Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chicken Cordon Bleu


One of my favorite ways to spend Valentine's Day is at home enjoying a deliciously home-cooked meal by candlelight. By staying at home, you can save money on overpriced restaurants and create a more personal, intimate environment. You can even select your own soundtrack to play in the background while you dine. The only roadblock? You have to do the cooking! Enter Chicken Cordon Bleu, a fancy, scrumptious dish made easy in this simple recipe. You can even make everything a couple days in advance (store in the fridge and wait to bake until an hour before you eat) so you are completely stress-free on V-Day.

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Baking Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: about 50 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

{for the Chicken Cordon Bleu}

3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded down to about 1/2 inch and cut in half
12 slices deli ham
1 cup bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 to 1/2 pound thinly sliced swiss cheese

{for the Parmesan-Dijon Cream Sauce}

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules (or 1 bouillon cube, crushed)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

*I did not have chicken bouillon granules or cubes so I left this out and it tasted delicious!

DIRECTIONS:

Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and melted butter. Set aside. 

Lay the chicken breasts in a single layer in the 9x13-inch dish. Layer each chicken breast with two slices of ham and top with 2 slices of Swiss cheese. Make sure the entire chicken breast is covered with ham and cheese. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top of the chicken. (If you are preparing this in advance, go ahead and put foil over the dish and store in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Don't let it sit there for more than a couple days.)

Bake the chicken for 30-35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through completely, the cheese is bubbly and the bread crumbs are golden. 

While the chicken bakes, make the sauce. In a medium saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in the flour, whisking constantly, while cooking the flour/butter mixture for 1-2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking quickly. Stir in the chicken bouillon granules (is using) and salt. Whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture begins to simmer and thicken, about 3-5 minutes. Once the sauce has bubbled and thickened, remove from heat and stir in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and parmesan cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted. Keep the sauce warm until the chicken is finished baking. (If making ahead of time, you can store this in the fridge, then heat in a saucepan prior to serving.)

Serve each chicken cordon bleu portion with warm sauce. Bon Appetit!

Hot Stripe



Skirt: Zara, Sweater: H&M, Shoes: H&M, Clutch: gifted, Earrings: Forever21, Necklace: gifted, Sunglasses: Jee Vice

When you're only shopping from one wardrobe the entire year, you need to get creative. I'm not sure if you can tell from the pictures, but the sweater I'm wearing here is actually a cardigan worn backwards. A 2-fer! Business in the front and party in the back. I'm also excited to incorporate these bright shoes into more of my outfits. Before this year, I had only worn them one time, but I have a feeling they'll be creeping into my outfits more and more. They're so fun!

Oh, and if you're looking a slightly more fun yet equally as attractive outfit for Valentine's Day, something like this is a great choice. (What is it with men and pencil skirts?!)

Monday, January 30, 2012

What I Learned in the Czech Republic

by Jennifer of Jenni Austra Germany

Jennifer currently resides in Dresden, Germany where she teaches English. Originally from Norman, Oklahoma, she has spent the last 3 years living in Europe (specifically Austria and Germany). She travels frequently throughout Europe and is here today to teach us a little about the Czech Republic.

1.  Eastern European Town Squares are really something special.
Whether it's Poland, Czech Republic or Slovakia, I've found that the Eastern half of Europe's town squares should not be overlooked.  I especially loved the town square in Prague.  The color palettes,  architecture and cobblestones combined to make this lovely little Czech town square so very memorable to me.

2.  Monopoly money is real!
Due to the current exchange rate and the ever-suffering Czech economy, the US dollar can buy quite a lot of Czech Kronen (the Czech Republic's national currency).  This means that liters of beer cost a couple of dollars, a large pizza is no more than 5 and a night's stay at the hostel costs less than 20.  Add the feeling of holding giant bills in your hand and spending it like you're in the middle of a real-life Monopoly marathon?  This made my Czech experience priceless.....no pun intended.

3.  Making pit stops in nearby non-touristy towns is a must. 
Instead of staying in Prague all weekend, we made a detour on our way back to Austria and stopped in the small village of Czesky Krumlov.  It's now one of my top 10 European cities: quaint and underwhelming, in the best way possible.

4.  Ditch the main attractions and make your own path. 
Sure, sometimes it's nice to follow all the guide books and see all the typical sights.  But some of my favorite moments in the Czech Republic were spent off the beaten path.

