Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Adventure Time!

Two of Aaron's cousins are visiting from Australia for three weeks.

To show them a little bit of the good ole' USA, we though camping in Zion National Park, Death Valley and Yosemite would be a pretty good time.

Aaron and I have wanted to visit Zion National Park for a few years, and right now it's the perfect weather.

We are excited!

Fingers and toes are crossed that weather stays nice and we don't get caught in a slot canyon during a flash flood.


Zion National Park:



Death Valley:


Yosemite National Park:



I will be breaking in a new pair of boots.

I really really hope my feet don't fall off.


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Wedding Dress, Part 1

It is true that I am engaged.

But, we have not set a date nor really thought much about wedding plans. To be honest, it stresses me out.

As a little girl, I would fantasize about my wedding day. It would be in a castle or on the beach and I would ride in on my white horse. It would be the best day of my life.

But, over the years my opinion of the perfect wedding has changed.

And now, I have only two requirements: A dress and a cake- and of course, my sexy fiance in a tux feeding me cake.

I don't need the huge wedding with an even huger price tag. After all, it is only one night.

So, right now we have no wedding plans. Of course we have ideas, but who knows what will happen. We may just elope.

Just the two of us. Our day.

Despite this, I still have a great time shopping for wedding dresses and planning the perfect reception.

After all, I am a girl.

I know this:

I love lace- to a degree- and would love it somewhere in the dress
I don't usually go for huge, puffy princess dresses or mermaid dresses, but I may make an exception if it is THE dress.
The back of the dress is a key factor on whether I will like it, or not


Vintage. Simple.
casualweddingdresses.net


I love pocket dresses, and love that this dress has pockets. But, let's face it, I have boobs. I don't think it would work on me.
Pinterest. Original source unknown.


I love this dress. One of my favorites.


I love this dress. Especially if it came in white.


Perfection.


Poofy, but not TOO poofy. I would feel like a princess in this dress without feeling too obvious.



Not usually a fan of the mermaid dresses, but I love this dress.

Simple, with minor details. I love it.


Definitely top 3. It's just, me.


Simple.


Pretty. Sweet.


Another lovely.


These are just a few of my favorites.

Like I said, the back of the dress is a very important determining factor for me. I will be posting on those later.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Today, I decided to make chicken tortilla soup in the slow cooker.

It finally feels like fall is on its way up here in Northern California, and soup is on my mind.

There are a thousand ways you could make this soup, but this is my version- at least for this batch.

What you need:

One whole chicken (needs to fit in crock pot)- you can substitute legs, thighs or breasts.
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 onions
4-6 cloves chopped garlic
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
2 green anaheim chili peppers
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp salt (more to taste)
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 tsp chili powder
3 bay leaves
1 tbsp enchilada seasoning


Optional:
sour cream
cheese
tortilla strips


In my version, I use a whole chicken because it gives the soup amazing flavor. If you don't feel like going through the trouble of de-boning the chicken or you want something a little lighter, you can always use cubed or shredded chicken breasts.

I have used chicken breasts on several occasions and found that the soup tastes just as great. However, if you use chicken breasts, mix half water and half chicken broth to fill the crock pot. Amounts will vary depending on crock pot size. I am also using a whole chicken today because I will be making shredded chicken enchiladas and will be using part of the chicken to stuff them.

Allowing the chicken to slow cook in the crock pot with all the seasoning and flavors of the soup makes amazing, mouth-watering shredded chicken.

Last time I made this Aaron was moaning throughout the entire meal.

I kid you not.


First, place whole chicken in crock pot.


Cover with chopped onion-
note: my family LOVES onion. If your family doesn't, reduce to one chopped onion.


Add chopped bell peppers, chopped Anaheim chili and crushed garlic.


Add cumin, enchilada sauce, salt, chili powder and bay leaves.
Top with entire can of crushed tomato.


Add frozen corn.


Last, fill with water (or, chicken broth).
Turn on LOW for 6-8 hours.

