38/52: Yes, I’m still alive.

Wow! Holy cow.

I am so bad. I haven’t blogged in so long. Life has gotten the best of me, yet again. I am so behind, I have such cool recipes and adventures to share. 🙂

First, good news! The teacher strike which lasted nearly 2 weeks, was over a few weeks ago and I was able to return to my internship school last week. It was such a great feeling to walk into the classroom and see all my kiddos faces. And getting oodles of hugs certainly helped! There is nothing better than seeing a kids face light up, and excited to see you. I’ll never get tired of that.

Hmm, what else happened over the past few weeks? Oh, I celebrated my first wedding anniversary with my husband. It was so nice! We decided to just get away for the weekend, and travelled up to Orcas Island. If you aren’t from the PNW, Orcas Island is the largest island in the San Juan island chain. It was beautiful and so peaceful. We stayed in the cutest little condo/suite and just relaxed! Here is the quickie-low down… {If you know me, you know I took zillions of pictures, it was tough to narrow them down}

We took a ferry from Anacortes, WA…

And ended up staying in the little town {their biggest town} of Eastsound, WA.

We celebrated our anniversary with a replica of our wedding cake topper… so YUM. Corina Bakery makes the best chocolate cake, and super yummy espresso buttercream! To die for!

The next morning we decided to explore the island. We headed up to Moran State Park and Mt. Constitution. We were just getting over being sick, so we didn’t hike but instead just drove up hoping for a view. We quickly realized that wasn’t going to happen. We were practically in the clouds! But there was a really cool “castle” — I renamed it Castle Grayskull, but for some reason I don’t think the island will go for it? — which was an old lookout.

After Moran State Park, we drove around to the north side of the island. It was so beautiful and peaceful.

For dinner that night we headed over to the historic Rosario Mansion, which was neat, but I wasn’t entirely impressed. Their website made it look much more well kept. But it could have been because it was considered the “off season” for tourism.

 

All in all it was a great trip! Our actual anniversary was on Monday, so we got another special day to celebrate. I had made Johnny a special card, which I gave him with breakfast. And I came home to beautiful roses.

It was a perfect and completely memorable first anniversary {well technically 3-2-1 anniversary! 3 years dating, 2 years since proposal and 1 year since our wedding — yes, all on the same day! September 19.} Man, how lucky am I that I get to be married to this man for the rest of my life. Life is good! 🙂

Wow, feels good to get this post written. I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time and every time I sit down to type I get sucked into homework {which is what I should be doing right now – lol}.

I have some fun recipes coming up to share with you guys, I can’t wait. Those will be posted over the next few weeks. Before then though, I need your help with something. To cut or not to cut? That is the question. I am fed up with my hair and want to cut it. I also feel that shorter hair would make me look slightly older/more professional. I usually make drastic decisions when it comes to cutting hair, so I want to make sure and think this one through. So, I thought I could implore the opinions of my readers!

Here is me yesterday…

Here is what I’m thinking for cut/style…

Thoughts? Vote in the poll below!

I hope everyone has an awesome and productive day! Until next time…

 

35/52: Blackberry Pie Bars

What a beautiful weekend we just had, right? I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend, I know that we sure did. I mean, how could you not enjoy your weekend when you get to wake up to a view/sunrise like this nearly every morning? We have certainly been blessed with some gorgeous weather lately. {Minus the dreary skies yesterday for most of the day}.

I’m not complaining! 😉

Like I said, we had a good weekend! We spent time at our favorite place {The Parkway} on Friday, with some of our favorite people, drinking some good brews.

On Saturday we spent an hour or so at the IPA Fest and then headed out to a friend’s house… for more good times and good people! There is something so relaxing about summer dinners with friends. It was so nice to relax in the back yard, eat dinner and just talk. I even learned to play bocce ball! However, I am fairly certain that my husband carried our team. I think it is safe to say that I do not have a future in bocce ball. 😉 Haha.

