Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Meals: Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins

At this point, it's clear that I love sweet potatoes, yes? Well here's another one I found via Pinterest from Half Baked Harvest.  Enjoy!

Photo also from Half Baked Harvest
3 medium sweet potatoes
3/4 pound (about 2 small) boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 cups olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
3 whole chipotle pepper, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder salt and pepper
2 (half a 10oz bag) cups spinach
5 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese,
grated chopped cilantro, for garnish
greek yogurt, for serving

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Wash your sweet potatoes and prick all over with a fork. Place in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until fork tender. Place your chicken in a baking dish and rub with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and peper. Place in the oven with the potatoes and bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool and shred the chicken with a fork or your hands. When the sweet potatoes are done cut in half and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

In a medium size bowl combine the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chipotle peppers, oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and wilt the spinach (this can also be done in the microwave). Toss the spinach and shredded chicken together, set aside and keep warm. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Scrape the sweet potato out of the peel, leaving a medium size layer of flesh inside with the peel so that it can stand up on its own (I reserved the remaining flesh, for another use) and place in a baking dish.

Brush the skins with with a little of the chipotle sauce and bake for 5-10 minutes until nice and crisp. While the skins bake mix the spinach, chicken and chipotle sauce together. Remove skins from the oven and stuff with the chicken mixture, top with shredded cheese and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the skins are hot and crisp. Serve with fresh chopped cilantro and greek yogurt if desired.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

6 Tips on Writing Thank You Notes

Thank you notes are one of those things. They may seem trivial and superfluous fluff, but can be meaningful and memorable to the recipient. In a world of text messages, emails and Facebook, a handwritten note adds a personal touch to a relationship, and shows that you really care to put pen to paper and express your gratitude. Talk about getting the most bang for your buck!

My grandmother gave my brothers and me lots of rules on how to write thank you notes: "never start a thank you note with 'thank you,'" "mention something specific about the party or gift," "write it as soon as you receive the gift or get home from the party, so you don't forget a thing about it."

She ardently followed these rules and encouraged us to do the same. While I still follow some of her tips, here are a few things I've learned on my own, garnered over the years I've written to family, friends, and perfect strangers:

1. Don't be intimidated -- I used to think writing a thank you note made me seem like a brown-noser. Then I thought about the few times I had received thank you notes, and how special they made me feel. It's a small gesture to show that you remember and appreciate someone's efforts or time, and it will leave them with a positive impression of you.

2. Have stationery on hand -- It doesn't have to be personalized, although I love mine. I also use random cute cards that I find at Target or Anthro. My favorite "fun" cards are from Rifle Paper Co. 
Any notecards that you like and are generic enough to be sent to anyone at any time will work. Keep them in your desk or somewhere convenient so you can reach for one the exact second you want to.

3. Length doesn't matter -- whether it's four sentences or fourteen pages, the important thing is that you took the time out to thank someone.

4. Be yourself -- Template thank you notes completely defeat the purpose of writing one! If you're not going to thank them for the things that YOU enjoyed, or the reason YOU love the gift, then why even bother? They will appreciate it even more if it's from the heart.

5. Write the most elderly person first -- I really hate to generalize on this point, but elderly men and women are the ones most likely sitting by their mailbox waiting for your note. I've had older people call the store where I work asking if we had delivered their gift to so-and-so, because they hadn't received a thank you note yet. They remember, they know, and they are probably judging you by how fast your turnaround time is. (h/t to my boss, Donna, who pointed this fact out to me.)

6. Just Do It -- Something I struggle with at every turn. I am really good at procrastinating or forgetting, or even telling myself that it's not that important. But the faster I sit down and write it, the better I feel.

Some people may think thank you notes are outdated, or etiquette isn't important. I couldn't disagree more. It is humbling to thank someone for something they've done, and it forces me to take a moment and appreciate the wonderful things in my life.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Last weekend, I spent a relaxing, quiet weekend reading and drinking coffee on the sands of beautiful South Padre Island, TX. I splashed in the waves, listened to seagulls cawing, and spent hours contemplating why we are all here on this earth.

Hahahahha, jk. It was an absolute Hot. Mess.

A very good friend of mine from DC, Olivia, had her bachelorette party this weekend in Padre. We had a blast. I met new friends, spent some much needed time with old friends, and loved celebrating the bride-to-be. Olivia and Josh are probably the most perfect couple in the history of time, and I loved getting to see the bride in her element: dancing on a stage barefoot with a crown on her head and hot pink sash around her shoulders.

I'm not going to describe every detail, I'll leave that to the bride over at Mother May I. I will say that I love my DC friends, and it always makes my heart so happy when we can all hang out.

It was a weekend of wine and champagne, white sand and cold water, Cards Against Humanity, a lot of Mexican food, a lingerie shower and bridal jeopardy, some border patrol agents, jello shots (oi..), group texts, happy crying, maybe some property damage at the bar, even more Mexican food, and many laughs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday Meals: Tuesday Edition

I'm a wee late this week, but I make up for it today with a really good recipe!

I love Pasta. I capitalize it because it's Pasta, and no explanation is needed..