The hardest part of this meal is de-boning the chicken. It does take some time and you will have to get your hands dirty, but whole chicken will give the best results.

First, turn off the crock pot and let it cool. Remove the chicken chunks and place in a separate bowl. Allow time for the chicken to cool completely first.



Using your hands remove meat from the bones (it should practically fall off). Place bones in separate bowl and meat back in the soup (in my case, I will be using the chicken for enchiladas later). You should have tender, juicy meat.


Take some time to separate meat from bones- your patience will pay off when you don't find yourself choking on bones later.

If you are using a whole chicken, you may notice there is a significant amount of fat making its way to the surface of the soup. Some of this gives it great flavor, but too much is, well, too much.

With someones help, you can strain the soup broth into a separate bowl. Once strained, place the broth in the refrigerator until it cools completely. You will come back to a well defined fatty layer that is easily removed using a large spoon.




This will not remove all the excess fat, but it will leave enough to keep the soup flavorful.

Pour the broth back in the bowl or pot containing all the vegetables and chicken, re-heat and add any additional seasoning you feel necessary

I always top mine with fresh cilantro, a spoon full of sour cream, tortilla chips and a layer of cheddar cheese. This is all optional, but if your family is anything like mine, it will become mandatory.

There are perhaps easier ways to make chicken tortilla soup and definitely recipes that take less time. However, this method has always generated the most flavorful results in my kitchen.

Let me know what you think. Do you have any favorite tortilla soup recipes?
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Sunday Sayings

Because it's SO true.

Hope you have a Happy Sunday!


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Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Time Is It?

I need a watch.

The fiance agrees.

So, it's time I start shopping around for the one I want.

Since i'm not really sure when i'll be able to afford this little item, shopping around translates into creating one more wish list...

And just so you know- I have lots and lots of wish lists.

*Don't get me started on boots*

So far, I've found these pretties...

Left to Right: Nixon Watch $120, Michael Kors $250, Marc Jacobs $150


Left to Right: Michael Kors $250, Timex Watch, La Mer Collections $88


Left to Right: Juicy Couture $250 (Zappos.com), Marc Jacobs $275, Bulova Watches $524.25


Left to Right: La Mer Collections $115, Watch unknown but i'm in LOVE with this watch face!


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Friday, September 23, 2011

Game Nights are Pretty Awesome

About a month ago, I got this great idea...

GAME NIGHT

Yes, you heard me right. I am that person that implements game night in the weekly family schedule.

Why?

Why not?

Games are great. They stimulate conversation that would not otherwise take place and I get to spend time with my fiance and future mother-in-law.

Mostly, I just really love games. Who knows, maybe I didn't play them enough as a child.

After I have my own little ones, game night will still be a part of our week. It doesn't cost money and we don't have to leave the house. Our kids may not like it when they are older, hormonal and in high school, but too bad.

My house, my rules.

I've gotten ahead of myself- considering I don't have my own house or any kids.

Until then, Frankenstein and Moose like to fill in.

Sequence is the best!

My lovely fiance is sneaky and I find him cheating at least once every time we play games. His mom says it runs in the family.


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Vegetarian Egg Casserole with Goat Cheese

It was my night to cook.

To save some money, I wanted to make something that wouldn't require a long list of ingredients from the market. I wanted to use what we already had.

Since we had tons of veggies and eggs, I decided to make a vegetarian egg casserole with goat cheese. The final product was amazing.

I've made several egg casserole's before and this was my favorite. It was light and fluffy and had wonderful flavor.


What you need:

2 tbsp olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic chopped (depends how much garlic you like)
1 large yellow onion chopped
1 red pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2-4 chilis chopped (If you like spicier, use jalapeno or Serrano peppers. More mild choose Anaheim)
2 small eggplants chopped into cubes (or one larger eggplant)
3 zucchini chopped into cubes
1 bag of mushrooms sliced (approx. 2 cups)
1/2 cup milk or creamer (I used soy creamer)
1 package of frozen chopped spinach thawed
3 large tomato or 6 small tomatoes chopped (seeds removed)
Approx. 10 eggs
1 tbsp. mixed Italian seasoning
2 tsp. Chipotle chili powder
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp. cumin
Fresh ground pepper


I didn't really follow a set recipe. I made it up as I went along.