For dinner, it was suggested that if I felt up to baking that dessert would be welcomed… so of course I didn’t hesitate and immediately started looking up different recipe options. Unlike some bloggers who are in other areas of the United States who are ready to start baking fall recipes, summer is just now kicking off here  in the Northwest. So, I wanted to find something refreshing and summery. I always jump to the idea of cupcakes, but my friends aren’t big fans of cake so that was out. And, it was probably a good thing… I always seem to first think of baking cupcakes. I think they’ve become a ‘comfort zone’ for me. After much searching I found something that seemed super yummy… and screamed summer… blackberry pie bars! Can you say yum?! Once I saw the picture I was sold. And the best part? These babies were so easy to make. They turned out looking great and I think the review was unanimous… yummy! You know it’s always a good thing when people go back for seconds on dessert. That is what I love so much about food. Seeing people enjoy food that I have put my hard work and love into… there is nothing better to me then smiling faces!

Mmmmm.. Yeah… served up with a nice little scoop of vanilla ice cream {or rice cream!}. I also think this recipe would be a great base for any type of berry: raspberry, blueberry, etc. It was a perfect combination of pie and cobbler.

Oh yeah. I could almost lick the knife clean. Isn’t there something magical about berries baked up in a pie or cobbler? Or is it just me? 😀

I know summer is almost over for most of the U.S. but for us here in the PNW, it’s really just starting. So be sure to snag this recipe and give it a try before our summer is really over! This is so easy… the hardest part is waiting for it to bake. 😉

Blackberry Pie Bars

Ingredients:

Crust and topping:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, chilled

Fruit filling:
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt
zest of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 lbs fresh blackberries or 2 (16 oz) packages frozen blackberries, thawed and drained

Directions:

To make the crust and topping, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and add to the flour mixture. Process until the butter is evenly distributed but the mixture is still crumbly, 30-60 seconds.

Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to use as the topping. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan, and bake 12-15 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes.

To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a large bowl, then add the sour cream and whisk until smooth. Add the sugar, flour, salt, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Whisk until combined. Gently fold in the berries and spoon the mixture over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture evenly over the filling, and bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until bubbly {My oven required much more time, I added about 12 minutes onto the bake time, and simply covered the edges with foil so they did not get over brown}.

Cool at least 1 hour before cutting into bars, or scoop out of the pan to serve cobbler-style.

Source & Recipe: Slightly adapted from Pink Parsley and originally from, The Pastry Queen.

34/52: Friday and cool gadgets.

Happy Friday all!

Thank goodness it is Friday…

Haha. Sorry. I had to go there. It’s an inside joke between one of my girlfriends and I! Happy Friday girl!  Anyway…The beginning of this week seemed long and the last two days have flown by! Of course, the two days I have free to get things done. The beginning of this week was great. I spent the first three days of this week with my mentor teacher. We started getting our classroom together for next week and organizing things for the kiddos. I am so blessed, she is such a wonderful, up-beat teacher. I just know this is going to be a great year! Everything started sinking in when she would talk about different options for set-ups and teaching units… she started referring to the classroom as ‘ours’ or saying, ‘when we do this’, ‘when you take the classroom over in the spring’… seriously, so cool. Fun, fun. I can’t wait until Thursday to meet our kiddos!

I am working up some super awesome posts for you guys, but I want to make sure they are perfected… so I will start posting them next week most likely. Some really cool ideas. I can’t wait!

Yesterday and this morning I have been online searching here and there for a yummy dessert recipe. We are going to a friend’s house for dinner tomorrow evening and I of course wanted to bring a yummy dessert! I wanted to bring something full of summer inspiration. However, for some reason the ‘in season’ fruits always slip my mind! I think the seasons blend together more or less for me. I never know when its rhubarb season, strawberry season, etc. I seem to always miss those transitions. Maybe it’s because I always had an abundance of both rhubarb, strawberries and other goodies like special apples and berries from either my grandparent’s house or our own field when I was growing up. So I decided to do some research! And of course, I had a little helper…

Yeah. You try telling him he isn’t an itty bitty puppy and really can’t fit on my lap anymore. He was such the helper, kept trying to attack the keyboard. LOL. On Monday he turned 10 months. Man, I can’t believe he is this big! When we first met Mr. Winston, he fit into the palm of our hand. Literally… he was only 2 weeks old!

