Caprese Chicken

servings: 4  

 calories: 213  

 prep time: 20 minutes 
 
ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large roma tomato, cut into 4 (1/2 inch thick) slices
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

preparation instructions:

  1. Place chicken breasts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, minced garlic, and pepper into a resealable plastic bag, knead bag several times to coat chicken with marinade, and squeeze air from the bag. Seal and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.
  2. Add chicken with marinade to a medium pan over medium-high heat and cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once or until browned.
  3. Reduce heat to low.
  4. Top each chicken breast with tomato slices and shredded mozzarella.
  5. Cover; cook 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

suggested side dishes:

  • Side salad
  • Linguine or bowtie pasta

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Labor Day Holiday

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It has BEGUN! The glorious three day weekend signifying the end of Summer. When I think of Labor Day weekend, five things come to mind:
  1. Barbeques
  2. Shopping sales
  3. Vacations
  4. Football is around the corner
  5. TV Marathons

You can bet that Andy has already scheduled the obligatory bbq on Monday (Seeing as his idea of a perfect summer day includes him manning the grill with a craft beer in his hand!…. Don’t get me wrong, if you mistook me for complaining, I am 100% excited for all the delicious foods he will be serving up!)

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We are also AS equally excited that the Football season is upon us! (You know Preseason doesn’t count) We are both in Fantasy Leagues and Sundays are booked throughout the remainder of the year with us rooting for our favorite teams. Yes, we don’t just watch football in our house; we celebrate it!

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Unfortunately, I will NOT be participating in any of the labor day sales events or going on any fantastic vacations this Labor day, but you can bet that I will most likely be sucked into a tv marathon. Like clockwork, if I have not scheduled out my holiday weekend, I will fall prey to my love/hate (ok, mostly love) relationship with the Television. I have stumbled upon and fell in love with some of my favorite shows by accidently finding or creating a marathon! There is something so rewarding about not having to wait a whole week for the next episode or more importantly, a whole SEASON! Everyone is guilty of it, some of us just don’t feel that guilty about it!

So in honor of the Labor Day holiday, I decided to make a list of 10 of my favorite shows that I’d recommend for a marathon weekend (without sacrificing your WHOLE weekend on the couch)!

1. Orphan Black
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This BBCA drama about orphans who find out they are clones has become a breakout hit after it’s first season! Tatiana Maslany shines playing multiple characters with such distinct personalities, characteristics, and accents that it’s hard to believe it’s the same actress in all roles. But this new series isn’t all about the actors, with a fresh plot and twists that keep you guessing each week, the writers should be commended on this strong show. With only 10 episodes in the first season, it’s a show you can quickly catch up on, but will keep you waiting until the spring for the second season.

2. The Americans
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Starring the lovely Kari Russell and Matthew Rhys, this 1980s-set FX drama centers on two KBG agents posing as a married couple in Washington, D.C. during the Cold War. So much more than a typical spy drama, The Americans actually has you rooting for the couple and draws on a relatable family dynamic. The tension is both darkly comic and emotionally insightful. One of the most talked-about new dramas of the year, it will keep you at the edge of your seat and with only 13 episodes in the first season, it’s a breeze to get through.

3. Party Down
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This brilliant Starz comedy was sadly cancelled at it’s prime after only 2 seasons but has kept it’s buzz through a cult following. With a comedian cast of Adam Scott, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, and Megan Mullally, this boisterous comedy follows a group of aspiring actors, writers, and lost souls who work for a catering company while trying to make their big break in Hollywood. Each episode follows this troop to one of their catering gigs and the antics always follow. The off-beat writing and  smart comedy stylings make this show  a worth while watch. At only a half-hour per episode, the laughs are abundant in all 20 episodes. If it leaves you wanting more? There are talks of a movie script being developed with the main cast to reprise their roles in the future. (Let’s keep our fingers crossed!)

4. Homeland
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Only a month away from returning with it’s 3rd season, this critically acclaimed Showtime hit and award winning series is a no brainer must on any binge marathon list. This show was actually a binge watch for my boyfriend and I earlier this year and after the first episode, it was clear there was no going back. In a post 9/11 world where the threat of terrorism is more Imminent and real, this exhilarating thriller centers on a troubled CIA operations officer and her investigation of an American POW who she believes has been turned by al-Qaeda and is working as a terrorist on US soil. Claire Danes and Damian Lewis brilliantly capture these morally ambiguous characters and their turbulent lives. A game of cat and mouse that centers on fear and suspicion, this show is a nail-biter wrapped in 24 brilliantly written episodes.

