At Home Valentine’s Date

This past weekend my boyfriend treated me to a weekend away, and with that trip being so close to Valentine’s Day I asked him to please not plan anything for ACTUAL Valentine’s Day.  The trip was more than enough!  We had SO much fun, but more on that trip later!  Even though we celebrated early, I couldn’t let the day pass like any other day. I still wanted to do a little something to celebrate this day of love.  Yes I know, many of you out there are probably saying “ I love my partner everyday, I don’t need a special day to show them that I care.”  That’s fine and all, and I love my boyfriend everyday too, BUT I like the idea of using any excuse to celebrate.  Why not!  Life’s short, so CELEBRATE it!  With that being said I still didn’t want to go overboard, so to keep things simple, stress free and budget friendly, I put together a little  “At Home Valentine’s Date”

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

At Home Valentine's Date

THE MEAL

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably realized by now that I really enjoy cooking and being it the kitchen, but even for me, planning a big elaborate meal can be stressful at times, especially during the week!  So I went ahead and took to the internet to help plan my meal.  These are the recipes I went with:

Easy Pan Seared Sirloin Steak

Roasted Veggie Salad with Avocado Dressing (the only change I made was using less salt)

And seeing that there was a killer deal on shrimp at the grocery store I decided to turn our meal into a surf and turf!  I simply sautéed the shrimp with a little bit garlic and basil and BOOM!  5 minutes later it was delicious and done!

THE DESSERT

Since I planned on making a home cooked meal (and since baking isn’t really my thing!) I decided to go ahead and let a professional help me with the dessert.  Joel and I went to Whole Foods the night before and picked out a mini cake together.  They had so many amazingly delicious looking treats in their fresh dessert/bakery area that we both stood there for over 10 minutes trying to decide which one to pick!  It was definitely the most difficult part of this whole celebration, LOL!

THE DECOR

Everything I used to decorate above our dinner table I threw together out of tissue paper and twine that I already had at home in my “gift wrapping box.” YAY FREE!  And it took me MAYBE 10 minutes to assemble, WIN!

Whether you stayed at home, went out on the town, celebrated big or small, I hope you enjoyed the special time with the one’s you love! And had lots of cuddles! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cheers!

Traci

Continue Reading

Simple Chicken Dinner

So it’s officially mid-week and I know for me, this is when things can start getting a little wobbly.  I’m not as well rested as I was at the beginning of the week, and the upcoming weekend is still just a speck in the distance.  This is the time that I like to have a super easy meal on the menu.  I LOVE making new elaborate meals on the weekend, ones that take hours to prep, marinate, slow roast, etc, but mid-week I want something eeeaaassssyyyy.  I know sometimes when we get tired or over busy it seems easiest to just grab something frozen from the grocery store throw it in the oven and call it dinner.  With this “Simple Chicken Dinner” I hope to have you skip the frozen aisle and still have an easy no-brainer dinner on the table in no time.  One that’s pretty healthy too! And guess what, it only has 10 ingredients….and that’s INCLUDING salt, pepper, and cooking oil!  Do those really count as ingredients though???  Anyway, this is definitely a “no frills” meal, but it’s one that I make time and time again and always feel good about.

Simple Chicken Dinner

So let’s start with the chicken, we are doing lemon chicken here folks.  Super easy and crowd pleasing. This recipe can be made bigger or smaller depending on your families needs, tonight I made 4 chicken breast so there would be leftovers for salad lunches the next day.  As a side we are bringing in roasted Brussels sprouts, and then rounding it out with a simple romaine and tomato salad.  There’s a couple things that help keep this recipe from being super boring and bland though, so here are some tips! You’ll need two lemon slices per breast and I highly suggest using olive oil as your oil of choice with this one.  I’ve tried it with a few different oils, and olive oil definitely gives the finished product the best flavor.  You also want to make sure and be generous with the salt and pepper on the chicken.  Since we are only using a few ingredients, we want to make sure the meat is well seasoned.  There will be some yummy lemony pan juices left in the cooking dish once the chicken is done cooking, don’t let it go to waste!  When plating, slice the chicken breast and drizzle each once with some juice, it will act like a delicious thin gravy.  And finally with the Brussels sprouts, use BUTTER!  Again we are only using a few ingredients here and butter taste GOOD!

Simple Chicken Dinner

Simple Chicken Dinner

Simple Chicken Dinner

Simple Chicken Dinner

Simple Chicken Dinner

Simple Chicken Dinner

 

Simple Chicken Dinner 

This is pretty much a “no recipe” recipe, but  here we go!!

