! Don't close your browser just yet and leave me in Internet darkness. 

If you are like me and have absolutely nothing planned yet, fear not, my friends! Procrastination can and will be rewarded! 

May I present you with a present.

My list of Holidays Eats. 

Looking for the perfect Christmas Breakfast?

Try my Breakfast Bacon Apple Tart for a light snack or my Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onion Quiche for something more substantial.

In need of an appetizer?

How about a fruit pizza? Make it holiday themed red and green by using strawberries and kiwi.
Or these pimento cheese party toasts to warm up your holiday guests.

Are you pondering the age old question of what side dish to make?

Another winner, as the name clearly states, my favorite roast veggies
Looking for something fancy? Try these Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar Roasted Root Vegetables.
Serving any kind of steaks for Christmas? Top them with these AH-MAZING Mushrooms in cream and ale sauce.

Need a quick fix for your holiday sweet tooth?

This Crustless Cheesecake with Cranberry Topping is eager to spend the holidays with you!
Want to serve Santa something warm? Try this Cranberry Apple Crisp.

And finally, need to give a last minute hostess gift? 

Whip up a batch of these Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Cups and pat your self on the back for a job well done. 

Well, what are you waiting for? It looks like you've got some cooking to do, doesn't it?

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mini Party Sandwiches!

So I love to cook. Right? You would think so based on my growing list of recipes on this here bloggy-blog. So why do holiday potlucks give me anxiety? I should be thrilled! A chance to show off my cooking prowess! A chance to create a dish entirely from scratch that I've never tried before and then test it on unsuspecting party goers! A chance to enlighten millions, or at least the guests of said party, with an amazing dish created by yours truly! A CHANCE TO RULE THE WORLD! 

chopped onions

Wait, what? Let me get back on topic.

king's hawaiian sweet rolls

Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, hence the anxiety. But I just can't help myself! I want to impress, I want to wow, I want to present something that is at the very least home cooked. 

OR at the very, very least home assembled.

 Ruling the world is a process, my dears, one step at a time.

So I present to you Mini Party Sandwiches!

baked ham and cheese poppyseed sliders

This recipe has been all over pinterest and they were quite a hit at the superbowl party I brought them to earlier in the year. One step towards world domination! (insert evil laugh) So I figured why not make them for a holiday get together as well. Who doesn't love hammy, cheesy, buttery, oniony, poppy seed goodness. REALLY, tell me who? They will not be invited to my I-finally-succeeded-in-ruling-the-world party.

Baked Ham and Cheese Poppy Seed Sliders
makes 24 sliders

2 packages of 12 mini King's Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
2 lbs honey ham sliced deli meat
1 pound sliced swiss cheese 
2 onions, sweet or brow, finely diced
1 and 1/2 sticks of butter
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tbs worcestershire sauce
2 tbs poppy seeds
a couple shots of hot sauce if you want a little kick (I like Tapitio)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter in a large skillet. 

Once butter is melted, add the finely diced onions. Cook until onions become translucent - 8 to 10 minutes. 

Add dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and hot sauce. Stir and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, slice rolls in half without separating the individual rolls. Line a baking pan with foil and place bottom half of rolls in the pan.

Once onion mixture is done, spread 2/3 of onion mixture over the bottom half of the rolls. Maxing sure to get an even layer. Then layer ham over the onion mixture and finally cheese on top of the ham.

Top with the roll tops. Spread remaining onion mixture over top of rolls.

Cover with aluminum foil. You can make these ahead and and refrigerate until ready to bake. 

Bake covered at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove foil briefly at the end to get a nice golden color on the sandwiches.

baked ham and cheese poppyseed sliders

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Wedding Part 2: The Details and Decorations

Planning the decorations and details was one of the most fun and creative processes of wedding planning. It was also somewhat time consuming and stressful given that pretty much all of it was DIY, but the end product made it all worth it. I tried to keep everything within my theme and cohesive. I spent a lot of time pinning on pinterest, planning, and painting. I recruited friends, my mom, and my dad to help. I did a decent job at delegated tasks. As far as how it turned out?

