Thursday, July 18, 2013

summer dinner ideas!

If you're anything like me, the season/weather definitely has an effect on your food mood.  For example, in the two weeks of winter that Texas usually has, I love making hearty soups and sippin' on hot chocolate.  Give me anything with cinnamon, nutmeg, and spice around October, and I'll be your best friend.  Spring calls for dishes full of fresh fruits and veggies.  But summer?  I want something light.  Fresh salad, pasta dishes that don't pile on the sauce, anything that comes together quick!  I want to get in and out of the kitchen so I can get back to the pool.

I've been trying out some summer dishes recently, and I've come across a couple of jewels.  Here we go!

Up first is this simple pasta.  It includes whole grain pasta, zucchini, peas, pancetta, and an olive oil dressing.  The sprinkle of parmesan cheese on top pulls the whole thing together!

Summer Pasta

The next thing I discovered was great because it was quick and simple to put together and also appealed to Austin's Mexican tooth (that's like a sweet tooth but for people who really like Mexican food).  It's basically a bunch of stuff all mixed together and stuffed into a whole wheat pita.  This mixture of black beans, corn, tomato, avocado, cilantro, and lime is also great on its own or on top of some tortilla chips.  Top it off with your favorite salsa and serve it with a side of fresh fruit!

I also added in some shredded chicken seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and a sprinkle of cayenne because Austin hates eating things that don't have meat (he's a MAN).

Mexican Pitas

I saw this next dish on The Pioneer Woman's TV show.  I searched and searched for her recipe, but I couldn't find it!  I decided to forge onward and just make it from memory.  It turned out GREAT.  If you make one thing from this post, this herb flat bread should but it.  I made the flat bread as a side dish for this roasted chicken breast.  To make the chicken I just seasoned the breasts with salt, pepper, and a little garlic salt with parsley.  I seared both sides of the chicken in a pan with some olive oil for like 4 minutes per side and then stuck it in a 350 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes.  

To make the bread I just used Ree's pizza crust recipe, drizzled on some olive oil, then topped it with slices of fresh mozzarella.  After it baked in the oven (set at 500 degrees) for about 10-12 minutes, I pulled it out and topped it with some arugula, basil, and parsley that had been dressed with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Yum!!!

Another pasta dish that I tried an loved was this pasta with broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese.  I'm not a giant fan of plain ol' goat cheese, but when it's mixed into this dish it's really nice.  Just a tang of flavor and creaminess.  

Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

Finally, I tried this roasted chicken in my crock pot earlier this week.  The chicken came out tasting just like those rotisserie kinds that you can get at the grocery store.  It was so easy!  I made some green beans and roasted potatoes on the side (click here for the beans recipe from the lady okie, and for the potatoes: cut into bite size pieces, put on a foil-lined sheet pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic salt and bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes).  Austin put some BBQ sauce on top of his chicken, and it was great!  I just ate mine plain, and that was also quite tasty.

Crock Pot Roasted Chicken

So there you have it.  Five dishes that are perfect for these hot summer nights.  Hopefully you've found something you might want to try!  

Monday, July 15, 2013

a wicked weekend

Happy Monday everyone!  I had a spectacular weekend, and I'd like to tell you all about it now.  

I went to Houston on Friday morning, and spent the afternoon with Sherbo (my mom) shopping around.  We went into a bunch of little antique shops on the search for cute wedding decorations.  We found a lot of cool things and a lot of stuff that smelled like old people haha.  

We met up with Jimbo (my dad) that night for dinner at a place called BRC.  I had the fried chicken on a biscuit with bacon jam and cream gravy.  Calories don't count when you're out of town, right? :)  It was delicious.  We stayed in that night and watched Django Unchained.  If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it.  You might need to cover your eyes on a few parts though.  Bleh.

Saturday was a big day!  We started the morning with a 3 mile walk in Memorial Park (This little outing was a surprise to me, so my mom made let me borrow some tennis shoes and her shorts.  I was the best dressed gal in the park...not.)

After we'd recovered from the walk, eaten a light lunch, and piddled around a little bit, it was time to start celebrating!  My family went to Escalante's for an early dinner and then over to my Uncle's house for cake and ice cream.  It was my cousin Brandon's birthday!
My cousin Alisa made a delicious German Chocolate Cake

 After discussing the origin of the German Chocolate Cake's name (a guy from America with the last name "German" invented it) and giving Alisa way too much grief about her icing, we were off to see Wicked!!!!  I was SO excited!  I love going to see plays, and I'd been wanting to see this one forever.