For the chicken: 

  • Chicken Breast (however many needed, this can be made for 1 or 20!)
  • Lemon slices , two per chicken breast
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

For the Brussels Sprouts:

  • 1lb Brussels sprouts, each sprout cut in half
  • 2+ Tablespoons butter cut into little cubes
  • Salt & Pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes of choice (I used Roma) diced
  • Your favorite dressing

Preheat your oven to 425.  Place chicken breast in glass baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, flipping the meat to make sure both sides are lightly covered.  Generously season both sides with salt and pepper.  Top each breast with two slices of lemon. Cover pan with aluminum foil.

Cut each Brussels sprout in half and place cut side down onto a baking sheet.  Top with cubed butter and season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken and Brussels sprouts side by side into the preheated oven and cook for 23 – 26 mins until chicken is cooked through and the Brussels sprouts have started to caramelize.

There will be some yummy lemony pan juices left in the chicken’s cooking dish, don’t let it go to waste!  When plating ,slice the chicken breast and drizzle each once with some juice, it will act like a delicious thin gravy. Plate up the sprouts and salad and you’re set, ENJOY and relax!

 

I hope this simple dinner makes your mid week a bit easier and a little bit brighter!  As always please leave any questions or thoughts in the comments below!

Cheers!

Traci

Continue Reading

Homemade “Sriracha” Sauce

We enjoy some spice in our house!  We also like to *try* and grow our own veggies.  Sometimes we succeed and other times not so much.  This little jalapeno plant is something we are quite proud of though.  He’s come along with us in his little pot to every place we’ve moved to in California over the past 5 years, and every year he produces more and more peppers!  One thing we’ve learn about jalapenos through this little guy is that if you allow green jalapenos to stay on the plant and “ripen” they will eventually turn red in color and become Fresno chilies!  And guess what you can make with Fresno chilies….SRIRACHA!

Homemade Sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

The first time I made Sriracha our plant was overflowing with peppers, but right now since it’s winter the growth has slowed down to only a few baby peppers at a time.  So I got help from the grocery store to supplement our supply for this recipes batch.  Although you have to let the flavors of this recipe develop for 24 hours, it’s amazingly simple and SO worth it!  After eating my homemade Sriracha exclusively for a while and then having the store bought kind at a restaurant, I much prefer the homemade stuff.  It tastes so fresh, clean, and vibrant, plus I love knowing everything in it is real food!  **For all my Arbonne clean eating followers, I’ve included an “Arbonne for 30” friendly version too! Just one tiny switch! Homemade Sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

Homemade Sriracha

img_1522

 

Homemade Sriracha

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 2 cups sliced Fresno chilies with seeds (that’s about 19 peppers to make it easy)
  • 1 packet of Traders Joe’s garlic cloves, roughly chopped (if using a regular bulb of garlic about 7-10 medium cloves)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 2 teaspoons ground Himalayan pink salt (sea salt is ok too)

In a 32oz mason jar add the Fresno chilies with seeds, garlic, both vinegars, and salt.  Close tightly with a lid and give it a shake to get everything well blended together.   Let the mixture sit for 24 hours on the counter.

The next day pour all the contents from the jar into a saucepan and add the agave, stirring to incorporate.  Over medium high heat bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.

Once the 5 mins is up, remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

When the mixture is cooled, pour it into a blender and puree until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.

After blending, YOU’RE DONE!  Just pour the Sriracha into a jar and store it in the fridge.  Stays good up to 3 months.

**For those of you who are following  the Arbonne 30 day Clean Eating Challenge, this recipe can be made Arbonne friendly by omitting the white vinegar and using all (1 and 1/2 cups) apple cider vinegar.  It will be slightly sweeter, but still dang delicious!

Recipe adapted from bluekaleroad

 

We put this Sriracha sauce on everything!  Tacos, eggs,  Asian dishes…really anything you like hot sauce on, this sauce will do the trick!  And that makes me pretty darn happy 🙂  I hope you give this recipe a try, and I would love to hear what you think!  Feel free to leave questions or thoughts in the comment section below.

Cheers!