I'll let the photos speak for themselves:

DIY succulent centerpieces
{DIY Succulent Centerpieces}

DIY succulent centerpieces
{DIY Succulent Centerpieces}

chalkboard menu
{Chalkboard Menu}

DIY burlap bunting
{DIY Welcome Burlap Bunting}

photo book guest book
{Photo Book Guest Book}

photo book guest book
{Photo Book Guest Book}

hand painted burlap bunting
{Hand Painted Burlap Bunting}

chalkboard bar menu
{Chalkboard Bar Menu}

vintage card suitcase
{Vintage Suitcase for Cards}

magnetic beer cap escort cards
{Magnetic Beer Cap Escort Cards}

hand painted corn hole boards
{Hand Painted Corn Hole Boards}

To say that I am thrilled with the outcome, would be an understatement. Everything came together more beautifully then I even imagined. And that says a lot since I generally have unreasonably high expectations. But I think that is the joy in DIY, you have to love it because you put so much work into it! Special thanks to my mom and dad who really helped with the projects and without them nothing would have gotten done on time.

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Wedding - Part 1: The Theme

Yay! It's time to share some photos from my wedding! I'm sure you're not quite as excited as I am about the prospect of me blogging endlessly about the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE thus far, but I do hope you enjoy the upcoming posts about the wedding and my planning process. While my best advice to a DIY bride would be not to get caught up in the details, I also do believe that a wedding is a culmination of well thought out details. Step one to creating the details is to figure out the theme, or look and feel of the wedding. In this particular post I talked a bit about what I had planned for some aspects of the wedding. It's been fun for me to go back and read it knowing now how everything turned out.

lake havasu wedding

The best way I could describe the theme of our wedding would be "playful" and "natural with pops of color." Also, since we are such big beer people (Adam works in the beer industry) we knew we had to incorporate our love of craft beer into the theme as well. In the above photo you can see our escort cards were bottle caps (that were magnets to take home!) and you matched your bottle cap to your table. We used growler jugs as decoration along the bar and featured 3 different beers from local brewery, Mudshark, at our reception. My favorite was the "Peaceful Pumpkin" which was served with a nutmeg and cinnamon sugar rim and whip cream! 

Refuge Golf and Country Club wedding

I wanted to take advantage of our beautiful venue: The Refuge Golf and Country Club and the fact that the wedding was in Arizona. Inspired by the look of a desert landscape with it's dusty coral hills and sage bushes, I choose coral and sage green as my colors. I made gold the accent color once I learned that my venue had "champagne" colored tablecloths. Now, coral and gold is one of my favorite color combinations and I'm shocked that the idea hadn't come to me sooner. 

Granted, gold basically translated to yellow when it came to the flowers and the printed materials. 

lake havasu wedding

I knew from the very beginning that the gentlemen would be in khaki, I just couldn't imagine all these guys standing out by an Arizona lake in stark black. Plus, I didn't want the event to feel terribly formal and black felt formal to me. There were moments where I was nervous about the suits. But let's be real, there were moments where I was nervous about everything. Many moments. Adam and I debated whether the men should where vests with the suits. I eventually won - no vests. I like the clean and casual look of the khaki suits with a white shirt and a pop of color coming only from the tie and boutonniere.

After these initial decisions were made I had an idea of where I was going. But one person was key in making my theme come to life. And that was Xiomara of Love Notes Paperie (formerly Something Modern) on Etsy. Basically, I knew from my extensive research (read: exhausting, obsessive, crazy frantic searching of every crevice of the world wide web) that I would need to start from scratch. Xiomara was mentioned on Emmaline Bride for the work she did designing a bride's invites from scratch. There was even mention of 60 back and forth emails to get the final product. BINGO. I found my girl.

