Tuesday, July 30, 2013

{Make This}: 10 Go To Easy Weeknight Meals.

Most days during the week we play the "what's for dinner" game. It is so easy to not plan ahead and then at the last minute just go grab something to eat out. We've really been working to avoid that "easy way out" that ends up hurting your wallet and waistline in the long run. If you're in the same situation, here are a few of our favorite "go-to easy meals" for weeknights. They aren't fancy, they aren't gourmet, but they don't take much time and they are pretty delicious!

1) Some variety of a couscous bowl. We make this with chicken and then whatever toppings we want or have on hand that night:

Mexico City Couscous

Pesto Couscous Chicken

2) We love making "fake out" stir fry:
Fake Out Easy Stir Fry

3) Another easy meal involves taking flour tortillas and creating a "pizza" in a use-what-you-have mentality.

Flour Tortilla Pizzas

4) Tacos are great because they don't take long and don't require too many ingredients:

Easy Weeknight Tacos

5) We make these burrito bowls all the time with all sorts of different variations depending on what we have or need to use up. Take cilantro-lime rice and go from there... black beans, chicken, etc.

Fake Out Chipotle Burrito Bowl

6) Spaghetti is always a good go-to when you're craving something that reminds you of home. Here's my favorite 3 ingredient recipe:

Poor Man's 3 Ingredient Spaghetti Sauce

7) Soup is always a good option for colder weekday nights. I've got a couple recipes that don't take too long and hit the spot:

Taco Soup

3 Ingredient WW Potato Soup

8) Dress up some mac and cheese. Now I know M&C is not healthy. And so this can't be an every week thing. But sometimes fancy mac is just downright easy and delicious. We've made cheeseburger mac with boxed Velveeta mac and cheese, ground beef, and rotel tomatoes.

Rotel Mac

9) I love Real Simple's recipes for weeknight meals. Here's one that we should probably make again. I loved it when we made it:
Roasted Sausage and Broccoli Rigatoni

10) Another easy go-to Chinese-esqe meal here - fake out fried rice and hibachi chicken. It's calorie laden at the restaurant but you can control the portion size and butter use at home:

Fake Out Hibachi and Fried Rice

And there you have it! Hopefully there were some ideas you can add to your recipe arsenal for when the easiest thing seems to be picking up take out. Do you have any favorite weeknight meals? Link them in the comments!

In finding recipes that don't take forever and cost a fortune...
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Sunday, July 28, 2013

{House}: Better After Blog.

A few days ago I was scrolling through my feedly (RIP Google Reader) and saw something very familiar - my old kitchen!

Back a few years ago when we finished our kitchen I submitted it to one of my favorite house blogs, Better After. BA highlights a before and after with a quick story each day. It is a fun blog and I was so excited to be a part of it! Well she was on vacation and went through the archives for her favorite afters and our kitchen was one of them! Here's the direct link to the post: http://www.betterafter.net/2013/07/yellow-fever-take-2.html

Of course our kitchen makeover was also featured on my favorite site, Young House Love, as well around that time. Naturally I freaked out when that happened:


These days we're still loving our kitchen renovation and everything is holding up quite well:

And now it is almost time to submit a new project to YHL and Better After! Here's a sneak peak at what is to come...

Here's to creating our own "better after" with our little ranch on a street of bungalows.

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

{House}: Pantry Progress!

When we moved into our house in 2009, the very first thing we did was take the washer and dryer out of the pantry in the kitchen and convert a closet to a laundry closet. We had these sweet babes:

(we never got a picture of them in the pantry because that would involve some thinking instead of just acting on the first whim we have)

and we changed over to this for laundry:

which left us with a sweet space for a pantry. One half of the closet is the water heater and HVAC but there's a whole wall for storage, which was more than our last house. So excited, we couldn't wait to organize our space...

At the time this was like the Taj Mahal of pantries. We were so pumped. "Look! You can walk in!" Don't mind the yellowing walls, the disgusting floor, the knobs from the water spouts.

Eventually we got a little more sophisticated:

Yeah buddy.

Well that system hadn't worked in some time. The food in baskets was not good but the shelves were not suited for storing food. The shelves weren't wide enough so they didn't maximize the space either.

So, after dreaming of a pantry with potential for a while, my wildest dreams finally came true. First, we cleared out the pantry and painted it:

While the pantry is empty, check out the kitchen:

(oh yeah, you like those wooden shelves? Remember we bought those to use from IKEA but they were too short, wide, and too spaced out between shelves #fail)

And after our fabulous wonderful contractor got done, built in shelves, made to order!

They've still got to be painted and everything loaded back in there but yay! What a difference, huh?

In having places to store your food,

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

{Life}: I'm loving... my monogram necklace.

I've been lusting after a tortoise shell monogram necklace ever since I saw them on Marley Lily's website a few months ago. So when I found out that this etsy site, VitaBravo, had a buy one get one free of the same monogram special and the necklaces were $29.99 for the two, I just had to buy it.

Now, I was not asked to review this. I just had to spread the word. I am in LOVE with these necklaces. Mind you - they certainly are a bit cheap. I mean, it was $30 for two necklaces. The chain tarnishes on the first wear around the back of the neck. But for a fun statement piece of costume jewelry? So perfect.

The brown tortoise necklace, my original inspiration to purchase.