5. Game of Thrones

I’m sure if you haven’t heard of this show, you are living under a rock. With a built-in fan base from the novels HBO struck gold with this fantasy drama. With too many characters and actors to credit, the entirety of the cast is immensely talented and worthy of what screen time they have. Game of Thrones is not only visually stunning but boasts originality in it’s plot that is so sparse these days. Through multiple storylines of intrigue and morally ambiguous characters, the series explores corruption, civil war, feminism, social hierarchy, and misogynism in a both dark and ethereal setting. At 3 seasons and 30 episodes, it’s a little more of a commitment for your weekend, but is easily the cheapest vacation you can take without leaving your couch.

6. The Walking Dead
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Only in the middle of its 3rd season, The Walking Dead has become a phenomenon in the zombie genre. Intense and extremely well written, AMC’s horror drama is set in a zombie apocalypse where a small group of survivors search for a safe haven and struggle to adapt while maintaining their humanity in a hostile world. With other survivors becoming a bigger threat than the zombies themselves, this series relays on character development and relationships to explore human nature when the structures of society have collapsed. Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus are most successful in their character dynamics, but the entire cast shines through cutting edge story telling. Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead has followers from the graphic novel it was adapted from, but has made a name for itself by parting ways with some of the plot developments from the comics. The Walking Dead returns to finish it’s 3rd season in early October, so this weekend is a perfect time to catch up on all 30 episodes.

7. New Girl
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Want a break from all the drama? Need something a little more silly and sweet? New Girl is a perfect show to get acquainted with. Fox’s quirky (yea, I said it) sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel as an adorable school teacher trying to get herself situated in life while living with her 3 male roommates is both funny and heart-warming. Although a lot of the comedy is over the top and slapstick, the antics of this quartet are relatable to those experiencing/have experienced that quarter-life crisis stage. Not to mention I am a sucker for pop culture references and this series is swimming with them! While Zooey Deschanel can be a little hipster and not for everyone, I highly suggest watching for the ensemble cast which really hold the show to such high standards. New Girl begins it’s 3rd season in September and is only a half hour per episode, but boasts a whopping 49 episodes to get caught up!

8. Breaking Bad
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Seriously, THE BEST SHOW EVER WRITTEN. Unlike Homeland, Andy and I took it slow and caught up before the final 8 episodes of the series began earlier this month. The AMC hit about a chemistry teacher with cancer who turns to cooking meth to support his family is dark and brooding. Original and filled with twists and turns the writing is just phenomenal and the character development of Bryan Cranston‘s Walter White and Aaron Paul‘s Jesse Pinkman are captivating.  A masterpiece of television programming I can’t wait to see where this show ends. At 57 episodes, it is most definitely one of those shows you will lose hours of your life to, but so very very worth it. (And even better, all 4 seasons are available on netflix!) Just remember to breath and take your blood pressure medication!

9. Damages
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When this legal thriller first began on FX, my mom and I couldn’t get enough. Unfortunately after 3 seasons, it was dropped by the network to gain new life at DirecTV. Well, since either of us had DirecTV, it became a holiday binge show to catch up on the final 2 seasons. The series revolves around the complicated relationship between Patty Hewes, a brilliant and ruthless lawyer and her fresh out of law school protégée, Ellen Parsons. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are a fantastic ying and yang in their respective roles while each season tackles a new case at the law firm. Over all 5 seasons, countless actors joined the show as characters entangled with Hewes and Associates, but the stylized storytelling from a nonlinear narrative and the countless twists in plot are what separated the legal series from other shows in the genre. If you are looking for a smart and poignant series, Damages is well worth watching all 59 episodes.

