Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Perfect Iced Coffee

Iced coffee is truly my guilty pleasure and now that temperatures are starting to finally get warmer, I am embracing every opportunity for a refreshing and creamy iced coffee. Ahhhhh.
For some reason, retail stores think it’s OK to charge $4 for a simple iced coffee and I always cringe when buying one. This iced coffee recipe is perfection and will be sure to make your taste buds and wallet happy all through spring & summer cold coffee cravings! My personal secret is to freeze some coffee into ice cubes so your iced coffee is never watered down. You’re welcome.
You can use a Kuerig (or any other single server coffee-maker) or traditional coffee pot if you want to make more than a single serving. I use my Kuerig since I am usually making just a cup for myself. However, the wonderful thing about iced coffee is since it’s refrigerated, you can make it for the whole week without it getting stale-tasting.
Directions: Place desired amount sugar (or any sweetener you like) in cup first. This way the coffee will melt the sugar & won’t be “crunchy” when you sip (one of my pet-peeves). Brew your coffee as directed and make a little extra coffee for your “coffee ice cubes.” Once brewed, put coffee in large mason jar and let sit to cool. If you have time, refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes and if not, add cold milk or creamer and serve over the coffee ice cubes. I usually try to make a big batch of this overnight so it’s cold & ready for the morning.



Ever After,

Chocolate Covered Peppermint Oreos

In Connecticut, it is a beautiful snowy day which can be fun when there are Christmas movies on all day. The snowy scenery and festive movies made me want to whip up a holiday treat that was yummy yet not too time consuming. I remembered I bought these amazing Peppermint Oreos which taste like candy canes & chocolate (who can resist?). This recipe is no bake and takes only a few ingredients and makes for the perfect holiday treat to share.
  • Your favorite oreo flavor (I used peppermint for holidays)
  • Chocolate bark or discs to melt (I used milk and dark chocolate)
  • Sprinkles of choice (I had mini gingerbread sprinkles & multi-colored)
1. Melt chocolate. I did it in the microwave. Stop every 30 seconds and stir.
2. Set aside several sheets of wax paper. When your oreos set, they will peel off easily!
3. Once the chocolate is melted, use a spoon or tongs to dunk oreos in the chocolate. Make sure they are completely covered. Set on wax paper.
4. Decorate with sprinkles before melted chocolate sets.
5. Let sit in fridge for about a half hour.
6. Once chocolate is hard, place in fun jars and decorate to hand out as holiday gifts!

Ever After,

Sunday Night Zucchini "Pasta"

  • 2 large Zucchini
  • 2 tomatoes on the vine
  • chicken sausage
  • 1 small jar of capers
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • garlic to taste
  • 1/3 cup mushrooms
1.Use a julienne peeler, like this one I bought from Amazon,  to slice the zucchini into noodles, stopping when you reach the seeds. Set aside.
2. Cook chicken sausage.
3.  Heat a skillet with olive oil.  Add Zucchini, capers, tomatos, parmesan cheese, mushroom, chicken sausage and garlic.
4. Sauté over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
Ever After,

Low-fat Starbucks-inspired Strawberry Frappuccino

The other day I was craving a Frappuccino badly but being 8 weeks post-partum, I really am trying to watch my calories. At Starbucks, the strawberries & creme Frappuccino is 15g of fat & 54 sugars. I am all for treating myself but would rather save the calories for a glass of wine (or 2) or an icecream sundae! Then I realized, I have strawberries and a Vitamix and I conquered a low-fat Starbucks-inspired version on my own. This version is 80 calories, 8 g sugar, and 5 g fat.
  • 1 cup organic frozen strawberries (you can use fresh but I like frozen to keep smoothie cold)
  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoon organic palm sugar (or sugar of your choice)
  • 3 ice cubes
Directions: In a blender, mix in strawberries, almond milk, ice and sugar on high speed.  Mix until creamy & smooth.  Pour in glass & top with light whipped cream.