So today, we're talking about a spicy chicken rigatoni pasta. It's simple, it's spicy, it's Pasta, it's delicious!


crushed red pepper

minced or fresh garlic

olive oil

chicken breast cut into small pieces

green peas

rigatoni pasta

oregano or your favorite Italian seasoning

marinara sauce

alfredo sauce

Photo cred

Bring water to a boil and cook the pasta. Heat olive oil in a pan and add garlic. Add crushed red pepper when the garlic starts to sizzle. Add chicken and cook thoroughly. Then add peas and mixed sauce. I put in a little more marinara than alfredo, but it's usually pretty even. Season with oregano. Drain the pasta and add the chicken and sauce mix. Salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

What are some of your favorite pasta dishes?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday Meals: Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups

I got this recipe from the Recipe Critic by way of Pinterest. Although the lasagna noodles were hard to roll up while keeping the chicken inside, the effort was worth it in the end because they were divine. This is everything you've come to know about American Italian food rolled up (haha) into one recipe.


9 lasagna noods
2 1/2 cups alfredo sauce
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
garlic salt
shredded Mozzarella

1. Spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with 1/2 cup alfredo sauce.

2. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water and lay them on a paper towel to remove excess water.

3. Spread 2 Tbs of the alfredo sauce over each noodle. Sprinkle oregano and garlic sauce on top. Take 1/9th of the shredded chicken and spread evenly over each noodle and top with about 3 Tbs shredded cheese. Carefully roll up each lasagna noodle and place seam side down in your 9×9 prepared pan.

4. Once they are all in the pan, pour the remaining alfredo sauce over the top and top with cheese.

5. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until heated through and cheese is bubbly.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Go Gene

Yesterday morning, while attempting, yet again, to curl my hair with my straightener and almost burning my fingerprints off in the process, my phone dinged from my bedroom. I finished a strand and went to check it. A text, "I am at your house. No worries if you aren't ready, I'm early," shone up at me. It was my mother, and we were driving to Fort Worth for the day to do some shopping and have lunch with a friend. She was early, but I didn't mind. I was up and at 'em, excited to start the day, and excited to get out of town for a few hours.

I have the "go" gene, as my mom calls it. It's a gene that runs rampant on both sides of my family. I get restless and impatient, sometimes even irritable if I'm in one place too long. It scares me a little bit, because it was this trait that ultimately made my grandmother so sad before she died, not being able to travel anymore. That being said, however, I don't worry about it and try to travel as much as I can, clearly.

Although yesterday's adventure was just a little trip to Fort Worth, it did wonders for my soul. I watched the early morning Texas landscape change from flat, brown and thirsty to green and undulating, downtown Fort Worth rising into the sky as we got closer to the metroplex. Leaving home always makes me remember how blessed I am: how small I am in this world, yet how much I am loved. Driving a couple hours to another town makes me see things in my life from a distance, and I'm grateful for it.

After exiting on University, making a right, and then another right, all my favorite shops gather in one place. We shopped for a while then met a friend for lunch at Blue Mesa. Between sentences about life and business, I devoured chicken and beef fajitas, homemade guacamole, and jalapeno relish. Thirty minutes later back on the road heading west, deciding whether to stop at Sonic or Starbucks. We decided to stop at both, because this is America.

The drive back felt short, as short as the trip itself, but I loved getting to spend a few hours with the madre before my parents' big trip across the pond.

I know I'm making a lot out of a little trip to Fort Worth, but it was a good warm up for Padre next weekend and Paris in July. If anything, I got a new bag and some notebooks out of it. Not to mention the great company, and a delicious side of chips and guac.

Check out this man after my own heart. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday Meals: Honey Mustard Maple Chicken

We all know how fond I am of maple, so I was so excited to find out that making something that combined two of my favorite things, maple syrup and honey mustard, I was more than ecstatic. There are lots of pinterest recipes on this, like here and here, and all of them are simple to make and delicious to eat. My variation has mushrooms and a bit of rosemary. And I know I should do measurements, but I kind of fly by the seat of my pants in the kitchen, clearly. That's part of the fun! And anyway, if you're cooking with fresh, delicious ingredients, I don't think you can really go wrong.

Honey Mustard Maple Chicken

2 chicken breasts

honey mustard

maple syrup

sliced mushrooms

minced garlic

olive oil

fresh rosemary

Heat oil (or butter) in a pan with minced garlic and brown the mushrooms. Cook the chicken over the stove about half way through. In a separate bowl, mix honey mustard and maple syrup together. (I like the sauce a little more liquid-y, so my honey mustard to maple syrup ratio is about 30:70. More honey mustard will yield a thicker sauce, more syrup a runnier sauce. It doesn't really matter as long as you're happy with it. It's your chicken, right?)

Put the half-cooked chicken on a baking sheet with sides about an inch or two high. Add the garlic mushrooms. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken. Place rosemary sprigs on and around the chicken. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through.

I like to have broccoli or green beans on the side and maybe some brown rice or mashed potatoes. Any extra honey mustard maple sauce goes right on that starch. Oh, and make sure you have a glass of red wine to wash everything down.