5.  Trips are 100 times more memorable when taken with dear friends. 
I've traveled quite a bit on my own and I've done plenty of group traveling too.  I have to say this trip to the Czech Republic was all the more worthwhile thanks to the group of friends accompanying me.  I've learned that I'd much rather see a few countries with good company than see every country in the world alone.


Thank you Jenni! To read more about Jenni's travels, visit her blog here.

To read past editions of "What I Learned In", click here.

Heart-Shaped Sugar Cookies


The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. As cliché as this phrase sounds, it's true!! This week, I'm going to share some recipes that will help enhance your Valentine's Day celebrations. 

These heart-shaped cookies are so classic and can be given as a gift, served as dessert, or brought to a party/work to share. (They also serve as an excellent midnight snack!) 

Yield: about 24-36 cookies, depending on the size
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Waiting Time: 3 hours
Baking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 4 hours

INGREDIENTS: 

{for the cookies}

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

{for the buttercream frosting}

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 Tablespoons milk

DIRECTIONS:

{for the cookies}

In a medium bowl, mix flour, cream of tartar, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Slowly add the flour mixture and blend until fully incorporated. When all ingredients are mixed well, cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 3 hours. 

When dough is cool, take out of the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. 

On a floured surface, take a ball of dough and roll with a rolling pin until dough is flat and about 1/4 inch in thickness. Use flour on the rolling pin to ensure dough doesn't stick. Using heart-shaped cookie cutters (or a thin knife), cut dough into shapes. Place hearts onto a cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and bake for 6-8 minutes. 

{for the frosting}

In a medium bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and then the confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add a few drops of red food coloring for a light pink hue. 

Once the cookies are cool, frost with buttercream frosting. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday Smiles

I hope you're enjoying your weekend. It's a whopping 74 degrees in Hermosa Beach today--one of those days that really makes me appreciate the Golden State. Here are a few links from around the web to make you smile.

Are you getting in the mood for Valentine's Day?

An awesome cooking show for kids.

Heidi Merrick's 2012 spring collection showcases my favorite hues.

Anger Management at the Australian Open

A yoga room in the SFO airport? Yes.

Swooning over the shoes in this outfit.

I've been craving these for about a week now.

Oh, Italy.

Photo via

Friday, January 27, 2012

Blowing Hearts



Pants: Fire Jeans, Shirt: Katwalk, Blazer: Loft, Shoes: Banana Republic, Belt: H&M, Watch: Nixon, Sunglasses: Jee Vice, Necklaces: Stauer & purchased from a young girl in Petra

In the advertising industry, there are two reasons you dress up for work: 1. if you're on a job interview, 2. if your client is in the office. This was my client outfit on Wednesday. I also think it would make a great outfit for Valentine's Day. Subtle hints of pink and red. 

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

To read more about my wardrobe challenge, click here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ruffled Rose


Pants: Target, Shirt: H&M, Scarf: J. Crew, Coat: Coffeeshop, Shoes: Target, Belt: H&M, Necklace: J. Crew

You may notice I'm wearing a scarf as suspenders in this outfit. I was looking for some more texture in this look, but didn't want to hide my waist, so I tucked my scarf into my belt loops. Think this is funny? Have you read the Man Repeller? Hope you're having a swell day.

(To read more about my wardrobe challenge, click here.)

Wanderlust: China

Since the start of Chinese New Year, I've had China on my mind. I've never been there, but I want to go. It seems like such a soft yet strong country with lots of natural beauty. These pictures, especially the first one, sort of blow my mind. I can't wait to fully experience the Asian culture someday.
Terraced Rice Field, Yunnan Province
Xitang, Zhejiang Province
Pearl Waterfall, Jiuzhaigou Valley
Have you ever been?

Photo Credits: here, here & here

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guacamole Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. While I love sweet treats in the morning, one of my go-to dishes is a breakfast burrito. There are many ways to make a breakfast burrito (eggs, ketchup & tortilla, anyone?), but below is a tried and true recipe that I have grown to love. To me, it's all about having a strong egg mixture. In this recipe, guacamole is the glue that holds everything together. I hope you enjoy...

Yield: 3 burritos
Total Prep Time: about 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

3 flour tortillas
4 egg whites + 1 egg
3 Tablespoons pico de gallo (or 1 tomato, seeded & chopped)
1/3 cup shredded Mexican cheese
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cooked chicken breast, chopped (or other meat)
1 avocado, pitted, skinned & chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Pour in eggs and scramble. Once scrambled add chicken and tomatoes. Remove from heat and pour into a medium bowl.

