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Chicken Two Ways — It’s What’s For Dinner

July 21, 2015

We eat a lot of chicken in this house. I’m constantly pinning new chicken recipes to get some cooking inspiration, as well as going back to my tried and true dishes. It’s been a while since I’ve share a recipe, so I thought I’d write up two – yes, TWO – chicken dinner ideas for you. I hope you’re hungry!

The first one came to me through the Urban Accents Brine & Bake Kits. I’ve been using their grill seasonings and rubs since trying them last year. I was so excited when they sent me the new brine and bake kits. These are so delicious! The kit includes an overnight brine blend to lock in the juice, a rub for added flavor, and a savory coating for a mouthwatering crunch. (This is NOT sponsored, by the way.)

I first tried the Tuscan Garlic & Herb Chick’n Brine & Bake mix. That’s the chicken tenders using the kit. Look at that deliciousness! Both Bryan and Sophie LOVED them!

Urban Accent chicken

Urban Accents_Tuscan Garlic and Herb

I also tried the Nashville Hot & Spicy, which includes Habanero Hot & Spicy Brine Blend, Peri Peri Chili Spice Blend, and the crispy crust mixture. This one definitely has a kick to it. You can also buy the brine packets alone if you’re not interested in the crunch (but I recommend the crunch).

Urban Accents_Nashville Hot and Spicy brine

El Diablo Chicken

Speaking of heat, let me tell you about my to other chicken recipe: El Diablo Chicken.

This one has a story behind it: After Sophie was born, our friends, Paul and Polly, were so thoughtful and brought us a delicious dinner, which included Paul’s El Dorado Chicken and Cheese Casserole. The comfort of this creamy chicken casserole was so good and the perfect food for two sleep-deprived parents with a newborn.

For the longest time, I forgot the name was El Dorado and I continued to call it El Diablo. Paul was kind enough to share the recipe with me, which I’ve adapted a bit and will now share with you.

This is the easiest casserole to make and people love it. I’ve continued the tradition Paul and Polly started and make this for many families that welcome new babies.

diablo chicken

El Diablo Chicken

  • 1 lb. of chicken breasts (I use one package; it’s usually a little more than 1 lb.)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can diced green chiles (mild)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups jack cheese (I use pepper jack to give it some added heat)
  • Several cups of crushed tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Cook the chicken however you feel comfortable in order to get it to a diced or shredded texture. You can boil or bake the chicken, and then dice. Or cook it in the slow cooker all day (I tend to do the slow cooker to save time when cooking). Add the diced onion to the chicken when cooking. When they’re both cooked through, transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add to the cooked chicken: cream of chicken soup, sour cream, green chiles and 1 cup of jack cheese. Mix together.

On the bottom of the baking dish, sprinkle half of the crushed tortilla chips to form one layer. Then spread the chicken mixture over the layer of chips. Top with the remaining cup of cheese and the remaining half of the tortilla chips.

Bake for 30 – 45 minutes. It’s best eaten after you bake it since the chips will be crunchy.

If you want to gift this to a friend who needs a meal, cover it in foil, hold off baking and send along an instruction label for the cooking temperature and time. In the words of Annelle, this meal “freezes beautifully.”

TORTILLA CHIP TIP: You know when you get to the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips and all that’s left are crushed chips not suitable for dipping in salsa? When that happens, I dump all those into a large Ziploc bag and freeze them. I continue adding to that bag so that when I’m ready to make El Diablo chicken, my chips are all ready! It beats having to crush up chips every time.

Do you have a favorite chicken recipe you want to share? I’m always looking for inspiration!

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Your Summer 2015 Reading List is Here

July 13, 2015

While I consider myself an avid reader throughout the year, there’s something about summer that lends itself to reading more frequently. Because Sophie loves to spend many days swimming, my favorite summer activity is laying by the pool reading a book. (Good thing we don’t actually have a pool or I’d never get any work done.) I’ve compiled for you a list of recommended summer reads. These are books that I’ve already read or are in my summer reading pile.

summer reading collageThe Death of Santini, Pat Conroy — This is not a new release, but it was on my Amazon wish list for years. So when I found a hardcover for $1 at a used bookstore, I grabbed it for my summer reading. Ever since Prince of Tides, I’ve loved Pat Conroy’s gripping storytelling. The Death of Santini is a heart-wrenching act of reckoning whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men.

The Status of All Things, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke — I can’t wait to read this one written by two best friends! Here’s the premise: What would you do if you could literally rewrite your fate—on Facebook? This heartwarming and hilarious novel follows a woman who discovers she can change her life through online status updates. Given my feelings about Facebook, this one sounds awesome.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, Kelli Estes — Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt’s island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara’s life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. Through the stories Mei Lein tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core ― and force her to make an impossible choice. Love that this is inspired by true events.

The Fig Orchard, Layla Fiske — Loved this book that was written by a San Diego author! In an isolated, tradition-bound village high above the Jordan River, 15-year-old Nisrina Huniah is torn between innocent imaginings and looming apprehensions as she marries a man she has never met, only to fall in love on the night they are wed. Her joy takes a heart-wrenching turn when the encroaching World War fiercely shatters her reality, propelling her on an unexpected journey where she develops friendships that ultimately alter her perception of herself and the world around her.

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline — Molly Ayer is about to “age out” out of the foster care system. As part of her community service, she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance. Molly discovers she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life—answers that will ultimately free them both.

Better Than Before: Master the Habits of Everyday Lives, Gretchen Rubin — This is not a novel, but I found this book by The Happiness Project author super insightful. I love how she writes about the different types of people and how we form habits. I learned a lot about myself and what motivates me by reading this. Highly recommend!

One Plus One, Jojo Moyes — I have not read Me Before You, which everyone seems to love, but this novel sounds promising. Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Jess’ life basically sucks (disappearing husband, crises with kids), until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue her. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be an obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean.

The Good Girl, Mary Kubica — SO GOOD! I read the majority of this book in one day. It’s a mystery that’s similar to Gone Girl, but with SUCH a more satisfying ending! Mia goes missing one day, and the book is told in the three points of view of her mother, a detective, and her captor, all of which paint a picture of what happened to her.

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins — Have not read it yet, but anything that is described as an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller sounds promising to me. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning where she is obsessed with seemingly perfect life of  two other passengers. And then she sees something shocking, reports it to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved.

Tiny Little Things, Beatriz Williams — I love her books, which take place in the 1950s and 60s and I’m always up for a good family drama tale. In this one, Christina Hardcastle—“Tiny” to her illustrious family—stands on the brink of a breathtaking future. Of the three Schuyler sisters, she’s the one raised to marry a man destined for leadership, and with her elegance and impeccable style, she presents a perfect camera-ready image in the dawning age of television politics. But as the season gets underway at the family estate on Cape Cod, three unwelcome visitors appear in Tiny’s perfect life.

Troika, Adam Pelzman — A young Cuban woman passes her nights dancing in a seedy Florida strip club; a Russian orphan loses everything, then builds a prosperous life for himself in New York; a woman struggles to maintain her dignity and hope after a life-changing accident. The three members of the troika are unexpectedly intertwined and discover a world that forces them to challenge their definitions of commitment, love and trust, a world that heals old wounds and inspires them to transform tragedy into beauty. This book reminds me of The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III, which I loved.

Under a Dark Summer Sky, Vanessa Lafaye — Maybe it’s because I just finished watching Bloodline on Netflix, but this book about tangled relationships set in 1935 Florida really appeals to me. It’s been 18 years since Henry went away to war. Still, Missy has waited and now he’s back, but she barely recognizes the desperate, destitute veteran he’s become. As tensions rise in the small community, a massive hurricane is on its way. Based on real historical events, Under a Dark Summer Sky evokes what happens when people, sweating under the weight of their pasts, are tested to the absolute limits of their endurance.

Thanks for reading this long list of book recommendations! Happy Reading!

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what you’re reading this summer. Please give me some recommendations (because clearly I don’t have enough books in my TBR pile).

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An Explosion of 4th of July Desserts

July 1, 2015

I have made many 4th of July desserts the last few years. Instead of forcing you to search my blog for all the recipes, here’s a handy guide to the recipes.

These cupcakes are my favorite dessert so far. I just love the red, white and blue cake, and sparklers on top. You can find the recipe in this post.

cupcakeI love making flag cakes! I was inspired by the Barefoot Contessa recipe. I used her icing recipe, but the yellow cake inside is a boxed mix.

flag cake

I guess I never posted a recipe for these delicious patriotic cookie bars I made last year. They are SO good. I love how easy they are compared to rolling out actual sugar cookies and using cookie cutters. Here’s the recipe I used and I added some patriotic sprinkles to the batter. You can find the sprinkles at Target or a cake supply store.

cookie barsWe used to make a lot of homemade ice cream; that is before my kitten knocked over the ice cream maker’s plastic cover. Now I just resort to buying it. But before that happened, Sophie and I made this patriotic cake batter ice cream. It was quite tasty. Here’s the post that has the recipe.
ice-creamI know a lot of people are not big Jello fans, but these stars are just too cute not to make. They would be a fun dessert for little kids too. Here’s the recipe. 

jello starsI haven’t decided what I’m making for the 4th of July this year. Better start planning!

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“I Heart Summer” Tag Questions Answered and a Video for Fun

June 29, 2015

One of the things I love about blogging is meeting some truly awesome people. I have met many fellow bloggers that live in San Diego (one literally right down the street!), and those in other cities and states. Many of these wonderful people have become good friends to me “in real life.”

Two of these awesome bloggers are the ladies behind the Long Story Short video series on YouTube. Megan and Wendy are Southern California moms, both of whom have their own blogs and started doing these videos last fall.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big YouTube person. Some people can spend hours watching online videos. I am not one of those people. But I LOVE what Megan and Wendy have done, and I get so excited when they release new videos each week.

One of my favorite Long Story Short video themes is the “tag,” which is basically a list of questions each of them answers. The tag is not exclusive to Megan and Wendy or videos, by the way; I’ve answered them here on my blog before too. Most recently they did a “I Heart Summer” tag, which inspired me to answer the questions here on my blog

So now that we’re in the full swing of summer, here are my answers to the “I Heart Summer” tag.

IMG_1092

1. Your dream summer vacation. I’m a homebody and don’t vacation much. But Sophie and I recently experienced the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa in Dana Point and I quickly realized it was likely my ideal vacation. Because it was only a mere 40 minutes north of San Diego), it required no air travel (I hate flying!) and it was so beautiful and relaxing! I read my book and enjoyed a summer drink poolside while Sophie swam. We had good food and I enjoyed much-needed relaxation. I would go back in a heartbeat. You can read more about Laguna Cliffs and our trip here on Red Tricycle.)

2. Favorite summer drink. Lemonade

3. S’mores or ice cream? Ice cream

4. Pool or Beach? Pool! I can’t handle sand.

5. Would you rather spend a summer day outside in the pool or inside watching Netflix? This is a tough one given that I am prone to Netflix binges. But over the summer, I’m going with outside by the pool since I love having reading time during the day.

6. Your most fun summer memory? As a kid, it would be the family vacations we took each summer to Lake Tahoe or the East Coast. Or the annual trip to the San Diego County Fair that my dad took me and my sisters to each year. And I’ve always loved celebrating the 4th of July.

7. Favorite summer nail polish? I don’t wear nail polish in summer. Or fall. Or winter. Or spring.

8. Sunglasses or hats? Sunglasses always

9. Favorite summer scent? My Oceanside beach candle from Bath + Body Works

10. Favorite BBQ food? Good, old-fashioned hamburgers and hot dogs

11. Bikinis, tankinis, or one pieces? One piece

12. Summertime book recommendations. I love reading during the summer!I just finished Joyce Maynard’s memoir, At Home in the World (LOVE her books!). I’m working my way through Orphan Train. Next on my list is The Good Girl and The Girl on the Train. Stay tuned for a future post of summer book recommendations!

And check out Long Story Short with Megan and Wendy where they answer the summer tag in the Newlywed Game style.

Your turn to answer the “I Heart Summer” tag! And do you watch YouTube video series? What do you recommend?

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Goodbye School … Hello Summer Bucket List

June 23, 2015

Someone told me that as we (adults) get older, time passes by so much quicker. When I was young and when Sophie was a toddler, I always thought of time as a slow process with the days and months inching by. But now that I have a daughter who is actively experiencing life and going through time with me, life seems to move so much faster. It seems like it was just yesterday she was starting the school year, and now she’s officially done with first grade. I started this blog when she was barely 2, and now I have a second grader!

First grade was an amazing year for her. Her reading took off! Much like her parents, Sophie loves reading and now reads full chapter books. Her vocabulary and writing ability soared in first grade, as did her math skills. I remember at the beginning of the school year, the teacher said first grade is a year of tremendous growth, and WOW, she wasn’t kidding!

1st grade_first and last dayBut as much as Sophie loved school, we are both SO ready for summer! I just love the slower pace and (I’ll be honest) the sleeping in! We just posted our Summer List this weekend. We have been making these summer lists since 2010 and I absolutely love doing it. I hope we continue to make these lists as she grows older (although I’m sure the items will change).

Although we do plenty of lounging around and a few weeks of camp throughout the summer, I like that the Summer List gives us fun things to do during the 11 weeks she’s out of school. I love using the time off to take advantage of fun things in San Diego that we never do.

Here’s what’s in store for this year:

summer list 2015

And even though I don’t stop working over the summer, the days have a slower pace to them and I seem to have a bit more leisurely time. So with that, I have a few summer goals for myself. I plan to read most of the books in my TBR pile. I read more during the summer, probably since we spend a lot of time at pools and I read while Sophie swims.

I also have a goal of organizing all my old printed photos (including purging duplicates and shots of people that are no longer in my life). I want to clean out albums to make room for new prints, and order new shots to hang throughout the house. Even though I store my photos online, I’m still a big proponent of printed photos in albums. We love to look through them every now and then. I also want to organize and purge old office files, deal with my shredding and do more writing and blogging.

If you’re looking for some Summer List inspiration, here’s what we’ve done in the past:

Do you make a summer bucket list? What do you have planned while school is out?

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