Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Super Simple Shrimp Tacos

This meal is so easy, it almost feels like cheating! I mashed up a recipe from a couple sources, but basically I just looked for the absolute quickest way to create some flavor around these seafood tacos!

You'll Need:
Whole wheat tortillas
Pre-cooked, peeled (frozen) shrimp - thawed
Half cup of low-fat ranch dressing
Half a packet of taco seasoning
Shredded low-fat cheese
Seasoning for cooking shrimp (garlic, cumin, salt, pepper)

For sides:
Brown rice
1 small can of green chilies
1 can of refried beans

Saute the shrimp with your seasoning and a little olive oil for about 3 minutes. In the meantime, heat the tortillas in the microwave or oven. Mix the ranch dressing with the taco seasoning and spread on the tortillas when they're heated. Place the shrimp on top and add the cheese.

I like to serve with rice mixed with green chilies, and refried beans. That way you can add to the tacos or keep them as side dishes.

A really easy weeknight meal!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quick and Healthy Granola Bars

I adapted quite a bit from this recipe.

I used only one banana and lots of natural peanut butter, plus toasted coconut.

Very yummy and super easy! We've been enjoying them as breakfast and snacks over the past few couple weeks.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Little Gravel in my Travel.....

I finally feel like I'm getting back to normal after what can only be described as an amazing past 10 days.

Teddy and I were in back-to-back weddings, with a family vacation in SC sandwiched in between! The past week was full of family, friends, fun, sun, laughter and relaxation - definitely a week comprised of special moments and memories that I will cherish!

Here are just a few highlights captured in photos - but no amount of photos could do this week justice!

Congrats to the newleyweds, Joel & Sarah and Candice & Andy. We love you guys!

*The title is from a country song that we spent a lot of time listening to while down south and out in wine country in MI - couldn't be more fitting!

Friday, June 22, 2012

For my Best Friend on her wedding day....

Today I am in MI to celebrate the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends. I have been thinking a lot about the many years, memories, laughs, and tears that have led to this moment. When she stood beside me at my wedding last year, I am sure she was having similar thoughts. It's hard for me to express how happy and excited I am for her, and all that I'm praying for as she enters into this chapter of life. So, I thought I'd sum it up by just letting her know I'm thinking of her and wishing her every joy this precious time has to offer.

Candy, when Saturday morning comes and your wedding day is finally here, I wish for you.....

The serenity of knowing you have a partner for life, starting now. The most special wedding day, with every eye on you and everyone appreciating how beautiful you are, inside and out. The happiness that comes from knowing the most special person in your world chose you to stand beside forever.The joy of having loving family and friends around you to celebrate this occasion and bless your marriage.

And, most of all, the knowledge that you have a lifelong friend who will be standing beside you and Andy, unable to be any happier for you, remembering all the years that passed that led to this moment, and looking forward to all the years and memories to come.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DIY Watercolor Cards

I made these cards for a recent bachelorette party (which I will post about later). The party was in Miami and I wanted to have a thank you note/favor for the girls who were able to travel to celebrate with the bride.

But what is small, durable, and easy to transport??

I decided to provide a custom thank you note for each girl, hoping the fact that they are hand-made would convey a little extra gratitude. I attached a $2 bill to the back of each card, instructing the girls to enjoy a cup of coffee on the way home - obviously they'd need it!

You'll Need:
  • Paper cards and envelopes made for watercolor work (easy to find on Amazon or an art store).
  • 2 watercolor paints - one color of your choice and one white. A tiny tube would suffice for a project of this size. I used purple (the bride's wedding color).
  • Medium watercolor paintbrush
  • Letter stencils. I found mine at Big Lots for $2.00 (odd, I know). Also easy to find on Amazon or craft stores.
  • Metallic sharpie marker. I used silver.

Mix the watercolor paint according to instructions. Use a mix of white and color for a lighter effect. Place the card on a safe surface and paint the desired amount of card surface with your paintbrush. Allow it to dry. If desired, you can paint a tye-dyed or striped effect by adding more of the colored paint to your paint bowl for a more intense color. Use the darker color over the lighter.

Once the card is painted as you'd like, use your stencils to put initials or wording on the cards. This is where the metallic sharpie comes in. I used a silver color.

I used the initials of each of the girls attending the party.

3. From here, you can customize as you'd like. I think they look pretty cute with just the letters, but you can write personal notes, fill in the letters with another color, etc. Get creative!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dose of Domestic - Chicago Style

The hubs enjoying the view and our picnic treats!
This week was full of all the little things that make Chicago a wonderful city to live in. Lately, a smaller town with a slower pace has been on my mind. I often think about moving back to Michigan and spending more time with family, or putting roots down in the south and enjoying a "southern state of mind". But every once in a while, Chicago wins my heart all over again.

