Monday, July 28, 2014

Easy, Creamy, Healthy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Hi All!

So I have neglected this little gem for a while now, but man have things been busy!! To give you just a few high points: I turned down a few positions and left the airline business, we moved back to always lovely (and usually crowded) Austin, we bought a house, celebrated my dad’s 71st birthday, and the wedding is just over 3 months away!! To say we haven’t had much free time would be the understatement of the century, but I have loved every second of it.

But now that we have moved out of the little apartment we shared with a friend and into our first home and began to unpack, I get to play in the kitchen again! If you can’t tell, I’m just a little excited. Now I just need to get to practicing on my picture taking skills :)

One of the first dishes we tasted in our new kitchen was my delicious take on a chicken and rice casserole. This dish is warm, creamy and actually pretty healthy as far as a casserole is concerned. This was so good that we ate the entire dish within 24 hours…and Paul doesn't normally do leftovers.

One-Pot Easy, Creamy, Mostly Healthy Chicken and Rice

·         ¼ cup olive oil
·         3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
·         ½ onion, diced
·         3 carrots, either grated or cut into thin matchsticks
·         2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
·         2 tsp salt, divided
·         2 tsp pepper
·         3 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust for spice preference)
·         2 bay leaves
·         5 cups low sodium chicken broth
·         2 cups jasmine rice (or other medium grain)*
·         1 head garlic
·         ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1.       In a dutch oven (or other large pot), heat the ¼ cup olive oil and 2 Tbsp of butter over medium heat. Once butter melts, add onion, carrots, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Saute until soft (8-10 minutes).
2.       Meanwhile, trim thighs of any fat and cut into 1” chunks.
3.       Once onion/carrots are soft, add the chicken to the pot along with both bay leaves and remaining salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until chicken is no longer pink (about 4-6 minutes).
4.       Meanwhile, heat the chicken broth in the microwave. Add to pot once chicken is no longer pink.
5.       Stir in the rice and red pepper flakes.
6.       Take the entire head of garlic and chop off the small end. This should leave the bottom of each clove exposed. Remove extra skin and place the whole head, cut side down, into the center of the pot. This gives garlic flavor, without it being overpowering. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes until rice is cooked.
7.       Turn off heat; remove the garlic and bay leaves (if desired, you could also leave full cloves of garlic in the dish). Stir in remaining Tbsp of butter and Parmesan cheese.  
8.       Serve and enjoy!!

*You can also use brown rice and increase time in step 6 to 30 minutes.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Easy Tex-Mex Margarita

I mentioned before that one of the things we truly miss about our lives back in Texas are the margaritas. We used to take full advantage of El Mercado's grandote margaritas on Thursdays, and we have yet to find a place here in the Phoenix area that makes one we like for under $8. So when all else fails, and you really need some sweet tequila goodness, make your own!

I can't take all the credit here since Paul was my awesome bartender while I made some Mexican rice and burritos. But let me tell you, these things are DELICIOUS! So, if you want some margarita madness in your cup take a look below and don't feel guilty if you make a second batch :)

Yield: 1 pitcher/4 6oz glasses 

What you need:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 10 limes)*
  • 3/4 cup silver tequila (we love Epsolon, but Cuervo Silver is also good)
  • 1/2 cup triple sec (or other orange liqueur)
  • Margarita salt


  1. Heat sugar and water in saucepan over medium heat until sugar completely dissolves
  2. Pour into pitcher and place in freezer for a few minutes to cool off.
  3. Add lime juice, tequila and triple sec to pitcher and stir. 
  4. Place pitcher in cooler to cool off or pour over ice.
  5. Enjoy!

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Amazing Apple Braid Bread

Now that November has arrived it is finally starting to feel a tiny bit like fall here in Phoenix with a few days having highs below 80. In order to celebrate the "cool" weather I wanted to make something fall-y (that's a word right?), and we had a bag of apples that needed using. Enter this delicious apple braid bread.