The show did not disappoint.  I was captivated from the minute the curtain went up, and I was in heaven the whole time.  The actors all had incredible voices, and the production was just fantastic.  If you're near Houston and have the means, you should get yourself some tickets to the show.  It'll be in town until the middle of August.

We had a delicious breakfast of french toast with fruit and bacon on Sunday morning and then I headed back to Dallas to reunite with my hunny bunny, Austie Marie.  We swapped stories from our weekends over Chipotle, went grocery shopping, and watched some stuff on Netflix.  

French toast a la Jimbo

Another great weekend for the books!  I hope you guys had a good one :)

Friday, July 12, 2013

friday book review: the jessica darling series

Happy Friday pals and gals!  I am heading to Houston for the weekend in just a minute to visit the Chan Clan and see Wicked.  I am incredibly pumped.  I've wanted to see this show since it first came out, so I am counting down the minutes until the curtain goes up on Saturday.  I'm also jazzed up about seeing my family.  I just love those guys.

I'll obviously be back on Monday with a full recap of the weekend, but for now I wanted to tell you guys about a book series I recently finished reading.

The Jessica Darling books by Megan McCafferty are great!  They consist of 5 books, and they are written in journal form (except for the last one).  They follow the main character, Jessica, through high school, college, and her journey into the real world.  There's a boy (of course), and plenty of other conflicts that teen/twenty-something girls are familiar with.  

My favorite book of the series was the first (it's funny how often that happens), but they are all good reads.  My least favorite was the fourth installment, but it was still fun to read.  

If you are looking for a series that's kind of "Judy Blume for grown-ups", this is it.  I would definitely recommend the books...

so get reading, guys! 

And have a wonderful weekend :)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

summer routines

Hola amigos!  It's Wednesday afternoon, and I'm currently sitting on my couch, eating some cantaloupe, and watching bad daytime TV.  Yep, I'm definitely on my summer schedule.  Don't get me wrong though...I have big plans to make my summer as productive as ever, and I'm doing pretty good so far.  So, I present to you:


-Wake up around 10:00 or 10:30.  Brush teeth, plop in contacts, and get dressed for the gym.

-Go to the gym.

-Get back home in time to meet Austie Marie for lunch.  Austin works about 5 minutes from our apartment, so I like to fix him something to eat and we watch Family Feud together.  It's cute.

-Do Something productive.  For example, go grocery shopping, organize the pictures on my computer, clean out our closet, etc.

-Cook dinner.

-Eat with my main squeeze and then chill out until bed time.

-Some days I teach dance in the evening, and some days I like to go to the pool to read and get my tan on.

I'm definitely enjoying my time off right now.  I have a bunch of goals for productivity, and I'm slowly but surely crossing them off my list.  Some things I'd love to do while I've got the time:

-Clean out and organize our apartment (I'm planning to take this room by space per day)
-Take all of the pictures off of my computer and put them on an external hard drive
-Finish my 2010 scrapbook (and perhaps start on 2011 and 2012)
-Get as much wedding planning done as possible

What are y'all's goals for summer?  How long do you think my productivity will last until I spend my days in bed until 2 PM?

Monday, July 8, 2013

happy birthday america!

Happy Monday everyone!!  I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July and that you got to spend time with family and friends celebrating the good ol' U S of A!

Austin and I had a great 4 day weekend in Dallas.  We spent the 4th with our friends Kyle and Mandy in McKinney (a town about 30 minutes north of Dally) where we hung out, went to eat, shopped around, and watched fireworks.  We also saw an actual fire because of people shooting off their own fireworks.  We even called was all very exciting (no one was hurt).

We laid by the pool, hung out with friends, and were lazy the rest of the weekend.  It was perfect!  We went to an awesome restaurant on Saturday called "Smoke".  Good lord was that place good...they had some of the best BBQ I've ever eaten.

TOP: FIRE!works, pool view
SIDE: Austin and I at Smoke, delicious brisket
BIG: waiting for the fireworks

I'm officially on summer break, so I'm putting my nose to the grindstone in terms of wedding planning.  I'm getting very close to booking our photographer, videographer, and DJ, and my parents are coming up soon to go dress shopping with my sister and me!  Happy summer, y'all!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

a breakthrough

Con to getting old: I don't dance all day every day like I did in high school and college, so now I have to find other ways to keep my girlish figure.

