Monday, February 18, 2013

Herb Crusted Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce

Man, oh man. It seems like just when it can't get any better, Pinterest goes ahead and introduces me to recipes that are even more fantastic than the ones I've already made. Can it be possible?! Well, it must be, because I just made a recipe tonight, and it was pretty f'ing fantastic! Probably more than anything else, I look for recipes on Pinterest. I love getting inspiration for new meals to try, and for one reason or another, the things I find on there just make me feel a little more confident in myself. Rightfully so, because many of the meals of tried have made it into my regular rotation! Anyway, last week, I stumbled across a recipe for Herb Crusted Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce, and I've been thinking about it since the moment I spotted it. Ha! Traveling so much makes it tougher to cook during the week because my meals are usually so big, and I don't want to waste food by not finishing leftovers. Fortunately, I was able to buy the ingredients I needed for this recipe last week, and today was a 4:30 day for me (Mondays and Tuesdays, our office is open until 6:00, but we get to switch off and leave early every so often), so cooking this meal worked out perfectly! It may even last me all week! Anyway, I don't want to keep you in suspense any longer, so I thought I'd share it with you right here. If you try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! I'll include the recipe in the blog post, as well as my very non-professional pictures, but if you feel like checking out the original blog, you can look here!

 All the ingredients!
 Browning the chicken after it's coated in bread crumbs and seasoning!
After it's pretty well cooked through.
Saute the garlic!
Then add chicken broth.
Time for the whipping cream and diced tomatoes.
 And the Parmesan cheese, basil, and pepper.
 Let it simmer and thicken...
 And pour it over the chicken. Voila!!

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin (I used a 3-pack of chicken.)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Progresso Garlic & Herb bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Roasted Garlic and Bell Pepper Seasoning (I found it easily at the store, so hopefully you can too!)
  • 1 teaspoon freeze dried chives (Not really sure what freeze dried spices are, so I just used the equivalent of chives that you buy in the seasoning aisle.)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 can Italian diced tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used a 5-cheese blend and it was perfect.)
  • 2 tablespoons freeze dried (or fresh) basil
  • Dash of fresh ground black pepper

  • Place bread crumbs, Roasted Garlic and Bell Pepper Seasoning, and freeze dried chives in a shallow bowl; mix thoroughly. 
  • Place milk in a separate shallow bowl.  
  • In a skillet, heat butter on medium heat. Meanwhile, pound chicken flat and thin for even cooking if you haven't done so already. (I don't have a meat mallet, so I didn't do that part.) 
  • Dip the chicken in the milk, then coat with crumb mixture.  
  • Cook chicken in butter until browned and cooked through. Remove and keep warm. (The original recipe said this should take about 10 minutes, but because my chicken was thicker, it was probably more like 15-20 minutes to make sure the chicken was cooked through.) 
  • In the same skillet, add garlic and saute for approximately 1 minute.   
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally to loosen browned parts from the pan.  
  • Stir in cream and tomatoes; bring to a boil and stir for one minute.  
  • Reduce heat to low; add Parmesan cheese, basil, and a dash of pepper. Stir sauce and cook until heated through and thickened (about 5 minutes). 
  • Serve by pouring the sauce over the chicken. For added flair, serve the chicken and sauce over cooked pasta. (I didn't make anything else because the chicken was enough food for me, but I bet it would be great with pasta. I'll consider making the sauce on its own too!)

First Envelope!

As you saw in one of my recent posts, I bought some envelope and envelope liner templates. I've been feeling creatively inspired these days, and I thought this could be a cool way to channel that creativity. Well, last week, I got the templates in the mail and decided to try my hand at my first envelope! I have some scrapbooking tools around, as well as some good paper, so it was nice to be able to give it a shot as soon as I got the stuff. I went to Madison for L's sister's birthday this weekend, so she was the lucky recipient of my first handmade envelope. Take a look! :)
 The outside! (The paper is really thick cardstock.)
 Surprise! A red inside! :)
 With a card inside...
 And some stickers to personalize it for her! :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