Ever After,

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sandy Toes + Salty Kisses

I feel so lucky to have spent 4th of July (my favorite holiday!) on St. John at the “carnival celebration”, which includes a floating bar, the best Caribbean drinks, and dancing all night in the beach and in the water!  The fireworks were incredible and it was one of the best 4th of July’s I have experienced.  Our trip was amazing, especially because I was able to go with my UCONN college roommate and her husband along with my husband.
Are you traveling anywhere this summer?
Just a few favorites from the trip:
Painkillers. The liquid form. The most famous local cocktail. Bought some fresh nutmeg, bay leaves, and cinnamon to endeavor to make a homemade version. Recipe here.
Visiting the Baths at Virgin Gorda. Breathtaking views and incredible beaches.
The Soggy Dollar Bar at Jost Van Dyke. Sunny place for Shady people is their motto! Coolest bar ever, especially because there is no way to enter this island unless you swim to it.
Oh and I can’t forget the adorable animals. Donkeys (apparently they like Doritos), the goats that travel in large packs, and of course, all of the fish and sea creatures I saw while snorkeling!

Ever After,

Gavin Alexander's Birth Story

May 28th, 2015, at 12:39 pm, was the most amazing day of my life as Ryan and I welcomed Gavin Alexander into the world at 6lbs, 11oz. This little peanut has changed our lives in so many ways and we are so in love. The moment I saw Gavin when the nurse handed him to me, was a surreal feeling that I could never put into words. After what seemed like a lifelong pregnancy, to finally meet my little guy and see him look into my eyes, was a moment I will never forget!
Gavin was quite punctual, arriving exactly 1 day before his due date. Even though he was “right on time,” it did come as quite a surprise to me. I was so convinced I was going to go overdue because I felt fine and had no real signs of labor. I worked until 5pm the night before and started laboring at 2am the next day, so things progressed pretty quickly! At around 130am on Thursday, the 28th, I woke up feeling crampy and wasn’t sure if the pain was contractions or just cramps. After about a half hour of these cramps, I took out my phone and started to time the contractions with my Babycenter app, which was very helpful because it made me realize that the contractions were very consistent, but 7 minutes apart. My Dr. told me to go in once they were 5 minutes apart so I figured I’d keep timing them.
After about another hour, the contractions got more intense but they were still about 7 minutes apart. The pain started to become very intense, however, so I woke up Ryan and let him know we should probably go in because I thought it was the “real deal.”
I already had my bag packed but needed to pack my everyday use items so I did that quickly and we hopped into the car. My contractions were getting more and more painful and Ryan felt helpless because there was nothing he could do.
By the time, we got the hospital, it was show time! They wheeled me in from the ER to Labor and Delivery. I was already 6cm dilated and was admitted at around 6am. The nurse kept asking me, “On a scale of 1-10 how bad is the pain?” I wanted to say 10, but I thought, it will probably get worse, so I said 9. Soon after that, I was screeching, “12”! The pain was unbearable for me and I had been having contractions for several hours so I decided to get the epidural, which was the best decision I made. The anesthesiologist was my best friend at that point because once I had those drugs in me, I literally thanked God. The pain started to numb and I felt more relaxed.
To speed things up, the Dr. decided to break my water and things progressed from there. Since I hadn’t eaten since the night before, I snacked on Popsicles, which were delicious and satisfying at the time. I was so nervous and anxious to meet Gavin but Ryan kept me company, I chatted with my mom on the phone to pass time, and I tried to stay calm.
Once my Dr. came in, I knew it was time. I was so excited at this point that I had my game face on. Everything is a blur from this moment. There were Dr.’s, nurses, and students running in and our; at one point I think there was about 10 medical professionals in there and I could care less. They were all coaching me during the delivery and once I heard Gavin crying and felt him against my skin, it was just me and him in the room; everyone else blurred out. All I saw were these beautiful wide eyes, looking right at me, like he recognized me after all those months of being cozy in the womb. He was so beautiful.  Love at first sight.
daddygavin{Daddy & Gavin’s precious moment that I captured in the hospital}
{Grandma is in love}
Ever After,