10. Veronica Mars
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And then there was my guilty pleasure. I don’t know about you but the cancellation of this show in 2007 wrecked me and my girlfriends in college. Veronica Mars was such an inspiration to me because of the strong and independent female lead they explored in the show. The series that started on UPN and moved to the WB (for those who are too young to know that would be what is now the CW), was a modern day Nancy Drew Mystery. It centers on a witty teenager, Veronica Mars,  who is a part time private eye in her town of Neptune. The show begins with her family’s loss of status after her best friend’s murder caused her dad to lose his job as sheriff. Of course, there is so much more to the story, but I would do the show injustice to vomit up the plot in a small paragraph. Trust me, look it up and watch it! Kristin Bell is smart, charming and manipulative as Veronica and her dialogue is filled with sarcasm and sass! The series is a relatable crime drama filled with an ensemble cast of characters that keep you entertained. Thanks to Kickstarter (yea, I donated money), the long awaited movie will be released next year!! So this may be the best time to binge watch all 3 seasons and 64 episodes! I am :)

Lemon Asparagus Chicken

servings: 4  

 calories: 350  

 prep time: 20 minutes 
 
ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can condensed cream of asparagus soup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

preparation instructions:

  1. In medium pan over medium-high heat, heat oil.
  2. Add chicken and cook 8 minutes or until browned.
  3. Set chicken aside.
  4. Pour off fat.
  5. Add soup, milk, lemon juice and pepper.
  6. Heat to a boil.
  7. Return chicken to pan.
  8. Reduce heat to low.
  9. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

suggested side dishes:

  • Side salad
  • Rice

The Strongest Person I Know

In a few short weeks I will be making the trip up to Montana to visit my grandparents. I’ll be traveling on my own, but I will be meeting up with my parents once I get up there. It’ll be nice to spend some time with my family and Montana is gorgeous in September, but I’m more excited to see my grandma Marilyn.

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Earlier this year my grandma was diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer; Peritoneal Cancer. The peritoneum is the membrane that forms the lining of the abdomen. It covers the uterus, bladder, and rectum and produces a fluid that helps organs move smoothly inside the abdomen.  Because the peritoneum is composed of lymph and blood, the cancer can spread rapidly and travel to other vital organs.

For years my grandma has experienced discomfort and an upset stomach that just wouldn’t let up. Finally a blood test confirmed there was high levels of a chemical linked to gynecologic cancers. She has had surgery to remove tumors and a series of chemotherapy to help prevent the cancer from progressing. Because the cancer is so rare, they do not have a prognosis and there is no cure. All they can do is wait and keep checking the progression of the cancer.

As a family, through all of this, we have been emotional roller coasters, but I am 100% in support of her and her decisions. She is the strongest person I know. She has accepted this diagnosis and continues to live her life each day. Her and I are in complete agreement that it’s the quality of life and not the quantity that matters and she would like to continue living it without the hardships of chemotherapy. I hope she finds some solace that I am on her side and am being selfless in my decision to support her. She has always been a role model in my life and much of who I am comes from her. The only words that come to mind when I think of her are vibrant, laughter, peace, love and tolerance. She has always called me her angel, but in reality, she is my angel. She is an all-knowing presence in my life and a spiritual center.

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This trip is so much more than a vacation. It will be an important opportunity to take advantage of our time together as a family. I will continue to keep positive and keep her in my prayers. I have always believed in the power of positive thought so I ask that anyone who comes across this post will send positive thoughts and prayers to my grandma and her continuing battle. I am so very thankful I will have the chance to hug and kiss her soon.

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Tropical Mahi Mahi

servings: 4 

calories: 300  

prep time: 20 minutes 
 
ingredients:
  • cooking spray
  • 2 mahi mahi fillets
  • 1 medium banana, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks; drained and juice reserved
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

preparation instructions:

  1. Spray large pan with cooking spray.
  2. Cook banana 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown on both sides.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°.
  4. Cut fish fillets into serving size portions.
  5. season fillets with salt and pepper.
  6. In bowl, mix pineapple, stock, pineapple juice, coconut milk, allspice and nutmeg.
  7. Spray an oven proof baking dish with cooking spray.
  8. Place fish in prepared dish, top with banana and pineapple mixture.
  9. Cover with foil and bake 10 to 12 minutes.

suggested side dishes:

  • Fruit salad
  • Rice

Ginger-Peach Pork Medallions

servings: 4  

 calories: 220  

 prep time: 25 minutes 
 
ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pork tenderloin (1lb), cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large peach, peled, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger or ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

preparation instructions:

  1. Melt butter in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Sprinkle pork with salt and add to pan.
  3. Cook about 4 minutes, turning pork over once, until browned.
  4. Stir in peach slices, brown sugar and ginger.
  5. Cook 2 minutes, stirring once or twice, until peach slices are tender.
  6. In a small bowl, mix broth and cornstarch; stir into pork and peach mixture.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 2 minutes, stirring once or twice, until thickened.

suggested side dishes:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Green beans

Caesar Chicken Paninis

servings: 4

 calories: 500 

 prep time: 30 minutes

ingredients:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 french rolls or sourdough bread
  • 1/3 cup Caesar dressing
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 leaves romaine lettuce

preparation instructions:

  1. Marinate chicken in Caesar dressing at least 10 minutes.
  2. Spray a large pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Cook Chicken in pan 10 to 15 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink.
  4. Remove chicken from pan.
  5. Place chicken on bottom half of rolls.
  6. Top with cheese, lettuce and tops of rolls.

suggested side dishes:

  • French fries
  • Potato chips

Lazy Dog Days

Happy Saturday everybody!