It has a warm apple and cinnamon filling, soft bread like a danish and a sweet glaze on top. This stuff was seriously awesome that we may or may not have eaten the whole thing in 24 hours, but shhhh don't tell my thighs! If you want to make this fall treat, here is what you need:


  • 3 medium sized apples of your choice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 packet instant yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar - sifted
  • 5 teaspoons whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

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Make the filling: Preheat your oven to 350. Core, peel and slice your apples into thin slices and toss the slices with the sugar and cinnamon. Bake the filling in a pan for 15 minutes. When done, set apples aside but leave the oven on.

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Make the bread (while apples are baking): Mix dry ingredients together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the water and oil and mix on medium-high speed for 6 minutes (it may work best to use a dough hook, but isn't necessary). Spray a smooth (and clean!) surface with cooking spray and knead the bread a few times to get it to smooth out (left picture above). Spray a rolling pin with a little cooking spray and flatten out the dough into a rectangle that is roughly 12 by 16 inches. Carefully move the dough onto a baking sheet covered with foil and with your fingers or the blunt en of a knife draw lines on the dough dividing it into thirds lengthwise. Next, cut 1 inch strips on each long edge until they meet the lines you drew (when it is done the center third should be untouched). Spread your apple filling down the center of the dough. Start at one end and begin braiding the bread by alternating strips from each side; each strip should cross over the apple filling and meet the base of a strip on the other side. Pinch the ends closed with your fingers and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. When finished, carefully transfer to a cooling rack setup over some foil or wax paper.

Make the glaze (once bread is removed): Whisk all glaze ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Brush glaze over the apple loaf while it is still warm. Slice and enjoy!! :)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Big Rocks & Wedding Bells & Delicious Egg Sandwiches

So I'm a little behind...but I'M ENGAGED!!!!!! I have been for over a month now...but that is beside the point. So I apologize in advance if this blog starts involving a lot of wedding planning, but I think I'm allowed!

So first, for the story since that is what everyone cares about. The weekend of September 7 Paul decided to take advantage of flight benefits and head to Houston for a "boy's weekend". I didn't think anything of it and was looking forward to a little bit of alone time. Little did I know, Paul had a nice shiny ring in his bag and although he didn't lie about going to spend time with his friends, he also made a secret visit to my parent's house and took them out to dinner to ask for their blessing. The next Friday, Friday the 13th, I got out of work early and send Paul a text asking if he wanted to grab a drink for Happy Hour. He answered he was already home, so not thinking anything of it I headed towards our apartment.

I pulled into the garage and walked inside and was met by Paul in the kitchen. He said hi and kissed me, which I didn't think anything of until he covered my eyes and started urging me around the corner towards the living room. That’s when I heard the music playing. We get to the living room and he lets me open my eyes. On the coffee table I see a pretty wooden jewelry box (which I have wanted for a while), a bouquet of pretty flowers and a small velvet box that had fancy chocolates all around it in the shape of a heart. I looked up at Paul not sure what to think before he tells me to open the velvet box. I open it and to my surprise there is a beautiful pair of sparkly dangle earrings. Somewhere in the emotional rainbow between excited and only slightly disappointed I turned to him to say thank you to find him next to me with another velvet box in his hand - this one with a gorgeous sparkly ring! Of course I said YES through only a few happy tears! Paul will never admit it, but he cried a little too, but shhhhh I didn't tell you that ;) I hope getting engaged on Friday the 13th isn’t too much bad luck!

Since then, we have made a few trips to Austin and have picked our venue and our date; we will be getting married 11/8/2014 at the beautiful Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs Mansion!

But now onto my new delicious egg sandwich - they are crazy simple so don’t get too excited, but I love them! I love them so much that I seem to be eating them every week. It started with my love hate relationship with avocado. I’m picky when it comes to texture, which ruled out avocados for the majority of my life. I’m trying to overcome this by finding ways to eat it where it isn’t what hits my tongue first. I know that makes me sound a little crazy…but just go with it.

So I think this sandwich tastes best on potato buns that I usually have left over from making our homemade vegan sweet potato burgers…but thanks to an outage at the store I had to settle for whole grain buns from Sprouts.