Leather + Color

The classic black leather jacket is staple in most women’s closet. In a attempt to look more chic rather than like a chick that just came off the back of a motorcycle, I paired my Express cropped leather jacket with some skinny jeans, a hot pink crossbody bag and some ultra-glam accessories. My black glitter watch c/o Guess brings this edgy look together.
{Leather jacket: Express| Skinny Jeans: Forever 21| Pink crossbody bag: Forever 21| Black Glitter Watch: c/o Guess| Wedge Booties: Charming Charlie}

Ever After,

Sauteed Scallops in Garlic Cream Sauce

Looking for an easy but gourmet dinner idea? This scallop and pasta recipe is to die for! I am a huge fan of white sauces with seafood since it really brings out the flavor. Enjoy this recipe, it’one of my favorites!
1 lb scallops
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1⁄4 cup white wine (optional)
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1⁄2 cup cream
Melt butter in a pan over medium-low heat; add the garlic, parsley, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the scallops, then simmer for another 5 minutes. While scallops are cooking, boil your favorite pasta as directed.
Once scalloped are slightly browned, stir in the cream. Continuing heating, but do not boil, stirring constantly until sauce begins to thicken.
Serve immediately while scallops are hot. Spoon excess sauce from pan and drizzle it over the scallops. Serve over your favorite pasta!

Coconut Macaroon Nests

One of my friends is the Executive Producer of the local show, Better Connecticut, and when she shared her segment of making these adorable coconut macaroons that looked like little nests with eggs, I was sold.  Best part is, it’s only a few ingredients and I happened to have everything in my pantry that was needed for this recipe. I had some pink sprinkles on hand so I threw into the mix to add some color.  It’s the perfect treat for Easter!

1 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
4 large egg whites
2/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions: Heat oven to 325° F.In a medium bowl, combine the coconut, egg whites, sugar, flour, salt, and vanilla.Roll into balls and place onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart.Using a small spoon or your finger, press the center of the cookie down, and form into “nests.”Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until lightly golden, 25 to 30 minutes.Allow to cool, and then put 3 Cadbury mini eggs in the center of each cookie.

“Left-overs” Chicken Quesadillas

As a new mom, it is almost impossible to have time to cook dinner every night, let alone eat dinner.  I find myself trying recipes that are quick and take more shortcuts than ever.  I bought a chicken rotisserie breast and made some roasted potatoes and asparagus for a side which was the perfect wholesome and easy meal.  I had some leftover chicken breast and definitely did not want to waste it so I looked in the fridge and threw together some ingredients to make the perfect left-over dinner, Chicken Quesadillas.  You can make this with chicken, steak, vegetarian.. basically whatever leftovers you have.  I do not have a quesadilla-maker but I do have a panini press which worked out perfectly.
Ingredients (can vary based on what left-overs you have)
  • left-over chicken cut into small squares
  • cheddar cheese
  • salsa
  • sour scream
  • avocado sliced thin
  • large wraps (use corn tortilla for gluten free option)
Lay wrap flat and layer chicken, cheese, avocado, salsa and sour cream on one half.  Fold wrap to close over all ingredients.  Put in panini press for about 3 minutes until all ingredients are hot.  If you do not have a panina press, simply fry on pan for 3 minutes each side. Enjoy!

Three Shades of Gray

Tomorrow is the first day of spring and here in New England, there are no signs of tulips.. unless they are under the snow. Normally, by now I have packed away my winter boots and heavier sweaters but have had the need to hang on to them for a few more weeks.
Layering is my favorite for unpredictable months like March because it can be 30 degrees in the morning and then 63 in the afternoon. I am loving this look from Serene Sky Boutique that kept me cozy and warm yet had enough versatility with layers to transform into a lighter outfit.
View More: http://5diamondphotography.pass.us/jamie-serenesky
View More: http://5diamondphotography.pass.us/jamie-serenesky
{Oh! so Cali Cardigan c/o Serene Sky Boutique| Gena Myint Necklace c/o Serene Sky | | Hair & Makeup: Beauty Entourage| Photo credit: 5 Diamond Photography}