Traci

Continue Reading

DIY Infused Vodka

Many of us give and receive homemade goodies around the holidays, right?  Typically lots of baked goods, candy, or maybe a tin of oven baked “Chex Mix.”  Well this year I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and go in a totally different direction… Homemade Infused VODKA!  A jalapeño infused vodka for those on the naughty list, and vanilla bean vodka for those on the nice list!  Do I have your attention??  Here’s what you’ll need:

8 oz mason jars
Vodka of choice
Jalapeño
Vanilla bean

And that’s it! Super simple!

fullsizerender

~For the jalapeño vodka, cut one large jalapeño in half lengthwise and place one of the halves into the mason jar.  Next, pour the plain vodka over the jalapeño until the jar is full, leaving a little empty space at the top. Seal jar tightly with the lid.

**NOTE this vodka is SPICY, if you prefer less spice you can use 1/4 or 1/8 of a jalapeño.  After infusing, if it turns out too spicy for you, add more vodka to weaken the flavor.  Also the longer this one sits, the spicier it will become.

~For the vanilla bean vodka, cut one vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise so that the seeds are exposed and place the entire bean into the mason jar.  Fill the jar with plain vodka, leaving a little empty space a the top.  Seal jar tightly with the lid.

img_1422

Let the jars-o-vodka infuse for five days, shaking once or twice.  After that, the vodkas are ready to drink!  The vanilla bean vodka will take on a brownish tint and may have flecks of vanilla beans floating about but, it’s a good thing, don’t worry!  My favorite way to use these infused vodkas are in Lemon Drops!  Just replace plain vodka with the infused vodka.  The jalapeño version would also be great in a Bloody Mary!  All that’s left to do now is wrap the jar up with some twine or pop a bow right on top!  Now if you’re REALLY short on time and you’re giving this as a gift BEFORE the five “infusing” days is up, you can simply put a tag on the jar that says, “I’ll be ready to drink on (whatever date).”  For example, “I’ll be ready to drink on 12/25/2016!”  Once the jalapeño or vanilla bean pod has been removed, the vodka can be stored in the fridge or freezer for up to 1 month.  Let’s be honest though, it probably won’t last longer than a day.  😉  Happy gifting (and drinking)!

fullsizerender-1

 

Cheers!

Traci

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Not Mom’s Meatloaf

Growing up I dreaded the nights when my mom made meatloaf for dinner.  My mother will be the first to tell you that she does NOT enjoy cooking…and with the meatloaf recipe she made me as child, IT SHOWED.  Her version included ground beef, onion, egg, and dry oatmeal smashed into a loaf pan and then covered in a condensed tomato soup.  I couldn’t get it passed my lips, meatloaf night was a night that I was A-OK going to bed without supper.  And since this was my only experience with meatloaf, for YEARS I wouldn’t go near the stuff.  In my mind ALL meatloaf was like my mom’s, and therefore, disgusting.  Unlike my mom, I’ve always loved cooking, and as I got older I learned how to pair flavors together and create my own recipes and eventually decided I was going to give meatloaf another try.  But MY way.  I’ve played around with a lot of ingredients and methods of cooking, but THIS one is my favorite. Here are a few of the key differences that turned a deeply hated dish into a delicious, comforting, healthier dish I look forward to in the colder months of the year.

  1. First off I don’t use ground beef, I’m truly not a big fan of it in general, so instead I use ground chicken.  You could totally use ground turkey as well.  My local Whole Foods Market just always has a great deal on organic dark meat ground chicken, so it’s my go-to.
  2. I fill it with lots of veggies!  I’m much more of a veggie eater than I am a meat eater, so when I DO eat meat I try to fill it with as many veggies as I can!
  3. I don’t stuff in into a loaf pan, I prefer to make it free form, and in this instance make smaller individual portions so everyone gets their own “loaf.”
  4. Tasty flavors inside! Thyme, rosemary, Dijon, Worcestershire, and balsamic all make an appearance!
  5. A savory, smokey,  slightly sweet topping.  In this recipe I used this amazing “bacon pepper jam” (you should really try it, its good on EVERYTHING) but before finding this I would use my favorite BBQ sauce.