Here is what you need (makes 1 sandwich):
·        1 hamburger like bun of your choosing (you can also use regular sandwich bread)
·        1 sandwich size slice of cheese
·        1 egg
·        ½ Avocado
·        2 Tbsp salsa
·        Salt & Pepper to taste

1.     Spray small non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat
2.     Beat the egg in a cup or bowl. Mix in salt & pepper to taste
3.     Slice your half avocado into 3 or 4 slices.
4.     Open your bun and spread 1 Tbsp of salsa on bottom half and top with cheese slice
5.     Pour egg into skillet and scramble. Once it begins to solidify, try shaping it into a solid round or rectangular shape and flip, instead of constant ‘stirring’. Once cooked, use spatula to place your egg ‘patty’ onto the bottom bun.
6.     Top egg with avocado, remaining 1 tbsp of salsa and the top of the bun

7.     ENJOY!!!! J

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

California Lovin

Note: I had started this post over labor day weekend...and just never finished and posted it. To say a LOT has happened since then is a bit of an understatement, but I'll catch everyone up on that soon!!

Since both Paul and I had the Labor Day weekend off, we thought we may as well go somewhere. Being the sometimes nice girlfriend that I am, I decided that we didn't have to fly since Paul is still a big baby and afraid of planes... and driving meant we could take the pup. So, since our choices were limited to destinations within driving distance of Phoenix, we opted for San Diego - best decision ever!!

We woke up super early in the morning and hit the road with our bikes and Wheeler's sweet new ride loaded in the back. After driving through the desert highway lined with sand dunes, along the Mexican border, and then over a little mountain range we made it into the SD around lunch time. Starving, we decided to be a little healthy and checked out this delicious little vegan place, Evolution Fast Food - OMG their vegan burgers were HUGE and delicious. Then after wearing out the pup & dropping him off at the hotel to take a little nap, Paul and I explored the city by bike :) We also checked out the Gaslamp District later that night again, and we weren't impressed. I'm sorry if that upsets anybody from Cali, but after living in Austin for so long with 6th street at our disposal, Gaslamp was waaaaaaay too overpriced ($8 for a well drink or beer).

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Then on Sunday, the real fun came. We took the puppy (in his sweet ride) to the dog beach on Ocean Beach. After a grueling 5 mile bike ride each way, which I swear was against the wind both ways since I was pulling Wheeler, we finally got there. For his first time ever seeing a wave or the ocean, I think he did pretty well :) We then tried, and failed, to see a sunset over the ocean at Point Loma, so instead we got what may have been the Greatest tacos I have ever eaten. I know that is a bold statement, especially for a girl from Texas where the taco is king - but these things were delicious! If you are ever in San Diego you must, and I repeat must go to Ortega's to get some tacos - if not for the food, for this pretty awesome dog that was chilling outside with us.
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So in summary, San Diego was awesome & I hope you have a great day :)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Arizona Adventures

Hi again! So since we moved out west we've been trying to explore the rest of Arizona to see what else this state has to offer outside of Phoenix...and I must say I've been pretty impressed! This is the only state I have ever been to where you can jump in the car for 1-2 hours and go from being in a 115 degree desert to a mountain town that is 20-30 degrees cooler and it is pretty awesome! Keep reading and I'll show you :)

First I feel like I can't not mention White Sands, NM. Before we set out on our long drive from Austin to Phoenix, I did a little researching and found out about White Sands. Everything I read said it was a must see if you are going to be anywhere near Las Cruces, NM, and boy were they right. When we first pulled into the park we were a little skeptical of how awesome this place will be; you are in the middle of grass fields and you see what looks like white hills off to your left. So we picked our trail and parked the car sin its lot, still surrounded by grass with a white hill in front of us. We walked over to the hill of white sand and ventured up...and boy were our minds blown!! All you could see was white, everywhere!!

