off the beaten…recipe…

There are two kinds of home cooks: those who follow a recipe to the letter; and those who just sort of wing it.

I fall into the latter category.

Not necessarily because I’m such an amazing cook that I don’t need structure. But because I don’t always have everything I need when I start or the recipe seems unnecessarily complicated or I would prefer one ingredient over another. There are all kinds of reasons for my jumping the track and thankfully, it usually pays off.

Like it did with this chicken pot pie I made last night.

Never one to completely follow a recipe, I found one I thought sounded the best, used what I wanted from it and left the rest. I have to say, it was a big hit with Michael and my brother.

Here’s how I did it…feel free to add your own interpretation to my recipe… 😉


3/4 pound chicken (or three semi-large chicken breast pieces)

1 tsp diced garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

2 small potatoes

1 medium chopped onion

1 10-12 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup milk

2 cups chicken broth

2 – 9 in unbaked pie crusts

Salt and pepper to taste

In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil and garlic. Add cubed chicken and onions. Cook until onions are clear and chicken is no longer pink. Add cubed potatoes and bag of frozen vegetables. Cover with lid (if you have one). Once potatoes and veggies have become slightly softer (about 3-5 minutes on medium heat), add whole wheat flour and stir until “pasty.”

Pour in milk and chicken broth, add salt and pepper. Stir together until creamy, but thin. Let continue to cook over med-low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until thickened.

Meanwhile, place one thawed, unbaked pie crust into deep dish pie pan (or,you may use pre-formed deep dish pie crust in a tin found on the frozen baked good aisle) and bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, or until just slightly browned. Fill with chicken mixture. Place second thawed, unbaked pie crust over the top and pinch at edges. (if using pre-formed crusts, pop second thawed crust out of the tin and lay over the first).

Make several cuts in the top of the crust to allow heat to escape. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with a pitch of coarse sea salt, if desired.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Watch carefully so it does not bubble over (more incisions may be needed) or burn.


fall baking…

I promise I have interests other than decorating, DIY, clothes and baking…but where’s the fun in talking about those?! This is the place I get to express my Martha Stewart/Rachael Ray/Rachel Zoe wannabe sides…so here I go again…

It’s fall and that means I want to be surrounded by pumpkin and gourd displays, candles, chrysanthemums, Bath & Body Works scents – and baked goods. Oh, I know I shouldn’t and that the danger of overindulging is ever present. I know that if I do, the scale isn’t my friend, especially now that I’m pregnant.

But alas, my love affair with baked good persists. It’s not only the scrumptious treats that come from the baking, it’s the baking itself that I’m drawn to. I find it therapeutic for some reason. I always have.

Luckily, I have two men in my house that will share in the burden of ridding the evidence and I won’t be tempted for too long.

The weekend after this I have four of my college roommates coming to stay with me, so I’ve already begun to plan the indulgent goodies I want to have on-hand for their stay. After all, late night gab sessions are no good without decadent desserts and junk food, right?

Here are a few of the recipes I might try:

Just the thought of this fall-ish breakfast food makes my mouth water! Check out the recipe for these Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls at goodLife {eats}.


(Image found at goodLife {eats})


Then there’s always this Carrot Cheesecake recipe from Better Homes and Gardens!


(Image found at Better Homes and Gardens)


Or perhaps this Apple Crisp from Food Network’s Down Home with the Neelys is the way to go….


(Image found at Food Network)


Then again, maybe we’ll just try all three… 😉

layla grace…

Maybe it’s because our house is in a constant state of renovation. Maybe it’s because I’m pregnant. Maybe it’s because their stuff is just so dang beautiful, but I’m enamored….

“Enamored with whom?” You’re asking yourself.

Layla Grace.

My friend Jen sent me a link to the website some time ago and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the home and lifestyle company’s aesthetic. They offer something for everyone in the way of home decoration, personal style and children necessities. One minute I’m browsing through home accessories and the next I’m dreaming of crib bedding for Braden’s nursery or  drooling over a delicious fall recipe on the blog! It’s a whirlwind of sweet ideas!

Layla Grace is breezy and substantial all at once. I adore that. To me, there is nothing better.

So go ahead, pour yourself another cup of coffee and take a daydream journey through some of their latest blog posts this morning. I know I am.

{Photo found: Layla Grace The Backroom} we're doing Braden's nursery in gray with pops of accent colors, which is probably why this layout appeals to me soooo much!

{Photo found: Layla Grace The Backroom} i'm dreaming of cozy fall fires and boots and apple picking and comfort with this...currently remodeling our living room space and adding beautiful details like these are on my to-do list!

{Photo found: Layla Grace The Backroom} i love how sweet, simple and traditional this crib is! for Braden, we're refinishing an older crib

{photo found: Layla Grace The Backroom} yum...that's pretty much all i have to say about this...what an easy and delicious fall snack!

things i love right now…

So, life has gotten away from me and I’ve not had a chance to update this blog in a while…what else is new, right?