“Hi! This was taken on my 10 month birthday. I’m so super cute!”…Awh, happy 10 months little dude! {Seriously… I feel so sorry for my future children… I’m overly annoying with my dog and I don’t imagine it will be any better with my future kids… sorry future children!}

Anyway… after much searching I found a super yummy looking recipe. I am anxious to make it and share it with you all, but you will just have to wait! I’ll be sure to give y’all a review of what everyone thinks of it tomorrow night. 🙂 While I was searching I found a really neat resource I wanted to share with you guys. It’s a search box to help you locate ‘in season’ produce! I think this will be really helpful for me in the winter. I always wonder what is the cheapest ‘in season’ fruit, etc. And since I never quite know, I always plan menus with items that aren’t in season and therefore way over priced. Since I was so excited about this, I wanted to share it with you! Hopefully it will help everyone cut costs a little on their grocery bills!

Check out… Seasonal Cornucopia! This gem will show you produce that is in season for the Pacific Northwest.

I also found a really cool gadget I wanted to post on here, but it is not compatible with WordPress blogs. So be sure to check this Seasonal Foods Google gadget out too! This gadget is really cool because you can select any state within the US and they will list all in season foods!

In other news… I need some help. Our first wedding anniversary is almost here! Less than a month. We have reserved a sweet little suite {haha} over on Orcas Island for the weekend of our anniversary. But I want to make it as special as possible. I already have ordered a replica of the top-tier of our wedding cake… hello moist chocolate cake with Valhalla espresso buttercream! And I think I am going to put together a play list of our wedding day songs for the drive up to the ferry. Does anyone else have fun first wedding anniversary ideas? I would love to hear them! I am lacking a little creativity in this department. Seriously… post your ideas people! 🙂

Well, I hope everyone has a great weekend. And if you don’t have anything planned, come hang out with us at IPA Fest on Saturday!

Ciao!

30/52: Chicken Tortilla Soup

What a beautiful weekend we had, right!? I loved seeing the sunshine, it was a welcomed change from the dreary, autumn like weather we’ve been having. And let me just tell you the reason I’m posting late {again… I know, I know}… it was because I was livin’ it up in the bee-u-tee-ful weather. Well, that’s what I wish I could tell you. Truth be told, I was livin’ it up… On my couch.   :-/ For those who know me I have had a horrible stint of bring sick with one thing or another since May. I thought I had finally gotten better, but my lovely allergies led me to a horrible sinus infection which led to a bigger infection in my lungs and it totally knocked me down ALL weekend. Sigh. Thank goodness for my loving and kind Hubby who kicked it on the couch with me all weekend. We have almost finished Pacific and we just bought it yesterday {for those who don’t know it is total of nearly 10 hours about the war in the Pacific}. Watch it people! Good stuff! I also managed to pop out some yummy goodies for us for my July Baking project with my Aunt, but due to my being sick and other circumstances that project will be posted later this week. And believe you me… It’s a goooood post, so stay tuned.

Long story short, due to my recovery, my post is a little late. Thank goodness for antibiotics. I’m going on nearly 2 weeks and didn’t show signs of getting better. Sigh! Anyway… In honor of my recovery I’m posting my recipe for my favorite soup! While chicken noodle is great, I rarely crave it. My soup of choice is Chicken Tortilla Soup! Delish. 🙂 It is so simple, next time you’re in the mood for soup or you’re sicky, give it a try. It will make you feel better – I’m certain of it. {And pardon the pictures… they were taken with my iPhone… I so didn’t have the energy to grab my Rebel, edit, etc. tonight!}

So yummy…This is definitely my ‘comfort’ soup!

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup black beans
1 cup salsa {I prefer Pace w/ this — you could use fresh salsa but you will get better flavor from Pace}
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup canned corn
Johnnys seasoning salt
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Red pepper flakes {optional}

Directions:

1. Add oil to a large skillet and preheat pan on medium heat. Season chicken with Johnnys, onion powder, garlic powder and red pepper flakes {I cut my chicken into tender size pieces, they were nice and easy to work with}. Add chicken to skillet and cook until just done. Remove from skillet and set aside for them to cool. Once cooled, shred or cut chicken into bite size pieces.

2. Add oil to large pot {about 1 T} and heat on medium. Add onion and garlic, saute until transparent. Add carrots, saute a few moments longer. Once tender, add in the black beans and chicken and stir to combine, then add salsa and give a final stir. Once combined, add chicken broth and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

3.  After first simmer, add corn and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until ready to serve! Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, etc…

Source & Recipe: Santies Sunnyside Up … adapted from my mom’s recipe.