All my life, whether single or in a relationship, I have always enjoyed Valentine's Day. Never really took it to heart too much (maybe because I've been single more than I've been in a relationship;), but I'm still one of those girls who has always liked to wear red on the day and think positively about love because I believe in it. That being said, this year feels especially exciting for me. While L was a very significant part of my life during last Valentine's Day as well, I can't even describe how amazingly far we've come since then. I like us. I like how we progress. I like that we're different than the 'traditional' couple in how we've grown together and care for one another. We've had ups and downs, but mostly ups, and I wouldn't trade a single moment. Today and every day, I am thankful for the presence of such a wonderful person in my life. :)

As you know from my last post, I made an early and unexpected trip to Madison to visit L last weekend. We will see each other a lot in the upcoming weeks, but we won't get to spend much time with just the two of us. Makes me sad, although, I will take any time I can get with him. Anyway, that is what prompted the visit last weekend. We missed each other and wanted the opportunity to have our own little Valentine's celebration since the dang holiday fell during the week this year. Madison is not that far from here, but I couldn't take tomorrow off because it's the first day of the classes I am teaching at UWM, and it would be tough to drive back and forth twice in such a short amount of time. We weren't planning to really even do much or get much for each other, but I got him a couple little things and wrapped them in pretty red paper. While we were hanging out, I ran upstairs to use the restroom, and when I came back down, the little items in the picture below were waiting for me! :) From what I tell you, you probably think L is the most spontaneous, romantic guy in the world, and he really IS wonderful to me, but it's worth noting that these little surprises are pretty out of character. Not because he's not a thoughtful guy. Believe me, he's as thoughtful as they come. We just don't do these things often. Needless to say, my face lit up, and he was really excited. It's animal crackers and frosting to dip them in, an individual cup of wine, and a sweet card. The wine has a small back story. In one of the many times I've visited L, we were watching the show "Shark Tank." If you're unfamiliar, basically, people who invent things come on this show to try to get these business people to invest in their product. On the night we were watching, a guy was appearing for the second time. The first time he was on, and even the second time, the investors wanted control over his patent for the actual cup the wine comes in. He didn't want to give that up, because he only wanted to use HIS wine in it. Not a dumb guy! Anyway, long story short, L and I were really intrigued, and then a couple months ago, he sent me a picture to show me that he saw the product (called Copa di Vino) in the store. How crazy! Well, he ended up buying me a single little cup of it, knowing that I love how cute it is and how much I'd love that it matched the color scheme. (Yeah, he knows me well.:) In addition to all of this, his card said a number of sweet things that just made me smile so much. I'll spare you all the juicy details, but I loved it. The last line? "Just know that you mean so much to me, and that I want to be your Valentine." Aww. :) I hope you all had a fantastic day, whether you celebrated V-Day or not!

Valentine's treats. <3

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Am Loved:)

Okay, no one probably cares about this besides me, but I just feel really giddy over the past couple days about how sweet L has been. He's been pretty bogged down at work, and since it's still a relatively new job, I think his confidence level is taking a hit here and there when he doesn't know everything. I do my best to encourage him, because he's great at what he does, and I think this has all just really strengthened things for us. I have always considered myself lucky to have him in my life, but I've been smiling even more than usual these days because of him.

First, I received an email last night from him while he was still at work. At first I was confused, because the subject line was "..." and then it looked like a blank email. I saw that I could scroll down, so I did, and at the very bottom left hand corner was, "iheartyou." That's it. I know that maybe doesn't seem like a big deal, but it kind of is for him (meaning, he doesn't do that all the time), so it made me smile from ear to ear. :))

Then, today, we've been sending a few emails back and forth. Typically, we are lucky enough to chat on Facebook while we work, but he's had a busy week that keeps him away from his desk most of the time. Email will have to suffice for now! It's been a tough few weeks, because work has been hard for both of us, and I also haven't seen him for three weeks. We've gone that long before, but it gets harder and harder as time goes by. :-/ So, in our email exchange today, I was surprised to receive the following (edited to take out stuff that makes no sense to you):

I'm doing alright this morning.  Just a lot to do...not fun. I don't have much opportunity to write, but what are your thoughts on coming to visit me tomorrow?  I know you will be driving the rest of this month, so I can fill your gas tank and all, but I was just thinking that I would like to see you this weekend.  If not, that's cool. 