We’ve been busy working on our house (again, what else is new?) and juggling summer activities. Michael finally installed BEAUTIFUL hardwoods in our dining room and we’ve decided to keep them going into the living room now since he’s doing them himself, which lessens the cost tremendously. We’ve also repainted our front deck and pulled up the horrible bushes that blocked its view (you can’t tell in the shot below, but I swear it’s true!). The front of our house is now like a breath of fresh air. Still a ways to go, but little by little…I LOVE sitting out there with Michael in the evenings when things have cooled off a bit and we’re in the mood to dream up new projects.

Here’s what the deck looked like before.

Maybe it’s all this home renovation, but lately I’m so drawn to all things domestic.

I’m in love with looking at design ideas and trying to make things warm and welcoming. On the flip side, this need to nest also frustrates me to death because a lack of funds, time and energy make most of what I conjure up or fall in love with inaccessible to my own life. Still…a girl can wander furniture stores, home supply and home decoration stores with little more than dreams, right?

My love of using these wonderfully warm summer months to create new things is not limited to home decoration. I’m also making my way into the kitchen thanks to inspiring Food Network shows (Cupcake Wars, anyone?). My mom and I recently spent a Saturday morning picking blueberries at a local patch. Two pounds of berries later, I have made a trifle, blueberry pancakes (or pankpanks, as my niece calls them!) and a fruit salad…have I mentioned how much I love summer?? Now that I’m out of blueberries, I’m going to try my hand at using yeast and baking the bread my mother-in-law is so famous for! Cross your fingers…

For now, check out a few of the things I’m loving right now:

So into hand painted furniture right now…

Image found: Furniture Fashion

Image found: Painted Furniture Online

…and English gardens….

Image found: Landscape Design Advisor

…and Martha Stewart-style parties that are more Bohemian…

Image found: Pinecone Camp

…and dreaming of where we’ll take our next international vacation…Costa Rica perhaps???

Image found: Guanamar Hotel

Image found: Guanamar Hotel

Ok, got to run…more later 🙂

chocolate praline layer cake…

Ok, so it’s been a while…

I’ve been extremely busy with work (a good thing for the most part), working on the house, and traveling. And it’s not even that I have much interesting to say today, but I want to get back into the swing of things.

What better way than to share a delicious baking recipe?!

I found and fell in love with this recipe during college and have made it a handful of times over the years since. I’m all about semi-homemade greatness and this recipe takes the cake…literally! (My apologies for the shameless pun).

The most recent time I’ve made it was this past weekend for a Mother’s Day celebration. Though the cake was falling apart (it was still too warm when I had to get it ready) and not super pretty, the cake stand was practically licked clean by the time I took it home. 🙂

Try it for yourself and see what you think!

Chocolate Praline Layer Cake (by Julie Bengtson, winner of a Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest during 1988)

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 (18.25-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® Devil’s Food Cake Mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs

1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
16 pecan halves, if desired
16 chocolate curls, if desired

1. Heat oven to 325°F. In small heavy saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream and brown sugar. Cook over low heat just until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Pour into two 9 or 8-inch round cake pans; sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans.
2. In large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs; beat at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture.
3. Bake at 325°F. for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.
4. In small bowl, beat 1 3/4 cups whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form.
5. To assemble cake, place 1 layer on serving plate, praline side up. Spread with half of whipped cream. Top with second layer, praline side up; spread top with remaining whipped cream. Garnish with whole pecans and chocolate curls. Store in refrigerator.

ready made…

So, I am completely obsessed with this new magazine/website: Ready Made.

I stumbled upon it on accident at San Vito’s one night, while waiting for our pizza to come out of the oven. I couldn’t put it down!

First, let me say, I love how Ready Made runs down inspirational ideas and concepts in its pages. It takes potentially complex activities and breaks them down into manageable projects. And, surprise, surprise, nearly everything you read about can be duplicated in your own life, be it going green, crafting, building, traveling, ect. (hence the name Ready Made…). They even tell you exactly what materials you’ll need and how much it will all most likely cost you so you know before you attempt any DIY projects.

Here are some of my most recent favorites:

-Men’s wear button-front mini. Maybe I’m ultra-loving this because I just finished my own version of a seersucker mini and wore it last week (thank you very much!) But, this Wren clothing line inspired mini seems so much simpler and just as cute, here are the step-by-step directions on how to make it.

{Image by Kathryn Gambel for Ready Made}

-Trail-mix bars. Yum. Pretty much sums it up! Recipe found here.

{Image by Kim Cornelison for Ready Made}

-Solar firefly lanterns. Wow. That’s putting it lightly. How adorable are these little lanterns?! Remember when you were a kid and you used to catch fireflies and put them in a jar? This is the grown up version. I’m thinking of making a few for my front porch now. Here’s how.