I hope everyone has a fantastic week! Keep checking back for my next awesome, yummy post… I am so excited to share it with you all!

29/52: Phyllo Wrapped Huevos Rancheros

Hmm… it seems to be my routine to post my weekly blog post late! Oops! Last week’s entry is late with good reason though. I decided to ‘unplug’ and relax with my husband since he will be working quite a bit of overtime starting this week. I will likely only see him in the morning for a little bit {about 30 minutes when getting him ready to get out the door}, and for a few hours before we go to bed at night. He will be putting in 12 hour days + commute time. Eek.

I had originally planned to post about a super easy chili recipe I made last week, but maybe I’ll save that one for later because I think this recipe is fabulous! I had the Food Network on the other morning {imagine that!} and my hubby saw this recipe, and made sure the ingredients made it on my grocery list. As soon as he said it had black beans in it, I was down! Anything involving black beans is priority on my list — yum! He described the recipe and then I googled it to make sure I wasn’t missing anything… I was thrilled at the fun spin this had on breakfast.

If you guys haven’t watched Big Daddy’s House on Food Network, be sure to do so. He always has super fun and easy recipes that are a spin on traditional recipes – or something entirely new! This one is… Phyllo Wrapped Huevos Rancheros!

Yum! It was super easy and fun — we made it together so that made it even more fun — and delicious too! Due to time issues, we just substituted his ranchero sauce for salsa. If you want to try the sauce too {which we will do next time} check out the link after the recipe.

Phyllo Wrapped Huevos Rancheros

Ingredients:

2 T butter
8 eggs, lightly scrambled
6 sheets phyllo dough
Bread crumbs
1/4 – 1/2 C melted butter
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 C crumbled queso fresco

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and stir with a rubber spatula until halfway cooked. Remove from the heat. Cook’s Note: Eggs will cook more later in the oven.

Lay the phyllo dough out on a parchment lined sheet pan and cover with a slightly damp towel.

Sprinkle a large cutting board lightly with bread crumbs (this will help prevent phyllo from sticking and also give it an extra crunch in the finished product). Take 1 sheet of phyllo and lay it out on the board. Brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Put another piece on top and brush with butter. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets.

Working lengthwise, spread eggs onto the phyllo leaving 2-inches on each edge. Top with 1/2 can of black beans and 1 cup of crumbled queso fresco. Roll the phyllo into a pinwheel and glue the final edge with melted butter. Brush the entire log with melted butter. Put on a parchment lined quarter sheet pan and bake until nicely browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

*My note: Serve with sour cream, salsa and smashed avocado {or guacamole}*

Source & Recipe: Big Daddy’s House

Have an awesome week everyone!! 🙂

16/52: Weekend getaway – Port Townsend, WA

This past weekend we were planning on taking John’s dad out to Port Townsend for his early birthday present {today is his actual birthday — happy birthday Senior!}. One of our favorite breweries is in Port Townsend, and considering John and his dad love brewing beer, we thought it would be fun to take him up there. Last minute we decided it would be fun to turn it into a weekend getaway. It was nice to get out of ‘dodge’ for the night!

It was also Winston’s first ‘big’ road/overnight trip! Less than an hour in, he was already knocked out.

Sleepy boy! 🙂

We got into town and decided to grab some lunch – I had one of the best burgers of my life at Sirens Pub! Oh my gosh – to die for… then we headed to Port Townsend Brewery! Yeah!

A few quick photos – then down to business! I found a new PT {Port Townsend} favorite… I normally love their Scotch Ale. But it doesn’t compare to…

Their Brown Porter!!! YUM!

The other fun part is they have peanuts! It’s the kind of place you just throw the shells on the ground… 🙂

While I was enjoying my brown porter, John was enjoying a Barley Wine and lotsa peanuts. 🙂 We had a lot of fun at the brewery and tasted a few more brews, then headed to a nice dinner to cap off the night. All in the middle of this were my ‘baby’ updates about my sister and nephew. After dinner, John and I went for a little walk around town to enjoy the crisp, spring air and take advantage of the sun! {We’ve been having rain e-v-e-r-y day for I don’t know how long!}

Smile! 🙂

I’m unsure why I always feel compelled to take photos of ferries… we have a trillion of them in Washington. There’s just something about them!