Make guacamole. On a cutting board, place the avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with lime juice and use a potato masher to mix all together. Add guacamole to egg mixture and mix well. Add green onions. At this point, you should have a mixture of eggs, chicken, tomatoes, green onions, and guacamole. Congratulations. This is the inside of your burrito.

Prepare the tortilla. Sprinkle cheese on top of a tortilla and heat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds to melt. Pour 1/3 of the egg mixture on top of the tortilla, roll into a burrito, and enjoy!

Happy day!

Windy Woodsy



Shirt: Zara Basic, Pants: H&M, Boots: Jessica Simpson, Sunglasses: BP

Even though I live in a beach town, this outfit makes me feel like I live in the country. (Where's my horse when I need it?) I think it's important to change up your look every now and then so you don't get bored. If you feel like you're in a clothing rut, imagine that you live in a completely different city when you're getting dressed in the morning. Dressing for new environments or cultures (even if you're right at home) can open up so many possibilities with your wardrobe. Here, I've incorporated two of my most essential pieces: riding boots and an oversized button-up. There is so much you can do with these two pieces of clothing. So, get out there and show me your country side. Giddy-up cowgirls!

(To read more about my wardrobe challenge, click here.) 

Halfway There!

Ladies and gentleman (umm.. probably just ladies, actually), we're halfway there! I'm not sure how many of you remember this post, but just wanted to remind you that when this blog reaches 100 followers, the giveaway goes live! So tweet, post to facebook, pin & share the good news about this little bloggy with your friends. (Oh, and follow, of course, if you're not already!)

photo via pinterest

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What I Learned in Bulgaria

by Betsey Ramage of Una Bella Vita blog
I'm very excited to introduce my first guest blogger, Betsey Ramage from the beautiful and inspiring blog, Una Bella Vita. Betsey recently spent six months in Bulgaria and is now pursuing a Master's Degree in Biblical Counseling. Without further ado...

I spent this past summer working and living in Sofia, Bulgaria. Before this opportunity came my way, I had never even heard of Bulgaria and I definitely couldn't find it on a map. Now, almost six months after I returned to the US, Bulgaria is still on my heart and constantly on my mind. My time in Bulgaria taught me about being independent and taking chances, I learned what it means to not only visit a different culture but to live and breathe it. I picked up its customs (did you know that Bulgaria is the ONLY place in the world that shakes their head for 'yes' and nods it for 'no'! Talk about confusing!), became friends with its people, explored its cities, and fell in love with its traditions.
The Bulgarian people taught me about openness and curiosity, and true relationships. They are not quick to call someone a friend, like we are in the United States. They are careful, and intentional, and when they finally do call you a friend - you know they mean it. They loved hearing about life in the US, and loved telling me about Bulgaria (especially the food!). I was surprised by just how similar Bulgarians are to Americans: I taught an ESL class and listened to their stories, stories that were remarkably similar to my own.
When I think about my time in Bulgaria, I am swarmed with beautiful memories of the city of Sofia; the churches, the cobblestone, the smell of the döner stands. I think of the beautiful fields and flowers of Vladaya, the breathtaking Rila Mountains, and the magical history of Plovidiv (the third oldest city in Europe!). But above all, I think of the people I met there: their love and respect for their history and traditions, their eagerness to explore other places, and the warm hospitality they extended to me.I feel like my heart is constantly being pulled back to Bulgaria, and I feel that someday I might even end up there for good.

Thank you Betsey! And, in case you haven't been fully convinced that you should travel to Bulgaria someday, here are some wanderlusty photos for your viewing pleasure.
Photo credits: George Palov and Betsey Ramage


To read past editions of "What I Learned In", click here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

Today is the first day of Chinese New Year, which marks the start of the prosperous year of the Dragon. The Dragon is said to symbolize power, strength and good luck. (I think everyone can use some good luck these days, right?)

I’ve always wanted to experience a true Chinese New Year celebration. Despite the name, the holiday is celebrated all over Asia, including Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Vietnam & the Philippines. It seems like such a festive and bold celebration, a happy time where everyone travels home to be with thier families.

Click here to read more about Chinese New Year and see some more amazing pictures from celebrations around the world. 

Have you ever experienced a Chinese New Year celebration?

Sha-bang!