The black necklace that I got for "free."

So like I said, I had to share the love and tell y'all about this necklace. Check it out: https://www.etsy.com/shop/vitabravo1

In monograms and etsy,
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

{Make this}: Mexico City Couscous.

Every time I got to Nashville to visit Elise (like this past weekend, when I drove in Thursday night), we go to Elise's favorite restaurant and my favorite Nashville restaurant, Silly Goose. Silly Goose is a total hipster place, with bandanas for napkins, mason jars for cups, and edison light bulbs. And I love it. They even have their menus on little clip boards and have ipads for receipts instead of printing them out. SO hipster.

My favorite thing to get there recently has been the Mexico City couscous. It is spicy deliciousness and so I decided to try to replicate it. We did a pretty freakin' fantastic job at recreating this dish so I had to share.

Mexico City Couscous

You'll need:

couscous (we used a roasted chicken flavor but plain works)
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 mango
1 package goat cheese
fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno
Siracha sauce

You'll do:

1) Cook your chicken - cut into chunks, saute in a pan of olive oil. We added in some Tajin seasonsing because we love it.

2) Cook your couscous according to package directions.

3) Cut your mango into small pieces (google how to do it), chop cilantro, chop jalapeno

3) Combine chicken, mango, cilantro, jalapeno, and chunks of goat cheese. Drizzle siracha sauce on top. Serve!

This meal has some heat but hits the spot. Definitely try it out if you like spicy food!

In couscous and goat cheese,

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Monday, July 15, 2013

{Life}: Elise's Girls Getaway in Gatlinburg.

So my best friend is getting married - I blogged about the engagement here. And I'm ridiculously excited. One of the "matron of honor" duties is the bachelorette party. I got super lucky because I have a partner in crime for this wedding, a maid of honor that is Elise's best friend from college and friend soul mate, Jackie. Jackie is awesome. And so Jackie and I got to plan Elise's bachelorette party!

When planning, we knew we needed to do something destination because so many of Elise's friends live outside of TN. Elise mentioned that her dad had a cabin in Gatlinburg with 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, a pool table, a mini-movie theatre, a hot tub, and two balconies and we were sold.

(mini theater room...)

Elise invited her closest girl-friends, which consisted of a crew from camp/church, a crew from St. Mary's, and a crew from graduate school. We ended up with 15 awesome girls and honestly it was a great mix of humans.

I left Thursday after work for Nashville, where I met up with Elise. The next morning bright and early we picked up Jackie (who Elise calls "Teamie") at the airport. Here they are, reunited!

After breakfast we hit up Kroger for all our cabin food needs...

We got a bit silly.

Then it was on the road to Gatlinburg. On the way in we stopped at the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce to get some brochures. And pose.

And then it was time to climb this beast of a hill to get to the cabin. But once we got to the top, it was totally worth it:

Since it was a bachelorette weekend, we had to have some fun decorations for the bride-to-be. I made this door hanger from a wooden letter from Hobby Lobby and some burlap ribbon. Elise got to take it home at the end of the weekend.

We also got cups made - everyone got one to drink from and then we had one with some goodies inside. The cups were very useful for the weekend and really worked well.

We got Elise a bride hanger with her new name to use for her wedding dress the day of (perfect for pictures). It matched the theme of the invitation we used:

I also brought my IKEA metal vases from home and they worked perfectly for holding Elise's favorite flowers, hydrangeas.

After a few hours everyone started arriving and it was time for the fun! We had a really pretty moment with the sun and clouds that happened when Grace, Ellen, and Christy showed up. A total God moment.

Once everyone convened, Jackie and I cooked dinner - spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. I used my favorite spaghetti sauce recipe, the 3-ingredient sauce.

That night we hung out and caught up with each other. Later the last four joined us and we had Elise's shower, which was tons of fun but not photographable for obvious reasons ;)

The next morning the other bridesmaids were in charge of breakfast and made an insane spread of brunch food:

After brunch we bummed around for a while. I sat on the porch with some friends and talked, which was so good for the soul. We finally got our act together and went outlet mall shopping, which was super successful. I got some great work outfits. For dinner we went into Gatlinburg and went to the Cherokee Grill. I called ahead and made a reservation and let me tell you - they hooked us up. We had this private room and it was so ideal for the party.

The dinner was really nice and the food was delicious. We even got to witness this amazing sunset:

After dinner we headed back up the mountain to the cabin. We made a special drink called the Blushing Bride (champagne, jumex peach juice, and grenadine) and toasted Elise Marie before heading to the hot tub:

We ended the night with cheese dip, a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, and a lot of laughter.

The next morning we had to say goodbye to our friends and this view:

Throughout the weekend we were instagramming with the hashtag #verafest2013, which was a reference to the fact that almost every single one of us brought our Vera Bradley for the weekend. This was a picture taken after everyone had left and yet we still got this many veras in the pic:

The funny thing about the weekend was it was such a stereotype for the mid-20's white chick. Vera, Rainbows, iPhones, big sunglasses, stadium cups...Gotta love it:)

And with that, a ridiculously fabulous weekend came to an end. We had so much fun celebrating Elise Marie. She's a special one.

On the way home we were treated to some of the prettiest cloud formations and blue skies... an ideal way to end an ideal weekend.

In best friends, cabins, and cheese dip,

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