Chop garlic, onion and chili's (if desired). Add to a large, hot skillet with the 2 tbsp. olive oil. Saute for approximately 5 minutes, or until the onion starts to soften.


Meanwhile, chop the red and green bell peppers and the eggplant.




Add to the sauteing onion, garlic and chili. Mix.
At this point, I added 1 tbsp. of butter- this is optional.

Chop the zucchini. I added the zucchini and mushroom last since they are generally the fastest cooking vegetables.

Note: Do not overcook the vegetables. You want all of them to be approximately half cooked.

Once all the vegetables are mixed and cooking, add the salt, cumin, italian seasoning and chipotle. Mix evenly.

After the vegetables are cooked, transfer to a large bowl. Let the vegetables cool.

As the vegetables cool, drain all the water from the thawed frozen spinach. It is important to remove as much water as possible, otherwise the casserole will turn out soggy. Add spinach to the cooling vegetables.

Finally, add the chopped tomato.

Remove eggs and cheese from the refrigerator. Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl.

Once the vegetables are cooled, add eggs and milk and mix evenly.

Spray a large pyrex baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Add half the egg and vegetable mixture. Crumble half the goat cheese evenly over the egg. Add the remaining egg mixture, and crumble the rest of the goat cheese over the top.


Last, top the final mixture with a thin layer of parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper.

Place in pre-heated oven at 400 degrees.

Cooking time will vary. I let it cook at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. I then lowered the temperature to 350 degrees and let it cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove and check that egg is cooked through completely.


Usually, I add sour cream and hot sauce, but this was so good it didn't need any condiments- and trust me, I LOVE my condiments.

For left overs you can whip op some beans and roll it all in a tortilla for a breakfast burrito.
This dish is great for brunches or family gatherings.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mongolian Babies!

This is why I want to adopt a Mongolian baby...

And now, maybe even a camel too.


My amazing fiance is in BIG trouble!
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Sayings...

The past few days my body has been feeling worn out for absolutely no reason at all.

And all i've really wanted to do is sleep or eat or watch movies.

So, the Sunday saying of the week (at least for me) is,



I know that sleep doesn't really solve everything, all the time.

But sometimes, sleep can be just what thee doctor ordered.

In this case, I am my doctor and I prescribe sleep.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thai Red Curry


Sometimes, I cook...
Actually, I cook a lot. And plan on cooking a lot more once Aaron and I move into our own place.

I warn you, however, that I DO NOT follow recipes exactly as they are listed. I have found this too hard and much less exciting. So I use recipes as more of a guide.

Today, I decided to make Thai Red Curry. Red curry gets its color from dried red chili's soaked in water (with or without seeds depending on how spicy you like your food). Aaron and I like super spicy, HOT food. I will not give you that recipe.

Overall, the curry was a success. It's not as red as I would have liked, but like I said, the color comes from the dried red chili's. I could have continued to add more and more, but decided the color doesn't really matter.

First, you need to make the paste.
You can make as much of the paste as you want. I multiplied the amounts below by 3 since I wanted to have extra to freeze for a later date. You don't need to do this. Again, the portions of the ingredients are approximates. I generally add more or less of certain ingredients.


