Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday, Monday....A Day Late

After a marathon grocery shopping trip over the weekend, I was in the mood to make something new for dinner last night. I ended up making an awesome chicken recipe I found on Made By Melissa. Then I made up one of the best spaghetti squash recipes ever. Both were delicious...soo delicious in fact, we couldn't wait to eat, so the pictures are after we attacked everything like vultures! I'll add the Spaghetti-Squash Au Gratin recipe a bit later...after I remember it!

Baked Chicken With Parmesan-Garlic Crust
¾ C Fresh Breadcrumbs
½ C Grated Parmesan
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ Tsp Salt
½ Tsp Pepper
3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
½ Tsp Lemon Juice I added
¼ C Basil, chopped
¼ C Parsley, finely chopped I added
¼ C Lt. Mayo

Preheat oven to 425º. Move oven rack to upper middle.

Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, garlic, parsley and S&P.

Combine basil, mayo and lemon juice. Spread over chicken breasts. Then sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over chicken. Bake for 18-22 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

*Note* To make fresh breadcrumbs, pulse a couple slices of bread in the food processor!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just A Quick Brag....

Wow! 1:25pm (CST, that is! No more EST for me!) and already three updates? WOW!

I was about to shut down the computer and get out the door to run some errands (it's halftime! ;) ) and then I ran across a picture that I just had to post.

Justin and I stayed in and had game night by ourselves on Friday night (because we're that cool). After a few drinking games, we decided to see how good we were at trivia while slightly inebriated. Out came Trivial Pursuit from the back of the closet. We've only played TP one other time together and when we played we made a bet (I can't remember what it was now...) but I do remember losing...and losing bad. like to think of myself as the Self-Proclaimed Queen of All Completely Random Useless Knowledge, but that doesn't help too much when faced with the actual intellect-required questions of Trivial Pursuit. And it doesn't help that Justin is a huge History and Science Nerd.

But, the alcohol gave me confidence and I decided we needed to set some stakes for this game. Justin's terms of the bet were: "Any night he has off, I have to go to McDonald's and a.) Get him whatever he wants to eat and b.) Get him whatever movie he wants to watch out of the RedBox and watch it with him...no complaining. After lots of thoughtful pondering, I came up with my end of the deal...If I won, he had to go shoe shopping with me and contribute $30 to whatever pair of shoes I want. He not only agreed, he raised the terms of the bet to $75 for shoes!!!

Once I heard that, my jaw dropped and I heard angels singing...time to put my thinking cap on! I wanted those shoes!!

I won't keep everyone in suspense for long. Below is the outcome of the game:
The question is...which pie is mine? The sad, pathetic, empty, lonely pie? Or, the filled-in-with-brightly-colored-little-pieces-of-knowledge pie?

I'll tell you all later. AFTER I go shoe shopping. (!!!!!)


Though my birthday is still just under a month away, I got to start celebrating a little early thanks to a Birthday Package from my Mom!

I got...
3 sets of prep bowls for cooking, a spoon rest, cute autumn kitchen potholders and towels, a pink leather case with a mirror inside, a fun pink cleaning mitt from Williams Sonoma, two dresses to wear on my cruise (!!) and....The Cooking Light Complete Cookbook!!! I cleaned up!

Thanks Mom!!! I LOVE YOU!!!

Pumpkin Bread

I've been feeling extremely Fall-y lately...maybe it's the fabulously cool weather we've had down here in Salsa City recently, or the fact that it's football season, but I've already gone through two Autumn Harvest Pumpkin Scented Candles. I think Justin might be worried he's going to come home and find me in the middle of our living room, sittng on a hay bail, drinking spiced cider and watching "The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

I've seen lots of muffin and bread-type recipes that use pumpkin and they sparked a craving! I headed over to Cooking Light, browsed around and finally decided on this recipe. I read others' reviews before I tried it and made a few changes based on their recommendations.

I normally suck at baking, so I don't try it too often. The kitchen ends up looking like a war zone even when I make a Betty Crocker Box Cake, but I think I fared pretty well with this one! It came out nice and pretty! It's very dense and not too sweet. I'll probably continue the hunt for other pumpking recipes, but I'll definitely make this one again!

⅓ cup fat-free milk
2½ tbsp vegetable oil (I used 2½ tbsp applesauce)
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 (15oz) can pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats (I blended my oats in the food processor first)
1 cup sugar (I used ½ C white sugar and ½C light brown sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon (I also added 1 tsp nutmeg)
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup raisins (I omitted)
¼ cup chopped pecans (I omitted)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir well with a whisk.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl. Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in raisins and pecans.

Spoon batter into 2 loaf pans coated with cooking spray I used 1 loaf pan and a 6-cup muffin tin). Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. The muffins only needed to cook for about 30 minutes.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Good News!

We were worried about our cruise being canceled because of all the damage in Galveston, TX due to Hurricane Ike. We got a voicemail from our Travel Agent yesterday and the cruise is still a go! Woohoo!! We'll be leaving out of Houston, TX instead of Galveston, TX! It actually turns out better for us since Houston is a shorter drive than Galveston!

24 days!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tim McGraw Concert 9/11/08

Faith Hill is a Lucky, Lucky, L-U-C-K-Y Woman!

Last Wednesday, Justin came home from work and surprised me with tickets to see Tim McGraw...the next night! (Okay, maybe I'm a lucky woman, too!) I didn't even know he was going to be in town! Turns out, he was doing a Benefit Concert for the U.S. Army at Ft. Sam Houston and Justin was lucky enough to snag ticket for not only us, but our friends Jeremy, Corey, Sandy and her sister who was in town visiting from Nebraska.

We started off "tailgating" before the concert (Read: we sat on the back of Corey's truck with a cooler of beer watching everyone else walk by...no other tailgaters in sight. Hey! If there's fun to be had, we're gonna be there!)

Tim McGraw did this concert completely free and just for members of the U.S. Army in San Antonio. It was a beautiful, perfect evening and an amazing concert! The best surprise in the world!

Corey and Justin...sun was a leeeeetle bright!
The sunset was GORGEOUS that night!
We took advantage of the perfect backdrop! More pictures to come but my camera died and football is on!

Is It Thursday Already?!?!

Okay, I've been a MAJOR blog slacker (okay, I'll admit it, and gym slacker) this week! Time to get down to business! I added a picture from Sunday's Ricotta Fritatta so read below!

Time to get to more updating...stay tuned!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weekend Recap

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was very low-key, lazy and filled with football! I'm very happy about the uneventfulness, considering the rest of September and October are jam-packed!

Justin had surprised me with tickets to the Tim McGraw Benefit Concert at Ft. Sam Houston for Thursday night! It was so much fun...I'll post about it soon! We were out pretty late and partied a little too hard for a work-night, so Friday night we layed around the apartment, watched TV and went to bed early.

Justin was on call Saturday so he was up and out the door by 5:30am, leaving me wide awake and unable to go back to bed! I went out and finally found pillows I liked for the living room. I also bought some new picture frames and towels for the guest bathroom. I came home and rearranged the living room and cleaned up a bit. The rest of the day was spent lounging around with College Football on the TV and a glass of wine in my hand.

Justin got back from call early, I mean earrrrrrrly, Sunday so, once again, I was up early! I put him to bed and went out grocery shopping. Came back and watched more football! I made a FABULOUS new pork chop recipe for dinner! (I'll post that later, too!)

It's a busy week for both of us...I have two after-work functions and he is taking his USMLE Step 3 Board Exam on Tuesday and Wednesday (ugh!)! Hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Whole-Lotta Ricotta Frittata

(Okay, so maybe it's just a normal amount of ricotta, but work with me here people!)

I found this recipe randomly looking through the August 2008 Good Housekeeping magazine. When I first showed the recipe to Justin, his response was, "There's nothing in it!" (Translation: not enough meat and vegetables.) I completely agreed. They called it a "Crustless Tomato-Ricotta Pie," but when I called to consult with my Mom, as I often do before cooking 80% of my dishes, she renamed it a "Ricotta Frittata!"

I had never made a quiche-like dish before and I'm so glad I gave this a shot! It is so good! I really like it without the crust...it lightens up the calories and tastes great without it! Justin LOVED it, especially because it's easy to heat up in the morning and take with him to the hospital. I did make a couple changes in my version, which I'll note below. And when I first made it, I forgot to take the "After" picture, so I only have the "Before". But, I'm making one later today so I'll be sure to take pictures!