I hope it’s as great as ours is so far!

This weekend Andy and I are proud parents of this Monster:
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His name is Montana… but you can call him Monty and he is a french bulldog.

No, he isn’t ours… we are just dog sitting for our good friends Valerie and James. But it gives us some dog love and he keeps us on our toes. He joined us on our weekly walk to Starbucks this morning and made a lot of friends along the way. He is kind of an attention whore!

Now he’s joining Andy and I in rooting on our Eastlake Little League team in the U.S. Championship game!

LETS GO EASTLAKE!!!

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Could this day get any better? Yea, how about my awesome boyfriend bringing home some delicious Manzanita Red AND prepping for our delicious dinner on the grill?!?!?

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Today will be a good one for sure.

Polynesian Chicken

servings: 4  

 calories: 167 

 prep time: 20 minutes

ingredients:

  • 1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks
  • 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1/2 cup seedless or golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

preparation instructions:

  1. Drain pineapple chunks; reserve 4 tablespoons pineapple juice.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice over medium-heat in large nonstick pan.
  3. Add raisins, green onions, and garlic.
  4. Cook and stir 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in pineapple chunks, chicken, soy sauce and remaining 2 tablespoons juice.
  6. Cover; reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked throughout.

suggested side dishes:

  • Rice
  • Fruit salad
  • Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • Broccoli
  • Water chestnuts

Back to School Season

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It’s that time of year again.  The beginning of the school year. I should probably clarify something before I continue this post:

No, I’m not currently in school nor do I have kids of my own.

So now that is clear, you must be wondering why I am even wasting my time writing about this. Well, unless you are living under a rock or without technology, it would be hard to not be reminded that school is about to begin.
1. The radio and TV is full of ads geared toward being the coolest kid in class for having the best whatever they are selling.

2. Parents relieved that summer is officially over and they can get rid of their kids for 6 hours a day.

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3. Facebook is filled with pictures of kids in backpacks holding their homemade lunches.

4. The malls and stores are filled with kids dragging their parents around to get the newest school supplies, accessories and the latest clothes.

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Don’t get me wrong, I was DEFINITELY that kid growing up. I had an official first day of school picture throughout my grade school years and I always needed a new outfit for the first day back. I had brand new backpack, binders, pens and notebooks. As nerdy as it sounds, to me, it was the best time of the year.

I always get nostalgic during back to school season. These days, the only reasons I can come up with to buy notebooks is to show some character at work or keep around the house to jot notes in. I find myself buying planners that I don’t really need because, lets face it, I don’t have enough going on in my life to have to ‘pencil things in’! Yes, I may not be a student anymore or have kids, but I still fully take advantage of as many “Back to School Sales” as I can because who can turn down a discount?

The truth is I miss school. There was something exhilarating about the first day of classes. Seeing all of your friends, finding out who would be in your classes, all the new faces of people who could potentially end up being your friends,  and looking your best while being completely aware that after a week or two you wont have the time or energy to care anymore! photo a1fd89e5.gif  photo e600ad96.gif

But I think my absolute favorite thing about the beginning of the school year was having something to look forward to and the hope for something new and exciting. That first day you get a syllabus in your hand and you see how the entire year is going to play out and at the same time you are getting your bearings and start to plan socially how the year will be as well. They are both the best and worst times of your life, but school is where your building blocks begin and where you learn so many life lessons with the comfort of a safety net.

I’m not sure if I will have the opportunity to go back to school and get my graduate degree, but one thing I do know is I will always celebrate the “Back to School Season”. I will shop the “Back to School Sales”, continue to purchase planners for no good reason, and one day I will be that parent that counts down the final days of summer for a few hours of peace and freedom the school season will hold. photo funny-kids-back-school-happy.jpg
Until then, I will try to incorporate that feeling of the first day of school into my daily life; with hope and excitement for the future.