Red Curry Paste:
1 tbsp. Galangal- peeled and chopped (substitute ginger)
2 tsp. Lemongrass- lower part 1/3 chopped. In my opinion, this is a very important ingredient, but lemongrass is sometimes hard to find in the states. I have discovered that many markets sell refrigerated, pureed lemongrass in the refrigerated section. It works, but it's not the same has real lemongrass.
1 tsp. Kaffir lime- peeled and chopped (substitute orange peel)
1 tbsp. Coriander root chopped
3 tbsp. Shallots
2 tbsp. Garlic- crushed and chopped
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. shrimp or anchovy paste
10 small dried red chili's (this will make it spicy. Use less if you like more mild foods)
3 large dried chili's- seeds removed and soaked in water for 15 minutes (this will make it red, if it works)
1 tsp. pepper, cumin, coriander seeds- roasted and ground (in mortar) I used the powder stuff to save time
3-4 Cardamom pods- roasted and ground (just remove seeds from pod, put on skillet, roast until you can smell the fragrance)


For the galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime, coriander, shallots, and garlic you want to chop and mash. This is important. It help bring the flavors out prior to mixing. Once they are mashed and ready, add to blender, along with the rest of the ingredients. Add water, a little at a time. You want it to be smoothie consistency.




Once blended completely, it is ready and can be set aside.

Now that the paste is made, the rest is easy.
First, decide what vegetables and meat you want in your curry. I chose:

1 onion
1 head of culiflower
1 bunch of spinich
1 cup carrots
1 cup snap peas
6 green and red chilis
1 yellow bell pepper
3 chicken breasts


To the curry you also need to add:

2 tbsp. oil
2 tbsp. fish sauce (I always add more)
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. Tamarind juice (substitute lemon or lime juice)
1 cup coconut milk per 2 tbsp. of paste

Note: I first decided how much curry I wanted. Since 5 people were eating, and I wanted leftovers, I decided to use 2 cans of coconut milk. 1 can regular, 1 can low fat. For a thicker, more coconutty sauce, use whole fat. I then added the paste a little at a time until I got the ratio I wanted. It is easier to add more paste than coconut milk.

In my opinion, there isn't an exact science to choosing what ingredients to add first. I first sauteed the onion and veggies in 2 tbsp. oil (except cauliflower and spinich). I then added the chicken, cooked for 2 minutes and then added the coconut milk and let it come to a boil. Once the chicken is cooked, add the fish sauce, sugar and tamarind juice. Finally, slowly start adding the paste, 1 tbsp. at a time until you get a ratio that tastes best for you.







Finally, add the remaining vegetables, cook until soft, steam some rice...And EAT!

My apologies. I got so excited to eat that I forgot to take a photo of the finished product on my plate with the rice. Woops.

I will try to remember next time.

Please, if you have any questions, leave me a message or email me and I will be happy to help out!


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DIY (Cheap) Bracelets

Unless you count scrapbooking, you can think of me as a beginning crafter. I am creative, at least my mom always told me so, I just don't know how to transform ideas into tangible things. This known, I am starting with the basics. Something cheap and easy.

I went to Micheal's and got the necessary supplies.

What you'll need:

Embroidery Floss- be creative, use as many different colors as you want.
Simple chain (aka cheap) - found in the jewelry making department
scissors
2 bobby pins

(Please forgive the less than perfect photos to follow)


To start- get all the necessary supplies together. After you have decided what colors you want to use, cut strands to desired length (approx. 2 feet-I like extra). In my case, I wanted more light yellow than orange and more light blue than turquoise. Knowing this, I cut approximately 8 strands of the lighter colors and 3 strands or the darker colors. You can determine this ratio depending on your style and color contrast preference.

Knot the two strands of colors (here, yellow/orange and blue/turquoise) together. Leave at least 2 inches of embroidery floss at one end and the remaining floss at the other end.


Now we can start braiding.
The beginning is the most difficult part and requires a little bit of patience.
Using the bobby pins, separate the color strands. I looped the blue through the top link of the chain first.
Follow the following steps. Each color will be looped through each link once. When I made my first bracelet, I confused myself and alternated links with each color. Just remember that each color will loop through each link.




You will quickly start to see the braid forming. The farther along you get, the easier it becomes. Once you reach the appropriate length to fit your wrist, tie the the floss into a knot at the end.

In my case, I bought a meter long chain. Obviously, I don't have wrists that large. So, I had the wonderful fiance cut the chain for me.

Tie together and trim ends of floss if they are too long.


Happy crafting!
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