1 container part-skim ricotta cheese
4 large eggs
¼ C freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I used Parmesan)
½ t salt
⅛ t coarsely ground black pepper
¼ C low-fat (1%) milk (I used skim milk)
1 T cornstarch (Didn't have this! Thanks to Mom, found out 2T of flour would do the trick!)
½ C (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
½ C (loosely packed) fresh mint leaves, chopped (I used parsley)
1 lb ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced (I used 3 tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, whisk ricotta, eggs, shredded cheese, salt, and pepper until blended. In measuring cup, stir milk and cornstarch until smooth; whisk into cheese mixture. Stir in basil and mint. Pour mixture into nonstick 10-inch skillet with oven-safe handle. (I used a cake pan!) Arrange tomatoes on top, overlapping slices if necessary. Bake pie 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and set around edge and center is puffed. (After baking for 45 minutes, mine was a little runny still on top so I let it cook a little longer. I think my final cook time was around 53 minutes. Just keep an eye on it!) Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

I added chopped ham, spinach, and mushrooms to the egg mixture, then layered thin slices of zucchini and squash underneath the tomato layer, and topped with chopped green onions. Today I'm going to try it with turkey sausage, mushrooms, spinach and red pepper!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Spinach Artichoke Dip

And this version is a little easy on your hips!

Right after we moved in, Justin asked me to make some kind of appetizer, any appetizer, that he could snack on when he got home while I was still making dinner. I may or may not have been craving SPinach Artichoke Dip myslf, and I may or may not have gained a couple pounds during the three day trek out West, so I pulled out a recipe I had bookmarked in the September 2007 issue of Cooking Light, the culinary equivalent of a Little Black Dress, always there for you and always soooo good! It was voted Best Appetizer (of all time!) by CL readers so I figured, what the hell! 2 C shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
½ C fat-free sour cream
¼ C grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
¼ tsp black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed (I minced mine)
1 (14-oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8-oz) block ⅓-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-oz) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
½ (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 ½ cups mozzarella, sour cream, 2 Tblsp Parmesan, and next 6 ingredients (through spinach) in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining ½ C mozzarella and remaining 2 Tblsp Parmesan. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips. (I also served with celery...yum and a lil healthier!)

This dip is soooooo, I mean sooooooooo good! Justin loved it! I made it for his birthday party and everyone there loved it, too. I've also taken some leftovers and stuffed it into chicken. To. Die. For.

Close Call

Didn't I move to Texas to get away from these things?!?!

I just wanted to update everyone and let y'all know we're okay down here in Texas! I got LOTS of phone calls and texts from friends wanting to make sure we were safe and out of Hurricane Ike's way. We were prepared to get a lot of rain and a lot of wind, but thankfully (for us) Ike veered to the Northeast and headed up I-45 and towards Dallas. Instead of being greeted by what I thought was going to be horizontal rain and a black sky this morning, I instead saw blue skies and a slight breeze. We got lucky.

I wish I could say the same for everyone along the Texas Coast. Please keep those families affected by Hurricane Ike in your thoughts and prayers.

Cheers to a hopefully uneventful remainder of Hurricane season!! We're supposed to leave for our cruise exactly one month from today. (!!) Only bad news is that our departure port is Galveston, TX, which got hit pretty hard by Ike. We're crossing our fingers! (But, if the cruise doesn't happen, VEGAS BABY!!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Such A Beautiful Sight...

After a summer of torture with nothing but tennis, baseball and golf to satisfy my athletic viewing needs, I bow down to the Sports Gods when I finally see this on my ancient, circa 1986 television screen in front of me*:

Welcome Back Football Season...You've Been Missed!

I'm looking forward to a great NCAA and NFL season...hopefully it'll be an exciting one! I also hope we get to make it to a University of Texas football game at some point this season...or at least a tailgate. ;)

*I would rather have a closet full of extremely cute shoes and clothes than a $2,000 flat screen TV. I've seen basketball and football games in real life, so I don't care about seeing them in HD. And I'm pretty sure Will & Grace re-runs will survive without being in higher res.

We'll Always Remember....

Monday, September 08, 2008

We've Got Another One Folks!

Yes...ANOTHER engagement!

Dustin, the older brother of one of my favorite people EVER, who is also a pretty cool guy himself (and I feel really bad about all those years I tortured and annoyed him growing up...really, I do...), popped the question to his *amazing* girlfriend Adele last week!


I got to spend some very fun times with Adele at Lindsey's wedding and she's the sweetest person in the world! I can't think of anyone better for one of my best friends' older brother! CONGRATULATIONS Y'ALL!!!!!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Honey Brushed Spicy Chicken Breasts

One of my passions is cooking...maybe that's why my butt keeps growing, but whatever. I love reading cooking blogs, books and magazines finding new recipes to try. (Thankfully, I have a 6'5", 220lb man who loves being my guinea pig to try new food on!) I plan on sharing my successes and the not-so-much successes. If you find something you like, give it a shot! Enjoy!

One Sunday afternoon we were sitting in the living room...he was studying, I was looking for a good chicken recipe for dinner. I told him I was going to pick three chicken dishes and he would decide which one I would make tonight! This is what he picked!