{photo by Jeff Janke Photography, Invites by Love Notes Paperie}

My Save The Date was a Lake Havasu postcard and I wanted to keep the travel theme going since almost all of our guests would be coming from out of state. Only my parents, my husband's dad and a few of their friends live in Lake Havasu City, so we approached our wedding as a mini destination wedding. With this in mind, and a few samples and drawings exchanged between emails, Xiomara created my invitations. I told her I wanted them to be bright and fun and I couldn't be happier with how they turned out. And, honestly I don't think it took that many emails to get to the final product, but Xiomara might feel differently. :) 

DIY wedding invitations
{photo by Jeff Janke Photography, Invites by Love Notes Paperie}

One of my favorite parts of the invitations are the little details. The bride and groom holding the "we do" balloon. The signs pointing the way to California and Arizona. The plane toting the "love is sweet" banner and the tiny cacti. I packaged the invites by tying the pieces together with colored bakers twine and attaching a kraft paper tagged stamped with our wedding website. I finished it off with a kraft paper envelope stuffed with colorful tiny hearts that I hole bunched from sparkly paper so that they floated out when the guests took the invitations out of the envelopes.

budget wedding invitations

But my very favorite part of the invitations are the RSVP postcards. I can't get over how great they turned out. Xiomara took my sketch and ran with it. The rays coming from the sun -  all her idea -  but it's like she knew me even though we had never met!

mad lib wedding RSVP

To keep the playful theme going we decided to do "mad libs" on the back of the RSVP card. Our guests had fun filling in the blanks and we had a ton of fun reading them! We only got 2 back with no names on them, which was one of the things I was worried about since there was a front and back to fill out, but I numbered each invite and the numbers correlated to the guest list so I could match up RSVP cards that weren't fully filled out.

DIY wedding invitations

I used Digital Lizard to print the invites and was amazed at the affordable prices and quality work! Not only did I love my invitations and feel that they really represented the vibe of the wedding and gave our guests a good idea of what to expect, but I managed to stay within my $300 (with postage!) budget.

pint glass wedding favors
{pint glass. photo by Jeff Janke Photography}

To keep the theme consistent I continued to use Xiomara of Love Notes Paperie to design the graphic for our wedding favor pint glasses and to design our programs. I loved the little bride and groom on the invites so we decided to play off of that. I couldn't be happier with how everything turned out! 

unique wedding program
{wedding program. photo by Jeff Janke Photography}

The programs were a last minute decision and ended up costing more than I expected them to since I had to print them at Staples the day before the wedding. I'm not entirely sure it was worth it, since most people didn't even realized there was a front and back to them, but I had my mind stuck on it and Xiomara worked with me to get them done in speed lighting fashion. 
And they did turn out pretty damn cute. If I do say so myself. And I loved that the theme was carried through in all the little details.

How did you or would you approach the theme to your own wedding?

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Napa Valley Film Festival

In 2011 I got to work on something really special. It's not everyday that you get to work with a good friend on a project that has heart and is truly something unique. That project is a documentary called SOMM, a film about four master sommelier candidates as they prepare to take the hardest test of their lives, and arguably one of the hardest tests in the world.

{SOMM posters}

The film opened the Napa Valley Film Festival (to rave reviews!) and my friend Crystal and I attended the invite only world premiere screening. We got decked out in red carpet attire, drank insanely expensive champagne and had a great time.

Napa Film Festival
{Myself and Crystal, dresses from Rent the Runway}

Napa Film Festival
{Jason, the director, and the cast of SOMM}

One of my favorite parts of the quick trip was hanging out at the vineyard house with the cast and crew. Wine was flowing like water (and water was actually kinda hard to find) and the men were in the kitchen whipping up a meal that was simply to.die.for.

Turns out getting a bunch of master sommeliers and their friends in the kitchen armed with fresh produce from the farmer's market makes for some of the most amazing food of your life. 

Follow SOMM's facebook page for updates on the film's distribution!

Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chicken in a Skillet: the faster way to a roast chicken dinner

I've been keeping a secret. Well not just a secret, a lot of secrets actually. Don't take it personally. I blame the wedding, which you will get to hear about in full detail coming up in the next few weeks!!!! GET EXCITED. I am. Can you tell?

But back to my secret, I was flipping through my iphone and instagram pics and realized that I've had some cooking (and life) successes over the last few months, and I feel that I would be doing a disservice to the public if I did not share them.