I have no real plans.  M [his sister] and M [his brother-in-law] will deliver my TV.  That's it really.  I was going to make lunch for them Saturday (probably ribs again in the sautee pan they gave me for Christmas) and just watch TV Saturday night.  Maybe even some movies.  Saturday night, we don't even need to eat ribs. We can order in (pizza, chinese, bucket of fried chicken), dine out (Club Tavern, Sprecher, Pho Nam, Sushi), or even get dressed up to go somewhere (Italian, Indian, Sushi).  One thing is for sure, I think I want to buy my Baby an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen ;-)

I haven't thought much in regards to Valentine's Day, but I have thought about you.  I hope I can somewhat give you a special day or weekend even though it will not land on the 14th.
Um... seriously?! Sometimes I feel like I'm too lucky for words. He would probably KILL me if he knew I posted this, so don't tell him. ;) I don't know what it is, but I think we have just realized how much of a positive influence and support we have been for each other, especially in recent months, and it makes it a lot easier to care deeply for someone who's been there with you through lots of different things, good and bad. Needless to say, I can't resist and will be going to see him this weekend. I've been dying to see him for what seems like forever, and I genuinely can't wait. Sounds like it will be a great weekend, ice cream cake and all! :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Paper Obsession

For as long as I can remember, I've always had a bit of an obsession with all things color and all things paper. Especially wrapping paper. There's just something about cool patterns and bright colors that always draws me in. Hell, I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to this love. ;) That brings me to my point. As I was browsing around on Facebook today, one of my friends shared a status from a business called Ginger P Designs. She's from Minnesota and has a cute little shop with some cards, invitations, etc. As I found my way to her Etsy site, I was drawn to many of the simple cards, and all of a sudden, I thought to myself, "I feel like I could do this!" Now, no, I'm not going to go all rogue and try to make a life out of creating cool cards and such, but I just felt like it was neat and that I wanted to look into it because I love making little cards for people. I currently own these blank cards from Target, as well as the same style in brighter colors. They are perfect for making just little personalized notes, and they're definitely a money saver as opposed to buying a store bought card every time. That being said, they can be slightly boring at the same time. I like a little extra color here and there, or even a fun little design, and these cards don't have that. I started digging around a little bit, and I ran across the site for the store Paper Source. Ever heard of it? If not, and you love paper, beware. You may not come out of this experience with any money left. ;) While looking through the site, I saw you could buy all sorts of blank cards, envelopes, everything. But then, just as I was getting deep into that stuff, I found out that they have templates to make your own envelopes and envelope liners. What?!
(These pictures are not the templates, but they're examples of what you can make with the templates. LOVE!)
(The liner is obviously the inner cool design.)

Okay, am I the only one that didn't know these things existed?! I've gotten cool envelopes before and thought, "Man, those are cool!" but never really thought about how they were made or how I could do it too. The templates are traceable, and there are videos on the website to show you how to make the envelopes and liners. Again, the pictures above are examples of what I could make with these templates. You can use all sorts of paper, and obviously there is such a variety in the types of designs you can make. The templates range in a variety of different envelope sizes too, so that's kinda fun. I am just super pumped about this! Since I used to be so big into scrapbooking, I do have some spare designed paper lying around. I figured before I went crazy and bought all sorts of paper (which I almost did - check out a few of the designs I'm interested in here and here - wouldn't they make cool envelopes and liners?), I should try the stuff out and see if it's really as easy and cool as I think it's going to be. If I like it, I may invest in more, and you all may be receiving more random cards from me! ;) I often talk to L about how I should and want to have more hobbies in my life. I'm kind of a boring person overall, and I always feel like I want to find that 'thing' that's totally me. Whether this is it or not, I don't know. But I'm willing to find out. :) Wish me luck. I'll keep ya'll posted!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekend Organization