Honey Brushed Spicy Chicken Thighs
*Don't think we only eat monochromatic meals of just meat and carbs...there was a GIANT salad filled with (colorful!) veggies already on the table!

2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground red pepper (I used red pepper flakes)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Cooking spray
6 tbsp honey
2 tbsp cider vinegar (I only had red wine, so that's what I used!)
Couple sprigs of green onion, diced
Preheat oven to 350º. Trim the chicken of any excess fat.

Combine first 6 dry ingredients in a large Ziploc bag. Add chicken and toss around to coat. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and place chicken on the sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes (until 98% done!). While the chicken is cooking, combine the honey and cider vinegar, whisk until combined. Take out the chicken and brush each side with the honey mixture. Beef up the oven to Broil. Broil an additional 1 minute on each side. Brush with a bit more of the honey mixture. I topped mine with some green onions.

*NOTE* The recipe originally called for chicken thighs, not breasts. I'm not a fan of thighs, so I decided it would still be great with chicken breasts. The orig recipe said to broil the chicken in the oven. I wasn't too sure this would be the best way to cook the breasts, so I called Food 911 (aka My Mom!) and she said to bake it @ 350º and it'd be fine! If you like chicken thighs, sub them in for the breasts and try broiling them! 6 minutes on each side! Everything else stays the same!

Adapted from Cooking Light

Taking A Quick Break From The Life Updates...

To say CONGRATULATIONS to two of my dearest friends, Courtney and Austin, who got ENGAGED this past Friday!!

I'm proud to say, and brag, that I was there from the start, 8 years ago! I TOLD you two you would get married!!


Life Update - May 2008 (Part...what are we on now, Five?)

Packin' up and headin' out!
So after the fun and excitement of graduation and getting a new car, it was time to stop procrastinating and start getting all our Virginia crap ready to be packed, moved and transformed into Texas crap.

This was our first experience with a military move and let me tell you, it's FABULOUS!! They pack everything, put it all on the truck, move it and deliver it. The truck and moving clan was coming about a week before we were to leave and it was supposed to be delivered a few days after we were scheduled to arrive in Texas. This meant we had to: a) set everything out we wanted to be moved so the packers didn't have to dig through drawers, cabinets, etc. and b) decide what all we would need at the apartment in Norfolk for the rest of the week, what we would need on the drive down, and what we would need at the new apartment in Texas for a few days until the movers arrived.

This was the end result...(Cue Sanford and Son theme) All of our precious belongings were out and ready to be boxed up. (Yes, I used an empty Bud Light box to pack my *precious* belongings!)

After living like this for about a week:

It was a relief to come home from work one afternoon for lunch and be greeted by this site:
No, we didn't have enough crap to need two moving trucks...one of Justin's classmates lived in the same apartment complex and their moving trucks arrived on the same day to take them to Arizona!

Goodbye, Stuff! We'll see you in Texas!

That night, we ate dinner in our empty apartment, on the floor of our empty bedroom. And drank wine out of SOLO Cups. Ready for the next adventure!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Life Update - May 2008 (Part Three)

Justin's Graduation from Medical School!
On May 17, 2008, 22 loooong years of education and hard work paid off! Justin graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School! His entire family (minus 2 grandparents and 1 aunt) came down for the festivities!

The school held a super fancy banquet the night before at the Marriott Downtown. We ate until we couldn't move! Then we had dessert.

Us with Andrew, Justin's roommate, and Marketa, Andrew's girlfriend

We woke up the next morning and it was...GRADUATION DAY!!! Justin's Cap & Gown

The graduation was held at Chrysler Hall in Downtown Norfolk...the site where I attended many ballets and performances of Peter Pan by the Hurrah Players while growing up.

Doors were to open at 8am so we all (all 28 of us!) arrived promptly at 7:30 to make sure we were first in line, which we were. You couldn't save any seats so if you wanted to sit together, you had to show up together. Doors opened and we rushed in and scored the entire row directly behind the taped off area for the students to sit. Everyone else's families and friends sauntered in and filled the rows behind us, until the entire first floor seating was filled! This wouldn't matter at all, unless the Usher came up to you and said "I'm sorry we didn't rope off enough seats for the students. All 28 of you will have to find seats elsewhere."


I burst into tears when I realized the only place to go was up...to the balcony. 2 miles away from the stage. I was so upset and so angry! So needless to say, the pictures from inside the graduation kinda suck. The lighting was really crappy and we were in another time zone.

The tall dot to the right of the flower arrangement on stage is MY MAN GETTING HIS MEDICAL SCHOOL DIPLOMA!!!! WOOHOO!!!