 

img_1021

img_1023

img_1024

img_1025

img_1028

img_1029

img_1033

Not Mom’s Meatloaf

  • 1lb ground dark meat chicken
  • About 1 tablespoon of oil (I use avocado oil)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (about 1 tablespoon minced)
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus a pinch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (plus a pinch)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I use a gluten free version)
  • 4 tablespoons bacon pepper jam, 1 tablespoon per mini loaf (find it here) or your favorite BBQ sauce.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add oil to a large saute pan and heat over a medium-high heat.  Add onions, carrots, celery,  roasted red peppers, salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 mins stirring occasionally until veggies have softened.  Next add rosemary, thyme, Dijon, Worcestershire, balsamic vinegar.  Stir to combined and cook for about 30  seconds.  Remove pan from the heat and let mixture cool slightly.  Place ground chicken, bread crumbs, egg, cooked veggie mixture, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl.  Use clean hands to mix everything together until well combined.  Divide meatloaf mixture into 4 equal portions.  Place each portion onto a lined or non-stick baking sheet and form into mini “loaves” about 1 inch thick.  Spread 1 tablespoon of the bacon pepper jam (or BBQ sauce)  over each loaf, spreading into a thin layer.  Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.  Once finished, place each loaf onto it’s own plate and enjoy with sides of choice!

 

If you’ve ever hated meatloaf like me, but wanna give it another chance, I hope you try this one!  And if you do please let me know!  Do you have a loathed childhood dish that you now enjoy as an adult?  I love to hear about that too!  Happy Cooking Everyone!! XO

Cheers!

Traci

 

Continue Reading

Thanksgiving Salad

Okay, I know some of you are probably thinking that salad is the LAST dish on your mind at Thanksgiving.  Everyone is looking forward to turkey,  mashed potatoes with gravy, rolls, and pumpkin pie!  Trust me though, you won’t be disappointed having this salad next to all your old favorites.  My “Thanksgiving Salad” salad brings a fresh twist to the table and brightens up your taste buds during this large meal full of rich heavier foods.  My boyfriend and I have salad with every dinner, so Thanksgiving is no exception!  For this salad I’ve taken our everyday salad and just made a few tweaks to make extra special for this holiday.  Swapping dried cranberries for our usual tomatoes in the salad is probably the most festive change I’ve made.  I like to serve this salad with my homemade “Red Onion Vinaigrette”, but it’s great with any basic balsamic vinaigrette as well.  Another nice thing about having this salad and dressing as a Thanksgiving side, is that it’s super simple to double or triple depending on the size of your party, SCORE!

img_1093
second

img_1088

img_1095

Thanksgiving Salad

(The size of salad you want will determine how much of each ingredient you need.  It’s salad!  No need to be precise on this one, add as much or as little of the toppings as you like.)

-Spring mix greens

-Dried cranberries

-Toasted pine nuts

-Sliced Persian cucumber

-Crumble goat cheese

-Optional: Chopped Avocado is amazing in this salad as well, but since I’m taking this salad to a party and didn’t want the avocado turning brown before serving, I opted to leave it out.

To toast pine nuts:

Add the pine nuts into a dry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently.  These can burn quickly so keep an eye on them.  Once the pine nuts are nice and golden they are done!  Allow the nuts to cool slightly before topping the salad.  This can be done in advance if you wish.

Red Onion Vinaigrette

-1/3 cup chopped red onion

-1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar

-1/4 cup avocado oil

-1 tablespoon agave

-1 teaspoon mustard powder

-1/2 teaspoon salt (I like using Pink Himalayan salt)

-1/2 fresh ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until mixture is smooth and has turned a pale pink color.

The vegetarians and meat eaters at your table will enjoy this one! So if you’re still looking for a dish to bring along to your Thanksgiving gathering, I hope you give this one a try!  If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments below!  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Cheers!

Traci

Continue Reading

Caramel Apple Martinis

A few years back, a co-worker told me about a martini her husband would make with vodka, apple cider, and the glass rim dripping with caramel sauce.  Right away I knew this was something I HAD to try.  After making it a few times I decided I wasn’t a huge fan of the caramel sauce.  At first it looked cool, but overall was pretty messy.  So that’s when my wheels started turning and I thought, “I’ll put the caramel IN the martini, but not caramel sauce. Caramel VODKA.” So that’s what I did…and it was AWESOME!  Now every October, this martini appears in my kitchen and sticks around through Thanksgiving, and sometimes even into December.  Aside from Champagne, it’s my go to spirit of choice for the holiday season.  It’s a cocktail that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and it’s not just because of the vodka!  Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Caramel Apple Martini

~ 1 oz plain vodka

~ 1 oz caramel vodka

~ 3/4 cup of apple cider, Honey crisp apple cider is my favorite (if you can’t find apple cider, unfiltered apple juice is just the same)

~ A sprinkle of cinnamon

~ A sprinkle of nutmeg

Place all ingredients into a martini shaker with ice, shake, pour into your glass of choice, and enjoy!

 

If you try this cocktail, I would love to hear what you think!  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Cheers!

Traci

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading