Asian Chicken Stir Fry

 IMG_2166

Sometimes I feel like no matter what age we are, we are always looking forward. As children, we look forward to that mysterious land of “high school,” where you can drive a car, stay out late, and presumably have the exact same social life as the cast members of Saved by the Bell. As teenagers, we look forward to “college” where curfews don’t exist and we possess that coveted “independence” we always longed for. And as adults, you’re always thinking of the next phase…marriage, buying a house, having kids, advancing your careers, and finally…retirement. It’s hard to “enjoy the moment” when we are constantly looking forward. The funny thing about me is, I never seemed to look forward to the same periods of life as my peers. As a child, I don’t remember longing for high school or college like most of my friends did. Instead, I always remember thinking that the first few years of marriage would be the happiest time in my life. This is undoubtedly a strange thing for a 13 year old to think…but oddly enough, the current time in my life is something I always looked forward to. But this current phase didn’t quite pan out exactly the way 13 year old me thought it would. Because, believe it or not… it is way better. I’m happier right now than I ever thought was possible. Because coming home to my very best friend every night is truly the best. So rather than spending my time over planning for the future..I’m focusing on enjoying this incredible, wonderful season of life. And one of my favorite things about this phase in life is cooking simple dinners at home. As much as Eric would be perfectly happy eating grilled chicken or pizza every night, I love coming up with different  ideas to mix up our weekday dinners. And this was a recent creation that turned out to be quite the hit. It’s very simple to make, and far cheaper and healthier than hitting up the Chinese takeout place down the street. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients: Makes 2 servings

  • 2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups frozen vegetables (I used a “stir fry blend” of broccoli, carrots, green beans & cauliflower)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 3-4 tablespoons sunflower seeds

Preparation:

  1. Place raw chicken breasts (thinly sliced) into a large ziploc bag, and cover with next four ingredients (soy sauce through olive oil). Let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes
  2. Heat a large sauce pan over medium high heat
  3. After chicken has marinated, pour entire contents of the bag into the saucepan.
  4. Cook until chicken has cooked through, and add frozen vegetables
  5. Continue to stir until vegetables are heated through
  6. To serve, place cooked brown rice on a plate, and top with chicken stir fry mixture. Top with sunflower seeds

IMG_2165

Wedding Recap: The Details

140426Jones-877

For a few years, I worked as a Wedding & Events Manager so I ended up picking up a few ideas along the way. Through the many weddings I worked on, I quietly collected a few ideas for when my own big day came along. But from the moment that Eric and I knew that marriage was in our future, I knew that Michigan State would have to play a big role in our wedding day. We met and fell in love on the beautiful campus of our alma mater, so we knew we wanted to have a little MSU element to the big day. We picked green and white as our colors, and carried that theme throughout the day.

140426Jones-633

Another element we tied in was the monogram J that was featured on our programs, menus and hotel welcome bags. I downloaded the monogram on WeddingPaperDivas.com and added it to all of our paper items.

140426Jones-891

Whenever I attend weddings, I love it when the menu for the dinner is placed on the table. As a food lover, it is always fun to read about the meal ahead. For our meal, we served:

Tuscan salad with mixed greens, tomato, green pepper, cucumber, garbanzo beans, &  hard boiled egg, drizzled with vinaigrette and served with warm rolls and sweet butter

Parmesan crusted halibut with Dijon mustard, crusted with parmesan, herbs and crispy fried onions, paired with a Prime Filet Mignon topped with a mushroom sauce, served with whipped potatoes and roasted vegetables

For our escort cards, we had a small white box for each guest with their name, table number, and the corresponding MSU landmark that we had designated for each table. The boxes were filled with Reese’s peanut butter cups and tied with a green ribbon

140426Jones-879

On our tables, we had centerpieces of white hydrangeas and green mums, and had a gold framed picture of an MSU landmark.

140426Jones-878

I also found these cute “Bride” and “Groom” print outs on Wedding Paper Divas, and I thought they added a cute touch to Eric and my chairs

140426Jones-881

140426Jones-880

And our final touch were the welcome bags that we had for each of our guests that stayed overnight at the hotel. In the bags, we included a green Jones soda, some homemade green & white chocolate covered pretzels, green & white mints, and Bettermade potato chips, which are a Detroit Classic. My mom even created the personalized labels which had our names and wedding date.

IMG_1745

And with that, my “wedding recaps” have come to an end. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed sharing them!

Wedding Recap: The Reception

140426Jones-749

After the ceremony, we had a few hours before our reception was set to begin. We used this time to take a bunch of fun pictures all around Downtown Detroit with our bridal party. Eric says this was one of his favorite parts of the day because it was so relaxed, and we just got to hang out with our best friends.

140426Jones-824 140426Jones-766 140426Jones-728

After our picture extravaganza, we made our way to the Colony Club. We only looked at a few venues when we were wedding planning, but I could not have been happier with what we chose. The Colony Club has such an elegant, vintage feel to it and it made for an absolutely beautiful reception. We arrived as our cocktail hour was ending, so our Banquet Manager led us up to the two private “Bride” and “Groom” suites to enjoy some hors d’ouerves and champagne before we joined our guests. As I mentioned before, this was one of my favorite parts of the night. It was so nice to just spend a little extra time with my four best friends before all of the excitement of the reception began.

140426Jones-911

Before we knew it, it was time to be announced as “Mr. and Mrs. Jones.” We had our band play Thunderstruck by ACDC as an homage to Michigan State Football, as this song is blasted through Spartan Stadium at the start of each game. Eric and I then cut our delicious cake. We had four different flavors scattered throughout the tiers: white cake with strawberry mouse, yellow cake with chocolate mousse, chocolate cake with white chocolate mousse, and my favorite: chocolate cake with peanut butter mousse

140426Jones-941

Sadly, this was the only bite of cake I had all night! Having good food was Eric and my number one decision when picking a wedding venue, but oddly enough, the food was the last thing I thought about all day. We ate as much of our dinner as we could, but we were far too excited to really sit down and eat our whole meal. But from what I can remember, our duo plate of filet and parmesan crusted halibut was delicious!

140426Jones-980

Eric’s brother, Mike gave a great Best Man speech, and LT gave the sweetest Maid of Honor toast that made us laugh and cry. She shared memories of our days playing dress up and watching Say Yes to the Dress, and how we have kind of been planning this wedding since day one. LT has been by my side for as long as I can remember and it was so wonderful to hear her share our memories of growing up and how it all led to meeting my groom. She is the sweetest, best friend a girl could have.

140426Jones-1001

Soon it was time for our first dance. I have been a huge music lover my entire life, and I always loved dissecting song lyrics and finding ones that fit specific moments in my life. So one of the nicest parts of wedding planning, was picking a first dance song that fit us perfectly. When we first met, we bonded over our mutual love of Frank Sinatra, so we knew one of Old Blue Eyes’ songs was a must. We listened to all of our old favorites, but when we stumbled upon an old version of “It Had to be You”, we knew we had found the one. Eric and I both didn’t date too much before we met each other. In fact, neither of us had dated anyone for more than a couple of months before we met. I like to think that we just didn’t fit with anyone but each other. Thus, “It had to be you” has become our song.

140426Jones-1082

Next, I had a special dance with my dad. My dad owns every single Jimmy Buffett album and made sure that my brother and I grew up as loyal Parrotheads. And though Jimmy Buffett is known for “Margaritaville” and “Fins,” he has some beautiful ballads as well. One of which is called Delaney talks to Statues. When I was 12 or 13 I remember going through a tough time with the common woes of middle school. To cheer me up, my dad wrote the lyrics of this song in a letter to me, and it is still something I cherish today. It surprised me how much a song that Jimmy Buffett wrote for his daughter could sound like my own dad had written it just for me. It has always been really special to my dad and I, so of course we had to use it for our dance. We danced and sang every word of our song, which made it one of my most vivid memories from our wedding day.

140426Jones-1115

Next, Eric danced with his Mom to “In My Life” by the Beatles. Eric and his mom have always been very close, and it was so nice to watch them share a special moment together. It is so easy to see that many of the wonderful qualities that make Eric who he is came right from his mom. You can’t help but love these two.

140426Jones-1148

After all of the official wedding activities were done, it was time to dance! We saw our band, Skyline and the Backstreet Horns, at a friend’s wedding and knew we wanted to have them at ours. They played a great mix of contemporary songs, Motown hits, and beautiful slow songs. And my mom and Eric were absolutely thrilled that they played their favorite song “Happy.” These two love this song so much and have deemed it “their song.” So cute! Everyone was up dancing late into the night, which was absolutely perfect.

140426Jones-1211

And with that, our wonderful wedding day came to a close. It was so full of amazing memories and fun and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

Wedding Recap: Our Ceremony

140426Jones-336

Shortly after Eric and I got engaged, we decided to get married at St. Paul Catholic Church. I went to grade school at St. Paul Catholic School, and spent hours of my childhood in that beautiful church.It was the church I was baptized in, had my first communion and confirmation, and even had my 8th grade graduation. It was really important to me to get married there, and Eric was sweet enough to be on board with the idea. But in order to assure that both of our faiths were represented, we had Eric’s close family friend and pastor co-officiate the ceremony. It was perfect. Eric and I are pretty traditional and chose to not see each other before I walked down the aisle. It made me even more anxious to get out there and see my groom!

140426Jones-323

Since the boys were already at the church, our limo went back to my parents’ house to pick me and my bridesmaids up. We saw the boys on the side of the church as we pulled up, but we were safely hidden inside. It was so fun to sit with my girlfriends and watch all of our guests arrive right before our ceremony was set to begin. Soon enough my Auntie Karol, who was helping pass out programs, came to get me and my bridesmaids and bring us into the church. I waited in the back of the church with my best girlfriends, my parents and Eric’s parents as the organist began to play the processional songs. I waited as Eric’s parents, my mom and then my bridesmaids, each went down the aisle one by one.

140426Jones-368 140426Jones-386

And then Canon in D began to play, and I knew it was our cue.

140426Jones-406-2

My dad and I have always been close so I had both looked forward to and dreaded this moment for as long as I can remember. I knew walking down the aisle arm and arm with my Pa would be incredibly emotional, and it definitely was. But as soon as I caught a glimpse of Eric, any nervousness I had vanished. I had known I was going to marry Eric only a few short weeks after meeting him nearly 5 years ago, yet it was hard to believe that that moment was already here.

140426Jones-417

We reached the front of the aisle and my dad, Eric and I had a special moment to ourselves before my dad kissed us both and sent us the rest of the way down the aisle.

140426Jones-423

Eric and I sat on the alter with Eric’s Best Man and brother Mike, and my Maid of Honor, LT. And then my cousins Lauren and Meghan  and Eric’s cousin, Katie read the scripture passages we chose for the ceremony. We were also lucky enough to have my cousin Kristen as our soloist for the ceremony. Kristen has sung at a number of weddings and was absolutely incredible with planning the music and singing for our entire ceremony.

140426Jones-434 140426Jones-441

After the readings were done, Pastor Paul preached a beautiful sermon. And then the Deacon called us up to the alter as he blessed our wedding rings. It was then time for our vows.

140426Jones-498

We chose to say the traditional wedding vows, because we both felt there was something really special about repeating the same wedding vows that our parents, grandparents and so many other couples that we look up to said at their own weddings. After we exchanged our rings, it was time for our first kiss as Mr. and Mrs. Jones.

140426Jones-530

140426Jones-531

We then turned to face our family and friends sitting in the church and I was overwhelmed by all of the love in the room. It was wonderful to see all the people we loved sitting together in front of us, cheering us on. We then went down to the pews to hug our families as all three of my cousins sang “How Beautiful” from the choir loft.

140426Jones-565 140426Jones-573

I vaguely remember giving my mom, dad and Grandma a hug, but one of my clearest memories from the day is when I made my way over to my brother. Sean is the type of older brother that every girls wants.  He is protective, caring and incredibly supportive. He has taught me so many things over the years and absolutely always has my back. And on my wedding day, just like every other day, he was my Best Man. We gave each other a long hug in that pew, and managed to squeeze out a quick “love you” before it was time for the final part of the ceremony. The Deacon and Pastor Paul officially announced us as Mr. and Mrs. Jones!

140426Jones-581

140426Jones-586

Wedding Recap: Getting Ready

April 26th, 2014 was without a doubt, one of the best days of my life. I married the love of my life surrounded by family and friends. It can’t get much better than that! So in an effort to keep the memories from that day fresh, I thought I would share them here. I hope you all don’t mind a short break from the recipes, but I promise that the next few posts will be just as sweet!

I woke up bright and early that day because I was just too excited to sleep. My mom and I had hair appointments at 8:00am, but since we were both too excited to sleep, we had the chance to sit and chat over a cup of coffee. I loved that we could just sit and sip our coffee together and discuss the excitement that was to come. It was the perfect start to the day. I had my hair and makeup done, and eventually, my beautiful Maid of Honor LT, joined us at the salon to get her own hair done. The three of us then went back home to my parents house, and my other bridesmaids began to arrive.

140426Jones-3

I was so lucky to be surrounded by my 4 best friends in the world. These girls all entered my life at different times, but they all are more like sisters than friends. LT, Annie, Lo and Leona are the best friends a girl could ask for and it meant so much to have them by my side for such a special day.

140426Jones-15

I gave each of the girls a champagne glass with their initial, as we had to have a little something special to drink our mimosas from. We chatted and drank our mimosas as the photographers arrived.

Before I knew it, it was time to get into the dress! I had tried on 10 or 15 other dresses before I found the right one. It wasn’t anything like what I had initially looked for, but it was the first dress that I really felt like myself in, so I knew it was “the one.”

140426Jones-9-2

For my shoes, I bought some satin peep toe wedges. But the finishing touch was a pair of emerald green clip on earrings that my mom found at an estate sale.

Si140426Jones-39

My mom, LT and Annie had all accompanied me to my dress fittings and had watched the dress shop owner lace up the somewhat elaborate back.

140426Jones-86-2

However, they couldn’t quite seem to get the ribbons to lay flat. So, as I mentioned before, my boys had to step in.

140426Jones-69

 140426Jones-113

I may be the only bride in history whose dad and brother got her into her wedding dress, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was such a funny moment, and something I will always remember. After I was ready, we took some family photos. It was important to me to take these pictures at my parents house, because I loved the idea of having pictures taken where we had had so many family Christmases, birthdays, and Monday night dinners. It was, and always will be “home.”

140426Jones-229

My brother and I

 

140426Jones-234

Our little foursome

140426Jones-254-2

Me and my Pa

 

 

140426Jones-256

140426Jones-261

My mom and I

 

140426Jones-265

 

Next, LT and I took some pictures outside of our houses. We spent most of our early days running back and fourth between our two houses, and always joked that we spent more time in the middle of the street than at either of our houses. We even have a few pictures from grade school in our dress up clothes of old bridesmaid dresses, so it only seemed fitting to have a few pictures taken in the same setting, along with LT’s little sister Marybeth.

140426Jones-312

140426Jones-314

 

140426Jones-317

LT, Marybeth and I

Meanwhile, the boys were already at the church taking a few photos of their own.