There is also just something about being by the water… John and I love the water. I doubt we could ever move away from it. It’s so soothing and peaceful.

It was a beautiful end to our evening! We had a great time and really enjoyed being out-of-town. Sometimes its good to get away even if you’re only a few hours from home.

Oh hi little friend. 😉 This is one thing I could stand missing. Sea gulls are so obnoxious. But this little guy wanted to pose for me.

Oh yeah, and we stopped by the Bayview for some breakfast the next morning. The restaurant isn’t anything super special, but it is right on the water and it’s where we ate breakfast after John proposed to me! We had to go back… Awh. 😉 Oh, and another reason I couldn’t leave the Pacific Northwest? Check this out… Awh. Beautiful.

Can’t beat that.

See what I mean? Peaceful. Love it.

Thats all folks…Until next time… {I have some super yummy recipes coming up!}

15/52: Strawberry Cheesecake Squares

Woo hoo! Happy Wednesday. We’ve made it half way through the week. 🙂 I was originally going to save this recipe for a different post but decided I couldn’t wait! You see, I’ve decided I need to get more serious about working out and having delicious baked goodies around the house makes it difficult. So, I won’t be baking until after my bestie’s wedding at the end of June! JUNE! How am I going to make it? …I’m sure I will find tons of healthy recipes to share. Hehe.
 
We had one of Johnny’s friends over for dinner on Sunday and naturally that screamed “bake something yummy!”. But his friend doesn’t like overly sweet desserts. After looking through my new favorite cookbook {Our Best Bites – and no, I’m not Mormon but the recipes are to-die-for! So even if you aren’t a Mormon, check the cookbook out!}, which is also one of my favorite blogs, I settled on this yummy Strawberry Cheesecake Square recipe! All in all the recipe is pretty simple. My squares didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as theirs did, but nonetheless I took pictures. Don’t let the pictures discourage you because these are absolutely delicious. And, they gave me a little hint of spring which I {and most other Washingtonians} so desperately need right now! And I now know how incredible easy it is to make your own strawberry sauce. I’m tempted to try it with other berries and fruits next. I mean, how fun would a blackberry sauce drizzled over pecan pancakes be?! Such a fun and versatile concept.

So, without further adieu, I present to you… Strawberry Cheesecake Squares!

 
 And they are even yummier {that’s a word, right?} with the leftover strawberry sauce drizzled over top!

  

Strawberry Cheesecake Squares

Ingredients:

1 package Pecan Sandies Cookies, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
11 oz. cream cheese (1 8-oz. package + 3 oz. of another package, not low-fat), softened
2 eggs
2/3 c. sugar
pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 c. Breakstone’s Sour Cream
1 1/4 c. strawberry sauce* or strawberry jam, divided (recipe below; you can also use jarred strawberry topping or canned strawberry pie filling)

*Strawberry Sauce
1 pint fresh strawberries – washed, hulled and roughly chopped
1/3 c. white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a medium sauce pain and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring and breaking up strawberries constantly with a wooden spoon. After 5 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool enough, transfer to a blender and pulse until smooth (or your desired texture).

Preheat oven to 375.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a food processor, process 3/4 of the Pecan Sandies (reserve 6). Mix with melted butter and lightly press onto the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cream cheese eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, almond extract, and sour cream. Beat on high for 4-5 minutes. Spread half of the cheesecake batter onto the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Pour 3/4 c. of the strawberry sauce over the batter, spreading gently to cover the surface (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Spread remaining cheesecake batter over the strawberry layer and then spoon remaining 1/2 c. of strawberry sauce over the batter. Being careful not to cut into the surface of the cookie crust, swirl the strawberry mixture with a butter knife.

Bake at 375 for 25-35 minutes or until center is jiggly but not liquid. While baking, process remaining 6 cookies. During the last 10 minutes of baking, sprinkle the cookies on top of the cheesecake. Chill for at least 8 hours and cut into squares. If desired, drizzle remaining strawberry sauce over the individual squares.

Source & Recipes: Our Best Bites Cookbook

Stay tuned for my next post! Until then…