This week the weather was beautiful, and Teddy and I took full advantage. We had a leisurely lunch during the week - a true, but very rare, luxury that we were able to enjoy since we both work from home. Oddly, we have only gone to lunch together one other time in the entire year we've both worked from home!

The highlight was the weekend (although, isn't that always the case??). We celebrated the anniversary of our engagement by having a picnic at the harbor, complete with plenty of wine, delicious food, a great playlist, and a fantastic view of the skyline.

The menu for our picnic included smoked salmon with cream cheese and toast points, tortillas with peanut butter, honey, and bananas, and pineapple avocado salsa with chips (made with pineapple chunks, chopped avocados, jalapenos, red onions, and lime juice).

We spent Saturday at the beach, and riding bikes. Since my bike is brand new, and I haven't ridden one in about 10 years, that was truly an adventure. I'm sore today in muscles I didn't even know I had!

Some highlights of our fantastic weekend:

Cream of Chicken and Rice soup
Pineapple and Avocado Salsa

How did you spend this gorgeous weekend?

Thursday, June 7, 2012


On the boat, the day we got engaged. The ring was in his pocket at this moment - and I had no idea!
"Come on, I'm hungry."

I'd venture to guess that is not the way most proposals begin.

It is the way mine started though (because I think about food basically all the time). Teddy had taken me for a romantic architecture boat tour (historic buildings are one of my favorite things), and we were enjoying a relaxing Chicago weekend with all that the city has to offer. Leaving the boat, we lingered at a breathtaking spot overlooking the Chicago river. It was there that I bossily informed him I was hungry, and proceeded to walk in the direction of a restaurant. I noticed I was walking by myself.

I turned around to find Teddy. On one knee. Looking more nervous than I could ever imagine.

It was an incredible surprise, complete with all of the tears and laughter I'd dreamed the moment would hold. I was in shock. It was the best day of my life up until that point.
It was the day my (now) husband proved once and for all that I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Hard to believe that day was 2 years ago now. With our wedding anniversary fast approaching, I just want to take a moment and tell my husband how completely fulfilled, blessed, and excited I am to have him in my life every day.

Teddy - Every day with you is a gift, and I could not ask for a better partner in this life. Happy Engagement Anniversary!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spinach and feta stuffed chicken

This recipe got great reviews from my test group of two - my husband and my friend. It uses (what seems to be) my staple ingredients of chicken breasts and rice. A few other fresh ingredients make this recipe colorful and packed with veggies!

You'll Need:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used organic)
1 bag of fresh chopped spinach (frozen works just as well)
1 package of low-fat, crumbled feta - to taste, use as much as you want
1 or 2 roma tomatoes, sliced
1 onion, chopped - to taste, as much as you'd like
1 package of brown rice (organic, brown rice in a convenience package)
1 cup of chicken broth (fat free, sodium free)
Garlic, salt, and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pound the chicken breasts thin using a meat tenderizer. Then cut them in half so that you ultimately have 6 thin cutlets.

On the stovetop, wilt the spinach with some garlic, salt, and pepper. You can also add a little olive oil if desired. Add the feta and chopped onion, let simmer.

Cook the rice according to instructions. Pour in the bottom of a glass baking dish and mix with the chicken broth and whatever seasoning you'd like.

Prepare the chicken cutlets by placing a scoop of the spinach mixture in the center and folding the chicken over. Secure with a toothpick and add a slice of tomato on top.

Mix the remaining spinach and tomatoes into the rice in the pan. Place the stuffed chicken pieces into the pan on top of the rice.

Bake for 25 minutes at 350 and serve!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Memorial Day!

I haven't posted in a few days because, like most Americans, I was celebrating the unofficial kick-off to Summer! While I was enjoying delicious grilled food, sunshine, and shopping for white pants, I did take some time to reflect on the meaning of the day and I hope others did as well.

Hopefully I never forget that the reason for the day is the bravery and dedication of Americans throughout history. Even today, while we enjoy BBQ and boating, several of our fellow citizens are overseas, enduring conditions most of us would find intolerable (or, at the very least, uncomfortable). Risking their lives and missing precious time with loved ones. And they do this because they believe in what they are fighting for. And they volunteered to do it. And what they get in return is really pretty minimal.

The least we can give these men and women is our thanks.

I hope this day of all days, we each take the time to make sure they have it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunday Dinner - with all the trimmings!

Lately I've been having a very grown up urge to end the weekend with a hearty, balanced meal worthy of a family dinner table. It can be hard to feel creative enough or have the patience to whip up such a masterpiece at the end of a busy weekend, though.

I've made these items separately lately and I think combining them would lead to the perfect, no-fuss Sunday dinner!

On a side note, I'll be buying whole chickens to cook from now on. The whole chicken cost about $5. We had plenty of leftovers that Teddy was able to munch on over a few days while I traveled this week. Plus, I can make soup with scraps. Inexpensive, healthy, and easy!