Con to keeping my girlish figure: I hate running/working out/doing any kind of strenuous activity.

Con to not excersing: I get fat.

Con to getting fat: Austin leaves me and I become a crazy cat lady.

Solution to above cons: Get my butt to the gym even if it sucks the
whole time.

The above philosophy is what I've been living by here lately.  I hate the gym, but I go anyways because I don't want to be featured on TLC's next installment of "Half Ton Twenty-Something".  I found a beginner treadmill workout that I could do without passing out, so I've been doing that along with the stairmaster, some crunchies, planks, and arm stuff.  Yuck.  It's been going fine, but it's nothing to write home about.


I went to the gym on Monday after teaching summer school all morning/afternoon, and I was ready to get my blasé work out on.  I climbed onto the treadmill and found the TV show I wanted to watch: The Pioneer Woman on The Food Network.  Perfect!  I plugged in my headphones, and got ready to rock and roll.  But there was a problem.  I couldn't hear a ding dang thing! 

REE!  I wish I could hear how you're making that peach crisp!

Because I couldn't hear all about the PW's 4th of July plans, I went to plan B: "Imagine Dragons" Pandora on my iPod.  In case you're unfamiliar, this station is just super. 

Anways, I went on about my treadmill session...walk at 3.0 for 5 minutes, walk at 3.5 for another 5, and then here it at 5.5 for a whole 2 minutes!  I know, I know.  That's really pathetic.  Here's the thing though: I NEVER ran growing up.  Never!  Besides that Presidential Fitness Test that we had to take in school every year, running was not in my repertoire.  So, running for 2 straight minutes has been a real challenge for me lately.  It hurts my legs, I feel like I can't breathe, and I literally count down the seconds in my head.


Something happened on Monday.  I was able to run for the whole 2 minutes without feeling like I was entering the 7th circle of hell!  It was actually kind of (dare I say) fun! 

I think the reason for this dramatic turn of events was my choice in music.  The song that was playing when I kicked it into running mode was "Feel Again" by One Republic.  It is a wonderful little diddy that is perfect for running it out.

I'm hoping that the running thing wasn't a fluke, and I plan to do some serious research on running songs to keep up my good ju ju.  If anyone has any suggestions of groovy running tunes, I'd love to hear them (literally)!

PS- if anyone is interested in my killer treadmill workout plan, here it is: 40 minute beginner treadmill workout.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

lightened up shrimp scampi

I made this lighter version of shrimp scampi on Sunday, and it was a great meal to start off our week.  I got the idea for the recipe here, but I changed it up just a little bit.  Here's how I did it:

Lightened Up Shrimp Scampi
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
a heafty sprinkling of salt & pepper
a very very tiny dollop of butter (not pictured because I decided to add it at the last minute)
enough whole wheat pasta to serve 3-4 people (not pictured because I'm a goofball)
Extra chopped parsley and lemon wedges for serving
1) Heat up the olive oil in a large sauce pan.  Add the garlice and let it cook for about 30-45 seconds or until it's fragrant. 
2) Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer.  Allow one side to cook for about 2 minutes.  Flip over the shrimp and let the other side cook for another minute or two.  Take the shrimp out of the pan and set them aside.
3) Add the chicken broth, wine, lemon juice, parsley, and salt & pepper to the pan and bring it to a boil.  Let that simmer away until the sauce is reduced by about half.  This is the point where I added in the butter.  My sauce wasn't thickening as much as I wanted it to, so adding the tiniest amount of butter helped it along.  If you want a thinner sauce, you can totally leave out the butter!
4) Once the sauce is reduced, add in your cooked pasta (it's a good idea to start cooking your pasta right before you start your sauce).  Toss the pasta around until it's all coated with the delicious sauce!
5) Serve your pasta in a shallow bowl and top with the shrimp you set aside earlier.  Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a lemon wedge.
This was an easy meal that came together quick!  It's perfect for a week night when you don't have a ton of time to slave away in the kitchen.  I hope everyone is having a happy Tuesday!  If you have Thursday and Friday off for the 4th of July (like me), today is really like Thursday!!