For example:

My Halloween custom. Success. Of the life variety of successes. (Penny sure thinks so.)

Ok, Ok, maybe a bit of an exaggeration... But it's an excellent lead in to chicken in a skillet!

Well, actually, it doesn't have much at all to do with chicken in a skillet, except that I made this chicken in a skillet on Halloween night. 

And if I have to subject you to a photo of me in a half ass Halloween costume and my dog in an awesome one in order to give you this secret to moist, delicious, easy, and quick roast chicken, then consider yourself lucky.

Favorite thing about this "recipe" is that not only is it easy, it produces a moist roast chicken in less time than the normal oven-on-350-degrees method. But before we even get to the chicken, let me wax poetic about the carrots. Oh, the carrots. Tender and crispy coated in butter and chicken drippings carrots. Carrots that melt in your mouth but also have a crispy burnt crust. Carrots that make you think, I may never eat another french fry again if only I could have these carrots everyday. That last line is a direct quote from my husband. Except that what he really said was, "Hmmm, these are like carrot french fries. Pretty good."

The secret is the hot skillet. Piping, make-sure-you-wear-seriously-thick-oven-mitts-hot skillet. So break out your old cast iron and heat up that oven, it's chicken time. And make sure you stuff as many carrots around that bird as humanely possible. 

You can thank me later. Or in the comments below.

Chicken in a Skillet
adapted from Mark Bittman

1 whole chicken 
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 - 4 tbs butter
4 - 6 cloves garlic, peeled
carrots, as many as you think you can fit, peeled and cut in half

Using paper towel apply a layer of olive oil to the bottom of a large cast iron pan. Place pan in oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Wash chicken and pat completely dry. Rub chicken with olive oil and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Using a knife pull skin away from meat and place 4 pats of butter under the skin over the breasts.

When oven is heated, 10 to 15 minutes, use oven mitts to take skillet out of the oven. Carefully place the chicken, breast side up, in the hot skillet. Place a pat of butter on top of the chicken. Nestle as many carrots as you can fit and the garlic next to the chicken. Place chicken in oven and cook undisturbed for 40 to 55 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers at 155 - 165 degrees in the thigh and the juices run clear. My 4 to 5 pound chicken took 55 minutes. If you need to cook the chicken for longer than 55 minutes you may need to remove the carrots, but unless your chicken is abnormally large, max 55 minutes should do the trick.


Love, Luck, and Happiness!

Monday, December 3, 2012

White Winter Chili - Lightened Up

This recipe is an all around winner. I've made it at least 5 times, which is HUGE in a household where recipes don't get a lot of replay. (I get bored easily.) It's warming, delicious, creamy goodness with the added bonus of being surprisingly healthy thanks to a few little tricks. It's great for the winter, but honestly I would make it anytime.

white chicken chili

This chili also happens to be super easy to make. Seriously. Make this your next meal! I used white sweet potatoes because they were on sale, but orange sweet potatoes or what is commonly labeled as "yams" would be nice to lend the chili some bright pops of color. Also feel free to choose white or dark meat, or a combination of both depending on what you have in the fridge or what is on sale.

white chicken chili with sweet potato

White Chicken Chili with Sweet Potatoes

adapted from Eat Live Run

1 lb boneless skinless chicken meat (white or dark) cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium brown onion, diced
1 Tbs olive oil
1 can cannellini or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 - 4 ounce can of chopped green chilis
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
grind of fresh pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1/2 cup non-fat evaporated milk (or 1/2 cup heavy cream, if you prefer)
6 ounces greek yogurt (any percentage of fat you prefer, I recommend full fat or 2%)

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add the chicken and chopped onion. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Sauté for 5 - 6 minutes until onion begins to become translucent and chicken begins to brown. Add garlic and sauté for another 2 - 3 minutes.

Add the rinsed beans, the green chilis, all the spices, and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and set to simmer. Add the sweet potato. Cook for 30 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.

Turn off heat and add the non-fat evaporated milk and greek yogurt. Mix well. Serve with cheddar cheese on top if desired.


Love, Luck, and Happiness!

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