Pants: Jolt, Shirt: H&M, Jacket: J. Crew, Scarf: Canal Street in New York, Shoes: Steve Madden, Sunglasses: Target

I was feeling a little spunky this weekend so I put on my happy pants, popped my collar and practiced my ninja skills. For real though, denim jackets worn right are always in style. Popped collars and rolled sleeves are the secret to looking cool. Oh, and sunglasses. Those help too.

To read more about my wardrobe challenge, click here.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday Smiles


These photos make my adventurous side come out.

I can't shop right now, but you should consider this classic, darling skirt.

Perfect weekend style.

This blueberry cheesecake is so gorgeous!

National Geographic's annual photo contest always inspires me. This one's my favorite of the winners.

Garlic Knots. Enough said.

Couples in love having fun.

All-natural iPad speakers. No cords/batteries required!

Photo Credit: Nat Geo

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Act of Moving

I can't stop looking at this photo of a train station in Delhi, India taken by Ashley and Aron from Hither & Thither. It bleeds travel to me and makes me want to spend time on a moving vehicle. It's amazing how the act of moving (for me, at least) can inspire and cultivate such clear thinking. While I love being in a new place, I also enjoy the process of getting there.

Do you have any plans to travel this year? If so, where are you going?

Olive Stripe


Top: H&M, Pants: Target, Shoes: Target, Bag: H&M, Belt: H&M, Necklace: Rare Bird, Watch: Nixon, Sunglasses: BP

I'm lookin' at you!

I suppose I'm going for the jailbird/army look here. Hah! While thick, horizontal stripes are not always flattering, they are so bold and fun! I think they work best when paired with a skinny pant.

Oatmeal Smoothie


Last week, I posted a rather indulgent breakfast recipe. This week, I'm offering a smoothie that is healthy, creamy, energizing, and perfect for someone who tends to eat breakfast on-the-go. Start your morning right.

Total Time: 5 Minutes
Yield: 1 smoothie
Nutrition Information: 415 calories, 5 grams fat, 785 mg potassium, 7.5 grams fiber, 15.5 grams protein

INGREDIENTS:

1 banana
3 frozen strawberries or equal amount of frozen raspberries
4 Tablespoons greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup milk

DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix well.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taco Pasta


Are you looking for something to make with your homemade taco seasoning? I have just the thing. This, warm, dynamic meal will leave your belly full and your taste buds happy.

From Fake Ginger
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
8-12 oz. small dry pasta shapes (penne, shells, fusilli, etc.)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies (optional)
4 Tablespoons taco seasoning (or 1 packet)
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (may also use sour cream)
Cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saute pan, cook the ground meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. A few minutes before meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet. Once the meat is fully cooked through, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, greek yogurt and reserved pasta water. Continue stirring until cream cheese is melted and sauce is well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer on medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes until sauce is reduced down a bit. Serve and garnish with freshly chopped cilantro.

Enjoy!

The Tastiest Ingredients

I snatched this image from my friend's Instagram. It was taken at Pizzeria 712 in Orem, Utah.

What a great manifesto for cooking.

Emerald City


Jeans: Gap, Tee: Caslon, Shawl: Banana Republic, Belt: H&M, Shoes: Jessica Simpson, Watch: Nixon, Earrings: F21, Ring: F21

Do you own a pair of Mom jeans? Yeah, I'm talking high-waisted, show-off-your-entire-booty jeans. Bust them out. Because guess what? Curves are in and your booty is asking for it. It's missed being hidden by those long sweaters. Embrace it and love it. And if you start to feel self-conscious about your booty being in the limelight all day, just untuck your shirt. Boom!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Oh, the Places You'll Go



I can't stop thinking about this magical and moving video that brings to life "Oh, the Places You'll Go", Dr. Suess's last book, written just a year before he died. I've never fully understood Burning Man, and after watching this, it seems like a freaky, yet fascinating and inspiring place.

Back in Black



White Tee: Target, Sweater: RVCA, Pants: Target, Boots: gifted, Scarf: Canal Street in New York, Beanie: H&M, Belt: H&M, Necklace: Rare Bird, Watch: Nixon, Lipstick: Elf Seductive

It was a cold morning at the beach so I threw on my beanie and grabbed some hot cocoa to warm me up. While you shouldn't wear it all the time, black is a classy color. In this outfit, I paired it with gold accessories and pink lipstick to add some excitement.