Appetizer - Goat cheese and tomato skewers
Main - Baked whole chicken with veggie trimmings
Dessert - Mini Nutella cakes (fresh out of the oven with vanilla ice cream if you're feeling ambitious!)

Goat Cheese and Tomato Skewers

You'll Need:
Cherry Tomatoes
1 package of herbed goat cheese
Bread crumbs

I can't take credit for this recipe as I know I saw it online somewhere. Sadly I don't remember where, as I'd be revisiting that site often for easy recipes like this one!

Simply scoop the goat cheese onto a spoon and roll into a ball using your hands. Next roll in the breadcrumbs and attach to a cherry tomato using a toothpick.

Whole Chicken with Zucchini

You'll Need:
Whole chicken, around 3 or 4 lbs, thawed
Half cup olive oil
Salt, pepper, garlic to taste
Veggies of your choice (I used zucchini)

I (mostly) followed these instructions.

Ensure the chicken is thawed completely through. Remove the insides (this was easy for me since it was just a little plastic baggie).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic into the bottom of a glass pan.

Rinse the chicken and dry with a paper towel, then set in the glass pan. Rub the chicken with the olive oil mixture from the pan.

Cook the chicken for about 60 minutes, keeping an eye on it and continuing to rub the entire chicken with the olive oil.

When there are about 20 minutes of cooking time left, cut up the zucchini and put in the pan with the chicken.

Remove from the oven and let everything sit for a few minutes before serving.

Mini Nutella Cakes

One of the easiest recipes for a treat I've ever used! One of my favorite things to make and share. Delicious warm, right out of the oven. There's also a lot of variations out on the web that can be found with a quick google search.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer Lovin'

Festivals in the city = Summer!
What Summer means to me - leisurely days sipping cocktails in the sun!
"Two bare feet on the dashboard"
Floating in the pool
Boat drinks
Outdoor cocktails
People watching
Cherry wine
Grilling out
House full of friends
Open windows
Summer storms
Walks around the neighborhood with Teddy
Tan lines
Late nights with our parents in Michigan
Jello shots
Sand between my toes
Star gazing
Ice cream
Country music
Chicago festivals
A good book and a park bench
Cheap sunglasses

What are you most excited for, now that Summer is here?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dose of Domestic

"The secret of a happy life is continuous small treats."

This week was packed - literally filled to the brim - with lots of activities, friends, and enjoying the summer sunshine! Chicago is such a wonderful place when the sun makes an appearance - everyone out and about, friendly people, new places to try. The city comes alive for me in the Summer.

Started the week with an al fresco date night with Teddy where we narrowly escaped getting rained on. Lots of birthdays this week meant quite a few dinners at some great places.

Over the weekend one of my oldest and dearest friends came to visit to celebrate another girlfriend's birthday. Do you ever forget how much you love your friends until you have a fabulous night to remind you? This particular night ended with a full-fledged sing along to Wilson Phillips in the cab on the way to enjoy late-night burritos. I think our cab driver really enjoyed us. Hold on for one more day!

I also worked on some cards for an upcoming bachelorette party and tonight I am tackling roasting an entire chicken for the first time - wish me luck!

Dinner at Sola.
Working on some DIY watercolor stationery - instructions and finished project coming soon!

Enjoyed some sidewalk art and an adorable lemonade stand while walking to brunch.

Creative cocktails at the Violet Hour.

Out and about downtown.

Girls Night!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

DIY Roundup

When the weather gets warm, it's the perfect time to gather up some crafty materials, spread a blanket in the yard, and enjoy some sun while getting a little creative!

So many cute DIYs around the web lately, and so easy!

Here are some of the most adorable, and easy, projects I've got my eye on. Something for everyone to try!

Wood End Table - via Eat.Live.Shop.
Geode Bottle Stoppers - via Cupcakes and Cashmere.
Petal Necklace - via Curly in the City.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reduced Fat Comfort Food: Turkey Casserole

I am a sucker for comfort food: creamy, hearty, super filling comfort food - yum!

However, such delicious fare is not easy on the waistline and usually requires more prep time than what I can spare. I came across this recipe when looking for a new way to utilize lean ground turkey (a staple in our house, but one I tire of). It was perfectly rich and creamy, without the guilt!

Another bonus: This recipe makes enough for plenty of leftovers (which is a way I love to save money!) and I suspect the leftovers will be even better than the first time around!

You'll Need:
1 lb lean ground turkey
2 cups whole grain small noodles (shells or macaroni)
8 oz. fat free sour cream
8 oz. fat free cream cheese
1 tomato, chopped
Half an onion, chopped
1 24 oz. can reduced fat pasta sauce
Half cup reduced-fat shredded cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the ground turkey on the stove with whatever seasoning you like. As the turkey is browning, boil water and add the pasta to cook according to instructions.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a glass baking dish. Next pour the pasta sauce, sour cream, and cream cheese into the same pot and begin simmering. Stir occasionally so that the ingredients mix properly.