140426Jones-331 140426Jones-339

Soon enough it was 2:30 and it was time to get married!

 

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops

IMG_1925

I was lucky to grow up in a household where healthy dinners were the norm. I feel like sitting down each night with my family and sharing a nutritious meal really helped me set healthy habits that have stuck with me through adulthood. So it is definitely something that I want to keep up in Eric and my little “family of two”. However, cooking healthy for just myself is quite different than cooking for me and a boy. Although a baked sweet potato and a salad is a perfectly filling meal for me, it wouldn’t quite appease my 6 foot 2 husband. So I have already learned a few key things to create a healthy meal that keeps us both full and happy. First of all, I try to include a source of lean protein. And though Eric would be perfectly happy eating chicken every night, I try to make a good mix of chicken, fish or lean pork, just to switch it up a bit. And second, I always make three portions, one for me and two for Eric. That way I’ve made enough to fill him up, but I’m not eating huge “guy sized” portions. This is a recipe I found in Cooking Light magazine and I have a feeling it might become a regular recipe in our household. Quickly pan frying the pork chops give the breading a crisp texture, while finishing them off in the oven keep them nice and tender. And with a side of roasted asparagus, you have yourself a delicious, healthy dinner.

Ingredients: Makes four pork chops

    • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
    • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated parmesan cheese
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
    • 2 large egg whites
    • 4 boneless thin-cut pork loin chops
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

Preparation:

  1. In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, parmesan, sage, salt & pepper
  2. In a second shallow dish (or paper plate), place all purpose flour
  3. In a third shallow dish, combine beaten egg whites and dijon mustard
  4. To bread pork chops, place chops in the flour mixture and shake of excess flour, next place in egg mixture, again shaking off any excess, and finally, dredge pork chops in breadcrumb mixture.
  5. After you have repeated this process with all 4 pork chops, heat a large frying pan over medium high heat
  6. Place oil in frying pan and turn pan until oil coats it
  7. Place breaded pork chops in the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until chops are slightly browned
  8. Then place porkchops on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 180 for internal temperature of the chops.

IMG_1921

Breakfast Cookies

IMG_1735

I’ve never been particularly good with change. I was that delightful child who cried at the beginning and the end of every school year. My poor parents. I have always been someone who has thrived on a set routine, so any major life change typically throws me for a loop. When most of my peers looked forward to high school and college with excited anticipation, I was busy mourning the loss of the  current state of life that I’d just gotten used. And though I looked forward to the new chapters in my life, I still dreaded the changes that those looming graduation days brought. I hated the thought of saying good bye to precious parts of my life that encapsulated the current season of life- be it a hobby, a job, or a friendship, I was always scared of what would happen if that goodbye turned out to be permanent. Even when unhappy phases of life came to a close, I still feared what would happen next. When I left my first full time job, a job that was marked by stress and anxiety, I still left with a slight sense of regret. Because I didn’t know what would happen next. Yet here I am, only a a week away from the biggest life change I’ve ever experienced, and there isn’t a trace of sadness or dread in my temperament. I can’t wait to begin my married life with Eric. I can’t wait to experience the ups and downs and the changing tides of our life together. I’m excited to make plans for the future, but change them as we go. Because we’ll be partners in it all, and that is pretty fantastic.

But luckily, the best parts of my current phase of life, get to come with me in my next chapter as a “Mrs.”One of which is going over to my Mom’s house and spending the afternoon chatting and baking. We made these breakfast cookies last weekend as a nice little break from wedding planning, and I realized that baking with my mom has been something I’ve carried with me through each phase of life. From the time I was a 1st grader standing on a stool to help her make cookies, to the times I came home for weekends in college to cook dinner, time in the kitchen with my mom is ever present. And though I’m excited for changes to come, this is one thing I am so happy will never change.

These “cookies” are so healthy you could easily eat them for breakfast, but they are definitely sweet enough for dessert. They include entirely wholesome ingredients and are incredibly addicting.

Ingredients: Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, Makes 24 cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 fig butter (The original recipe calls for apple butter, but since we couldn’t find any apple butter, we substituted with fig butter found at Trader Joe’s and it was delicious)
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried raisins

Preparation:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until just combined
  2. Place tablespoons of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 for 15 minutes

IMG_1734

A Bridal Shower Weekend

IMG_1600

What a fun weekend! My Saturday was filled to the brim with pre wedding festivities. I started the day off at a bridal shower given by my Grandma and Auntie Karol.

IMG_1601

My Aunt and Grandma

We had lunch at the Ardmore Cafe with 20 or so of my family and friends and it was such a great afternoon. We ate lunch, chatted and then I was given so many thoughtful gifts. My cousin Jenny and Aunt Norma even put together a box of decorations for each holiday of the year. And they even included Eric’s favorite holiday…football season

IMG_1611It was such a great shower and it was so wonderful to spend with members of both Eric and my families. A big thank you to my Aunt and Grandma for all of the planning that went into the day!

IMG_1605

All the girls in the family

Later on, my best friend Annie and her mom hosted a lingerie shower at their house. The night started off with a few cocktails. Namely an incredibly delicious Champagne Punch.

IMG_1615

It was great to spend the night with friends from grade school, high school, college and of course my favorite cousins.

IMG_1619

My cousins and I

IMG_1616

My best friend Annie

We laughed until my stomach hurt and danced the night away. And I was given some pretty things for when I’m a Mrs.

 

IMG_1624

But the best part was just hanging out with so many of the girls in my life. I feel so blessed to have such amazing family and friends and was so happy to be able to spend so much time with them all this weekend. And before we know it, April 26th will be upon us. And we’ll all be together again to celebrate what is sure to be one of the best days ever. 2 months to go!

 

Turkey Sausage and Spinach Lasagna

 DSC00730

In about a year I will be a married lady. Which means” my single girl” dinners of baked sweet potatoes or a bowl of cereal may be behind me. Because although I find a bowl of oatmeal or a veggie burger to be a perfectly acceptable meal, my husband-to-be might require a little more on his plate. And since I don’t really see myself cooking two separate dinners every night, I thought I should start trying out some recipes that will appeal to both of us. Healthy and light enough for my tastes, but filling enough for Eric. And this lasagna recipe is the perfect combination of the foods we both enjoy. It is chock full of the spinach I love, but it is filled and covered with just enough cheese to keep Eric happy. The recipe comes from Cooking Light magazine, and with 8 servings, it would be a great meal to make on a Sunday afternoon to result in a week full of delicious leftovers. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Recipe Adapted slightly from Cooking Light

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup lowfat milk
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 (12 oz) package of fresh spinach
  • 5 (4 oz) Sweet Turkey Sausage links
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 ounce shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation:

  1. Combine flour and next four ingredients (milk through bay leaf) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook 8 minutes until thick and bubbly, stirring consistently
  2. Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper.
  3. Spread milk mixture onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking pan that has been coated with cooking spray
  4. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and add in lasagna noodles, let boil until noodles are cooked through. Drain and set noodles aside
  5. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add two tablespoons water and fresh spinach; cook spinach for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts
  6. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet with spinach
  7. Break sausages up with a spoon and let cook  for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through
  8. Add garlic to skillet and let simmer for 2-3 minutes
  9. To assemble lasagna, place two noodles side by side in the baking dish
  10. Next spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese on top of each noodle
  11. Spread a third of the sausage mixture on top of ricotta layer and top with an additional lasagna noodle on each side
  12. Repeat layers twice
  13. Sprinkle top lasagna noodle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese and cover dish with tin foil
  14. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes
  15. Remove baking dish from the oven and turn the oven to Broil mode on high
  16. Place lasagna back in the oven and broil for 2-3 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble and brown slightly
  17. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting

DSC00729