Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tasty Tuesdays: #19

Hello my blogging friends! It's a crisp autumn day outside, but at least the sun is shining down and the ground has dried up. I'll take what I can get!

As some of you may know, I hosted Michelle's big 30th bash this past weekend (massive post to come), and of course, this included a fairly expansive food spread. In light of the overwhelming response I received to a few of the items, I will be featuring select recipes from the party over the next few weeks. Aren't you lucky?

Today's recipe is completely original and was basically created in my head. It was a big hit, so I'm assuming that equates to a success. My inspiration came from a salad we regularly made at the lake house this past summer. In fact, I believe it's been a previous recipe on Tasty Tuesday's (easy sbp salad), and highlighted pears and blue cheese. I went with gorgonzola cheese in this case, but it was the same general idea.

This recipe is super easy and the only time-consuming step (caramelizing the onion) is completely optional.

Rachel's Rockin' PGO Pizza

Ingredients:
1 refrigerated pre-made pizza crust (gasp if you will, but I wasn't about to make a homemade crust)
1 container crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 large pear, thinly sliced
1/2 C caramelized onions* (optional)
drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil.

2. Unroll pizza crust on foil and sprinkle cheese evenly over the surface.

3. Arrange the sliced pears over the cheese and top with onions.

4. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the crust is cooked thoroughly.

I also added some baked chicken I had leftover from another dish. It was just a smattering and is entirely optional.

*To caramelize onions, slice thinly and cook in a skillet with just a touch of butter (or liberally sprayed with cooking spray). Once onions begin to turn opaque, sprinkle with sugar (or splenda) and continue to cook until they are a nice golden color. These can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to make your pizza.

Monday, October 26, 2009

a caddyshack bash

Two weekends ago (yes, I'm a bit behind), I helped host Meagan's Caddyshack-themed 26th birthday party. I've been dying for an excuse to go argyle-crazy for a while now, so the golf theme has been a long time coming. I'm glad Meg agreed to it for her theme!

Here's the wording from the invite:

Put on your plaid pants and argyle sweater vest,
to make sure you're dressed in your golfing best.

Making a bird or eagle is fun,
but celebrating Meg's birthday is like a hole in one.

This course is free of trees, ponds and sand
and the company promises to be very grand.

So choose where you'll play, the front or back nine,
By the end of the night, we'll all be feelin' fine!


On the day of the party, I followed the instructions and got dressed in my "golfing best" and scooted on over to Meagan's to set up. Crystal was gracious enough to lend a hand, and with her help, we got everything ready in no time. The balloons were blown up, the streamers were strung and the putting game was plugged in. All we needed were our fellow golfers to get the party started.





Once people started arriving (in their festive get-up), we wasted no time digging into the spread and toasting the birthday girl. Party nibbles included queso, 7-layer dip, pizza rolls, pigs in a blanket, spicy shrimp, black bean and corn salad, edamame, veggies and dip, popcorn and cookies. I went back for seconds...or maybe fifths.






The putting game was a huge hit and the dance party out on the deck outside was pretty rockin'.



And of course, what's a party without a cake made by yours truly? I made Meagan's favorite amaretto cake with cream cheese icing.




Meagan also made Irish coffee for a late night pick-me-up. It was a great idea and definitely gave me the caffeine buzz I needed to dance the night away. All in all, I had a great time and hope the birthday girl enjoyed herself.




Happy 26th Meg! I hope this year's a real "hole in one!"

Thursday, October 22, 2009

an EPIC celebration

Today is a very special day in history. In fact, 30 years ago today marked one of the most influential days of my life. Granted, I was not born (or even a glimmer in my parents' eyes), but what occurred on that day would forever change my life.

On October 22, 1979, Michelle Renee Lawrence was born. Rumor has it my dad wanted to name her Aubrey, which we always detested growing up. (No offense if this happens to be your name or if you wish to name one of your children Aubrey. I'm actually quite fine with the name these days.) Anyway, Michelle was quite a tough baby given to fits of crying which could only be soothed by LONG car rides...bless my parents. It's quite apparent that even from birth, she simply did not wish to go to bed. Even then, I suppose she was afraid of missing out on something.