Spicy Kale & Shrimp Stir-fry

The spicy cravings during this pregnancy have continued and this dish satisfied the need for spicy yet is packed will vitamins with ingredients like kale, veggies and sweet potatoes. Sautéed shrimp was the perfect touch to this non-traditional stir fry.
– 1 cup Quinoa
– 2 cups kale
– 1 large sweet potato
– 10 oz shrimp (peeled and tailed)
– 2 tsp coconut oil
– 1/4 tsp hot sauce
Cook 1/2 cup quinoa as directed. In a large pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tsp coconut oil and cook 10 oz peeled, shrimp until done and set aside. Return pan to medium-high and add 1 tsp coconut oil and chopped cooked sweet potato and kale. Add remaining quinoa and shrimp to the pan, along with 1/4 tsp hot sauce. Cook, stirring, until hot, 3 minutes. Enjoy!

Baked General Tso’s Chicken Recipe

A perfect night in for me is ordering some Chinese food, grabbing a bottle of wine, and watching a great movie (usually a chick-flick).  So last weekend, we ordered 50 Shades of Grey (the hubby was not impressed) and got a nice bottle of wine.  I decided I wanted to try this Low-fat General Tso’s recipe I had been eyeing on pinterest and was so impressed with how it came out. I was, however, missing Also, you absolutely have to try the Organic Jasmine rice from Trader Joe’s.  I decided taking on the chicken recipe was enough so I took a shortcut and got this rice and it is seriously the most delicious sticky white rice and is ready in 3 minutes.   The movie, on the other hand, was just okay.  In my opinion, the books are 100x times better.
general tso
2 -3 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut in strips
1 egg + 2 tbsp water whisked together to make an egg wash
1 cup flour
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
For the Sauce
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar is fine in a pinch)
2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp hot crushed chilli paste or sauce (use more or less to taste if you don’t like it very hot)
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp freshly grated ginger
¼ cup water
2 tsp corn starch
Combine the 1 cup flour, ½ tsp black pepper, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, 3 tbsp ground ginger, 1 tsp salt.  Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, then dip them in the egg wash to dredge them in the flour mixture.  Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and lightly drizzle or the tops with a little more olive oil.  Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Flip the pieces at half way through the cooking time.
To make the sauce, while the chicken is baking, prepare your sauce. Don’t walk away from this sauce; it gets very hot when making the caramel base and can burn easily so pay careful attention while cooking it.
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ¼ cup water, toasted sesame seed oil, paprika, chilli paste or sauce, tsp salt, corn starch, cloves minced garlic and freshly grated ginger. Set this mixture aside.
In a medium saucepan or wok, boil together the 1 cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water.
Boil this over medium heat, watching constantly until the caramel starts to turn a light amber color and you can begin to smell the caramel. Do not stir. When it reaches this stage, give the other ingredients in the bowl a quick stir to make sure the corn starch is dissolved then add it all at once to the hot caramel. (Careful: This mixture is very hot and will release a lot of steam at this point!)  Be careful at this stage because this sauce can foam up considerably for a few seconds and it is very hot. Simmer for only few minutes and remove from the heat and allow to cool down slightly.  Toss the sauce with the cooked chicken pieces and serve over plain steamed rice or Chinese noodles.  Recipe from Rock Recipes.

Resort Romper

This summer has been a little different than past summers. With the arrival of Gavin in late May, we have traded fancy dinners for outdoor picnics and resort vacation for pool days in our backyard. I love getting dressed up on vacation so since our background is kind of like our own little resort (right?), I dressed for the occasion with an adorable romper I found on clearance at T.J. Maxx.  One of my favorite things about August?  Summer clearance!  Have you found any good deals lately?
{Floral romper: T.J. Maxx| Fedora: Charming Charlie| Gladiator sandals: Macy’s}