As you all know by reading my blog, my 'free' weekends are pretty few and far between. While I absolutely love that I pretty much always have somewhere I can be, I also love weekends when I have nothing to do and nowhere to be. Since it happens so rarely, I think I cherish that time even more. Time to cook. Time to clean. Time to run errands. Time to relax. Time to watch TV shows online. All stuff that doesn't seem quite as sweet or enjoyable when I get home at 6:30 on a Monday evening. Kinda reminds me of my last entry, about how I often save all these things for the weekend because I'm so busy otherwise. Doesn't always have to be the case, but regardless, I enjoy my free weekends very much (aside from missing my family and L;). This weekend was no different. I went to happy hour and a movie with my friend Megan on Friday (We saw "The Loneliest Planet" on campus for free - don't watch it. Terrible movie.), but other than that I didn't have anything going on this weekend. When that happens for me, I typically find myself in cleaning and/or organization mode. I tend to neglect some things in my apartment during my normal weeks, and eventually that adds up. Drives me crazy! That being said, I was able to do a number of things that made me feel decently productive. Here, I give you, a weekend of organization. :)
 First, I added new photos of me and L into one of the albums of us. I'm kind of a sap, so I get all pictures of us developed periodically. I keep them in some cool photo albums from my friend Erin's mom. Because I love pictures so much, I may have to come up with a new method soon, because they are getting full. The above photos are all from our time in Colby over Christmas. Some of my favorites of us! :)
 Took a little time to reorganize the bookshelf and change out a few photos to update it. :)
 Weeded out some clothes and did a little more organization of my clothes bins.
Lastly, I totally reorganized my bookshelf in my bedroom. Doesn't do much to not have a 'before' photo, but basically, I wanted to make room for my new colorful binders (middle shelf, left side). I was inspired by a Pinterest post to just get my important things more organized, and they showed those binders from Staples. Not long after I saw the post, I bought the binders online. If interested, you can find them here. :) Anyway, I used to have most of my important documents just sitting in plain manilla folders, but I thought it would be nice to put them in a more organized, presentable format. I've got binders for health info (I've had lots of statements and bills and stuff since moving here and visiting the doctor so often), car/renter's insurance, paycheck stubs, retirement information, and student loan information. I have an empty purple binder that I'm sure I'll find a use for, but for now, this is what I'm working with. Not being entirely sure what to do with them once I put my files in there, I decided it was time to reorganize the bookshelf. For years, I've used the bottom shelf to store my binders from my grad school classes. For some reason, despite graduating from my program 2 and 1/2 years ago, and never pulling out the binders to use them once since then, I have a hard time getting rid of them. That being said, I thought it was at least time to move them off the shelf and into a box that will either go in my trunk or in the parent's house somewhere (sorry, ma;). This also meant moving some other things around. I put most of my actual books on the top shelf, put the binders and my other important documents on the second shelf along with all my fun post-its, lists, extra notepads, etc., and some other random notebooks and books on the bottom shelf. I think I'm pretty content with the new look. Like my sister-in-law Casey mentioned in her blog recently, I am interested in reading more these days, especially since I no longer have homework tying me down. Not sure what I want to read at this point, but I just think it's something I should do more. I enjoy it, and I put it off far too often. Hopefully that changes soon, and if so, then perhaps the bookshelf will need another reorganization in the near future to accommodate the new purchases. ;) Well, not like I'm going to go too crazy, because I'm also trying to budget, but a little 'me' purchase here and there hopefully won't break the bank!

So... There ya have it, folks. In between catching up on the TV show "Scandal," cleaning and organizing the apartment, taking my tablet to Sprint for them to buy it back (I don't use it anymore since getting my iPhone, and they paid me $45 for it, so thought it was worth it), buying myself a new shirt at H&M (can't find the shirt online to show you), and doing a little cooking, I'd call it a successful weekend! I can't believe it's Sunday night already. :( Super Bowl just started. Not overly invested, but I'm rooting for the 49ers. I'll be in the kitchen making dinner soon, but for now, I'll just enjoy my Miller High Life and watch this first quarter unfold. Hope you all had a nice, productive weekend like I did! :)