Three years later, I came along and we've been nearly inseparable ever since. I attribute this to the fact that Michelle is not your typical big sister. While most find their little sisters annoying, it was (and is) quite the opposite in our relationship. From day one, she wanted me around and this continued throughout grade school, high school and into the present. She always let me hang out with her and her friends...and even her boyfriends.



While we did have our fair share of fights and we definitely had to "divide" the backseat up using invisible boundary lines during long road trips, we still sustained a very unique relationship. I can't imagine growing up without doing gymnastics with her, watching TGIF with her on Friday nights, opening presents with her on Christmas morning, surviving moves across country during high school, attending countless concerts together and basically every other life happening. I cannot imagine "doing life" without her, my best friend.

She has always been my #1 fan despite my less than gracious attitude towards her at times. Her love is unconditional and her heart is bigger than Texas. God has graced her with the uncanny ability to extend grace when others remain bitter. She is a true, loyal and amazing friend even when particular people do not return the sentiment. She is a faithful wife and a selfless mother. Her girls are beyond blessed to be able to call her "Mommy." She loves my parents far better than I do and the patience she demonstrates is overwhelming. I could go on for days, but I shall exercise restrain.

More than anything though, Michelle loves life. Her appetite for "good times" is insatiable. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, even as an infant, she refused to go to the bed. This has not changed. She still has the mindset that she will miss something if she goes to sleep, so she consistently wills herself to stay awake as long as possible. As much as I give her a hard time about this, I really love this about her and find it quite endearing. I mean, she wants to really live life. How could I blame her? She was the one who was always up for the concert, the night out on the town, the margarita at happy hour, the impromptu dance party, the late showing of a movie, the icecream at Marble Slab and the list goes on. Granted, things are a touch different with the babies, but I know in her heart, she's still that girl.

So HAPPY, HAPPY 30TH BIRTHDAY MICHELLE!!!



You are hands-down one of the greatest blessings in my life. Even though I may not always show it, you mean the world to me. I pray God would rain down peace, love, happiness and joy that's overflowing in this new year in your life. And here's to being "thirty, flirty and thriving." Cheers to the next 30 years!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

happy birthday meggers.

Because I just couldn't let the day go by without wishing a dear friend happy birthday...I had to do a quick mini-post.

HAPPY 26TH BIRTHDAY MEG!!!



We have celebrated about 12 birthdays together and I look forward to celebrating another 12 more. There is something so special about long-time friends, and I'm so fortunate to be able to celebrate another birthday with Meagan.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday. May this year be your best yet!!!

P.S. Stay tuned for her Caddyshack party post.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a big FAT lie

You probably do not know this, but this week is Fat Talk Free Week. Fat Talk is negative self-talk and has NOTHING to do with being overweight, average weight, or even underweight. Fat Talk is when we say things like:

- "my thighs look huge in these pants"
- "i ate SO bad today" (what makes something bad? does food actually have character traits?)
- "i've got to get rid of this double-chin (or flabby arms or belly or whatever)"
- "i can't wear skinny jeans. my hips are too big."
- "i hate summer. i refuse to wear a swimsuit in public."
- "ugh...don't take a picture of me. i look so fat."
- "gosh, you eat so healthy. that must be why you're so skinny and i'm not."
- "i've got to get to the gym because i've been eating so much (or my clothes are too tight or my stomach's pooching out...)"
- "if only i could look like her, i would be so happy."

This list does not even BEGIN to scratch the surface in terms of comments I hear every single day and have heard my entire life. Fat talk does not benefit anyone. It is detrimental, not only to yourself, but to every single person around you.

Please, please view the short video below. It is time to break the cycle we, as women, have become so accustomed to all our life. It is so common for us to talk about different areas of our body we hate or how we wish we looked like a particular person.



Please make a commitment to actively pursue positive self talk. I know it's not easy because we've grown up in a society that has warped our sense of self and jaded our thoughts. But I beg you to think before speaking those comments aloud. You don't know who's listening. You don't know who is struggling with body image and how it may affect them. When you tell them they "look great and have they lost weight," you don't know the inner struggle they might be going through and whether or not they are miserable. Be so careful in front of your daughters, your nieces, your sisters, your mothers...

God created you and me (and every human being) in His own image. We all have intrinsic value because of that...period. There is nothing, not education, beauty, social status, body shape, physical fitness, etc. that makes one person more valuable than the other. "You were made to fill a purpose that only you can do and there can never be a more beautiful YOU."

Tasty Tuesdays: the 18th installment

Happy October 20th to all my lovely readers! I can hardly believe I've been doing this post for 18 weeks, and I can't fathom the idea that we are just 11 days away from November. What has happened to 2009? In just a few short weeks, I'll be trimming the tree while singing my heart out to the NSYNC Christmas CD. But...let's not get ahead of ourselves!

Being the avid baker I am, today's recipe is easily the most used in my entire repertoire. Everyone should have an easy frosting recipe that requires no measurements, double-boiler or recipe card. This frosting has graced countless cakes, cookies and anything else deemed frosting-worthy. It can also be easily tweaked to include different flavors and dies beautifully using a little food coloring.

So without further ado, I bring you today's Tasty Tuesday recipe.

1-2-3 Buttercream

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter
6-8 C powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 T cream or half & half
1 t vanilla (optional)

1. Cream butter until light and fluffy.

2. Add powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time.

3. Add cream a little at a time until you reach desired consistency.

Quite honestly, I NEVER measure this recipe (with the exception of the butter). I just add powdered sugar until it looks like frosting and is the right consistency for me to ice my cake. Obviously, I prefer a thicker icing so that it holds up well on my cake and doesn't droop off the sides.

If you've been using icing in a can all your life, I hope the ease of this recipe will inspire you to at least try your hand at homemade frosting. It is so worth it and tastes world's better than anything processed/pre-made. I promise!

*BTW, a big Tasty Tuesday shout-out to my sister and cousin Li-Li who both made my banana bread recipe and received RAVE reviews. Kudos ladies and I loved getting the feedback.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

you only get one shot.

After seeing this on a couple of blogs and finding it fairly interesting, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. The caveat is you have to answer each question with just one word. Have fun reading and do it yourself if you want.

1. Where is your cell phone? bag

2. Your hair? frizz-ball

3. Your mother? selfless

4. Your father? hero

5. Your favorite food? mexicana

6. Your dream last night? nonexistent

7. Your favorite drink? champagne

8. Your dream/goal? legacy

9. What room are you in? office

10. Your hobby? cooking

11. Your fear? freewill

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? God's will (i cheated)

13. Where were you last night? home

14. Something you aren’t? greedy

15. Muffins? blueberry

16. Wish list item? n'espresso

17. Where did you grow up? dallas

18. Last thing you did? file

19. What are you wearing? dress

20. Your TV? functional

21. Your pets? n/a

22. Your friends? mosaic

23. Your life? blessed

24. Your mood? calm

25. Missing someone? sister

26. Vehicle? andi

27. Something you’re not wearing? makeup!

28. Your favorite store? williams-sonoma

29. Your favorite color? pink

30. When was the last time you laughed? today

31. Last time you cried? puzzled

32. Your best friend? related

33. One place that I go over and over? a-town

34. One person who emails me regularly? poppala

35. Favorite place to eat? HOME!!!!

And even though there are no rules, I'm tagging Kori, Lyric, Brooke and Meagan. So if you're reading this, you have to do it!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tasty Tuesday: the 17th recipe

I know I've said it before, but I adore the flavors of all, specifically pumpkin. I like pumpkin in everything: pie, cake, cookies, soup, pasta, oatmeal - the list is endless. However, it is hardly acceptable to serve anything pumpkin-flavored outside of the fall/winter months. Can you imagine bringing a pumpkin pie to a 4th of July barbecue? The horror!

Be that as it may, it is our duty to enjoy all things pumpkin to the absolute fullest during these months when it is appropriate to consume the orange colored fruit. (Yes, a pumpkin has seeds, therefore, it is technically a fruit).

Today's recipe features pumpkin and happens to be one of my favorite pumpkin recipes. It comes from BHG and is so easy and really highlights the natural goodness of the pumpkin as opposed to masking it with tons of sugar, cream, etc.

As a fair warning, if you're expecting something sweet and reminiscent of pumpkin pie, prepare to be sorely disappointed. This soup is for pumpkin lovers and will be off-putting to some.

Easy peasy pumpkin soup

Ingredients:

1 15-ounce can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup fat-free milk
1 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1. Stir together pumpkin, chicken broth, and milk in a large saucepan.

2. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Heat just to boiling.

3. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

I have served this as a first-course for Thanksgiving dinner for many years. It can also be paired with a salad and bread for a super easy weeknight meal.

Monday, October 12, 2009

i'll take the chipper chicken.

Actually, make that shrimp (also a cheap alternative) in our case...allow me to explain.

This past Saturday marked another fousin foray into the kitchen and I couldn't be more pleased with our results. Upon hearing that our favorite China doll (Christina) would be journeying our way for the weekend, I knew we must make plans post haste to kick it old school and cook up a little dinner while enjoying each other's exquisite company.



*If I haven't said it before, getting in the kitchen with my fousins has become one of my most favorite things in life. I love to try new dishes and experiment with new flavors ("there's nothin' like experimentin'...who's ready for some chromo-magnificence"), and actually having a group to cook for/with makes the entire experience so much more rewarding. In addition, it's also fun to cook with those who are open to expanding their food horizons and who like to have impromptu dance parties while working in the kitchen. And finally, cooking a meal it home is extremely cost effective and it's always more enjoyable to dine at your leisure. I love to linger at the dinner table for at least an hour.

The menu was set several days in advance and featured:
spinach, pear, blue cheese and walnut salad
baked shrimp with feta and tomatoes
baked sweet potatoes
roasted green beans and artichokes
beer bread


Upon arriving at the Mendez chateau, we promptly got busy in the kitchen sauteing, chopping, mixing and the like. All hands were on deck as we prepped the feast and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. I wish we could do family dinners everyday. Wouldn't that be a treat?





In between the arduous manual labor, Haylee got in on the action and had some special fousin time herself. Not only did she join in the dance party, but she also got tossed in the air repeatedly by China who made the mistake of doing it once. Children are never satisfied with experiencing something fun only one time. They want you to do it over and over and over again.







With all that dancing and toddler tossing, we really worked up some hearty appetites. Suffice it say, when the dinner bell rang, we loaded our plates with the delicious goodness and ate to our heart's content. Twas delicious indeed and the conversation was equally delightful.









We rounded out the night by watching Jim & Pam's wedding, and we all agreed the final scene made the entire hour of mediocre content worth it in the end. And to be honest, I think I could do anything with my fousins and it would be a grand time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

it's too late to apologize.

Okay, not really. But I did have the pleasure of hearing the song live this past week at the One Republic concert. View the videos below for some sound bytes of the set they played.

video

video

While I was definitely a fan prior to the conert, I became even more impressed upon hearing them live. They sounded exactly like they do on the radio which is such a rarity these days. I was also really taken with their stage presence and overall talent.

Their new album (which happens to come out on Tuesday) is chock-full of greatness and I highly recommend downloading it on i-tunes if you have the chance. I think you will really enjoy it.

it's her party, and she'll cry if she wants to.

Last weekend, we celebrated Haylee's 3rd birthday with a Dora-themed fiesta extravaganza.







Michelle did a bang-up job planning the big bash and left no detail untouched. From the Dora-emblazoned cake to the massive spread of Mexican inspired food to the party favors to the festive pinata, the party was a hit from start to finish.





The gang was all there with all sets of grandparents present and some of the birthday girl's best friends. She was beyond thrilled to have so many of her favorite people in the same room and let out a squeal every time someone new came to the door.







The kids played outside in the mini bounce house and on the swingset, but perhaps the highlight was the Dora-shaped pinata. It is quite a marvel to watch three and four-year-olds take a wack at Dora's face. Haylee was a bit timid at first, but once she observed some pinata pros, she was reluctant to give anyone else a turn. In fact, she proceeded to have a full-on meltdown every time one of her friends was given the opportunity to take a swing. My competitive nature must be rubbing off on her.







The guest of honor's spirits were quickly lifted with the birthday song and her chance to blow out the candles on her Dora cake. She had been asking for a Dora cake for at least a month prior to her birthday and when she finally got the chance to dig in, she was in cake heaven. I can't say I blame her. A good cake is easily the highlight of every party.







As if that weren't enough, the fun didn't stop there. The birthday girl had a pile of presents to unwrap, and received enough dress-up costumes to last her a lifetime. There was Minnie Mouse, Cinderella, fairy wings out the yin yang and a myriad of princess acoutrements to delight even the prissiest of girls.







All in all, it was the perfect way to bring in a new year in my precious niece's life. I know I've said it before, but I can't imagine loving someone as much as I love my little Pearl. She can be a total toot, but when she asks for a "giant hug," my heart melts completely and I want to give her the world. So here's to an awesome 3rd year in your life. I can't wait to be a part of your story!





Thursday, October 8, 2009

you don't need to bring pizza. they got food there.

I hope you enjoyed my party post in the form of a poem. You may be thinking it was a total cop-out, and you know what? You might be right, but I just have so much in the backlog of posts that I had to get things moving.

So, again, in the interest of getting my blog "up to date," I shall be brief with my birthday post. After all, "brevity is the order of the day." Indeed.

Last Wednesday, September 30, 2009 was an absolutely lovely day to celebrate my birth into this world. The weather was sublime and the company truly delightful.

I was able to leave my place of work early and took full advantage of this by enjoying brunch outside at my favorite spot, Breadwinner's. Copious amounts of sweet baked bread and pancakes were consumed and I had the pleasure of dining with some of my favorite girls: Michelle, Haylee, Meredith and Kori.







I also received a very cute birthday sussie from Kori all the way from San Francisco. Thank you again so much friend for the adorable cupcake mug and Starbucks gift card!!







The day continued with one of my favorite activities, napping. Yes, I took a nap with Pearl and it was absolutely divine. There is nothing I love more than a mid-afternoon nap in a big, comfy bed.

Once we were rested up, it was time to head to Urban Crust for my birthday dinner with the fam. This new restaurant is located in downtown Plano and features wood-burning oven pizzas and a hip rooftop bar complete with an ice block to keep your beverages cool. I was very impressed with the snazzy bar, unique decor and inventive menu.







We started with some calamari and a couple of salads. All dished met my approval and we happily gobbled them up while waiting for our pizza.







Once the pizza came, I was in foodie heaven. We chose two pies: one with roasted chicken, caramelized onions, marinara sauce and mozzarella and the other was topped with fig preserves, goat cheese, prosciutto, arugula and a drizzle of balsamic. Holy Yum! The combination of salty and sweet enraptured my taste buds and I savored every delectable bite. Needless to say, we devoured every last morsel and there were no leftovers to take home...a rare occurrence for us to be sure.







We rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and back to the parental's home for a little cake and presents. I received a super cute Vera Bradley ID keychain from my sister and Nick and money for a pair of Toms from my parents. Thank you family!!!





And what kind of cake did I have you might ask? Well, I am happy to report the pops made me a strawberry cake with homemade strawberry cream cheese icing. Wow wowie wow is all I can say as words fail to do this strawberry goodness justice. It might be the best birthday cake I've ever had, so thank you so much Dad for delighting us with your culinary prowess.







I could not have asked for a more perfect day and I felt overwhelmed by love from beginning to end. Thank you to all for your birthday wishes, cards and gifts. You sure know how to make a girl feel loved on her birthday and I am beyond blessed with all those in my life.