As the sauce is simmering and the turkey is browning, chop up your onions and tomatoes.

When the meat is done cooking and the sauce is pink in color and a creamy consistency, pour all ingredients into the glass pan with the noodles and stir together. Stir in your vegetables.

Sprinkle some of the shredded cheese on top and place in oven. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, and enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Lately I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps. There are a variety of reasons for this, unfortunately, but I try my best to keep things in perspective and remember that I have an amazing life that's worth being grateful for.

Isn't it amazing how feeling gratitude in the moment can change your entire outlook?

So true, and I need to remind myself of this as often as possible. Here are just a few things that I'm pausing today to consider - I am betting everyone out there, no matter how dim things can seem, can find a few things like this in their own life to be thankful for.

A husband that always opens doors for me, says thank you for all the things that I do, cleans our drain when it gets clogged (what a terrible job), and looks for little ways every single day to make my life easier and better.

A steady job that, even when I am tired and frustrated and complaining, never fails to deposit money into my account every two weeks :) A job that lets me use my brain, talk to intelligent people, and see new places. Many people in the world today would love to have the job that I complain about.

A place to live. It may not be much, just a little apartment on a cluttered city street, but it's mine and its a roof over my head and a place for Teddy and I to call home. It has a lovely bay window and a yard to enjoy the sunshine and my favorite coffee maker.

Safe landings on my many flights - that's always something to be thankful for!

Fitting into my skinny jeans.

Crisp, freshly laundered sheets.

Fresh Spring flowers.

The first day you can open windows and let fresh air circulate.

Ice cream.

Freedom to go where I want, when I want. The freedom to marry whomever I choose and allow that partnership to be what is best for both of us. Freedom to say what I want in whatever medium I choose. Freedom to work, to play, to be educated, to read. Such easy things to take for granted when so many go without these things every day.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dose of Domestic

"The secret of a happy life is continuous small treats."

This week was another busy one! I had a few outings for work, including indulging in an amazing 4 course dinner at a steakhouse downtown (ultra-rich dessert pictured below). I had a very relaxing weekend that included plenty of movies and naps, a Sunday church and brunch outing, and catching up on HBO shows with friends over a great new chicken recipe! We also had a little excitement around here as a woman who apparently had a bit too much fun this afternoon took a little snooze on our front porch. She ended up hitting her head and we had to call the police to have an ambulance come and help her out. Those Sunday Fun-days will get you!

Hope everyone had a terrific weekend!
Famous Butter Cake from Maestro Steakhouse. Don't worry - I worked out extra hard the next day!

Spinach and Feta stuffed chicken. Recipe coming soon!
A Friday evening bowling outing - I'm still terrible but had fun!
Cocktails downtown with the girls!
Walking on the sunny side of the street.

Friday, May 11, 2012

For the women in my life......

As mother's day approaches, I wanted to send a special shout out to each of the women in my life.

Though many are not mothers at all, every woman I am blessed to have as a part of my life teaches me something and brings into my world their own special brand of comfort. This list is by no means all encompassing, as I know there are many women and girls who influence me every day at home, at work, and in my family. This list is simply the people I should tell every day how much I appreciate them, but do not.

So, let me say it today.

To my oldest girlfriends - the ones who cook for me, comfort me, give me advice, bring me hot chocolate, spend days and nights with me when I'm lonely, drink wine beside me, make sure I find a cab home, listen to me, share clothes, blankets, and couch space with me, and don't judge me - I hope you know how much I appreciate you.

To my grandmothers - the matriarchs, the glue, an example of putting family first, a wealth of knowledge if I'm willing to listen, a comforting word, a cozy presence, a home cooked meal, a greeting card for no reason, a person I can always learn from - I'm sorry I don't reach out more. I think of you all the time.

To my sister - a shared history, the same laugh and "phone voice", partner in crime, protector and little one at the same time, the person who can make me laugh or cry like no other, the person who has been there the whole time and always will be - I hope you know I would do anything for you.

To my Mother-in-Law - my reminder of summer, the warmest hugs, a huge supporter, number one fan, ultimate salsa and casserole-maker, and best boat companion - Thank you for all that you do.

And, most of all, to my Mother - a house that will always be home, a listening ear, a compassionate advocate, a steadfast cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on, the jello-shot-maker, the original DIY-er, a person to bounce ideas off of....the person I can't wait to tell everything to, the person whose approval I most want, the person I know will always be waiting at home - Thank you for being you and for always being there.

Mom, I am so blessed to call you my mother and my friend. I love you!

Happy Mother's Day!