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After we got settled in, we decided to hike up Tom's Thumb in Scottsdale. From our apartment, it didn't look like it would be that high or very hard and I was pretty excited. It started out fairly smooth..and then the switchbacks started and I turned into a whiny baby. But we didn't give up and eventually made it to the top and basked in all of it's glory...and checked out a giant saguaro cactus that was 3 times Paul's height-and he's 6'2"!

 photo DSCN1085.jpg saguaro cactus w/o arms photo DSCN1090.jpg

Memorial Day weekend I decided I was going to be 'evil' again (that is what Paul calls me every time I make him exercise) and take us the hour north to check out Sedona. We jumped in the car and headed up I-17. For awhile I wasn't too impressed, and then all of the sudden you go from flat cactus covered land to windy mountain roads and eventually an actual forest - with trees! I was probably a little more excited for trees than I should have been since I had only been out of Texas for a month, but hey call it nostalgia. Then we cut off the interstate to head over to Sedona and suddenly everything started to get more and more of a beautiful reddish tent. We made our way through this cute little town to a dirt road that led to a trail called 'Devil's Bridge' I read about online. Let me tell you, this hike is awesome! You start by walking down a dirt road that is only driveable by high cleareance vehicles, and eventually branch off onto the trail that is a gradual slope mixed with natural stone steps you have to climb up. When you make it to the top of this pretty easy hike you are rewarded with a natural stone bridge that you are able to walk out on. I was so excited to go stand on it, and I even got Mr. Scared of Heights Paul out there with me. Wheeler on the other hand refused to go on the bridge and waited patiently on solid ground.

Next on the list was the little town of Payson, AZ and the Mogollan Rim...which I still repeatedly call the Mongolian Rim because I can't say the real name. We drove out to Payson, which looks just like a small town in Colorado with the amount of trees and 'Elk crossing' signs that you see. We hiked through the forests along a creek, discovered a cute little waterfall and then drove over to the top of the rim when the pup got a blister on his paw and couldn't walk anymore - poor little guy :( When we got to the top of the rim we found this cool little spot where the rocks jet over the edge of the cliff so it feels like you are just floating. I of course ran/climbed right out there and after 15 minutes of convincing finally got Paul to join me...and eventually even got him to dangle his legs off the edge!

 photo DSCN1190.jpg His pad has a blister :( photo DSCN1195.jpg

Ok well I guess that is enough of Arizona talk, plus I keep getting distracted watching this Texas v. BYU game and all of its disappointment. 

Until next time <3

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Things I've been missing

Hi all. I thought I would get the post out of the way where I whine about the things I miss from Texas, and then I can move on to bigger and happier things!

 First of all I miss the breakfast foods; especially kolaches and tacos!!! For those of you who don't know what a kolache is, think of an amped up pigs in a blanket with more choices for fillings. For example, there is sausage & cheese, ham egg & cheese, potato egg & cheese...and anything with jalapeno - my mouth is watering just typing this!! These delicious breakfast treats are courtesy of the Czech influence in Texas and they can be found in any donut shop in the state. There are even full chains dedicated to serving nothing but kolaches (Kolache Factory). Since moving here we have had to learn to make our own kolaches and they've  been decent but not the same :(

Lately I have also been desperately missing tacos, and no I don't mean the kind with ground beef. Breakfast tacos are another staple in central Texas breakfast cuisine.  So much so that there are entire restaurants dedicated to nothing but tacos such as !Torchy'sTacodeli and Lolita's to name a delicious few!

Lastly, and possibly the most important of all, I miss the margaritas!!!! We have been in Phoenix for almost five months now and I have yet to find a good margarita for under $8 because let's face it, I'm admittedly cheap and refuse to spend that much on a drink I know shouldn't cost more than $6. On that note, if you are ever in the Austin area on a Tuesday,  Thursday or Sunday do yourself a favor and go to El Mercado on South 1st and get a grandote margarita... you won't regret it :)

Ok enough whining.  Arizona does have some pretty great places too. So far we have ventured to the McDowell Mountains here in Scottsdale, Sedona,  Flagstaff and Payson and all were gorgeous...but I'll talk about those later. :)

Until next time!