Justin and his Dad

In case you're wondering why he doesn't look as smart as he does in the photo above, that's because this was taken before he had graduated!

After graduation, we headed to Guadalajara, a Mexican restaurant on Granby St. (that is also a bar late night...and I may or may not have celebrated my 19th birthday there with my Fake ID...nothin' like goin' somewhere that makes you reminisce!) We got to spend time with Justin's family and celebrate! The day was bittersweet...Since it would be the last time we saw his aunts, uncles and cousins before we moved, the goodbyes were filled with LOTS of tears and hugs. I can't WAIT to go home and see everyone at Christmas!

Life Update - May 2008

My New Car!
With an upcoming Halfway-cross-the-country-with-everything-I-own-in-my-backseat Drive looming in the upcoming month (cue "Wide Open Spaces" by Dixie Chicks), I sadly stared out the window at Julio, AKA The Little Honda That Could. My 2002 Civic had been with me through a lot and we had a strong bond, a solid connection. Julio always kept me safe in his youth...but now we had come to point in our relationship where I couldn't think with my heart, I had to think with my head. And I knew there was a pretty good chance I would probably end up stranded on the side of the road in Arkansas somewhere during my drive out to my new home.

We had been through a lot...I had carted sorority paraphernalia (and sisters)around town in him all through college, I always knew that my trusty beach chair and towel would be in the trunk whenever I needed them, and he hadn't gotten mad at me when I was learning how to drive a manual and I would grind his gears or peel out at every stop light. But the non-working A/C, the failing clutch, and the dented bumpers just weren't cuttin' it anymore. (Okay, so the dented bumpers may have been attributed to my stellar driving skills, so I can't hold that against him...)

After Justin's Commissioning Ceremony, my parents and I headed out to Greenbrier Chrysler, the same venue where I had traded in my 1995 Ford Explorer (RIP Charles) for Julio, just four years prior. He looked so sparkling new back then. Now, okay, not so much. I browsed through the selection and carefully selected my newest sidekick for the next three years!

Meet Rhonda Honda!

Life Update - Where To Start!?!? May 2008 (Part Uno)

Justin's Commissioning Ceremony
It was a cold, stormy night...ok, actually it was a gorgeous day, May 15, and I ventured out to the USS Wisconsin in Downtown Norfolk to watch my fiancee be commissioned as a Captain in the U.S. Army! This was also an important event because it was the first time my parents met his parents! (DANGER! HIGH VOLTAGE!) Just kidding...everything went great! EVMS Class of 2008 Officers
I'm so proud of him!
Neat shot that I took!

Justin's Dad pinning on his new Captain Bars!

...and then we went to No Frill Grill to celebrate!

Just a fun little tidbit...Austin recently got commissioned into the US Navy and Adam is now an Air Force Chaplin! Who woulda thought that three OSL chicks would land them some sexy military men?! Not me! I wonder what the odds are of us all getting stationed real close to each other! Air Force? Check! Navy? Check! Army? Check! (Haley, think your Justin might consider a career in the Marines so we'll have all branches covered?!)

All My Exes Live In Texas...

Okay, so not really. But I do. And as of today, September 1st, I have officially lived here for 3 months on the nose. And I feel a little bad for not keeping my friends and family as updated on my life as I should. I really enjoy reading how my best friends are doing (ALL over the country!) through their blogs while my poor little blog sat in a corner, collecting dust. I've decided to take this blog to another level...sounds exciting and dangerous, right? Wrong. Really, I just want to talk more about me. It'll give me more to say. Because, let's face it, I can talk about me all. day. long. Instead of talking about just planning my wedding, the original intent of this blog and something not everyone can relate to (i.e. Dan, Daniel and Corey), now I'll be able to address a vast encyclopedia of important topics...things that are very important to the continuation of the modern civilization, such as: my quests to find the best Happy Hours in San Antonio, pictures of cute dresses I find on sale, and my discoveries of all things Texas (which I hope will include a football game or two, seeing my first Longhorn on the side of the road and decorating a cactus for Christmas). But, before all that fun can begin, I must update everyone on the last 6ish months of my life. I may do a long, giant update all at once, or I may do them in small doses with some past and present mixed in...I'll surprise you. So go put on your favorite pair of chaps, your Sunday Best cowboy hat, grab a can of Lonestar Light (watch the cals so you can have seconds of that Brisket, Cornbread, Beans and Mac & Cheese!) and eagerly await your Google Reader to tell you I have once again decided to grace you with yet another update of my life. Thanks for reading!