{Image from Ready Made}

family-style cooking…

Unfortunately, I tend to worry. I also tend to be a people pleaser. Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely stand up for myself and I have my own opinions, but I generally want others to be happy…and I sometimes see it as my job to help them get there.
This is a problem on vacations when I feel like I need to bring something home to show family that I was thinking of them while I was away. I can spend a good chunk of time worried over finding a meaningful gift for each person that is within budget…it’s a difficult task…especially when you’re in Europe dealing with the added problem of a weak dollar.
In Rome I focused on enjoying myself during the first part of the week, but as our return flight edged closer I began to scope out gifts and panicked when I realized that budget, meaning and luggage space were definitely going colide in a way that made it immpossible for me to accomplish finding anything.
And then my genius husband came to my rescue.

After making several local Italian friends who schooled him on different areas of his native culture, he purchased three jars of a sauce called “Nduja” (it comes from the region his family originates in Italy) to share with his family at a big dinner some night upon our return. And then he called it a day. Ah, to be so uncomplicated.
I, on the other hand, still looked and worried and looked and worried over what I should get my family. Finally, he convinced me that I should do something similar with my family and we ended up purchasing a bottle of wine, a block of cheese and some chocolates.
This Sunday, I will be cooking an Italian family-style meal for my family and sharing all the goodies we brought home for them in a way that also allows us to share some stories and quality time.

I have been looking over recipes trying to find the perfect Italian recipe to share…I think I’m going with homemade pesto pasta, since it was a favorite of mine over there.

Wish me luck…I’ve never made pesto before, but I believe I’m up to the challenge. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Here’s the recipe I’m thinking about using, in case anyone feels like trying it for themselves:

2 cups basil leaves
2 cups arugula leaves
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons walnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 cups hot cooked linguine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)

Place first 6 ingredients in a food processor; pulse 7 or 8 times or until mixture forms a smooth paste. Add cheese, broth, salt, and pepper; pulse until combined. Combine pesto and pasta in a large bowl, tossing to coat.

Oh, and by the way, the Naniamo bars were excellent!!

drooling over Nanaimo bars…

For those of you who don’t know, my Dad is from Canada. Born in Alberta, he actually grew up in British Columbia….one of the most beautiful places on earth. Honestly.

Since I’ve been alive, we’ve lived in a lot of different places…mostly the Southern U.S. And because of cost constraints we didn’t get to visit my Dad’s home region very often, but there was a love of certain Canadian things he passed on to us even from 3,000 miles away…mostly of the food sort.

Roger’s Golden Syrup, plum pudding and hard sauce (actually an English tradition), White Spot Restaurant and…Nanaimo bars.

sugar heaven

Now, if you’ve never had a Nanaimo bar…or heard of them…you don’t know what you’re missing. We dream of these sweet treats, the only problem is the custard powder required to make them is very difficult to get here in the South. (You can substitute instant vanilla pudding, but can it really be considered authentic then?)

They were first invented in a town called…uh, Nanaimo, B.C. Shocking, right? According to legend, a housewife entered the recipe into a contest and history was made. People make these bars using all different variations…cranberry, mint, mocha…but original is still amazing in and of itself!

My brother has talked about these wonderful creations so incessantly that his wife, my sister-in-law Brittney, contacted my older sister, Michelle (who still lives in Canada), to have her send some custard powder our way.

Brittney made the bars last week and it took every once of self-control I had not to dive right in, since Michael and I aren’t eating sugar this month.

However, our sugar fast ends this weekend and the first thing I’m making is…you guessed it: Nanaimo bars!! Michael has never had one and I’m dying to try my hand at making them.

For now, I’ll continue to drool over the pictures attached to the recipe. 🙂

when life gives you pumpkins…make soup!

Okay, so day two of my debut into blog-land and I am still overwhelmed with everything a blog can be. Some blogs are serious, some are fun, some share fashion tips, some upload photography, some concoct recipes, some appeal to the diy in us, some do it all! I love it!

Since my job keeps me online for a lot of the day, I tend to spend time surfing the web. So I love stumbling upon little jewels that inspire me…I’ve shared a few of my favorites on the right hand side of this page. I’ll be adding more to the blog as I find them and get the hang of all this.

For now, I’ll share a recipe I recently came across on (a favorite recipe site of mine). I made this specialty pumpkin soup a few weeks ago for my parents and the in-laws…it was a hit!

Here is the recipe, though I made a few adjustments, which I’ve included at the bottom.

2 cups pumpkin, cooked (I used a can, although you can spend the extra time boiling a pumpkin if you’d like!)
3 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup light cream**
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium apple, diced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan. Sauté onion and apple until tender. Stir in pumpkin, broth and spices. Remove from heat.
Process or blend until smooth. Return to saucepan and stir in cream.

Heat through and serve.

**I used heavy whipping cream instead of light. I also added a teaspoon each of nutmeg, garlic powder, pepper, chili powder and cinnamon. Okay, maybe it was a little more or less than a teaspoon…I’m not a “measurer.”

I served the soup with cornbread, which went perfectly. If you decide to make it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! In fact, in the spirit of the season, I think I’ll make it again this weekend! Bon Appetite!